Professionals left ‘Belmonted’
At first glance the 18th hole at Belmont Hills does not appear to be all that threatening.
A relatively straight, if narrow, 412-yard par four, it rises gently to a long thin green, with out of bounds on either side of the fairway.
Yesterday, however, when the tees and pin were at the extreme ends of the hole, and the wind was blowing into the golfers' faces, the tee shot was, as one professional put it, “like trying to drive a ball up a gnat's ...”.
The drive was just the first difficulty to be negotiated, the quick green and pin placement on a slope at the very back, meant that even if a player reached it in two, there was no guarantee they would walk away with a par, or better.
Many did not.
Of the 85 golfers who competed in the second round of the Gosling's Invitational just 12 managed par or less, on the closing hole. Of that group, only Steven DeCosta, the leading amateur managed a birdie, for a one-under par 69. What some of the professionals would have given for that score. Only three of their number, Patrick Horgan III, Billy Walsh, and Danny King, managed to break par yesterday, while Kirk Hanefeld posted a level par 70 to leave himself seven-over for the tournament.
Horgan's one-under par 69 meanwhile puts him at five-under at the halfway stage, three shots ahead of Walsh and Brian McCann who are tied in second place, with Ed Kirby a shot further back. But not even Horgan was immune to the dangers of 18, still, his double-bogey was the average for the hole yesterday.
McCann also walked away with a double-bogey 6, despite trying to play it safe off the tee, and from one-under he slipped to one-over for the round and two-under for the tournament.
“I wasn't even trying to be a hero, I would have accepted a five,” McCann said. “Even if you hit a perfect drive, to that pin all you see is cliff, and so you're hitting a weak shot out to the right, and that pin's impossible. To two-putt that, you're first putt has to be amazing. It's brutal.”
At least McCann managed to sink a putt to save a six, King was on course for a six-under 64 when he stood on the 18th tee, moments later he trudged off with a quadruple-bogey, for a round of 68, leaving him seven-over.
While King does have a history with the 18th at Belmont, and none of it good, yesterday his was not a solitary tale.
Fellow professional Alan Mclean had the dubious honour of registering the day's highest score on the hole, a nine-over par 13, and there were several other examples of scorecards being ruined by the last 412-yards of the course.
Such is the pain that the golf course has inflicted over the first two rounds, visiting professionals have added two new words to the Island's golfing lexicon. “Belmonted”, the process by which a golfer is beaten into submission by the course, and “Belmonting” the act of disintegrating during a round.
Given the issues of the opening two days, Horgan's three shot lead going into the business end of the week looks more substantial than normal.
Walsh though, who won the tournament two year's ago, played some solid golf yesterday, while McCann has given himself plenty of opportunities to score, and could have easily registered a 66 if his putting had been better.
Kirby too will fancy his chances, despite his two-over par yesterday, which was built on the back of a double-bogey 6 at the 386-yard par four 2nd.
Given the events of the rest of the day, the American's par at 18 undoubtedly kept him in the hunt.
In the battle for the senior division Donny Jarvis at six-over, has a five-shot lead over John Brott, with John Rushnell a shot further back at 12-over.
Baring a disaster of biblical proportions DeCosta should spend the next two days planning his coronation as top amateur. At level par for the tournament, he is 17 shots better off than Mark Philips, with Shannon Trott in third at 19-over.