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Friday, May 9, 2014

Lessons From Cut Day at Stoney Point

Joanna Klatten leads by 2 shots going into the weekend
at the SRH Women Health Classic.
Photo Credit: Scott A Miller.
I've been so enjoying my time at the Self Regional Healthcare Women's Health Classic at Stoney Point.  For two days I've been stationed on the par-5 6th hole, which has a blind tee shot, as a spotter.  The hole has always befuddled me and I looked forward to the opportunity I'd have to study the pros' techniques for navigating the bunker and playing the hole.

From the forward tees, a short hitter like me tends to try to shave the left edge of the fairway bunker and then proceed down the fairway with a couple of decent shots, two-putt, and walk off happily with a bogey.  But an errant tee shot, and I've had many, will either put me in the fairway bunker, out-of-bounds on the right, or into a tree-poison ivy-snaky hazard that runs the full length of the left side of the fairway.  I more often go in the bunker or right and out-of-bounds.  Both are expensive mistakes.

Symetra players passing
my spotting station
So how have the girls -- and, quite honestly, they look like girls to me -- been navigating the fairway bunker and the OB area?

First, the fairway bunker: The first thing Gus Burgdorf, my personal banker before we both got old and retired and now my spotting partner, and I noticed on Thursday was that the fairway bunker didn't slow players down.  Playing from the tips, the bunker's about 250 yards from the tees and it does catch some balls.  But those girls don't play out of that bunker the way Gus and I agreed that we do -- with a short shot just to get clear of the sand and then back to the business of working our way down the fairway and onto the green.  Nope!  They pulled a long iron or a hybrid out of the bag, hit the puppy snot off their ball, and advanced it another 175-200 yards, within easy reach of the green in regulation.

Barb and Tony Schuster were at the tournament today and they spent some time watching those 2nd shots rocket down the fairway.  Barb's observation summed it up for me:
. . . they're lying two where I'm lying four!
After two days of watching them, I realized that I need to stop being gentle and tentative when I get in a fairway bunker.  I need to stop praying that I can get out, which is an almost certain preliminary to a failed shot, pick a target on down the fairway and a club that will get me there, and go for it.  It's really a matter of thinking about the shot differently going in, not executing it differently.  For me, this was an epiphany!

And the OB area on the right: How did they navigate that troublesome area?  The fairway doglegs slightly to the right at the bunker, and also slopes downhill a bit.  Many of the girls took full advantage of the terrain, fearlessly hit a draw that started toward the OB area but then drifted back, bounced left off the downward sloping hill and back onto the fairway in front of the bunker, gaining them another 50-75 yards off their drive and, with a good, solid 2nd shot, onto the par-5 green in 2, perfectly set up for a birdie.

Could I do that?  Probably not.  When I hit a draw, it's generally an accident.  Could I learn to hit a draw?  Why not? This is golf we're talking about, not rocket science.  But, while I'm working on that, why couldn't I just hit one of my nice, straight drives toward a different target, the downward sloping hill to the right of the fairway bunker rather than the fairway left of the bunker?  It's about the same distance, and I'd get a bit more roll out of my drive.  Again, it's a matter of thinking differently about my shot going in, shifting my target, and taking a slightly different approach to course management.

Maybe, just maybe, by thinking about things differently going into our shots Barb and I could cut it down from lying four to lying three?

I'm looking forward to Moving Day tomorrow.  Joanna Klatten, a player I've followed on the Ladies European Tour, is going into the 3rd round at six shots under par and holding a two stroke lead, played magnificently today.  The Frenchwoman player her collegiate golf at College of Charleston, so she's practically a home girl!

There's some splendid golf being played at Stoney Point.  Take a few hours Saturday or Sunday to treat yourself.  You can get a ride in one of the Lander busses from the Civic Center parking lot, take a pleasant walk about the golf course, get some bar-b-que or a treat from Grits & Groceries, and enjoy watching some splendid young athletes ply their trade right here in our neighborhood.