I'll bet you remember the shot. A young Sergio Garcia looked at his ball that was sitting precariously at the base of a big tree. The announcers could see him doing nothing but chipping the ball back into the fairway. Garcia had a different idea.
He pulled a club from his bag and the practice swing suggested he was going to try to hit the ball all the way to the green. His first concern was to not have the ball strike the tree as it would likely come back at him ? really fast. The second problem was that he would have to slice the ball dramatically to reach his target which loomed past a hill that he would have to traverse.
Remember now? At impact a slow motion replay shows Garcia with his eyes closed, though not for long. Once he realized the ball had missed the tree, Sergio's eyes came alive and he started sprinting to the fairway. After running 20 some feet he leaped into the air legs flailing. He wanted to see where the shot was going to end up.
Sergio became extremely popular for many golf fans. He was young, talented and flamboyant. A lot of people saw the latest version of fellow countryman Seve Ballesteros in Garcia. He won early, but not often. Then came the waggle. Perhaps I should say waggles with an "S."
As the pressure mounted to live up to expectations, Sergio became a human rain delay. He addressed the ball and waggled, then waggled again and again and again. He made Ben Crane seem like a fast player. At the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black fans yelled at him. "Just hit the ball" added still more distraction to the young Spaniard.
His game declined. Maybe it was the heckling. Perhaps it was the pressure to live up to his great start. More likely it was the cruelty of the game of golf. The game will beat us all up at one time or another. Some of us get beat up regularly, but we don't have the whole world watching when it happens. For many, Sergio Garcia was a disappointment.
Last week Sergio returned to the winners circle at the Wyndham Championship for his first win on the PGA Tour in four years. He is playing well again this week in the Barclays and I think it's great. Welcome back, Sergio. Your return to the top of the leaderboard is great to see.
A couple of weeks ago I told you about Latanna Stone. She qualified for the U.S. Womenfs Amateur in Cleveland. Her debut in this prestigious event did not go so well. She shot rounds of 82 and 78 and failed to advance to match play, which was her goal.
Now she has to return to Florida for the start of school. That, of course, would be elementary school. Latanna is a whopping 10 years old. She will graduate from high school in 2019! Feeling pretty old about now, aren't you?
That's the beauty of the game of golf. You can play in a huge tournament at the age of 10. You also can shoot your age, at say 90. Personally I would not be upset if I shot 82 and 78 in successive days. Young miss Stone had no delusions about likely winning the amateur. She was content to be the youngest to qualify.
The tournament, by the way, was won by a person much older than Latanna Stone. Lydia Ko from New Zealand beat Jaye Marie Green in the 36-hole match play final by a 3-1 margin. Ko hit 27 of 35 greens in regulation to walk away with the title. If you are interested Lydia Ko is all of 15 years of age! Geez, I'm feeling old just writing this.
Speaking of returning, if you have not visited Seneca Hills lately it is high time you did. Owner Bobby Pollitt promised changes when he took over the course last year and he has kept his word. The course is in great shape, particularly the greens. He has been busy with a number of projects at the facility and some are coming to fruition.
Two of the biggest changes involve the driving range and the geese situation. If you recall, a large contingent of geese have called Seneca Hills home for a long time. Pollitt installed a device known as "geese be gone" in the pond near the sixth hole. The contraption emits an amber light in the evening causing the messy critters to think it is a predator. Within a couple of days the geese disappeared and, unlike Sergio and Latanna, they have NOT returned.
The driving range has reopened. The weather did not cooperate as hoped and the range is not quite like it soon will be, but it is now available for golfers to hone their skills. The range features several target greens that will have water available to them, so they will look just like the greens on the course. A bunker is being installed on the range as a precursor to the ones that will be added to the course in the future.
The little stream that has captured a golf ball or two on the seventh hole has just been dredged. You will still have to determine how much of the creek you want to carry from the tee and I'm sure it is going to capture some golf balls. Now however, you will likely be able to find your ball if it goes for a swim.
Plans call for the course to be lengthened and for a new hole to possibly be added. Pollitt even has thoughts of installing a whiffle ball field on the course!
The ponds have been cleaned up and fairway yardage markers installed. The practice putting green has been enlarged and buildings have been painted. The awards area next to the clubhouse is now taking shape. The facility has so much to offer.
The only thing missing is YOUR return.
Al Stephenson is the golf columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.
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