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Cadillac Championship

An American car company as title sponsor of a tournament on PGA Tour China? How delightfully ironic!

This week went better, thankfully. After a bunch of bad rounds in a row, I found a little groove and rolled with it.

We spent the week in Chengdu, Sichuan province, which is subjectively the most interesting city in western China. It’s best known for its chili peppers and panda research. So in our off time, we ate extremely spicy hot pot and watched black and white bears eat bamboo. What more could you ask for in China?

The golf in Chengdu was decidedly un-Chinese, though. While the first two host courses were extremely difficult — as is tradition here — Poly Golf Club gave up birdies and eagles in droves. 29-under won the tournament! That’s crazy. The winner, Alex Kang, actually put up a 61 and 62 during the tournament, and another 62 during the pro-am. Talk about getting hot.

I, on the other hand, started off cold. My first round, while bogey free, only included two birdies because Ben and I couldn’t figure out a break for the life of us. At the very least, it was a start that didn’t ruin us. It wasn’t anything special at that course though. Shooting 70 still left us on the cut line.

Day two started off worse. I doubled the second hole, a par-five, after cold topping a three-wood and finding the water on the ensuing iron shot. Below the cut line early, as usual.

Then, a bounceback. Birdies on five, seven, and eight to get back under par. I quickly gave that cushion away, however, with bogeys on nine, ten, and thirteen. I figured the cut would be -3 or -4, so I wasn’t very optimistic at this point, but I knew I had a couple birdie holes left to use. I ended up birdieing 17 and 18 to get to -2 for the tournament.

When I got in, -2 was T62, just inside the cut. Over the next five or six hours, I was anywhere from T61 to T67. Watching the board is an exercise in insanity, and should not be recommended to anyone.

By the end of the day, I was inside the cutline, and had a chance to play the weekend. Finally!

The last two days were played much more aggressively. As I went from the top half of the field to tied for last place, I didn’t really have anything to lose, so I played a little more freely. Granted, we still couldn’t read the greens, but I took riskier lines and tried to give myself as many birdie chances as possible.

Eleven birdies and three bogeys later, I had shot 136 on the weekend… And only moved up 20 spots to T41. But it’s a start.

It was a great experience to play four days in a shootout-type tournament, partly because red numbers are a confidence booster. It also made me realize that I have to figure out a way to make more putts in tournaments like that. When everyone is hitting 14-15 greens a round, the number of putts made separate the top-10 and 41st. Results

Anyway Chengdu is a cool spot, right behind Shanghai and Beijing. Check it out. You can walk with red pandas and stuff!
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Levels

United Investment Real Estate WuHan Open

[Note: I only spent 4 days in Wuhan so I don’t really have any pictures. Here’s the Forbidden City in Beijing instead.]

Week two of the PGA Tour China season can be characterized with one word: wet. It rained, hard. A lot.

The first two days were marred by rain delays coupled with pretty hefty gusts of wind. There were a couple of par fours that weren’t reachable in two due to the wetness of the course and the hurting breeze.

While the Thursday morning tee times managed to complete their rounds, us Thursday afternoon players weren’t so lucky. Our tee times were delayed almost three hours, leaving us no chance to finish our round on the first day of competition.

The rivers and puddles on the greens disappeared after an extended break in the rain during the delay, which was enough for us to head back out, but it began to pour again on my second hole of the day.

By the time the horn sounded at 7:10, I had finished nine holes and change, managed to find the fescue a handful of times, and played my way out of contention. A score of 43 will not cut it in any weather situation, and that’s what I had done with my 3+ hours of rain/wind golf.

I missed the ball both ways, and at Yishan Golf Club, there isn’t much room for big misses. There’s a lake or fescue on at least one side of every hole, and I found the fescue on multiple holes. It was so thick that I could barely get a club on the ball, and hitting out sideways back to the fairway was the only option.

After calling play Thursday evening, the modified schedule left us with 27 holes to play on Friday morning.

Which went better, kind of. I got to play four shots before another downpour sent us back inside. After the second delay of the tournament, I got back out there and kept the ball in play. The course played long since the fairways weren’t rolling and the air was crisp.

Most of the day was the same; pars, missed putts, not making any progress. I had no idea what the cut would be, but I thought a +8 total was a good goal down the stretch due to the bad weather. I stepped up to the 17th tee, hole #26 of the day, at +10, and proceeded to hit a solid long iron to 30 feet and drained the putt.

