Golfers’ back nine aim one of survivalSeptember 19, 2013
By JOSEPH FANELLI
Herald Sports Writer
Jasper Municipal Golf Course is a pleasant, sprawling, gorgeous 18 holes, framed by a sea of golden Indiana corn and split by long and lonely Mill Street.
It’s also got more hazards than a downed power line.
Muni will again be the backdrop for Saturday’s girls golf sectional that will include Southridge, Forest Park, Heritage Hills and Jasper, the reigning champ. Southridge, Heritage Hills and Tell City will be the first to tee off at 10 a.m. The second group commences about 45 minutes later and Forest Park, Jasper and Gibson Southern start the day at about 11:30 a.m.
The Wildcats are the favorite as the winner of five of the last six sectionals. Anything is possible, though, with Muni’s back nine: a steep, heavily wooded, punishing stretch that can bring even the best golfers to their knees. For example, see Getzin, Annie — Jasper’s top golfer who dropped a 10 on the dreaded hole No. 13 during 2012’s sectional. Although it should be noted that Getzin stormed through the back nine, and the front, posting a 1-under-par 70 at the Wildcat Invitational in August.
So it is possible, if not probable.
“It’s narrow,” Heritage Hills coach Dave Jochim said. “It requires tremendous concentration. On (hole No. 14) last year I saw a girl play a ball onto the green and roll back to her four times.”
Whereas the Muni front nine is defined by lengthy, spacious fairways, the back is a suffocating nest of trees and traps. Last season, only Eryn Jochim competed in the sectional for the Patriots as the coach decided to let his remaining players, most of whom had picked up clubs for the first time that summer, sit the first one out. Now, Eryn will be joined by the rest of her team.
“You just got to play it from spot to spot, play it smart,” Dave Jochim said. “I just tell (my team) they’re not going to be the only ones with high scores back there. You have to move on and just do the best you can.”
All four teams have played the course this season. Jasper calls it home, Heritage Hills has visited once and Southridge and Forest Park both have competed at Muni twice this year.
“It’s just completely different than all the golf lanes around here,” said Forest Park coach Bryce Morrison, who played in a sectional at Muni during his high school days at Southridge. “If you make a bad shot, you’re usually penalized by more than one stroke. ... There’s just a lot of places if you make a bad strike, it’s hard to get to a recovery shot.”
Forest Park took fifth at last season’s sectional and has the advantage of returning all five golfers. Senior Kaylyn Gaesser also gets another chance, although she had one of the worst breaks of the tournament last season when she watched her ball land on the green at hole No. 6, then slip off and roll back to her on a cart path. She’s developed a technique this season to calm herself and said it seems to be working.
“I started something new where as I approach the ball, I just keep repeating in my head to relax and stay calm,” Gaesser said. “I don’t think of anything else and it keeps me calmer.”
For Southridge, all five Raiders will play in their first sectional after seven seniors graduated last season. Taylor Seufert, the Raiders’ No. 1 golfer, has a relatively simple strategy: Play well on the first nine holes and then grit your teeth for the second. As for the sectional setting, the only pressure she’ll sense is from the extra eyes around the course.
“The only thing different about at sectional for me is the bigger crowd,” Seufert said. “When I hit a bad shot that kinds of gets to me.”
She briefly considers the other side, though.
“That’s pretty awesome,” she admits with a laugh. “If I get a really good chip shot, everyone claps.”
On a course where small errors can escalate into penalties very quickly, the consensus approach is to minimize risk by using smaller clubs and rely on the short game.
Those attempts to just drive directly through a hole usually result in unwanted strolls through the trees, either looking for the ball or a possible escape route. Jasper coach Steve Milligan tells his girls to leave their woods alone as soon as they finish hole No. 9.
“Those holes are so tight and the woods are so close to the fairway that if you overshoot something, you’re going to go down to the forest,” Jasper junior Catherine Bell said.
So which hole is the hardest?
“I would have to say 13,” Seufert said.
“Thirteen can be real tough,” Jochim echoed.
“Hole 13 with the lake. They see that lake and they go, ”˜Oh, my god,” Milligan said.
“Oh, I don’t know what number it is. It’s the one right on the lake. It’s the hole most golfers have trouble on normally,” Gaesser confirmed.
Hole No. 13 is a 258-yard par-4. The fairway starts with a landing zone, but if you overshoot that, it’s a 140-yard shot off a downward slope and over a lake to a green flanked by a sand trap.
“That’s the most difficult shot in golf,” Morrison said. “Hitting a golf ball off a downward slope and over (a lake). ... If you can pull it off, you can put up some really good scores.”
Easier said than done. Last year, the field averaged an eight on the hole.
“The green is just in the background waiting for you to hit, but there’s the lake and a huge tree right in the middle,” Bell said. “It’s a killer. I’ve heard miracle stories and I’ve heard many horror stories.”
“(The back nine) makes you a better golfer,” Milligan said. “Bring your irons out and keep it out of the woods.”
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