By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
When it comes to the Stillwater Men’s City Championship, typically Lakeside Golf Course head professional Michael Henderson has to add a few twists to the course to keep things interesting.
Friday, Mother Nature added her own twist — dumping nearly an inch of rain the day before Saturday’s opening round.
“It will actually affect them a little bit,” Henderson said. “Because of the length of the golf course, the ball won’t roll as far. So it will actually make the golf course play a little bit longer than in years past. The past two summers have been very dry and hot, so the golf course has played very hard and firm — the balls rolled a little bit farther and the course played a little bit shorter. Now with the course being so wet, we’re not going to get much roll, so I anticipate the scores probably going up a little bit just because of the full length of the golf course.”
And that added yardage could open things up and possibly result in an exciting two days on a course that has been considered a pretty hefty challenge to even the most skilled golfers.
“We’ve got a very good field,” Henderson said. “We’ve got a lot of good players this year, and really whoever gets hot over the weekend and plays nice, consistent golf will end up being the champion. We’ve got (defending champion) Terry (Faggins), whose won before in the past and Dale Bays. We’ve got a very strong field heading into this weekend and we’re excited to have everybody out. Frankly, I’m kind of excited to see the scores they’ll shoot (because of the conditions) and hopefully somebody will post a couple of good scores.
“It’s really just going to come down to whoever plays well this weekend. Even though the club selections will change because the golf course is playing longer, I think it’s really up to anybody who putts and chips well.”
Chipping and putting may be the keys to winning the Men’s City Championship, but equally important will be keeping the ball in the fairway — particularly since Henderson said the rough is a little thicker than in previous years because of summer rains.
But that could be a little easier said than done for those unfamiliar with the course, and it may actually lead to an advantage for golfers like Bays and Faggins.
“I would think the guys that play out there on a regular basis know what to expect, especially with the different wind conditions,” Henderson said. “If we do get some rain this weekend and the wind comes out of the north or the west instead of the predominately south wind we get this time of year, I think it will probably be a little bit of an advantage for the guys that play there all the time because they’ve seen the course and all the different wind conditions.”
Even if Mother Nature doesn’t dump any more rain or change the winds over the weekend, don’t expect Lakeside to be exactly friendly.
“In the years past, we have adjusted the golf course,” Henderson said. “We’ve taken the tees to different tee boxes they haven’t used before. We try to mix it up a little bit, especially on the second day. We’ll use some pin placements that you don’t typically seen during the normal course of our pin rotation. We’ll move the tee boxes to the side and really try to make the golf course different than what they see on a typical day.”
The course may be just as challenging — if not more — than some of the previous city championships, but Henderson said the real key for the golfers will be not to let those struggles blow up.
“If you’re lucky enough to go out and play well, you not only deal with tournament stress, but playing well is also stressful as well,” Henderson said. “The guys that handle the stress the best will be able to put two rounds together and get into a comfort zone. The guys that are the mentally toughest and can handle the tournament pressure typically come out on top.”