So +9. One more. Shove a drive into the left side of the fairway, 5 iron into the wind up the hill, easy pin. Push approach shot into right bunker, 25 yards left. Comes out heavy, 12 feet short, uphill putt. Play the putt a cup right, good stroke, runs over the right lip and misses. Bogey. Great. +10. Now to wait for the rest of the field to finish.

Which of course couldn’t happen until Saturday morning because of all the delays. So I sat on the cutline for a whole night, and in the end, the number was +9.

Golf on a tour is tough. It’s a constant struggle of “what have you done lately?” and when you miss a cut, or two in a row to start the season, it magnifies all your issues and dissolves whatever confidence you came in with. It’s all still there, but how do you use it? Just take the positives away and move on to next week.

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St. Andrews Henan Open

 

“’In the land of China, people hardly got nothin’ at all.’ -Forrest Gump” – Benton Kircher

What do they have in China then, you ask? Well, a bajillion people, towns full of high-rise housing developments where each building is identical to the next, and some really good golf courses.

I didn’t bring my Flex-o-lite ping pong paddle like Gump, but I did bring my sticks for a couple months worth of golf tournaments on the Ping An Bank – PGA Tour China Series.

The season started this week in Zhengzhou, Henan, a “small city” of 6.5 million people.

My friend Benton met up with me to caddy for a few events, and the culture shock was obvious on our first day here. We started out by getting scammed by a taxi on the way from the airport to our hotel in Zhengzhou city center, as the meter was rigged. The driver also made us get out of the car for a few minutes in the middle of the ride so he could do something at the gas station — I’m hesitant to say he filled up the gas tank because the refuel light remained on the entire ride.

After getting over our jet lag, we went out into the city to get new SIM cards. Three hours later, we came back to the hotel defeated, as only one store in the whole city sells cards to foreigners. Our Mandarin is still lacking, so the directions to that store were lost in translation.

We regrouped and tried to get dinner at a hot pot restaurant, only to be walked through the kitchen, up the back staircase, into what I think was a family area. They gave us small bowls and ushered us to the “salad bar”, which consisted of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, Kix cereal, and animal crackers. Thankfully there was a McDonald’s in the neighborhood.

On Sunday we finally headed to the host hotel for the tournament, which was in the next town over, Kaifeng. It was definitely a change in scenery, a 12 star (is that possible?) hotel for a mini-tour budget price.

The course was great, too. Named St. Andrews Zhengzhou, it didn’t resemble it’s Scottish namesake, but it definitely played harder. Every hole, with the exception of the par-three 14th, had water hazard or out of bounds both left and right. And all of them are in play. I’ve never had my confidence sucked from me so quickly. Add that with severe slopes on every green going any which way, and you end up with a professional tournament with a winning score of two-under and a cut of seven-over.

The funniest part of all this, however, is that I should be expecting this week in and week out on PGA Tour China. The Chinese are notorious for building golf courses as hard as possible. I couldn’t tell you why, but they love the challenge of breaking 90. Common amateur players in China will play water hazards and cart paths as OB lines. One friend— I made a friend! —told me he played a course with a pond in the middle of the green. Hard pass on that one, but thanks.

Anyway, I must have left my swing on the plane on the flight over to China. I hit eight balls in the drink over the two days I played. My short game saved me on day one, then disappeared on day two. The result was by far my worst result as a professional. St. Andrews (Zhengzhou) Henan Open 76-81 – MC.

Thankfully, we had a week off before the upcoming second event of the season. Ben and I didn’t get much R&R however, as we took a train to Beijing for a couple of nights, traveled to Taiwan for a few days to visit some guy named Danny, and then hopped over to Kobe, Japan to see a new place and to try to get into the U.S. Open sectional qualifier as the first alternate on the list.

Of course, things don’t always work out as you’d like. I had a great practice round at Higashi Hirono Golf Club, as I definitely played better than I did in Zhengzhou, but maybe my opinion of the day and the course hinged more on the craziness that was the self-driving golf carts and moving walkways up bigger hills, rather than my swing or my putting.

We showed up to the course the day of the qualifier, hoping someone would withdraw that morning due to a late finish on the Japan Tour the day before. The USGA protocol for this specific qualifier is to set the field on the morning of the qualifier, so anyone who withdrew the previous day or earlier do not count for the field, and therefore, myself as an alternate.

The tee times came and went without a single person no showing or withdrawing. While Japan was a fantastic place to visit, it was hard to know we went all the way to another country without even getting into the qualifier.

