Caroline Powers, a Bowling Green High School graduate and one of the all-time best golfers to play at Michigan State, tees off during Pro-Am play Monday at Highland Meadows.
BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Caroline Powers has been here before. Many times, in fact. But never like this.
Powers, a star golfer at both Bowling Green High School and Michigan State University, turned professional less than two months ago.
She will play in the tournament she grew up watching and for which she used to volunteer.
She has already played in a couple Symetra Tour events, the LPGA’s feeder system, and in the U.S. Open.
She returns to Highland Meadows Golf Club as a sponsor exemption in the Marathon Classic.
Powers got her feet wet Monday afternoon while heading up a pro-am team, but it was hardly an introduction to the Meadows.
This is like home in a lot of ways.
“I’ve lived right down the road in Bowling Green since I was 3, so that will always be home,” Powers said. “And then, of course, Nick is here.”
Nick is her cousin, Nick Myers, who is in his 11th year as the PGA head professional at Highland Meadows.
Between Myers, her caddie (MSU assistant coach Lorne Don), her parents, and other family members, Powers will undoubtedly lead the field in available coaching this week.
“That’s probably the toughest thing about traveling as a pro; there’s not always somebody physically there to help,” Powers said. “If your game needs a tweak, there isn’t always someone there to ask for help.”
It shouldn’t be a problem for her in the Marathon Classic.
Caroline was born in Albany, N.Y., where her dad, Buddy, was head men’s hockey coach at nearby RPI, the same job he later took at Bowling Green State University. Her mom, the former Lindy Bastel, once was director of the BGSU golf course and is still a teaching professional at Dedham (Mass.) Country and Polo Club near Boston, where Buddy is now an assistant hockey coach at Boston University.
Powers’ two siblings also work in college athletics. John, 25, is the head men’s golf coach at St. Bonaventure while Barbara, 24, is the director of operations for the men’s and women’s track teams at the University of Tennessee.
The Myers-Powers-Bastel tentacles spread throughout northwest Ohio golf, all of it emanating from Lincoln Hills Golf Course in Upper Sandusky, which has been in the Bastel family for decades. To list all those who work in the golf industry or play the game for love or money — or both — would fill up all our remaining space.
“My parents did an awful lot to help me in golf,” Powers said. “It’s what my mom does, teach the game. My dad helps a lot with the mental side of things, which is his background as a coach. My grandparents ran a course for years, and now Nick is the head pro here.”
Myers is the resource she has tapped a lot over the last couple weeks while preparing for the Marathon Classic.
“From a technical standpoint, she’s a good ball striker who hits it pretty straight and has good distance,” Myers said of his younger cousin. “But the thing I love is her attitude. There isn’t a lot that seems to faze her. She has a short memory, and that helps in golf.”
Myers has spent a decade watching for at least one week a year as young players struggle to find their way on the LPGA Tour. He knows it isn’t an easy process.
“I think Caroline knows it too,” Myers said. “She has played at a high level for awhile but, sure, this is different. But she’s got a shot at it. She has the ability. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting the right break at the right tournament. We’ll see what happens.”
Unless something bizarre might happen — such as winning an LPGA event, or dominating the rest of the Symetra schedule — Powers will try for her playing card at the finals of the LPGA’s qualifying tournament in October.
Caroline volunteered as a score runner — a job for kids, many still short of double digits in age — for several years at the Farr Classic. Now that someone else will be running her scores, the most decorated women’s golfer in MSU history expects to feel no extra pressure.
“But I have expectations for myself that I didn’t achieve in the Women’s Open [where she shot 73-80 and missed the cut], and this is my first shot at that type of competition since,” she said. “I just want to play up to my potential, to the level I’ve been playing lately.
"I wouldn’t say there’s any pressure beyond that.”
She knows from personal experience and from watching a lot of past LPGA events here that the Meadows “can be a very score-able course. If you hit fairways you have a good chance at hitting the green. If you hit greens, you will typically have a decent number of birdie putts.
“The key here is that when you have a wedge in your hands you should have a good look at birdies. That has been a little inconsistent for me, but I’ve been working hard.”
And if she needs any help, there should be a personal coach standing by in whatever direction she looks.
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