In Part 1 of my Erie County Amateur preview, I discussed how Elma will defend itself against the area’s best amateurs. In this edition, I hope to highlight some holes / set-up possibilities in greater detail, as well as discuss a few players to watch during the event.
Holes to Watch / Set-Up Notes
Having played ~ 500 or so rounds at Elma, the set-up possibilities are wonderful to contemplate. While the teeing areas at Elma are generally small, a shift of tee position by a mere 5-10 yards can completely change the nature of the hole. I hope the PGA will maximize the variability possible at the course. A few holes to watch
(NOTE: The references to “old hole #” are for the benefit of those who have not been to the course since the reversal of the nines. Also, due to decades of ingrained play, I still have trouble referring to the the old 18th as the 9th):
#2 (old 11) – 438 yards – This hole features a kick-slope in the landing area that can propel a ball forward an additional 20 yards. Combined with a draw flight, many hitters can get well inside the 150 yard marker if they catch the slope. However, if the draw doesn’t come, a long, straight ball down the right will sail through the dogleg into a cluster of trees that preclude an easy recovery.
#4 (old 13) – 392 yards – Don’t let the yardage fool you. This hole is a 90 degree dogleg, and is theoretically driveable. If the tees are anywhere in the front 3/4’s of the box, the longest hitters can aim straight for the green. However, with a simple shift of the markers back and / or to the left, a large pine tree by the tee will preclude the aggressive straight line and require a safe tee shot to the corner or a big hook. I’d love to see both set-ups over the course of the event.
#5 (old 14) – 352 yards – The yardage on the scorecard is based on the white tees, and is set up ideally for a left-to-right flight, but danger abounds on the left side for the “dreaded straight tee shot.” In addition, the County has recovered an old teeing ground some 50 yards back and to the left of the more familiar tee. Some left side trees turn a fairly benign tee shot into a white-knuckler with the right side hazard.
#7 (old 16) – 471 yards – This uphill climber is the first of two fairly reachable par fives at Elma Meadows. Eagle putts will be frequent here, but perhaps not as prevalent due to the softer conditions this weekend. However, keep an eye out for a front right pin position. While Elma’s greens are generally benign by modern standards, this is one of the truly frightening putts at Elma. Any approach left above the hole or even pin-high left brings three-putt (or even four putt) into the equation. Don’t be surprised to see putts slide off the front of the green on this hole.
#9 (old 18) – 223 yards – In general, Elma Meadows favors the right-to-left ball flight. However,on this downhlll par three, out-of-bounds right may lead to some overcompensation or overcooked draws. In that case, the steep fall off to the left of the green will ensure that those who bail out face a tricky uphill recovery.
#13 (old 4th) – 350 yards – A great strategic hole. The ideal approach is from the right side of the fairway, but brings out-of-bounds into play. You can shy away from trouble off the tee, but approaches from the left must navigate very large trees guarding the left side of the green. Classic trade-off shot values. This hole also features two distinct teeing grounds, which can change the ideal tee shot from a draw (left tees) or a fade (back right tees). I hope the PGA tests both flights during the weekend.
#14 (old 5th) – 484 yards – This is a great par 4 1/2, and should be the site of some interesting decisions on the tee. Like many holes as Elma, the danger of going through the fairway is the primary concern. From the up tees, many players can cut the evergreens on the left of the tee with a shorter club, leaving an easy chance to reach the green in two. However, from the back of the tee box, “up and over” is no longer an option. At this point, player can hit a straight layup off the tee, leaving a second shot in the range of 270-290 yards.
Or, they can ask themselves how much they trust their slinging draw to appear under pressure. A solid draw will bound down the kick-slope, leaving a downhill approach in the range of 210-240 yards. But if the draw doesn’t come, the punishment may be severe. In Part 1, I indicated that the rough at Elma wasn’t in the “hack it out range.” One exception to this is on the far side of the 14th fairway, where a mower hasn’t been used since April or May. I hope the PGA stations some spotters on this side of the hole, or many could be doing the walk of shame back to the tee after 5 minutes of futile searching. This could be one of the most pivotal holes down the stretch, with the possibility of Eagle 3 through Double Bogey 7 (or worse) in play.
#18 (old 9th) – ??? yards – On the card, the 18th measures 434 yards. However, a new deck has been added this year for the Amateur Championship to the back & left, close to the left rough of the 11th hole. I’d estimate the hole now measures in the 470-480 range, and will play immeasurably tougher that the 325 yard closer from 2012. There will be no sitting on a one-shot lead on the 36th hole of this year’s Championship.
Players to Watch
Perusing the tournament entrants, I was pleased to see that most of the contenders from the 2012 Erie County Amateur have returned for another chance at the title, and that 4 of the Top 6 in the Buffalo District Golf Association Points Standings are signed up to test Elma Meadows.
On the men’s side of the draw, Ryan Hawkins has returned to defend his title. The final pairing in last year’s Amateur included Sean Mahon & Chris Covelli, who have also returned to see if they can hoist the trophy on Sunday afternoon.
While 2012 runner-up Raman Luthra is missing from this year’s event, the void is more than filled by other big names. Dan Yustin won the WNY PGA Open earlier this year at Niagara falls Country Club and is currentky the points leader in the BDGA. Matt Stasiak is having a solid year and is 2nd in the points listing. Both will be strong contenders for the title this year.
Elma’s own Billy Hanes will try to improve his 8th place finish from last year, and it’s probably a safe bet that he has see Elma Meadows a few times in his day. RP Stringfellow, Frank Garcia, Jr and Sean McNamara all also finished in the Top 10 at Grover a year ago and hope to improve in 2013.
On the Women’s side, Michelle Hanes will look to go back-to-back in 2013, and like her brother Billy, is likely to have a familiarity with Elma Meadows. Of course, I doubt anyone will be more familiar with the slopes at Elma than EMGC Women’s Club President, Mary Schmelzer, who is paired with Michelle on Saturday.
Section VI Champion Chelsea D’Antonio will provide some stiff competition for Michelle, and is not likely to be intimidated by anyone after teeing it up with the nation’s best amateurs at the Porter Cup earlier this year. Finally, Hamburg’s Sara Riso was among the leaders in the 2012 Erie County Amateur and will be back again.
I’m sure I’ve left off some notables, so I hope you’re able to visit Elma Meadows this weekend to check out the area’s best in person and perhaps someone new that I hadn’t mentioned. If last year’s finish is any indicator, you do not want to miss this annual event.