Up next is the UI Real Estate Open, in Wuhan. It’s the start of a stretch of three tournaments in three weeks.

Also, Ben almost didn’t get through customs in China today. He’s rocking a very thick mustache, and the officers weren’t convinced the guy in the passport, driver’s license, and student ID was the same one standing in front of them. Moral of the story, always shave before your international flights.

Results

 

Clockwise; from left:

Walking on water is as hard as one would imagine… That’s a moving walkway at a Japanese golf course!! Like the airport!!… Higashi Hirono, par-3 17th

Harmony Golf Preserve Intercollegiate

Howard HIckey working on his sand game

Howard HIckey working on his sand game

Harmony Golf Preserve Intercollegiate
Harmony Golf Preserve (Par 72, 7,208 yards)
March 4-6, 2013

 
We spent the past few days in warm, sunny… well, cold and sunny, and windy, Orlando, Florida earlier this week for VCU’s Harmony Golf Preserve Intercollegiate. So nice to get back to competitive golf! And for those of you who think competition is the same as recreational golf, wrong, wrong, and wrong. Somebody called me out saying that competition and normal golf is the same since you’re always trying to “shoot the low score”. Well, friend, if it were that simple, I would be shooting 68s every round. Sadly instead, the pressure that everyone deals with especially after a four month layoff from tournaments eventually leads to 79s (my first round score).

Okay, regardless, it was fun to play a tournament again and actually be constantly worried about making bogeys and hurting the team. That doesn’t sound fun, but holding yourself accountable for the success of the team, and then playing well, means a whole lot. To me at least.

Harmony Preserve was a fairly run of the mill Florida course: fairly wide open, lots of water, and windy. Also a Johnny Miller design, and his architecture parallels his broadcasting: boring and enjoyed by few. Harmony didn’t stand out to me in any way (which I suppose is opposite of his commentating). I won’t say it was a bad course, but there was no risk/reward, and it seemed like every hole was into the wind. I’ll also say I had a bone to pick because of the pins we played. Generally half of them each day were tucked behind bunkers and within three or four paces of the fringe. Attacking the pins and being aggressive went out of style very quickly this week. The equalizer however, was how smooth the greens rolled.

And speaking of greens, I putted really well this week. Not counting putts from the fringe, I had 24 putts in the second round. That’s 12 one-putts. My current theory for why I putted so well boils down to the fact that this was the first time in 2013 that I actually had the chance to putt on smooth, quick greens.

As for my play, I get to use an excuse. I’ve had bronchitis — or something along those lines — for the past two weeks and I’m still recovering. The first round was cold and I was coughing pretty violently, plus having to shake off the rust didn’t help, so I ended up with a 79. Decent relative to what I thought I was going to shoot after being +5 through six holes. I followed this up with consecutive 72s, good scores, but frustrating because I came so close to breaking par. After starting something like T26 at the end of the first round, I was excited to make come back and make the top 10, even if there were only 36 players (they were all solid teams! I promise!) We all have work to do however, because we came in 5th out of 6 as a team. And we in fact have a great opportunity to do that this week!

As I write, we’re on a plane to California (no east coast people, it’s not “Cali”), and we’re playing at multiple U.S. Open courses as well as competing in the University of San Francisco’s tournament this Monday and Tuesday. I think I’ll do some course reviews and tournament recaps, if it’s cool with you.

 
Harmony Preserve scoring
Recap

Courses on deck:

Pelican Hill Golf Course
Pauma Valley Country Club (USF Tournament)
Riviera Country Club
Olympic Club – Lake
Claremont Country Club
Olympic Club – Ocean

Oh and a live scoring link for the USF tournament of course!

2nd hole

2nd hole

Dinner. How did this happen.

Dinner. How did this happen.

The Curse of the Northeast

Sooo… I have an article I wrote for my News Writing class here that I’d like to share with you. I think it’s fun but it also might be a little aggressive in places and some might disagree with it. But read it anyway.

Trevor Sluman working hard on his game

Trevor Sluman working hard on his game

The Curse of the Northeast

Trevor Sluman, a sophomore from Pittsford, N.Y. — yes, he is related to 1988 PGA Championship winner Jeff Sluman — has not walked the average college player’s career path. He started at Towson University outside of Baltimore, but began shopping around for a new team after his fall semester, with the understanding that he had reached his peak in northeast golf.

“I liked Towson a lot,” he said. “But from a golfing standpoint, it wasn’t helping me at all.”

