SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – History was made Friday at the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship. But it wasn’t a player or coach rewriting the books.
No, for what is believed to be the first time ever in the championship’s history, an artificial-turf tee box was put into play. The 407-yard, par-4 fourth hole at Rich Harvest Farms featured a turf mat, about 10 feet by 15 feet, that sat off the cart path, in a heavily shaded area just shy of a creek.
“I’ve never seen that in my life,” Baylor head coach Jay Goble said. “I wasn’t too impressed with that.”
Janet Lindsay, the championship’s director of course setup and a 20-year veteran as an LPGA rules official, called it a first for her, as well.
“When I put those tee markers out this morning on 4, I thought, ‘You know what? I know I’m doing what I think is the fairest thing for the players, but this is really kind of a strange feeling,’” Lindsay said.
However, as Lindsay pointed out, it was the right thing to do. With the tee shot being into the wind on No. 4 on Friday, players would not have been able to reach the corner of the dogleg-left fairway from the next closest tee box. Shorter hitters might have even had trouble carrying the hazard.
In other words, there was no other option than to use the tee box, located in an area where growing grass is challenging. Instead, it was the players who were challenged.
“I thought to myself, some kids probably have never hit off a mat in their whole life,” said Ohio State head coach Therese Hession.
The mat made it difficult for players to put their own tees at proper heights. Some players used mini tees provided by officials, but even those weren’t suitable for everyone. One player grew tired of attempting, threw her tee on the ground and hit hybrid off the deck. Most every player hit some sort of hybrid on the hole on Friday.
“I hit a hybrid off the tee, and the tee wouldn’t go down,” Baylor’s Amy Lee said. “… I was kind of afraid of popping it up in the air. (The tee) was probably triple the height of what I normally put it.”
The hole, nicknamed “Devil’s Elbow,” played devilish in Round 1. Luckily, winds are typically at the players’ backs, like they were in the practice round, so there is a chance that the tee box won’t be used again this championship. Of course, there’s a chance that it could, too.
“It’s there for extreme circumstances,” Lindsay said, “and we thought it was the right move.”
The right move, indeed. Just a strange one.
– Kevin Casey contributed to this report