September 16, 2016
During this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur, I watched outstanding college golfers and even younger teens tackle the challenging hills and holes of Rolling Green Golf Club.
If it’s possible to detect determination from a few yards away, that’s what I saw.
Virginia Elena Carta, 19, from Udine, Italy is a Duke University sophomore. She is the reigning NCAA individual golf champion, and a first-team All-American selection.
Shannon Brooks, 18, of Vienna, VA is also a college sophomore, playing for the University of Tennessee. She is an accomplished junior golfer, with past USGA championship experience.
Jessica Spicer, 17, of Bahama, NC will play for Virginia Tech this fall, along with her caddie and twin sister Sarah. Both were standout juniors in North Carolina, and both were in last year’s USGA Junior Girls Championship.
In the second round of stroke play, Carta had to improve on her first-round 74, or she would not qualify for the match play rounds. So she did, with a mix of power and finesse.
Carta’s first birdie came courtesy of an approach shot to five feet from 110 yards out on the 356-yard par-4 fourth. She stiffed another shot on the 544-yard 9th hole, for another easy birdie.
Carta showed her recovery skills on the 12th hole. She blasted out of the left green-side bunker to 4 feet, and salvaged par. Carta followed that up with another birdie on the next hole, and made three more birdies in finishing her round. The birdie barrage overwhelmed the bogeys she made, and Carta’s even-par 142 total put her in a tie for 26th.
In a post-round interview, Carta said, “I played really good today. I holed many more putts because I could read the lines much better. The greens were in better shape, too. I’m excited to get into match play.”
Brooks was two-under after the first round, and needed to protect her lead to make the cut. An opening bogey on the first hole didn’t help, and neither did another bogey on the fourth hole.
Brooks then fired a shot to 8 feet at the 175-yard par 3 sixth, and curled in the birdie putt. She ran off a string of pars, and made another birdie on the 404-yard 11th, where her second shot finished 4 feet from the hole. Brooks also birdied the 12th hole, making a 9-foot putt.
She was unlucky on the par-5 17th, when her approach shot landed one foot into the fringe past the green, and refused to spin back. Her first putt slid downhill four feet past the hole, and Brooks couldn’t convert the par putt.
Brooks finished the day one over par, but her 141 total put her in a tie for 21st. “I kind of had a few shots get away from me,” she said. “I still played pretty well. There’s some long holes out there. I hit three-wood on two par 3s, and hybrid on the rest. I didn’t putt quite as well as I did the other day, but I still did good enough to get by.”
Spicer doesn’t yet have the college kids’ physical maturity and experience, and it showed. Her 81 the first day made it unlikely Spicer would make the cut, but there was no give-up in her.
Spicer frequently gave up 40 to 50 yards off the tee to Carta and Brooks. Her drives usually went 210 yards at most, forcing her to rely on her fairway woods and hybrids for her approaches.
Approach shots to uphill greens often came up short, and rolled back 15 to 25 yards. Spicer made some great par-saving recoveries, but her only birdie came on the 156-yard par 3 third hole.
The pressure on her short game mounted, and Spicer suffered the torture of a four-putt for a triple-bogey on the fifth hole. She regained her composure, but the mix of bogeys and pars thereafter could not repair the damage. Spicer finished with a 79, tied for 144th.
“Obviously, it makes it a little more challenging playing from further back and having to hit hybrids and long irons into pretty much every hole. Yesterday and on the front nine today my short game wasn’t quite on the way it needed to be,” Spicer said.
“The false fronts are definitely tough out here,” she continued. “Yesterday I tried to take an extra club but I’d end up above the hole. So today I’d say to my sister I have a better chance of getting it up and down from 60 yards short than putting from well above it,” Spicer said.
She and I chatted after the round about the fact that Spicer’s college coaches would soon have her working out in the weight rooms with her teammates, a common practice at that level. Local junior golfers interested in college golf scholarships might find it useful to start now with the free weights and barbells, to improve their chances.
Kings Creek Country Club Championships
Club Championship weekend at Kings Creek was Aug. 6-7. Seventy golfers competed in five different championship categories.
Blake Micholas won first place gross in the KC Club Championship by a single stroke over Scott Bourdreau. John Purple, Jr. finished in third.
Bob Fulton won first place net, with Jason Gaughan and Kevin Danahy tied for second place.
Emma Sills won first place gross in the Ladies Club Championship, with Diane Herndon in second. Jackie Everett won first place net, with Leslie Ledogar taking second.
John Kiker won first place gross in the Men’s Senior Club Championship, with John Purple, Sr. in second. Joe Graham came in third.
Bruce Ehrensaal won first place net among the Seniors, with Dennis Durkin in second. Tom Forrest and Bruce Marine tied for third net.
Judy Wetzel won first place gross in the Ladies Senior Club Championship, followed by Anita Pettitt. Kathy Casey won first place net, with Katie Heintz in second.
Gary Barth won first place gross in the Men’s Super-Senior Club Championship, in a playoff against Mike Staples. Steve Lett finished in third.
Harry Papaleo won first place net among the Super-Seniors, with Evan Shearon in second and Ron Ritthaler in third.