Kittleson creates lifetime memory
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Florida State sophomore Drew Kittleson will spend some time Friday evening in the Crow’s Nest with his nose in the books, hoping to take a chunk out of all the homework that has piled up the last few weeks.
He said “not having an internet connection up there” might cause some problems – but after his second-round, even-par 72 which included an improbable eagle 2 at the beginning of Amen Corner Friday morning, is that really such a big obstacle?
Standing in the middle of the fairway, 190 yards from the flag at the treacherous 505-yard par-4 11th, the second toughest hole of the day, Kittleson pulled the same club he had used to make hole-in-one last year at a college event in Myrtle Beach, then hit what he would soon learn was another perfect 6-iron.
On an extremely windy day at Augusta National, the ball sailed straight toward the flag, bounced once and dropped into the cup, sending the patrons into a frenzy – handing him a memory forever.
Only five Masters contestants before him, all professionals, (Jerry Barber, 1926; Brad Faxon, 2002; K.J. Choi, 2004; Rory Sabbatini, 2006; and Stephen Ames, 2008) had played the 11th hole in only two shots during competition, a fact the long-hitting Kittleson certainly wasn’t surprised to hear.
“Any par-4 that’s 520...” said Kittleson, of Scottsdale, Ariz., who turned 20 just last week.
Kittleson, who got to 3 under for the day after that eagle, said he didn’t see the ball go in, but knew what had happened immediately because of the roars.
He lifted his arms into the air, as did everyone within 200 yards. He pointed to his father, Kurt, and the rest of his family. He pointed to a group of close friends that had flown in from Arizona, all them down on their knees.
He smiled and pointed up to the sky on Amen Corner – his late mother, Janis, who passed away from cancer when Kittleson was 13, certainly watching.
“It was right on the flag, and then it just erupted,” said Kittleson, greeted with hoots, hugs, hollers, high-fives and tomahawk chops right up until he picked the ball out of the hole. “All my friends starting bowing down.”
Kittleson’s coach at Florida State, Trey Jones, looked on with a smile.
The whole thing was cool enough to even create a new verb: “I went over and ‘Hale Irwin-ed at the U.S. Open’ and high-fived everybody, it was fun,” said Kittleson, referring to Irwin’s long birdie to get into a playoff in 1990.
Another new term you should learn is “eaglet stew,” an excerpt from a text message Kittleson received earlier in the week from a friend and fellow college golfer, speaking about an eagle that player had made that day in a college event.
After Kittleson’s first round 78 Thursday, he said he almost “ate eaglet stew” at the par-5 second, missing an 8-footer that would have gotten him the pair of crystal goblets players get for every eagle.
“I was thinking goblets,” he said.
More chances would come Friday morning, where Kittleson made the turn with a 2-under 34 that he said “could have been way more under.”
He missed a 4-footer for birdie on the par-3 fourth hole, an uphill 8-footer for birdie on No. 7. On the par-5 eighth, Kittleson slammed a 5-iron to 12 feet for eagle, but missed out on the goblets again.
The back nine brought both redemption and – can we create one more term? – roller-coasteration, something Kittleson says “is pretty typical” when it comes to his golf rounds.
Before the fireworks at No. 11, Kittleson found the right greenside bunker on No. 10 and failed to get up-and-down and made bogey. He hit his approach on the par-3 12th just over the green in “the craziest wind ever,” but needed five shots from there to finish – pitching into the bunker, back over the green, etc. – and made a triple-bogey 6.
While it seems certain that no one in history has navigated Nos. 11 and 12 in 2-6, Kittleson’s score on No. 12 was still seven shots clear of Tom Weiskopf’s 13 in 1980.
Kittleson – who will spend the rest of the weekend in the Crow’s Nest, because “I might as well,” he said – played all of Amen Corner in 13 shots, pushing his approach from the pine straw on the right side of No. 13 into the creek in front of the green and making bogey.
That trusty 6-iron would help him out again just two holes later. Kittleson hit his approach to the par-5 15th to 15 feet and rolled in his second eagle of the day at a tournament where the record for most eagles by an individual over four rounds is only four (Bruce Crampton, 1974; first round, No. 13; third and fourth rounds, No. 15; fourth round, No. 3).
That makes two pairs of goblets, “one for Arizona, one for school,” said Kittleson, standing under the tree near the clubhouse. Just 10 minutes prior, Kittleson had gotten up-and-down from the front of the 18th green for par to finish. He signed his card, spent a few minutes in the press area, then walked outside the ropes and into the arms of his father.