Into the Light

By Rex HoggardMarch 27, 2009, 4:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. ' Its not part of golf lore yet, but it will be.
Its a vision of a lone figure illuminating the Clemson University practice range with the lights from his well-used Toyota pickup truck, searching for Ben Hogans secrets in the South Carolina dirt past midnight.
Its a phone call placed well past an acceptable hour to a swing coach with a single message: I got it.
Its a relatively mundane happening that was transformed into an epiphany so profound it changed the course of a 15-year-olds life.
Kyle Stanley
Kyle Stanley during last year's U.S. Amateur. (Getty Images)
If it all this sounds a tad too Bagger Vance for you then take heart, Kyle Stanley is as off-the-shelf as they come, 5-foot-11, expressive brown eyes, mop of unruly hair tucked under a cap and a polite wrapper folded firmly around an intense and driven young man. The kid next door, if the kid next door could hit the ball 320 yards and roll putts like Ben Crenshaw.
The story, at least the golf chapter portion of it, begins at the 2003 Washington state high school championship. The 15-year-old version of Stanley missed some putts, missed a couple drives, missed the cut. Familiar tale, but the twist occurred within.
That was a kick in the gut, said Stanleys father, Matt. I think (Friedrich) Nietzsche said, You cant know light, unless you know dark.
Funny, it was that competitive crossroads that now drives Stanley, 21, into the South Carolina darkness and towards a professional career he seems capable of willing to fruition.
I wasnt really a hard worker before that, said Stanley, a junior at Clemson who is making his second start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational thanks to his victory at last years Southern Amateur. I made the decision that if I didnt win because I played poorly, that was fine. But I was going to be ready.
The workhorse of the Pacific Northwest shut down the rest of his athletic dance card to focus on golf and picked Clemson ' about as far from his Gig Harbor, Wash., home as one can get ' because of its rich golf heritage, not to mention a staggering number of alum who go on to Tour careers.
His first summer at Clemson he won two events and qualified for the U.S. Amateur, it was a solid, if somewhat expected, start. But it was Stanleys work ethic that turned heads.
Hogan once said there was never enough daylight to hit range balls. Stanley quickly found a cure. As a freshman he made a habit out of practicing late into the night with nothing but his Toyota high beams and a few distance light poles to guide the way.
The people who would park their campers behind the range would turn the switch (for the range lights) off and hed walk back down there and turn them back on, said Sea Island (Ga.) Resort swing coach Mike Taylor, who started working with Stanley about a year and half ago.
The kid, who counts Vijay Singh as his favorite Tour player, has taken a page out of the Fijians book. So much so that Taylors biggest challenge now is limiting his time on the practice ground, as well as setting boundaries for the duos frequent conversations.
He will call you at weird times at night, laughed Taylor, who has worked to shorten Stanleys swing as well as his practice sessions. We had a running joke that because we talked so much we set 7 (p.m.) as our regular time to talk.
The practice has paid off. Stanley is Golfweeks seventh-ranked college player, narrowly missed the cut at last years U.S. Open and quietly staked his young competitive legacy to last months Jones Cup victory, an event he won in a playoff after walking off the 15th green on Sunday five strokes behind the leader. It was the kind of urban-legend type stuff that elevates good players to great players.
Thats why you play so you can get into situations like that, said Stanley, who plans to turn pro after next months NCAA Championship.
Matt Stanley is not above marveling at his son, but its a quiet appreciation more so than the pride of authorship normally offered by your average over-bearing soccer dads.
So much of what Kyle has done has come from within, Matt Stanley said. One thing we always thought was important was he needed to start making good decisions early and he has done that.
During a practice round on Tuesday at Bay Hill Kenny Perry was impressed with both the competitor and the resilient young man within. On the opening hole of their practice round, Stanley outdrove Perry by 25 yards and hoisted his approach to eight feet.
If youre going to drive it like that were going to have problems, smiled Perry, one of the Tours longest hitters. But it wasnt Stanleys surprisingly powerful swing or his dogged pursuit of his first made cut on Tour ' an effort that was ultimately derailed late Friday by an inopportune quadruple-bogey at the par-5 sixth hole ' that drew Perrys praise.
Hes got the total package, Perry said. But what I really liked the most was his demeanor. Hes all golf, all business.
Twenty-one-year-olds dont build a golf lore, they borrow gas money from their parents and make bad decisions they will laugh about for years. What changes the paradigm is when a 21-year-old trades the college nightlife for endless nights on a deserted practice range. Its what marks the beginnings of golf lore.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Arnold Palmer Invitational
  • Full Coverage - Arnold Palmer Invitational
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

    By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

    Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

    During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.


    A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

    Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

    Getty Images

    Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

    By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

    DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

    With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

    But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

    That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

    Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.

    Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

    AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

    There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

    If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

    “I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

    While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

    While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

    “Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

    But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

    While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

    “I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

    Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

    But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Tour.

    Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

    “Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

    An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

    For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

    “It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”

    Getty Images

    5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

    By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

    The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

    1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

    2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.

    NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

    NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

    3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

    4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

    5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

    Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

    Getty Images

    Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

    By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

    DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

    Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

    Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.

    Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

    AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

    “He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

    Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

    “I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”