Between the Pines 25 Years Ago

By Rex HoggardApril 3, 2011, 4:34 pm

Even Jack Nicklaus’ memory is Memorex ripe when it comes to 1986. Asked recently what club he hit into Augusta National’s 17th green on that fateful Sunday 25 years ago, the Golden One gleamed: “Pitching wedge, 110 yards . . . close enough?

“I don't remember what I hit on 11 but I hit the putt and I hit a 7-iron into (No.) 12 and played 3-iron into 13. I think I played 7-iron into 14. I hit a 4-iron into 15. I hit a 5-iron on 16. I hit pitching wedge at 17 and I hit 5-iron at 18,” Nicklaus continued. “But outside of that, I can't remember.”

It’s a testament to the significance of the event that even the guy who penned the game’s greatest chapter can be infected by the “what were you doing when . . .?” bug. Nicklaus’ 1986 Masters victory transcended sports and time – like the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s “Miracle on Ice” or Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962.

Anyone within ear-shot of a small-screen, low-def television can remember the eagle at the 15th followed by workman-like birdies at Nos. 16 and 17. There was Seve Ballesteros’ watery 4-iron on the 15th hole and Greg Norman, poor Greg Norman, who needed a par at the last to force a playoff , but instead could only manage a skanky 4-iron. Bogey. Bring on the marching band.

A golf course designer five years removed from his last major won his sixth green jacket in “the December of my career” he explained to a stunned press corps. Scribes who were there still recall thinking that this one was “too big to write.” And preeminent golf writer Dan Jenkins seemed to have nailed it with his lead:

“If you want to put golf back on the front pages again and you don't have a Bobby Jones or a Francis Ouimet handy, here's what you do: You send an aging Jack Nicklaus out in the last round of the Masters and let him kill more foreigners than a general named Eisenhower.”

Average people with no more than a passing interest in the game remember Nicklaus’ ’86 masterpiece like child births and weddings, some taken by the competitive perfection of it, all others the timelessness of the achievement.

Nicklaus started the final round tied for ninth and four strokes behind Norman, who turned in 1 under before things unraveled with a double bogey at the 10th hole. With 10 holes to play, Nicklaus was still six strokes adrift of front-runner Ballesteros. But he closed with a back-nine 30, which has been bested by only two others in Masters’ history, and signed for a 65, which tied for the day’s lowest card.

But as clutch as Nicklaus’ Sunday play was it is another number that captivated fans, fervent or otherwise. At 46 years old Nicklaus was, at best, a part-time player and, unlike the modern game which has been dominated in recent years by forty-somethings thanks to technology and fitness advances, was viewed in many ways as a ceremonial golfer.

“I don't even know why I was playing golf then. I don’t really,” Nicklaus said. “I was doing my golf course design work, but I really liked to play golf. I didn't want to quit playing golf but I really didn't have any goals. So from about (1980) on, I was there. And then just sort of lightning in a bottle I suppose in many ways.”

What transpired between the pines that Sunday 25 years ago left an indelible mark on an entire generation, to say nothing of a young Englishman who has no trouble filling in the blank “where were you when . . .?”

“The players’ locker room to just watch how it all unfolded,” Sandy Lyle recalls with little prompting.

“When Norman made four birdies in a row I thought Norman was going to nip (Nicklaus), but then Norman makes such a mess at the 18th hole. Everything was unfolding in Nicklaus’ favor. The old devil made a great effort with his 65 but you could see the golfing gods were watching over him.”

Lyle had the closest thing to a front-row seat for anyone not named Nicklaus that day. He teed off with Nicklaus that April afternoon about 45 minutes before the leaders – just far enough out of the conversation to keep his mind from wondering. Or so he thought.

“I was not thinking we had much of a chance to win the tournament. Jack may have been,” said Lyle, who had never played with Nicklaus, his boyhood hero.

But then there was the birdie at No. 2 when Nicklaus landed his 7-iron approach shot in an area about the size of a “biscuit tin” for birdie. And at the eighth, when the eventual champion emerged from the trees where he’d hit his drive: “He came walking toward me with a big grin. ‘I tried to go through a gap of 6 feet and went through a gap of 6 inches,’ he said. He missed his target, but he made par,” Lyle remembers.

