What I learned while building a deck at my bro/sis in-laws (and not tramping over the pastoral fields of Lewiston) on Saturday afternoon…
1. Patrick Rodgers made amateur golf more exciting in 2011. As The Mouth reported, he was 8 strokes or so behind the leader after ten hole on Saturday. He then spaced out three extraterrestrial holes to make the playoff. Does this sound like a kid on a driving range, dreaming of becoming a champion one day? Eagle on the par five eleventh; Eagle on the par five thirteenth; Birdie on the par three sixteenth, and nary a bogie after hole the tenth.
2. Wes Bryan proved three things to me on Saturday. First, he can go incredibly low and might play the pro tour somewhere. From hole 1 in round 3 to hole 11 in round 4 (a 29 hole run), he was an unearthly 14-under par. Second, it’s never over at the Porter Cup on Saturday, as Bryan re-entered the atmosphere with bogies on holes 13, 14 and 17. Third, it’s hard to hold a lead, especially when you know it and when you hear roars up ahead.
3. The USA Walker Cup side is currently more murky than ever. I have an email in to the USGA media relations people; here’s the reason why. In some prior years (the matches happen every other year) the USGA has “revealed” half of its team by Porter Cup time. Not so in 2011. Given their records this year, Patrick Cantlay (low am US Open and PGA Tour top 20s) and Peter Uihlein (2010 US Am and 2011 Northeastern champ) are shoo-ins for the team. Since the USGA has demonstrated in prior years that it likes having a talented 40-ish player on the team, Sunnehanna titleist Nathan Smith is also on the team. One would THINK that victories on the Nationwide tour as amateurs would grant Harris English (also a t6 at Porter Cup after closing with 66-65) and Russell Henley places on the team. That’s where it gets hazy…the names Rodgers (Porter Cup champ, 2 at Players, 4th at Northeast), Spieth, Barber, Chung, Yun, Vongvanij and Peterson get consideration. The next two events (Western and US Amateurs) will define the team.
4. Tree-cutting in the right places is a great thing for golf courses. Huge, stately trees in the rough are wonderful; scrubby little pines are not. The consensus was, greens like #4, #12 and #18 putted better, thanks to tree removal. In addition to adding vistas to a golf course, the elimination of the shade allows air transfer and sunlight, aiding the growth of the dwarf grasses employed on putting surfaces. It also helps grass on tee decks…
5. P-Cuppers will have an extended walk from #2 green to #3 tee next year. The old 2nd green will be replaced (perhaps in time for this fall’s Senior Porter Cup in September) by a new one, located on the site of the old short-game facility. This new green will lengthen the hole and create a more angled dogleg.
6. My dream addition for 2012? If the trend of “driveable par four” anchors in Lewiston, move the tees up to the forward deck on #14 on Saturday and let the boys go at it. Since the green sits in a blind hollow, below the fairway, station two marshals at the top of the ridge and have them wave when the green clears. The forward tee straightens out the hole, eliminating the need to really draw the ball. If guys lay up, they’ll lay way back to avoid the downhill wedge in. If they go for it, they might use 3-metal, letting the ball run out down the fairway to the green.
7. Fast and tilted greens are a great equalizer. Much is made of how far elite golfers drive the ball these days. If fairways are fast, those long drives will often head into the rough, taking needed spin off the approach shot. You don’t need to strangle the greens with thick rough (and NFCC does not do this) if you have slick, undulating greens. At NFCC, much of the movement on the putting surfaces is so subtle, as to be invisible to the eye. Of the final six greens (holes 13-18), only #14 does not make my list of the most severe greens at NFCC.