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Archive for October, 2011

Guest commentary: Tiger’s unusual fall; future bright for Aggies

By Mary Armstrong/For the Sun-News

Posted: 10/13/2011 09:05:25 PM MDT


At this past weekend’s tournament, as Tiger Woods lined up a birdie putt, someone threw a hot dog at him.

The thrower missed and so did Tiger – the birdie putt that is.

Fan’s have been known to throw all sorts of things – batteries, empty beer bottles, dirty diapers uh scratch that last one, at least as far as I know.

But seriously, rarely does a fan throw something that is edible. The last time I remember something edible being thrown was an early spring game at Fenway Park when a fan muffed a foul ball and someone a couple of rows back threw a huge slice of pizza at him. But, I digress.

Tiger did finish with a 68, putting him into the middle of the pack. Now you know, and I know, that isn’t Tigeresque. He knows that’s not Tigeresque, but he needs to re-boot. Tiger may never be the dominating force he was. I doubt he will. I truly wish he and his entourage would just face it – as Yogi Berra said, “90 percent of the game is half mental.” Well, you get the picture. We (including Tiger) are expecting too much from him. Now, I know I’m not golf’s mental coach in this town, but I’ll bet the Golf Doctor would agree that expectations are the makings of double bogeys.

While Tiger did make a nice step toward being confident, I don’t think it’s enough. He won’t be playing again in a stroke play tournament until after the Presidents Cup. Tiger has been known as a match play maven and the “good vibes” from his US Amateur days may not be all that tarnished by a few so-so Ryder Cup performances. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him paired with Jim Furyk again as they played well together in 2006 event. If he can perform well in the singles match, that could provide some real fire in sparking his comeback.

NMSU women’s golf team

I regret not being able to share more insight into the Aggies golf teams – both men’s and women’s.

I occasionally see Paul Brilliant and Jackie Booth at the NMSU golf course, but I must admit some reluctance because I don’t think of myself as a reporter and I don’t think I’m a good interviewer. This time though, I’m forcing myself.

Last year, the Aggies won this week’s Price’s “Give ’em Five” Intercollegiate at NMSU Golf Course. It was the Aggies first win of their home tournament since 2006. The 2011 edition of the Aggies will have to keep improving to match last year’s win as seniors Pang Chanachai, Buz Bowerman-Ritchie and Mint Swaschuto have moved on. However, Demi Mak from Hong Kong, who led the Aggies with a 2 under par three round total last year is returning as just a sophomore and sole senior Ashley Elias, of El Paso, continues to progress.

This year’s team is heavy on sophomores. Besides Mak, the Aggies have Amelie Buhl of Germany, Estefania Buritica of Columbia, Mieke Canan from Welton, Ariz., and Lindsay Reeve from Redmond, Ore. Juniors are Marisa Bautista of Las Cruces and Aileen Meredith of Samoa. Cheryl Lo is a red-shirt Junior from Malaysia, and Laura Barron of El Paso is the team’s loan freshman this year. The future looks bright over the next few years. When asked about the diverse cultures on his team Co-Head Coach Paul Brilliant said, “Yeah its fun. It’s kind of neat to see how the personalities match up. Because the fall season is close to the start of the school year, and our student athletes are such good students we’ve had a tough time getting in the coaching time they need. I expect us to be quite a lot better in the Spring.”

The Aggies finished seventh in the Price’s “Give ’em Five” 2011 edition and none performed well enough to be in the top 20 individually, but Coach Brilliant was upbeat.

“We only had one returning starter from last year’s winning team, and we had three sophomores out there,” Brilliant said. “We are working hard though and it really only takes one less putt here and one less chip there to make the improvement we are looking for.”

“I expected Baylor to win this year,” Brilliant said. “They finished 2nd to us last year and I think they only lost one or two players from the squad.”

Baylor led the field of 15 with three day 860 total. They bested the University of Idaho by a single stroke and UI and BU players Kayla Montellano and Jaclyn Jansen tied for medalist honors with three round totals of 211, or five under par on the challenging NMSU Golf Course.

“We are academically excellent. We have a fine bunch of student athletes,” Brilliant said when asked what he’s most proud of. “We were recently recognized by the President of the NCAA as being in the top ten percent programs nationwide with a 3.6 GPA. We have young women here that may progress to the LPGA, but more importantly, we students that will excel in their careers after school if they don’t go on to be professional golfers.”

