published Friday, July 18th, 2014

Southern Golf Association increases difficulty on key hole 15

Geoff Drakeford, of Australia, hits an approach shot over Lupton Lake Thursday at the Honors Course. Twelve Australians are playing this week in the 108th Southern Amateur Championship.
Geoff Drakeford, of Australia, hits an approach shot over Lupton Lake Thursday at the Honors Course. Twelve Australians are playing this week in the 108th Southern Amateur Championship.
Photo by Tim Barber.

Options from the teeing ground used on No. 15 at The Honors Course for the first two rounds of the Southern Amateur are relatives to "slim and none."

A shot just a little too far straight rests in a forest.

A shot just a little too far left rests below the bluegill.

A shot just a little too far right rests on grass but with a player needing a 4-iron or hybrid for another shot over water to the green.

A shot too short deserves a splash ending.

"That tee shot gets my heart racing, that's for sure," said Virginia Tech golfer Scott Vincent, who parred it twice the last two days. "You have to psych yourself up to hit a really good shot."

It's not only the tee shot on No. 15 that intimidates some of the best amateurs in the country competing in the 108th Southern Am. Every shot on that picturesque hole -- one of only two on the course where both water and the woods are in play for scratch-handicap golfers -- is tough.

No. 15 has been the most difficult hole on the course through the first two days. With 168 golfers playing it Wednesday and 165 playing it Thursday, the average score is 4.666.

"It's a nightmare hole," said Trevor Cone, who is two shots off the lead and 3 over par on that hole. "It's not just the tee shot -- it's the whole hole. You have to go over water again.

"And the green is diabolical."

It starts from the most distant teeing ground. Veteran caddies from The Honors Course are not used to seeing players start from that spot.

One caddie said he last remembers the blue tees being in that ground "on a Saturday about five years ago." Another went back to the late 1990s in his memory to recall the last time it was used in a significant tournament. Another said, "Never."

The teeing ground for member play and most tournament rounds places a golfer on a straighter line, no matter the distance, into the fairway, which benefits longer hitters.

It's possible the Southern Golf Association could use those tees for the final two rounds.

"From the angle we're playing, it's almost a blind tee shot," said tournament co-leader Beau Hossler. "It's impossible to get comfortable with that tee shot. It feels like you're hitting into an abyss.

"That hole is harder than some par-5s out here."

Hossler is tied for the lead despite making a bogey there Wednesday and a double-bogey Thursday.

There are outliers to the math of No. 15, however. Matt Mabrey made birdies there both days. He loves that hole.

"I hit driver because I think that takes water out of play, because if you get into the trees you can punch out and still maybe make par," Mabrey said. "I saw one guy in my group hit 3-wood. He pulled it. He re-teed and hit it through the fairway. He made a 7."

With 36 holes to play in the Southern Amateur, hole No. 15 could go far in determining the victor.

A par there is a plus.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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