Bruno's Blog

The "IT FACTOR" Has Arrived PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   

1st Tee of the final round - one to remember

Back in December of 2009, I wrote a post about an unbelieveable experience at the then newly renovated Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida . . . home of the King, Arnold Palmer. Well a month previous, Mr.Palmer was at the reopening of the West Palm Beach municipal golf course. He was there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his victory against Pete Cooper at the classic Dick Wilson layout, and more importantly to hit the opening tee shot of the courses' new redesign by Mark McCumber. The new layout actually restores some of the old original traits that Wilson implemented back in 1947.

"I remember beating Pete Cooper in a playoff," Palmer said. "He was a great putter on Bermuda greens, and had given me a lesson." At the time, Palmer was only beginning to make his mark on the game. He had won the Masters in 1958, his first of four triumphs at Augusta National and the first of his seven major championships.

On the day back in December at Bay Hill, (for those of you who hadn't read the post) Michael Kartrude hit a series of shots coming in that would impress even the most veteran of golf pro's, not to mention the harshest of analysts. These shots were not just good, as a decent player myself I can occasionally hit those, along with some others ofcourse. These shots he pulled off, caused me to dub the kid the "IT FACTOR", anyone who has been lucky enough to play or compete with the guy knows what I'm talking about . . . .  however, he had yet to win a signifigant event.

In the last 3 weeks, he had shot -9 for 54 holes to finish 2nd at the Palm Beach County Am, and missed qualifing for the U.S Amateur by a stroke. He knew his time was coming, but you still have to post the numbers to get it done. For those unaware, the Palm Beach Area is loaded with scratch and plus (Better than scratch) players, it's golf association is loaded with ex-pro's who applied for their amateur status back, aspiring pro's, college studs and about 100 middle aged guys like myself who occasionally can do some damage. If you win an event here and I mean any event, you can Ball !

At this past weekends event the Palm Beach County Public Links Championship, at the before mentioned West Palm Beach golf course, Mk threw up a 70 in day one to trail his playing partner Stephen Anderson (66) by 4 strokes. When I texted him that afternoon, he was on the boat fishing with a friend. I thought, that's probably a good thing that he's getting away to chill for awhile. I mentioned to him that it was good that he's givin himself a chance on Sunday, but the "IT FACTOR" will have to show up big time in order to get it done. He knew exactly what I meant and replied with "believe me, it will". We had played a practice round there last week and I shot 31 on the back nine, so I knew it was possible (don't ask what I shot on the other nine).

After making par on one, and feathers on the par 5 second, he birdies the short fifth, the sixth and the long uphill ninth to turn in 31 (par 35 front). On the back, he birds the brutal par 4 tenth (478 yds) for the second day in a row, this time with a 5 iron approach.Now at 5 under for the day, he knows he's in it . . . keep the pedal down ! On the par 3 eleventh he two putts for par. On twelve the rubber met the road, and as he described the moment, while doin a Kobyashi on the Pepperoni pizza he was chowin on, he says " in every great round their is a moment that you know you have to hold it together, and twelve was it for me". After his tee shot on the gettable par 5 is fine, his approach goes wayward right and leaves a tough third from the native sugar sand waste area, he proceeds to clank his 3rd clear over the green. Now it's a fight to hang onto all of the momentum from the previous 11 holes. After a nice pitch to the uphill green, there is 5 feet left to keep the train rollin.After studying harder for this read than his statistics exam, he nails the bottom of the cup and silently acknowledges to himself, "that was important".

On thirteen he hammers a drive and has 96 yards, takes a clean pass at the ball and sticks a lob wedge close for birdie, his sixth on the day, and more importantly seven under for the Championship.As all of this is happening, Colin Simpson veteran rules official for everything Florida golf, is telling Mike where he stands compared to the other leaders . . . especially Stephen Anderson in the group behind.On the par 3 fourteenth, which can play anywhere from 170-225yds, MK makes a routine par, that is always a good score there. At this point, Colin has been told by Mike that he does'nt want to know anymore scores . . . he was in the zone and he knew it. Afterall you don't mess with the pitcher when he's throwin a no hitter in 7th or 8th inning do you ? Of course not.