— By the way, my favorite Yogi quote: “Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?” -Carmen Berra, Yogi’s wife.

“Surprise me.” – Yogi


A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog:





By Mary Armstrong

Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 10/07/2011


If this headline started your heart beating a little quicker or made your eyes squint and lips purse, you’ve probably either been accused or have accused someone of being a sandbagger.  There are fewer subjects in golf that are more hotly debated than the handicap system. 

The USGA established the first handicap system in 1912.  The methodology was improved in 1987.  During that time, you established a handicap and played to that number wherever you went.  That number – expressed in whole digits like 15 – was an indication of what a given player could expect to score relative to an expert player.  So if an expert player (Course Rating) was expected to score 71 on a given course, the player in question would probably score somewhere around 86. 

As golfers began playing in more handicapped events it became clear that the system didn’t account fully for the differences in difficulty in golf courses.  A very good example of this problem is offered by the USGA on their “Our Experts Explain” webpage.  The comparison is made between Pinehurst #2, which has no water hazards, and The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, which has many forced water carries and sand everywhere.  While both courses are difficult, and an expert player might not score significantly different between them, a player whose tee shot carries only about 150 yards and not always down the fairway would be another story.  The Slope Rating is basically a modifier on the old handicap system to account for this discrepancy and the result is termed a Handicap Index.  So, a player with an index of 1.5 would have a course handicap of 2 at Pinehurst #2 and Sawgrass, but someone with a 25.9 index would have a 31 at Pinehurst #2 and a 36 at Sawgrass.  Now that is a whopping 5 stroke difference! 

There have been other improvements in the system as well.  One is the Equitable Stroke Control.  Depending upon your handicap index, you cannot take a score on a given hole higher than “X”.  If you are playing in a tournament, you still must report your actual score, but when you post your score for handicap purposes you must adjust any scores that exceed the allowable score for your handicap at the particular course you are playing.  So, if your handicap index is around 10, your maximum allowable score may change from a double bogey to a 7 depending upon the difficulty of the course you are playing.  But, there are still areas where math and computers aren’t the total answer.  Human judgement is sometimes required.

If you are interested in more information, the USGA Website ( is easy to navigate and easy to understand.  I highly recommend club officials get the “straight poop” on this issue which will at some point become vitally important.  In fact, the USGA recommends that each Golf Club (private course or not) have a Handicap Committee, comprised of fellow golfers.  They (not your proshop staff) are intended to be the first line of defense in maintaining the integrity of the Handicap System.

A few years ago, I was on a handicap committee and we had a situation where a player was consistently winning “Net” events.  There were numerous complaints of “sandbagging”.  The committee investigated the situation discretely and found that the player rarely played stroke play unless he was playing in a tournament.  He played in a match play league and on weekends often played for “skins”.  “Skins” are a game within the game where the player within a group (your own foursome or within a larger group) that scores the lowest on a given hole is awarded a prize – usually in the form of a relatively small wager.  Both of these types of play can result in more erratic scoring on a hole by hole basis.  This will usually result in higher recorded scores since the player is more interested in achieving the lowest score on a given hole and not necessarily the lowest score for all 18 holes. 

The committee’s first directive was for the player to turn in scorecards for each round.  After reviewing several scorecards, it became apparent that the player had several maximum scores (and few birdies as well) on each card.  The committee concluded that his scoring did not accurately reflect his potential in stroke play and referred the matter on to the regional amateur golf association for a recommendation.  The result was an adjustment to the player’s handicap.  Often the most difficult aspect of dealing with handicap issues is the rumor mill.  The handicap committee must be wholly equitable and most importantly removed from peer pressure and cliques.  An open inquiring mind and a sympathetic heart are tools of the trade. 

But, make no mistake; an active handicap committee is imperative at every golf course and every golf course should be concerned that when there members play in events outside of their Club that the accuracy of that member’s handicap reflects on the Club’s integrity as a whole.

When making an accusation or receiving an accusation of sandbagging, take time to reflect on the situation without emotion.  Often there are explanations and cheating isn’t necessarily the reason.  The handicap system and recording scores properly can seem complicated, but a few moments of reading is all that is really necessary. 

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010.  She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects.  You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog:

Walking Wounded, Solheim wrap-up, and Lexi

By Mary Armstrong/For the Sun-News

Posted: 09/30/2011 01:08:54 PM MDT

There’s a lot going on this week in the world of golf.  Talk about everything from the Solheim Cup and coming of the Presidents Cup to whether Lexi Thompson should be allowed into the LPGA.

