Player Diary: Ashlan Ramsey (Part 7)
I just spent 10 days in Rancho Mirage, Calif. playing the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club. The whole experience was a career highlight for me.
I started the week off playing a couple of practice rounds by myself because my caddie (LPGA winner Barb Mucha) could not get there until Sunday night. It was good because it allowed me to get adjusted to the time zone and get a feel for the course on my own. I was worried about who I was going to play with but I found out that most players just do their own thing during the practice days.
The first round started a little shaky with bogeys on 1 and 2. I tried to stick to my plan of playing one shot at a time and I was able to settle down and make some pars. I hit a good approach into 7 and made a 5 footer for birdie and chipped in for birdie on 8 to get back to even. On the back 9, I managed to make 3 more birdies along with 2 bogeys for a 1 under 71. Being tied for 17th after the first round of a major championship was exciting. It gave me lot of confidence to see that I could play with all of these ladies I had grown up watching.
After a great first day, now I had to do it again. Easier said than done. I had to play in wind gust up to 25 miles per hour and I only hit 5 fairways and 7 greens in regulation. Somehow, I managed to shoot 75. I did not hit the ball very well, but I worked hard for every par putt. Even though it dropped me way down the leaderboard, I made the cut, which was a huge accomplishment for me.
Round 3 was a little better. My swing was more free and I could tell I did not have the amount of tension I had in round 2. I wasn't forcing shots anymore, I just went out and played golf. With Barb making some great reads on putts, I birdied the last hole to shoot 73.
The final round was a fun experience. I went into the day with some confidence knowing that I could make birdies on this course. I just had to limit my mistakes and find the fairways. But another bogey, bogey start on 1 and 2 almost kept that from happening. I regrouped with a good 7 wood into the par 4 3rd hole and nailed a 6 iron on the par-4 4th to get back to even. I played pretty steady after that hovering around even par going into 18. The Kraft Nabisco is known for the par-5 18th hole. It is a challenging finishing hole with a narrow fairway and tough approach shot into the green. I hit two good shots to give myself a chance to hit a wedge in tight for birdie but my approach ended up about 18 feet from the hole. Walking down the walk of champions next to Poppies Pond is such a cool experience. I got a great read on the left to right breaking putt from Barb and she told me to trust the stroke and it would go in. I ended
up making the putt and hearing the roar of the crowd was awesome. The feeling of that putt going in and the crowd cheering is something that I will always cherish but more importantly, it will drive me to get to that level again and again.
Playing in the field among the top players in the world was amazing. It is really hard to explain how athletic, powerful, graceful and talented they are. It was great to be around them and learn from the best in the game. I look up to these players and I draw inspiration from watching and being around them. A vivid memory for me as a young golfer was watching Birdie Kim hole out of a green side bunker in the 2005 U.S. Women's Open for birdie and the win over Morgan Pressel. I remember thinking how amazing it would feel to play in a major championship on a Sunday and it makes me want to work harder so that one day I could actually live out that moment and have an opportunity to do something that special on such a elite stage.
I could not have done it without my caddy, Barb. She has been so amazing to me and gave me the confidence boost I needed to perform my best. It means a lot to me that she took the time out of her schedule to come caddy for me. She is inspiring to me and I look up to her as a player and also as a person.
I also want to thank my family members and friends that came out to support me last week, my coach, Todd Anderson, my future coach and teammates at Clemson for being behind me, all of you that sent me messages of encouragement, and especially to the Kraft Nabisco tournament committee for giving me the opportunity to play. It was an amazing event and I am honored to have been able to play.
"It's great to win, but it's also great fun just to be in the thick of any truly well and hard fought contest against opponents you respect, whatever the outcome." -Jack Nicklaus