For the rest of the day Lyle watched, intently. Although he would go on to sign for a 1-under 71, and claim his own green jacket two years later, Lyle admits now, in the December of his career, he was more patron than player that day.

“I was very aware history was sort of unfolding. I had my own battle going on, but I was almost spectating with the last two or three holes. Jack was in overdrive,” he said.

With almost more clarity than Nicklaus, Lyle can recount Nicklaus’ back nine like a court reporter. At the 13th hole when Nicklaus’ son, Jackie, turned and pleaded, “This is no good for my young heart.” Nicklaus’ eagle at the 15th hole, his birdie at No. 16 with “an absolute classic shot” and the “wonderful putt” from 12 feet for birdie at No. 17.

“The noise level by the time he made the eagle at 15 was deafening. You could hear the golfing gods,” Lyle recalls as his memory races back 25 years.

Lyle tied for 11th in 1986, but he likely couldn’t tell you that. For nine holes Lyle, the competitor, was transformed into Lyle, the witness to history, just like the rest of us. The only difference is he had a better view.

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Alabama faces 'buzzsaw' Arizona for NCAA title

By Ryan LavnerMay 23, 2018, 2:00 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – There was no way Laura Ianello could sleep Monday night, not after that dramatic ending at the NCAA Women’s Championship. So at 12:15 a.m., the Arizona coach held court in the laundry room at the Holiday Inn, washing uniforms and munching on mozzarella sticks and fried chicken strips from Sonic, her heart still racing.

Ianello got only three hours of sleep, and who could blame her?

The Wildcats had plummeted down the team standings during the final round of stroke-play qualifying, and were 19 over par for the day, when junior transfer Bianca Pagdanganan arrived on the 17th hole.

“Play the best two holes of your life,” Ianello told her, and so Pagdanganan did, making a solid par on 17 and then ripping a 6-iron from 185 yards out of a divot to 30 feet. There was a massive leaderboard positioned to the right of the par-5 18th green, but Pagdanganan never peeked. The only way for Arizona to force a play-five, count-four playoff with Baylor and reach match play was to sink the putt, and when it dropped, the Wildcats lost their minds, shrieking and jumping over the ropes and hugging anyone in sight.

Watching the action atop the hill, Alabama coach Mic Potter shook his head.

“I was really glad we didn’t win the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed,” he said, “because they’re a buzzsaw with a lot of momentum.”

Given new life, Arizona dispatched Baylor by three strokes in the playoff, then turned its attention to top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals on Tuesday morning.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage

Facing two first-team All-Americans, the Wildcats beat them, too, continuing the curse of the medalist. In the afternoon, worried that the adrenaline would wear off, Ianello watched her squad make quick work of Stanford, 4-1.

“They’ve got a lot of great momentum, a lot of great team energy,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “They thought they were going home, and now they’ve got a chip on their shoulder. They’re playing with an edge.”

After a marathon doubleheader Tuesday at Karsten Creek, Arizona now has a date with Alabama in the final match of this NCAA Championship.

And the Wildcats better rest up.

Alabama looks unstoppable.

“They’re rolling off a lot of momentum right now,” Ianello said. “We know Alabama is a good team. But they’re super excited and pumped. It’s not the high of making it [Monday]; now they’ve got a chance to win. They know they have to bring it.”

Even fully rested, Arizona will be a significant underdog against top-ranked Alabama.

After failing to reach match play each of the past two years, despite being the top overall seed, the Tide wouldn’t be stopped from steamrolling their competition this time.

They roughed up Kent State, 4-1, in the quarterfinals, then frontloaded their lineup with three first-team All-Americans – Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight – in their semifinal tilt against Southern Cal.

Potter said that he was just trying to play the matchups, but the move sent a clear signal.

“It gets pretty tedious when you never miss fairways and hole a lot of putts and your opponent knows that you’re not going to spray it,” Potter said. “That’s tough to match up against.”

They breezed to the first three points, draining any drama out of the semifinals. Of the 99 holes that Bama’s Big 3 played Tuesday, they trailed after only two.

“We’re always consistent,” Stephenson said, “and that’s exactly what you need in match play. Someone has to go really low to beat us.”

That Arizona even has that chance to dethrone the Tide seemed inconceivable a few months ago.