On fifteen Mike leaves his birdie putt short, out of the comfort zone (another tough 5 footer). On this read the grain says one thing the slope another, he choses the grain read and notches another clutch roll. At this point, he knows he's leading, but by how much and who he's leading is a mystery. Having yet to take home the glory in any big event, he realizes now is not the time for that . . . focus on the next shot. On sixteen, he nails his tee shot in the fairway and, after a very mediocre approach from 98 yds into the wind, he scrambles for another tough par. At this point he had proven to be "Tough All Day" (a slogan on a Pro V-1 I found, and once used to battle through a tough qualifier), and his reward would be two holes that were custom made for his game and the moment.

On the 388 yd dogleg left seventeenth, he lashed a drive and had the same yardage as the previous hole. He thought, Do I hit a nuke a 58 degree wedge or a smooth choke down 52 degree gap wedge. He chose the beat on 58 and landed it inches from the cup and watched it suck back to about 8 or 9 feet. His playing competitor Chris Reeves (not Superman), hit the same shot and spun it back an inch or two behind MK's Pro V1x. As expected Reeves showed him the line, and he poured it in and was seven under for the day with only the 565 yd par 5 finishing hole left on the par71, 7002 yd course.

What separates Mike from most really good players is a few things in my opinion.

1- His fairway wood play is as good as any player I have ever seen . . .  Period. The bombs he hits to reach par fives in two, come into the green high and soft like a butterfly with sore feet, and he can hit the Driver off the deck with accuracy and precision.

2 -The ability to not get bogged down in swing thoughts and to play by feel most of the time, always keeps him target oriented.

3- He is one of best people you will ever meet, but he will step on your throat if he's playing you. You better be the same way or you won't be able to compete

4- He is not afraid to go low, then throw another birdie on top of that and will continue until he runs out of golf holes

Back to the action, eighteen is playing downwind and after a 315 yd pummel, he has 250 ish to the center of the green. He hits his towering 5 wood to the back left portion of the green, 25 feet away form eagle and a 9 under course record par 62 ! The putt is a double breaker, not really one you expect to make. As he reads it from both sides, he says to himself "63 is the course record, but forget about 62 . . . just get it down there, if it goes in great . .  . but just get it down there for an easy birdie".As fate would have it, the ball tracked online all the way to the cup and moved as it was supposed to . . . . . taking the break on cue and dropped for a new course record 62 and the 1st Championship of his young career! He threw a few fist pumps in celebration and hugged his Dad Ken.

Champion atlast

After dinner last night, we shook hands and I told him this is just the beginning. The "IT FACTOR" has arrived.

