Sunday, June 23, 2013

California State Amateur Wrap-Up

            The 102nd California State Amateur has come to a close and crowned another deserving champion.  Cory McElyea of Santa Cruz, California, fresh off his experience at the U.S. Open, capped off a wonderful week at Monterey Peninsula Country Club with a 3 and 2 victory over Fresno’s Bryson Dechambeau.

Sometimes Getting Up Early Is Worth It...

            This was the first State Am that I had direct involvement and while it was an incredibly exhausting week, I couldn’t have had more fun.  The week was not without its Rules incidents, including the disqualification of the defending champion.  It was more notable, however, for the unique course setup options that I was permitted and able to utilize.

Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Road

Just Some Deer...

            When a public road defines out of bounds, the Committee has two options:  they can either allow players to play a ball that crosses the road and comes to rest on another part of the course, or not.  Decision 27/20 tells us that a ball which comes to rest on another part of the course is in bounds unless there is a Local Rule in place stating otherwise.  This week, that Local Rule was in place, and a ball that crosses a public road was out of bounds, even if it came to rest on another part of the course.  The exception to that, of course, is when the layout of a hole requires the player to hit across a public road to reach the putting surface or fairway (Hole #4 on the Shore Course and in the final round Hole #14 of the Dunes course).
            On the first hole of his first round, defending champion Kevin Marsh hit his approach long on the first hole of the Shore course, and his ball rolled across the road onto another part of the course.  At this point the Rules required him to proceed under stroke and distance.  He played the ball.  At this point, he had played a wrong ball and was required to correct the error by proceeding under stroke and distance with an additional two-stroke penalty.  He holed out and continued on.  And now… he is disqualified.
            The Committee did not find out about the incident until the next day, however, when it was reported to them by a fellow-competitor from a different group.  Upon the completion of the round, Marsh was asked about his play on the first hole the previous day and he confirmed that he had played the ball from across the road.  He was then disqualified.  It didn’t have a huge impact on him, as he did not play well enough to be close to the cut line, however he had been selected for the SCGA’s team competition and was not able to post a score for them.  Again though, the NCGA had that competition wrapped up fairly well.

Bunkers and Sandy Areas

            Monterey Peninsula Country Club is one of those unique places that winds through sand dunes.  It has both regular bunkers and sandy areas that are considered through the green.  At Kiawah Island  for the PGA Championship, in order to avoid confusion, the PGA made all sandy areas through the green.  For the California State Amateur, however, we clarified the difference between bunkers and sandy areas.  Part of the reason for this is that at MPCC, some of the sandy areas are actually more like hardpan, and are actually used as cart paths on many holes.

Sandy Area Cart-Path on 13th Hole

            So for the 102nd California State Amateur, bunkers were enclosed sandy areas with rakes and through the green sandy areas did not have rakes.  This was the defining difference and that was the guideline officials used.  On the 11th hole of the Dunes course, there are two sandy areas directly adjacent to each other.  The first is completely enclosed and had several rakes.  The second was also completely enclosed but was not prepared by maintenance and did not have any rakes.  Even though they are ten yards apart and both enclosed, the first area is a bunker and the second is a sandy area through the green.

“The Mercedes was Trying to Help”

            During the 12th hole of the final match, Bryson Dechambeau hooked his tee shot left and onto the road next to the hole.  As we learned earlier, public roads define out of bounds and so Dechambeau was out of luck.  We had two forward observers who were able to see the ball come to rest out of bounds and it was well-known that Dechambeau’s provisional was now the ball in play.  But wait!
            A silver Mercedes came driving along the road managed to catch the ball under its front tire shooting it back onto the golf course!  The ball was in bounds!  At least that’s how it appeared when Dechambeau finally made his way down the fairway. 
            In many events, and certainly during friendly weekend play we don’t have forward observers, and Dechambeau may never have seen that the silver Mercedes had moved his golf ball.  Decision 18-1/3 tells us that if it is not known or virtually certain that a ball has been moved by an outside agency, the player would be correct in playing it as it lies.  Had there not been any witnesses, Dechambeau may not have had to play his provisional.  In this one case, however, it was unfortunate to have spotters ahead who were able to see the original spot that the ball came to rest.

Course Setup Philosophy

            Those who know me, know that course setup is what makes my job enjoyable.  I love being able to set hole locations and move around teeing grounds to test golfers and make the tournament more enjoyable.  I tend to err on the side of scoring opportunities, however I have been known to put in some “take your par and run” holes as well.
Tucked Hole Location from Forward Tee
            This week I was in charge of setting the tees for the match play rounds, and helped select the quarterfinal/semifinal hole locations.  In match play, drivable par four holes become incredibly interesting, and the idea of risk-reward takes on its proper meaning. 
            This week, the 8th, 11th and 16th holes were moved up in various rounds to provide opportunities to reach the green and create scoring opportunities.  The 8th hole was by far the most interesting.  From the forward tee it played 280 yards and all 8 players took 3-wood or driver to attempt to reach the green.  Two players held the green, most impressively was Cory McElyea in the semifinal match against Pace Johnson.  McElyea hit 3-wood to about 5 feet and holed the putt for eagle.  He went on to win the match in 19 holes.

14th Hole from 15th Teeing Ground 
            The most fun hole to setup this week was by far the famous par-3 14th hole.  The stroke play rounds had used the traditional gold tee, about 177 yards to the center and over the ocean.  It is a spectacular hole.  But with extreme winds on the second day, we moved the tee to about 149 yards and a friendlier angle for Wednesday and Thursday.  For Friday, however, we wanted to use an incredibly tucked hole location.  So we moved the tee to about 120 yards and watched how great a short hole can be with the right setup.

            Saturday was the best though.  I had come up with the idea while setting tees on Tuesday morning and had started pushing the idea to those who needed to listen.  When we were selecting hole locations with the Assistant Superintendent on Thursday, we asked if we could do it.  We wanted to play the 14th hole from across 17-Mile Drive at the back tee for the 15th hole (Lasered at 160 yards).  The Assistant loved the idea and he asked his boss.  The Superintendent loved the idea, but needed approval from the General Manager because it involved hitting across a public road.  Finally we got the approval with the caveat that we would have to run traffic control while the two players hit.

            The move was a big hit amongst officials and players, albeit with mixed reviews from some spectators.  It may be the only time that hole is ever played that way in competition, so I’m very proud to have done it for our State Amateur.

14th Hole from Traditional Teeing Ground
            What that did, however, was create to completely different angles of approach and therefore, two different paces were necessary.  So I created the hole location sheet with the paces for the two different angles.  Interestingly enough, from the 15th tee angle, the hole was dead center – ten paces from each side.  From the traditional back tee that was used in the afternoon, the hole was only 5 paces off the right.  It was incredibly tricky and it nearly launched a complete comeback from Dechambeau.  Dechambeau, down 5 with 5 to play birdied the iconic hole, and followed it with another birdie on 15 (the tee for which had been moved up to make the par 5 reachable for the first time all week).  After a perfect drive on 16, Dechambeau failed to capitalize and McElyea made a great sand save to halve the hole and win the match.
Final Round Hole Locations

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