Sluman packed up at the end of his freshman year and headed to greener pastures: the University of Louisville. In his eyes, it offered him so many more opportunities and benefits, ones he could not pass up.

There are many disadvantages that separate a humble little Colonial Athletic Association school such as Towson and a main stage Big East Conference school such as Louisville, and transfers like Sluman prove that point: most northern-bound schools cannot compete on a regular basis with their counterparts to the south.

“The biggest disadvantage a northeast team has is the climate,” said Andres Pumariega, recent graduate of George Washington and current assistant coach for the George Washington team. “The kids that have aspirations of playing professionally or at a high [Division I] level want the ability to play and practice all year.”

Indeed, the weather seems to play a large part in determining the NCAA champion. The only northern team to claim the national title in the past 30 years is the University of Minnesota.

Not every student-athlete bases their four years on NCAA titles, however. For the northern teams who may not be competing in the postseason, playing college golf can still improve their games and allow for a great deal of tournament experience.

“Kids think that they have to go south or west to improve,” said former University of Pennsylvania coach Scott Allen. “I believe that you can get better at a school in the northeast. It comes down to practice facilities and coaching and schedule. A school in the north can have an edge in all of those categories and some kids still think they are better off going south.”

The biggest pull that the northeast teams have, for now, is academics. Many college player do not set out to become the next Tiger Woods or Yani Tseng; they are more interested in the former portion of their title of student-athlete. Going to an Ivy League institution looks good to any potential employer, though the competition on the course may not be the same caliber as a Pac-12 school.

These Ivy and Pac-12 schools, as well as every other university across the country, weigh the importance of athletics and academics differently, and student-athletes have to make sure they understand what that balance is before they arrive and how they will adjust.

“It is really hard, just because academics are so rough,” said Alexandra Wong, a freshman at Princeton University. “We take [golf] just as seriously, even though we might not practice as much.”

At a northeast school like Princeton it may be easy to determine, but at a state school across the country, the focus could be completely different.

Parker Ramsey, a sophomore at San Jose State University, resigned from the men’s golf team at SJSU earlier this year, with very little argument from his coach on the matter. Ramsey felt in both academics and athletics, his coach provided very little help when it was needed in his golf and his education.

“He paid a lot of attention to the top three [players], and he kind of let everyone else do their own thing, unless he gave you a full ride,” Ramsey said. “Everyone else was kind of on their own to do their own thing around him, but never stuck his neck out for those guys.”

This kind of behavior can create a rift in a team, and studying as well as playing can take a turn for the worse. Ramsey quit because he understood his “big picture, little picture”, and if golf was going to negatively affect his college experience, he had no reason to continue.

Stories like this happen on occasion sadly, for individual academic attention is not always possible at large state schools focused on athletic successes. For all the bottom-tier golf programs in the northeast, there exist very few universities that do not offer first-rate academic support. At George Washington University for example, most student-athletes are required to meet with advisors on a regular basis to go over grades, to schedule tutors, and to make sure everything academically is running smoothly.

While many northeastern schools are above average academically and below average in golf rankings, they do still have a chance to succeed on the course. Golf may seem to be an individual sport, but team dynamic plays a definitive role in the success or failure of a team. When it comes to college golf, coaches want players who are interested in creating a collective goal-oriented group, not kids who just want an individual trophy.

“I definitely think having a team that gets along really well, that are able to work together and have good chemistry, can play a lot better than a more talented team that doesn’t get along as well,” explained University of California, Berkeley women’s golf graduate assistant Emily Childs.

Northeast teams like George Washington, Mount St. Mary’s, and Penn went to the NCAA Regionals last year not because they are considered powerhouses in their respective leagues, but because they rode hot streaks into their conference championships, and won because of good play and team effort. (Conference champions receive an auto-bid into Regionals.)

If the postseason was determined solely by talent every year, these teams would never have a chance. But because of certain players who have caught fire, an occasional lucky break, and as Childs says, good chemistry, golf becomes anyone’s game at the end of April.

Like his fellow Division I golfers, Sluman is looking forward to the spring, the chance at a Big East conference title, and a run deep into the postseason, something Towson never could have offered him.

“Everyone pushes each other so much more,” Sluman said. “And you need that for a golf team, to have everybody push each other because if you have one guy that’s playing better than the others you want to get there too. And when the competition is so close, fighting for that last spot, it just makes you a better golfer.”

That is what Sluman is striving to become, a better golfer. His biggest goal is to make it on tour, something not achievable — for himself at least — while honing his game at Towson.

