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#STINGDAILY: Playing Through

July 10, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

It wasn’t scheduled to be a vacation, per se, but Seth Reeves’ trip out west has sort of come to feel that way and you know what? Although he’s not one to relax, he’ll take it.

Golf hasn’t been so kind to Reeves this summer, and his trip to Utah was meant to do something about that.

That part is going well. Georgia Tech’s rising red-shirt junior carded a two-under par 69 Tuesday in the second round of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship to qualify for the 64-man match play beginning Wednesday and – hopefully – ending next Monday at the Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Wasatch State Park.

The rest of his journey is going even better.

Shelley Reeves had planned all along to make the trip. That’s Mom. Kristen made something of a last-minute decision to tag along to the Soldier Hollow Resort some 35-40 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, and the presence of Seth’s younger sister and the obscenely unique surroundings have combined to create a warm vibe.

It’s a dry heat, too, on a golf course built over much of the same terrain used for cross country skiing in the 2002 Winter Olympics.

“It’s a really small-town feel. There are no chain stores. We went to a movie, my Mom, sister and I, and it was one theater with one show time for the entire day,” Reeves said after his round Tuesday. “Everything is kind of small, we’re kind of out in the country. There’s some farmland, and some really nice houses.

“It’s gotten up to the 90s, so it’s been pretty hot, but compared to Georgia it’s dry and cool in the morning. I teed off at 7 a.m., and I wore a sweater warming up.”

So much is different out west.

The Soldier Hollow course is long to the tune of more than 7,500 yards. That doesn’t make much of a difference at altitude, however, especially when you hit it as far as Reeves. The rest of the track, now, that’s not normal – unless maybe you’re playing golf near the game’s roots, in Europe.

“It’s kind of got a links feel. It doesn’t play like it, but it looks like it. No trees, no water, wide open, but the fairways are tight,” Reeves said. “There’s tall hay grass if you miss. It kind of looks like you’re over there.”

Given that Reeves may be the most physically fit golfer Tech’s ever had, the fact that Soldier Hollow has so much elevation change may work to his benefit over time. “It’s not an easy walking course,” he said.

The course suited Reeves Monday and Tuesday, yet his flat blade was more friendly the second time around the loop as he lopped four strokes off his first-round score.

“I didn’t hit it any better than yesterday, but I putted better. My lag putting was better,” he said. “I hit a lot of greens, and my speed was good. I really wasn’t scrambling at all.”

The U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship is open to golfers who are not members of private clubs, and Reeves qualifies in part because the USGA does not consider Tech’s team memberships at the Golf Club of Georgia and East Lake as individual memberships.

Competitors also have to pass through qualifying tournaments that whittle several thousand potential players down to a manageable number prior to the Championship.

The final winnowing process begins today, and match play will bring changes.

“In stroke play I’m playing against myself and the golf course; I’m not looking at any other players,” he said. “In match play, I have to pay attention to what the other guy is doing because that will affect what I do. I’m going to play it smarter if he screws up, but if he hits it well, I may have to be more aggressive.”

Reeves is the only Tech golfer playing in Utah, but he’ll be joined next week by teammates Bo Andrews and Richard Werenski in the 54th Annual Porter Cup at the Niagara Falls Country Club. Recently graduated Yellow Jacket James White may also play.

Winning the Public Links would be a big step toward qualifying for next month’s U.S. Amateur. It would also sew up an invite to next April’s Masters.

My, wouldn’t that make Reeves’ first trip to Utah sweet?

“I really haven’t played great this summer . . . I’m just taking a `whatever happens happens’ approach,” he said. “It’s an advantage if you go first and hit it close because the pressure’s on your opponent. It kind of works both ways. I’d rather go first to put pressure on the other guy.”

Reeves faced Scott McNeill of Philadelphia, Pa., in the first round of match play and fell in 20 holes. Most of Seth’s teammates are teeing it up this week at another major summer event, the Players Amateur in Bluffton, S.C., where more than 80 top amateurs will compete for a title which brings an exemption into the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage Classic. Andrews, Anders Albertson, Ollie Schniederjans, Minghao Wang, Werenski and White, as well as former Tech All-American Carlton Forrester are in the field.

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