Iowa State senior Kristin Paulson of Ottumwa, Iowa, and her coach, Christie Martens, stood near a tree to the right of Lawrence Country Clubs’ 15th fairway and had agreed the only smart shot was a punch-out.
“I was getting ready to hit the shot, and all of the sudden we hear this huge crack,” Paulson said. “And this branch about 10 yards away, this huge branch, fell down. We’re just lucky we’re still alive, pretty much.”
The wind killed shots, putts and even a “huge branch” all day Friday in the opening round of the women’s golf Big 12 championship.
Texas freshman Bertine Strauss of Koster, South Africa, won’t soon forget the range of emotions she felt when the branch cracked.
“It was a scary but funny moment,” Strauss said. “It was pretty crazy. I mean, it could have hit one of them, and that would have not been good. It was a funny moment that I’ll remember for a little while.”
The competitors differed on which shots were most crippled by the wind.
“I would say definitely off the tee, having to deal with a cross wind most of the time, especially on the back nine,” Strauss said. “On the green it wasn’t as bad, but off the tee I felt it the most.”
Canadian Anne-Catherine Tanguay, an Oklahoma sophomore from Quebec, shot 76 and carded a bogey on the final two holes after nailing a downhill, 30-foot putt for a birdie on No. 16, the hole that gave the field the most trouble.
“I don’t even know if I knew what wind was before I came to Oklahoma,” Tanguay said. “Putting, it was hard to take your stance and not think about how the wind blowing you away and reading putts was just hard.”
All the golfers polled agreed as to the quality of the course.
“It was excellent,” Tanguay said. “I think it’s fantastic to be playing a course with rough, and then the fairways are top shape and the greens are top shape. They roll really well, and they’re firm. If you want a good championship, you need a quality course like this.”
Strauss, who shot a 77, which put her two strokes off the three leaders heading into today’s second round of the three-round championship, considered the course tough but fair.
“It’s a beautiful golf course, a lot of tricky holes, a lot of undulations, but I think it’s really pretty with all the big trees, and it’s a very nice golf course,” Strauss said. “It’s in very good shape. The fairways are very good. The rough is little bit long in some places — it gets tricky. The greens are rolling great, so we can definitely not complain about the condition of the golf course. It’s really good.”
Strauss first learned to swing a golf club on the family farm in South Africa.
“I hit some shots around there,” Strauss said. “I had some space, so I just messed around, and that’s where I started. I moved on from there. I played all sports when I was young. I tried everything out. I played tennis for a while, and golf is just the one that stuck, I guess.”
Strauss holds the key to successful golf in that she doesn’t allow anything to become a negative. She puts a positive spin on more than just the shots she hits into greens.
“I’m not 100 percent accustomed to the wind yet, but I don’t mind playing in it,” Strauss said. “It makes it a lot different, and it makes it interesting.”
The wind will calm today, and the scores will drop, but the trees will be just as thick, the greens just as slick, the pressure up just a tick.