For many others, however, teams in the northeast offer exactly what they need. Whether it is a top-notch business degree, a tight-knit team, or just a school where a freshman can make the starting five, these universities are perfect — as long as your uncle doesn’t have any Wanamaker Trophies on his fireplace mantle.

ODU/OBX 2012

Kilmarlic #11

Old Dominion U / Outer Banks Invitational
Kilmarlic Golf Club (Par 72, 6,560 yards)
October 21-23, 2012

Woof. I didn’t think it would happen, but we came in last as a team at this tournament. Not sure what motivational mumbo jumbo I can pull out of our play other than the fact that we need to get our s**t together. This simply isn’t GW Golf.
Not that I can sit here and say I played well either, though. I made two resounding mistakes this week. First, I played with a number in my head. I consistently went through my first 36 holes with one goal, however unreachable it was, and I paid dearly for it. Instead of going way under par, I shot 76-77. Day three I decided to just take the round one shot at a time, which is how I should always play. Though I didn’t tear it up, I still ended up shooting one under 71, which is something to take into the tournament next week and to snowball my momentum.
My second mistake was in my putting. After putting lights out last week at Appalachian State, I lipped out a lot of putts in the first round here, and asked for an opinion on my putting the next morning. I ended up squaring my shoulders, and I lost all my confidence in my putting after doing so. I know I would have made more putts if I hadn’t messed with it simply because of I would have been in a better place mentally.
I think the learning curve from last year with four senior starters to this year with lots of underclassmen has been quite apparent. We cannot expect to go out and win tournaments yet, the consistency just isn’t there. I do believe we have some great new players, but we just haven’t put the pieces together. I also believe this tournament made me realize that golf is the ultimate team sport. Though we play individually, the success of the team lies in each and every player. No one player can put the team on their back, and if one or two people play bad, the entire team loses a lot of ground. When you have to compete against 17 other teams at the same time, every team member is held accountable for posting a solid number, or else we have no chance.
Here’s to a comeback at Kiawah; after all, we’ve certainly set ourselves up for one.

Results

 

LIVE SCORING LINK TO KIAWAH ISLAND INTERCOLLEGIATE

Ocean sunrises are quite novel for us West Coasters

We’re on a boat

Donald Ross Intercollegiate Final Day

Mimosa Hills 2nd

Donald Ross Intercollegiate
Mimosa Hills Golf Club (Par 70, 6718 yards)
October 15-16, 2012

Okay. Done with midterms, now I can focus on golf for the final two weeks of our fall season. First, I wanna go through App State a bit.
First round, I had school record (65) in my head the whole time. Not the smartest idea, but I knew I was hitting the ball well, I knew I was putting well, and I knew I needed to turn it up for my team. I turned at two under, which left me only three birdies from the record since it was a par 70. I birdie the first then don’t find another until the seventh, where I just missed a long eagle putt from off the green. At this point I’m sweating a little because I need just one more to post 65. I chunk-snap-hooked my drive on eight, one of my achilles’ heels when I get nervous, but managed to hit a good second and make a solid up and down for par, leaving the three par ninth. I hooked the tee shot a little too far because of my nerves, and put it shortside in the bunker. Can’t get the up and down to go, 67. Still a solid score, tied for the lead after round one.
And for some reason, in the eight minutes between rounds, everything unraveled. I stopped hitting it so well, I didn’t make as many putts, and though it got a lot windier, my bad second round score was just because of me. 75 strokes made up my second round, and the day was just as tough for our team. We placed 11th out of 17 after the first day, and it wasn’t going to get any better the next day.
Before I get to that, however, I want to talk about a kid I played with, since I love making an example of people who don’t know how to act on the golf course. Granted, I’m not a saint when it comes to reacting to bad shots, but I certainly don’t give up, and I definitely don’t throw my clubs at golf carts. I don’t need to name names, but if this guy reads this, GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER. I don’t care how amazing you are, playing at High Point or what have you, but it’s annoying, it’s childish, and you’re not impressing anyone.
Now I’ve got that out of my system…
The final day didn’t suit our fancy, either. We kept dropping shots throughout the final 18, and ended up 13th out of 17. I get it, this is a transitional period for our team after losing four members of our starting lineup, but man, we have to turn it around real soon. That goes for myself especially. If we’re gonna turn it around, I have to put up numbers. I have to GET BUCKETS.
ODU/OBX Invite starts tomorrow. Plan: go lower than I did last year. Easy right?

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