The Wildcats had a miserable fall and were ranked 39th at the halfway point of the season. On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, sent a text to Ianello that she was turning pro. Once she relayed the news, the team felt abandoned, but it also had a newfound motivation.

“They wanted to prove that they’re a great team, even without her,” Ianello said.

It also was a case of addition by subtraction: Out went the individual-minded Quihuis and in came Yu-Sang Ho, an incoming freshman whom Ianello described as a “bright, shining light.”

Because incorporating a top-tier junior at the midway point can be intimidating, Ianello organized a lively team retreat at the Hilton El Conquistador in Tucson, where they made vision boards and played games blindfolded.

They laughed that weekend and all throughout the spring – or at least until Pagnanganan made that last-ditch eagle putt Monday. Then tears streamed down Ianello’s face.

Folding uniforms after midnight, she regaled Alabama assistant coach Susan Rosenstiel with stories from their emotional day on the cut line, not even considering that they might face each other two days later for a national title. She was too delirious to ponder that.

“I feel like a new mother with a newborn baby,” Ianello said. “But we’re going off of adrenaline. This team has all the momentum they need to get it done.”

Yes, somehow, the last team into the match-play field might soon be the last team standing.

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Pairings, tee times set for championship match

By Jay CoffinMay 23, 2018, 1:02 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Alabama coach Mic Potter has three first-team All-Americans on this team. It’s little surprise that all three are going out first in the Crimson Tide’s championship match against Arizona Wednesday at Karsten Creek.

Potter tinkered with his lineup in both the quarterfinal victory over Kent State and the semifinal win over USC. But with the NCAA title on the line, this one was a no brainer.

“We don’t want to sacrifice anything,” Potter said. “We just want to give ourselves a chance to win every match.”

Arizona kept its lineup the same all day Tuesday in defeating Pac-12 foes UCLA and Stanford in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. That meant junior Bianca Pagdanganan, the Wildcats grittiest player this week, was in the last match of the day. She won twice.

Now, with all the marbles riding on the championship match, Arizona coach Laura Ianello moved Pagdanganan up to the third spot to assure that her match is key to the final outcome.

Junior Haley Moore, Arizona’s best player all year, is in the fifth spot and will face Alabama senior Lakareber Abe.

“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a helluva ride,” Ianello said.

Alabama (2) vs. Arizona (8)

3:25PM ET: Lauren Stephenson (AL) vs. Yu-Sang Hou (AZ)

3:35PM ET: Kristen Gillman (AL) vs. Gigi Stoll (AZ)

3:45PM ET: Cheyenne Knight (AL) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (AZ)

3:55PM ET: Angelica Moresco (AL) vs. Sandra Nordaas (AZ)

4:05PM ET: Lakareber Abe (AL) vs. Haley Moore (AZ)

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Women's NCAA finals: Arizona vs. Alabama

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 11:49 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – It’s the SEC vs. the Pac 12 for the women’s NCAA Championship; Alabama vs. Arizona, to be more specific.

Both the Crimson Tide and Wildcats cruised in their respective semifinal matches Tuesday at Karsten Creek. Alabama easily beat USC, 3-1-1; Arizona defeated match-play juggernaut Stanford, 4-1.

Alabama’s top three players, Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight were unstoppable forces in both matches on the marathon day. Stacked in the top three positions in the semifinals all three won their matches on the 17th hole, making the last two matches inconsequential.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage

Arizona, the eighth seed, won as decisively as second-seeded Alabama, but needed a miracle to be in this position in the first place.

Junior Bianca Pagdanganan drained a 30-footer for eagle on the last hole of stroke play on Monday to get the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor, which they won on the second hole. Then on Tuesday, presumably running on fumes, they downed top-seeded UCLA in the morning, then crushed Pac-12 foe Stanford in the afternoon.

Pagdanganan, Gigi Stoll and Hayley Moore each won both matches for Arizona on the hot, draining day.

“I don’t want to let them down so I do my best to rise to the occasion,” Pagdanganan said.

Said Arizona coach Laura Ianello: “How many players, when you tell them under pressure that you need them, can really handle it,” Ianello said about Pagdanganan. “This kid can.”

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:30 pm

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals were contested Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live finals action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


TV Times (all times ET):

4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)