Looping in Seattle Part 2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   
Thursday, 05 August 2010 20:44
Round 1
Pete tees off number 1 at 12:40, in usual style he wants to get to the course by like 10 am. I know we lead in practice balls hit this week, but Pete actually has an interview to do with a local reporter at 11 am. We meet the reporter at the chipping green,thats the spot where Allan Doyle was hitting those cool little bunker shots . Pete does his interview about how an airline pilot , who quit the game for 20 years , came back and qualified for this tourney. Pete played golf in college and was a hell of a junior player. His wife, Kerri, walked with us the entire 2 rounds. She told us how the gallery commented on Petes nice swing. Its beautiful. He looks awesome on the range. So pete does the interview and we head to the range for our 1 full bucket warmup, 1 bucket at least..
Over dinner last night , I tryed to get Pete to just play golf. He hovers in a state of angst with his swing. If he hits a poor shot, he blames his swing.
Alot of our time between shots this week were filled with Pete , club in hand, checking his top of swing position, doing drills,making practice swings. I warned him against this, You have to conserve energy out there.
I think thats why alot of the PGA guys work out. Those guys swing hard, it may not look it, but they get their moneys worth .
So we get to the first tee a few minutes before our time. We probably had 20 people in the grandstand watching us tee off. Pete is paired with two professionals, Rick Lewellen from N.Carolina and Rich Parker from New Hampshire. The first hole is a claustrophobic par 4 , 3 wood to iron off the tee. Pete choose a 3wood.. On the tee, I'm JACKED UP MAN .. I can only imagine how Pete feels. He makes a good move but just overhooks it and catches a tree and drops down. We got 200 yards to a hole that we should have 150. Pete hits a 4 iron short and we make 5 .. The next hole #2 is a beautiful par 5 ,, couples made 8 on in the final round.. Pete pulls his 3rd into the front left bunker and holes his shot for a birdie 4 .. the crowd of like 50 people go wild..
We take a few more bogeys and get to the 6th hole which is the driving distance hole .. Pete hits the drive of his life. 325 up the left center. we then dump 8 iron in the front right bunker and gouge out a 5 .On a side note , our playing partner Rich Parker is striping it.. He hits the coolest hybrid off the tee. He tees up the ball and comes right down on it , his divots start like 2 inches in front of the ball, on the tee.. this guy puts pressure on a golf ball , there no lifting at all. Parker is like a surgeon weaving his ball thru those trees.
Pete was like 5 over for his first nine, Parker even.We post 82 day one , Lewellen 81, Parker 72
Day 2
Our tee time is early , 7:40 on 10. The fog is rolling in and there is an inevitable delay. That first tee shot is epic. The fog hanging in and amongst those beautiful trees is something I will always remember. We get off to a nervous start. bogey, double,double, I believe. Thank God for a 3 hour fog delay . . . we head to where else,, the range.. Pete is a maniacal practicer. He loves to work on his swing and pursue perfection in a game where perfection is an illusion.
A cool thing was meeting Russ Cochran and chatting with him a little. There was a handicapped kid with a walker and Russ calls him over and talks with him like 30 minutes. It was good to see that. I know a good friend of Russ and we talked a little. The thing was, Russ never hit a ball on the range that we saw. He was there like an hour and half just talking. Pete is wearing out his 6 iron . Russ shoots 69, We shoot 85 and miss the cut. Our man Parker squeaks in with a 77 and makes the weekend. Lewellen finishes on a dead run birding 3 out of the last 4, he lips out a birdie putt on our last hole the ninth.
The last two holes we play are ridiculous, The galleries are getting massive in anticipation of the big boys coming thru. Hole 8 is a double tough par 4. Pete hits a 3 wood and leaves a six iron short of the green. The grandstand is packed , there are people surrounding the green. Every putt is hit with the OOOOOOOOO,OH oh oh .. sound that u hear on television..
Our last hole at this event is what I envisioned it would be like. Packed grandstand behind the green, tee box packed, people walking and waiting down the sides. You truly feel like u are in a fishbowl, under a microscope. Your golf game exposed for everyone to see. I could only imagine what ol' Williams was going thru. Hole 9 is a great par 3 over water playing just over 200 yds . . .  club selection is 4 or 5 iron. There are data people on every par 3 doing the professional handsignal to find out what club the player is hitting.. Williams makes a good pass at a 4 iron and bunkers it short.. I tell ya brother, I challenge anyone in the PBCGA to hit that tee shot with those galleries under that pressure. I could see a few chinese laterals out of most of em. Pete blasts out to 12 feet. damn good bunker shot, this thing came out high landed soft and looked very professional. I read most of Petes putts for him, but this was his moment,, He went thru his routine, made a good stroke and all be damned it went in . happy ending.
Let me say a few words bout what I learned this week. Professional golfers have the nerves of asassins. These guys believe in themselves and their games to a dying end. My man Pete is prone to getting down on himself a little. When a bad shot happens , he looks for a drill to fix it. The other guys in our group just looked more focused, more into playing golf, we looked like we were trying to work on our golfswing. Thats a lesson I will always adhere to when I play going forward. Attack the course with your mind,, not your golfswing.
The main thing is that Pete Williams is a true gentleman. Jason, in all the time I've known Pete , I never heard him use profanity,not once . . . on or off the course. Pete is a Modest, Humble, Kind man with a wicked golfswing. I can not think of anyone that I would enjoy doing this with more . I am forever thankful that he chose me to do this.
(As I read his description about Pete, I knew exactly what he meant . . . even though I have never personally met the man. Reminded me very much of the Byron Nelson model, very few around still like that. (Cursing is actually a personal vise . . . along with Chocolate.)
Did I mention how hot Gene Jones' caddy is?? Whoa !
I think you did mention that a few times my friend,Thanks again Jeff for sharing the ride.
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