With new putter, Norlander leads Western Am

Henrik Norlander

GLENCOE, Ill. – Augusta State senior Henrik Norlander got plenty of grief from his teammates when he switched to a long putter during this past college golf season. He didn’t care, because the switch worked. This week’s Western Amateur is providing more proof.

Norlander made birdie on his final three holes Wednesday to shoot 67 and tie USC freshman Jeffrey Kang for the 36-hole lead. They stand at 7-under 135 at Skokie Country Club, a classic Donald Ross design that hosted the 1922 U.S. Open. Both players shot 68-67.

Skokie Country Club, which measures 7,091 yards, played soft Wednesday after a severe morning rainstorm.

“You have so many shots here from 150 to 190 yards. I love it,” Norlander said. “I’m hitting my irons really solid. That’s usually the best part of my game.”

More rain came in the afternoon, causing play to be suspended before any of the afternoon groups could complete their rounds. The delay caused Western Golf Association officials to shorten stroke play, which is scheduled to be completed Thursday, from 72 to 54 holes. The field will be cut to 16 players for match play.

Norlander hit 16 greens in each of the first two rounds at Skokie. He’s been able to capitalize on his good ballstriking because of the improvement he’s seen with the long putter. He switched from a traditional putter last November after the completion of the fall college season.

“In the beginning, my teammates didn’t think I was serious, but I stuck with it,” said Norlander, a Swede who was an integral part of Augusta State’s 2010 NCAA title team. He finished No. 12 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. “Rounds like today, I would’ve turned a 67 into a 71 (with the short putter). You can’t do that.”

Norlander got a taste of victory two weeks ago at the European Tour’s Scandinavian Masters. He shot 75-73 to miss the cut by three shots, but watched as countryman Richard S. Johnson won the tournament. Norlander partook in the victory celebration, saying, “It served as inspiration.”

Norlander’s play at the end of his round definitely could be called inspired. Norlander, who teed off on No. 10, made birdies by hitting 4-iron to 1 foot on No. 7, 5-iron to 35 feet on No. 8 and 6-iron to 5 feet on the par-5 ninth.

Kang, of Fullerton, Calif., is No. 8 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings but primarily has played amateur tournaments this summer as he prepares for college golf. He’s had plenty of success.

He tied for eighth at the Pacific Coast Amateur, tied for sixth at the Sahalee Players and tied for 16th at the Dogwood.

“I’ve had a very busy summer,” Kang said. “I’ve been playing in a lot of tournaments. I’ve only been home one or two weeks this summer.”

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Tom Hoge

TCU’s Tom Hoge was in third place at 5 under par. He followed up his first-round 71 with a tournament-low 66. Hoge played a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifier at his home course, Fargo (N.D.) Country Club, then made the nine-hour drive to Glencoe, Ill., for this event, arriving at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, about eight hours before his tee time.

Hoge’s father, Chuck, did most of the driving to Illinois. Chuck Hoge is a former member at Point O’Woods Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Mich., the longtime site of the Western Amateur.

Arizona State’s Scott Pinckney matched Hoge’s 66 Wednesday. Hoge won the Trans-Miss Amateur earlier this summer. Pinckney shot 73-66 to move from 49th to sixth.

Hoge’s TCU teammate Travis Woolf and Auburn’s Blayne Barber are tied for fourth at 4 under par. Woolf was runner-up in stroke play at last year’s Western at Conway Farms. Barber held the first-round lead this week after a 67, but found himself flirting with the cut line after a 4-over 39 on his front nine Wednesday. He made four birdies and no bogeys on his final nine to shoot even-par 71.

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Angel Cabrera Jr. seemed impervious to the heavy rain that fell Wednesday afternoon at Skokie Country Club. While his playing partners ducked under umbrellas, Cabrera walked down the 17th fairway uncovered. He is, after all, the son of “El Pato,” aka Angel “The Duck” Cabrera, winner of the 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters.

Angel Cabrera Jr. shot 76-78 at the Western Amateur to miss the 36-hole cut.

The younger Cabrera, 19, will play U.S. Amateur qualifying next week in Milwaukee, not far from Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., where his father will compete for the PGA Championship. Cabrera Jr., who said he is a 0-handicap with a career-best score of 64, said he will turn pro next year and attempt Tour de las Americas Q-School.

Cabrera wore a Ping hat, just like his father, and his caddie carried a Ping staff bag. The resemblance didn’t end there. Cabrera has the same ambling gait as his father, and though the son’s golf swing is more traditional, it is long and loose like his father’s.

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Among the notables that likely will miss the cut are Northwestern’s Eric Chun, the Asian Amateur runner-up (74-76); Alabama’s Bud Cauley, a member of the ’09 Walker Cup team (75-75); Stanford’s Sihwan Kim (69-78) and University of San Diego head coach Tim Mickelson (74-75). . . . Arizona’s Jonathan Khan had the biggest turnaround from the first to second rounds, shooting 83-68. He had three double bogeys, six bogeys and zero birdies Tuesday, compared with four birdies and a single bogey Wednesday.

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