On the 17th tee box at Great Hills Country Club, Chris Hartenstein had a a four shot lead over Bailey, his closest competitor in the 2014 Chester Cup. Hartenstein had overcome brisk gusty winds, fast greens, deep rough and the pressure of holding a lead for the entire final round. He was the only player under par for the championship. He could smell victory.
If he could make a couple of pars or a par and a bogey on the last two holes, the Chester cup would be his. He had won the Austin Senior City Championship last September so he was a proven winner. But, he was concerned about the last two holes at Great Hills Country Club.
The 17th, is a downhill par three with a severe elevation change and there was a brisk left to right wind. The pin was back right on a diagonal green. With bunkers in front and in back of the green, distance control is critical. Short right is bunker or water hazard, depending on the line of the shot. Long is an impossible pitch to a back left pin. Get the distance right and the worst you can do is a three putt bogey. Get the distance wrong and anything can happen.
Standing on the tee, Hartenstein selected an 8 iron for the 190 yard shot, figuring that he could not hit that club too far. He struck the 8 iron solidly and watched it fly on line, about 20 feet left of target. He felt good about it. Until it landed…..
In the late afternoon shadows it was difficult to see the final result. A playing partner informed him it had plugged in the back lip of the back bunker. Not good…. that leaves an impossible shot. Enter damage control.
The shot he faced presented the choice of advancing the ball to a flat part of the bunker or being aggressive and risk going long into another bunker or hitting it into the water hazard short of the green. Wisely, he chose to advance the ball to the flat part of the bunker. Meanwhile, Bailey had hit the green in regulation, some 35 feet from the hole.
Hartenstein was then facing a third shot out of the bunker from 30 feet to a fast green sloping away from him. (Shown in the photo above) The standard play would have left him with a fifteen footer past the hole, putting for bogey. Double bogey would have been the probability. He tried to make bogey and left his third shot in the bunker. As the gallery and his playing companions watched Bailey two putt for par and Hartenstein eventually make a triple bogey six, there was a shift in mood…..
Naked and Afraid
‘Naked and Afraid’ is the title of a TV series where a man and a woman are dumped in some god awful location, stripped of their clothes, and given minimal tools with which to survive for a couple of weeks. The latest episode is entitled “The Pain Forest”. Hartenstein had now entered his own version of this drama and was starring in the lead role.
Although he retained a one shot lead headed into 18, his body chemistry had undergone a substantial change. His was reacting to a threat and additional factors were at work biologically. Some call it pressure. Whatever you call a threat, certain things happen physically. The blood changes and adds coagulants so it will congeal in case of attack or injury. Muscles tense in anticipation of having to fight or run. In short….it becomes hard to function properly in a game like golf that requires finesse, a clear mind, and freedom of movement.
From the 18th par five tee box, Bailey hit a marginal shot, narrowly missing the trouble to the left and bouncing back almost to the fairway. It looked OK from the tee, but not great. Shown here is the swing.
Hartenstein hooked his tee shot into the left hillside, resulting in an unplayable lie. After some discussion and a ruling by Rick Arnett, the Head Professional at Great Hills, Hartenstein elected to drop the ball some 45 yards back of the spot of the unplayable. It was his only realistic option. Two club lengths no closer to the hole would have forced a drop on a rocky hillside where anything could happen. So, Hartenstein took a one stroke penalty then played a third shot into the fairway some 100 yards short of the green. Rick Arnett is shown here helping to determine the proper relief from the situation.
Next, the rules officials had to deal with the issue of whether or not Bailey got relief from a tree in the left rough that had been staked for growth. No relief was given. Bailey then played a second shot with a restricted backswing and knocked it onto the green for a 35 foot eagle putt. Youth and strength are a nice asset to have in these situations.
Hartenstein played his fourth to 15 foot above the hole. Bailey putted to about four feet below the hole. Hartenstein ran his par putt about six feet past then missed it coming back. Bailey made his birdie and won the tournament.
The beauty and the beast
The beauty….here is the thing… amateurs play golf for fun. It’s recreation. In a tournament, only a handful of players are in contention for the title. And regardless of the outcome, it is something special for all who participate.
To get into contention requires years of hard work, practice, playing in tournaments etc. It’s not something you can buy, regardless of how much money you have. It is something that has to been earned. And, it is something out of the ordinary. It puts you in a difficult place and tests your resolve. It forces you out of your comfort zone. It gives the participants a brief window of feeling elevated and more alive. It is a beautiful thing.
The beast….losing is a bummer. There is always the “what if” or “I should have” or “if only I had”… The thing to remember is you were in contention and for a brief couple of hours you were elevated and more alive. Live and learn and apply the lessons to the next opportunity.
Congratulations to Kyle Bailey, Chris Hartenstein and all those players where in a position to enjoy the feelings of being in contention. Click here to view the leaderboard and see who was there….