Alison Walshe hits out of the bunker on 1 during the third round of the Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Saturday.
First, Brooke Pancake watched her shot from the fairway land somewhere across the divide. Then, she pumped her fist in the air and threw her head back as she smiled, as if to express some relief. Or maybe some dismay. Her second shot on the No. 1 hole at Highland Meadows Golf Club had landed somewhere outside of the green.
Pancake made par on the hole but for some golfers, Pancake’s shot would be akin to a victory, as the par-4 No. 1 hole is one of the more challenging holes on the Sylvania course. Statistics favor the ease of 17th hole at Highland Meadows, yet exhibit the test of the No. 1 hole. While a straw poll of LPGA players found that each golfer has her own preferences and aversions on the course, the No. 1 hole certainly comes up in conversation.
“It’s a little goofy,” said Morgan Pressel, who bogeyed the hole. “[Friday] I hit a six-iron off of the tee and a five-hybrid into the green. It’s kind of a funny, quirky little hole.”
Golfers chip in on their preferred holes at Highland Meadows Golf Club:
Most challenging hole: No. 5
“I tend to hit a draw and the hole is a little bit longer and favors a left-right golf flight. I’ve been in the right trees two days in a row. It’s probably because the tee shot is so demanding.”
Looks forward to: Either No. 17 or 18
“They’re birdie-able par-5s, but you’ve got to hit a couple good shots in order to do that.”
DEWI CLAIRE SCHREEFEL
Most challenging hole: No. 11
“The tee shot doesn’t really fit my eye, so I’m always struggling off the tee there. But I was on the fairway and then I missed my five-iron on the wrong side. The pin was cut on the right side so if you miss it right, you don’t have any space to chip to. You have to make a really good chip to get it really close. I had a decent chip but didn’t make the putt, and that was the bogey.”
Looks forward to: No. 18
“There are pretty good crowds and you have a wedge-in, so you could convert a birdie. I think it’s going to be interesting come tomorrow. You need a good tee shot and then you can lay up to a number you like and go for a birdie. It’s fun to see the people out and coming to the crowd setting.”
Most challenging hole: No. 12
“You’ve got to get a good tee shot down the left side of the fairway and a good approach shot to have a chance.”
Looks forward to: No. 10
“With the trees and the way the green sits, it’s really pretty.”
Pressel takes the get-it-over-with approach.
“It’s the first hole of the day,” she said. “The rest of the 17 are good holes.”
The No. 1 hole is physically distinct, as the lower fairway is level to the end, when it stops short of Ten Mile Creek, then dips to the water level ahead of the upper fairway. On the other side of the waterway, the upper fairway climbs to the green.
A golfer’s goal is two well-placed iron shots onto the hole, and to avoid the upper fairway at all costs.
It’s also statistically distinct. During the 2012 tournament, 36 golfers finished under par on the hole, while 115 went over par, with a stroke average of 4.232.
Conversely, the par-5 17th hole had 155 players go under par in 2012, while 28 went over par, with a stroke average of 4.718.
Through the Marathon Classic’s first two rounds, golfers bogeyed or double-bogeyed the No. 1 hole 93 times and birdied the hole 21 times. Only the par-4 11th hole rivaled - golfers bogeyed the hole 97 times and birdied it 18 times.
On Saturday, the remaining 72 golfers in the field bogeyed or double-bogeyed the No. 1 hole 16 times and eight birdied it, including co-leader Beatriz Recari and Dewi Claire Schreefel, one of nine players tied for 11th going into Sunday’s final round.
The first hole foiled one notable golfer.
Inbee Park, the No. 1 player in the world, double-bogeyed the par-4 hole and dropped from a two-way tie for sixth to a six-way tie for 23rd in the player standings entering Sunday, the final day of competition.
Katherine Hull-Kirk vouched for the degree of difficulty on the No. 1 hole, her first hole on Saturday.
“You’ve got to hit the fairway to have a chance at knocking it close,” Hull-Kirk said. “I think it’s one of the harder ones to make birdie on, for sure. You’re coming in with a long iron and it’s a good test, a good, open hole.”
Hull-Kirk made par on the No. 1 hole Saturday yet didn’t have the same luck on the 14th hole Saturday as she did on Friday. A day after she made a hole-in-one to win a new car, the Australian bogeyed the par-3 hole.
While she wasn’t a fan of the No. 1 hole, Hull-Kirk pointed out one hole she enjoyed playing at Highland Meadows. No. 10 - strictly for its aesthetic value and not for its statistical value.
“With the trees and the way the green sits, it’s really pretty,” Hull-Kirk said.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.