But for us here in Las Cruces, the most important thing you could do today is spend a little time over at NMSU Golf Course watching the North American One Arm Golf Association Championship.

Las Cruces locals Larry and Deb Wyche are organizing the event. You may have seen them tending their “Debs Hot Dogs” cart, in front of Best Buy (Wednesday through Fridays) and Saturdays at the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. If you’ve met or just seen Larry, you’ll remember him and it’s not because he has one arm. He’s one of those guys that has personality plus. It’s no wonder he’s been able to assemble a deal for all Wounded Warriors to participate in the Tournament and stay at the Hotel Encanto FREE.

Larry wanted to bring the tournament to Las Cruces because he felt that our citizens would be interested in watching.

“I would love to get a lot of spectators,” he said.

It seems a small request when you consider what our Wounded Warriors have done for us and what others have battled through in losing a limb. Take an hour or so and head out to NMSU Golf Course today and cheer everyone on. The field of 40 tees off at 7:30 a.m. Join me – you’ll feel good and they’ll be very appreciative I’m sure.

Solheim Cup

It was probably the most exciting Solheim, but also the  longest grind.  What with weather problems – flooded greens and lightning in the area, it’s a wonder the Captains didn’t have to personally carry some of their players to the last tee. There was nearly 7 hours of Solheim Cup broadcast and to the relief of many, the Europeans won. When the Ryder Cup and the Amateur Cup events came began Britain was held as the golfing experts of the world. When the Solheim Cup was cast, Europe and America still couldn’t carry the Asians (especially the Koreans’) golf bags. And yet we mislead ourselves every other fall with another competition that proves nothing.

I truly love the format, but I think the competition is the real attraction. If Americans were playing Greenland in tiddly-winks for the TW Cup it would still incite riotous fanatics and pressure packed play. There must be a way of including the Asians and perhaps even a “rest of the world” team. Just because the PGA/USGA/R&A does it a certain way doesn’t mean the LPGA and LET should follow their lead.

If there were four teams, perhaps the event could be expanded by one day. The first day could feature the previous winner playing the previous fourth place team and the previous 2nd and 3rd place teams playing each other. Also, so that all 12 players would play, I might suggest that there be five matches of Foursomes, five matches of Fourball, and two singles matches. As the event is exhausting for the players (as well as us viewers), I might suggest adding two additional players for the finals with the same match arrangement for the next two days, followed – as is traditional – by a final day of singles matches for all fourteen team members. I also could see substituting a third format somewhere – like a scramble type format in place of the Foursomes or Fourball – perhaps at the previous winner’s discretion.

Perhaps I’m being a little naïve that such a change can be attained, but the rest of the world must be included somehow.

 Lexi – in or Lexi – out

A couple weeks ago, Lexi Thompson won the Navistar Classic to become the youngest to win an LPGA tour event. After convincing the LPGA that she should receive an age waiver, she finished 10 strokes ahead of her nearest competitor in the first stage of the Q-school. Early last week, Cameron Morfit, Senior Writer for Golf Magazine, challenged popular opinion on the issue of whether Ms. Thompson (is it proper to call a 16 year old Ms.?) should be allowed to be a card carrying member of the LPGA tour for next year.

The pressure to admit her is considerable. She’s been heralded as the future savior of the LPGA tour. By the rules, Thompson is too young to play on the tour – about a year and a half too young. She has played in tournaments on sponsor’s exemptions. There’s no doubt that she is a unique talent, perhaps the key factor as sponsors strive for a greater spectator turnout. But, as Morfit points out, accepting Thompson will basically kill the LPGA’s age rule so they might as well remove the rule altogether. After all, can it be long before someone else’s father or mother challenges them again? He points out that “age is not a fungible thing.” Nice word by the way. Just because she looks old for her age doesn’t mean she should be admitted any more than a 49 year old should be allowed in the Champions tour because he acts like a senior citizen.

The rule is in place for a reason – you might want to talk to Michelle Wie about that. Whether Lexi has great parents, is home schooled, is tall for her age, really likeable, really mature, unusually talented, employs her Dad as her caddie or won a tour event really isn’t pertinent to the rule. Probably the most important argument against allowing her on tour is that desperation is as desperation does.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: