November 6, 2015
Golfers love making pars, birdies, and for some, the rare eagle.
What we may not appreciate as much is a fine bogey, which can nonetheless make a huge difference in how we react to a round of golf.
For example, Ray Thompson felt that way about a short par-3 at the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, held this fall at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, NJ.
The eleventh hole sits on top of a ridge, well above the tee box 121 yards away. Deep, tiny pot bunkers sit on the right side, separated by thick fescue mounds, and one of them can’t be seen from the teeing area. Left of the green are two more bunkers with a steep falloff into trees beyond, much like the 13th hole at Kings Creek CC.
For the second round, the hole location sat a few yards off the right edge and a little bit past the center of the green–essentially a sucker pin, given the bunker locations.
Thompson, of Drexel Hill, PA is an investment adviser and former golf pro who restored his amateur status in the late 1970s. He played in two U.S. Opens and five Senior Amateurs, won several Pennsylvania amateur tournaments, and is a longtime friend of The Rookery’s Pete Oakley.
On this hole late Sunday afternoon, Thompson hit a short iron up the hill. He had a good chance to make the cut, but only if he played the back nine very well. When his tee shot landed in the hidden bunker, pin high, that prospect dimmed considerably.
The ball sat on the backside of the bunker, a downhill/side hill lie partially in grass and partially in sand. The easiest shot from there would take him far left of the hole, with double bogey a distinct probability. There were no good options going right, either.
Thompson asked the USGA rules official nearby if the ball was truly in the bunker, thinking if it wasn’t he might be able to ground his club or do something else to improve his chances. David “DR” Richardson, a USGA Committeeman from Fort Worth, TX, gave him an emphatic “Yes”.
Thompson then fiddled a bit with his wedge, stepped into the bunker, and kept one leg up on the grassy slope above the ball. His firm but direct stroke bounced the ball across the sand and up into the short strip of rough between the sand and the green.
He quickly stepped up to the spot, took a few short practice swings, and hit a remarkably delicate chip 4 feet past the hole. He then made the bogey putt. Under the circumstances, it was a great recovery, but Thompson still needed to do better to make the cut.
So he did.
After another bogey on 16, Thompson hit a 52-degree wedge 35 yards and into the hole on the par-5 17th hole for a rare eagle. He then hit what he called a “really good drive” on the 428-yard par-4 18, then a “great” approach shot, and made the birdie putt. He finished the day tied for 17th, several strokes above the cut.
He smiled broadly as we chatted about his day after the round. I had watched his play on the eleventh hole, but wasn’t there for his finish. When I reached the 18th green, Thompson was still hanging around the scorer’s tent with his friends, clearly delighted at the way his round had ended.
As for his prospects in the upcoming match play segments, Thompson said the format makes a difference. “It’s a whole ‘nother ball game. You can freewheel it a bit more than you could these last two days,” he said.
Perhaps he took his own advice. Thompson won his opening match on Sept. 28 against Ben Brundred of Potomac, MD, 2 & 1. However, he lost in 19 holes in the next round to Bill Leonard of Dallas, GA, a semi-finalist in the 2006 U.S. Senior Amateur.
Note: See below*
Sussex Pines LGA changes officers
The Sussex Pines Ladies Golf Association held its Closing Breakfast for the 2015 season Oct. 17. Outgoing President Brenda Lewes handed the reins over to past vice president Sandy Harrison. Susan Shockley will be Vice President for 2016. The group also handed out awards for the most Birdies and Chip-ins for the past season. Joann Foster (5) and Brenda Lewes (3) had the best birdie totals, and Lewes (5) and Kathy Hudak (4) had the most chip-ins.
*Bonus Coverage of U.S. Senior Open
The following did not run in The Cape Gazette as part of a column, but is placed here to provide bonus coverage of the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur.
Notes from U.S. Senior Amateur–The round of 64 and the round of 32
The match play rounds for the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur began Sept. 28, with a full slate of thirty-two matches among the 64 players who made it past the qualifying rounds on the previous weekend.
Two brackets were set up, with the lowest scoring golfer ranked first, the second lowest ranked second, and so on. Ties from the qualifying round were broken by random selection by the USGA’s computer system. In a perfect scenario, the number 1 player would eventually play the number 2 golfer from the other bracket, but these things rarely work out so “perfect.”
In the first day’s matches, for example, several higher-ranking players lost, including last year’s Senior Amateur winner, Patrick Tallent (#19) of Vienna, VA, who succumbed after 19 holes to Kevin Cahill (#46) of Waukesha, WS
Tallent is a director of World Resources Company, a member of Congressional CC, and a multiple winner on the Maryland amateur circuit, in addition to competing in many past USGA tournaments.
This is Cahill’s first Senior Amateur, but he played in a Mid-Amateur and two USGA Men’s State Team championships, and won the 2009 Wisconsin State Match Play tournament.
I followed the pair from the 11th hole until the finish. Tallent made a nice birdie on that short par-3 to go one-up, but his bogey on the next hole brought them back to all square. On the 14th, another par-3, Tallent made another birdie to go up one again. Cahill made his own birdie on sixteen, a difficult par-4, to go back all square.
Tallent drove into a bit of trouble on the 18th, leading to an approach that landed in the left greenside bunker. Cahill blasted a 300-yard drive and hit a short iron to about 6 feet above the hole. In a classic bit of match play dynamics, Tallent saved par, and Cahill just missed his winning birdie putt to force extra holes.
Cahill outdrove Tallent again on the first hole, and hit his approach to about 8 feet. Tallent mis-clubbed his approach just enough to force a 35-foot putt, which he left short, and then failed to convert the par. Cahill’s birdie putt crept up to a few inches, and the match was over.
Tallent was gracious in defeat. “I gave it all I had out there. Kevin played great, really solid. His birdie on 16 was huge. That’s a hard hole.”
Cahill said the match had a real “ebb and flow all day.” He was up three early in the round, but they were all square by the 8th hole. Cahill noted that neither player was more than one-up on the other the rest of the round.
Cahill won his Round of 32 match 1-up against Brian Rothaus of Huntington Valley, PA. He then went 20 holes before defeating Don DuBois of Newport Beach, CA. Both were higher seeds than Cahill, and only one other lower-seeded player made it to the quarterfinals.