During my seven years as a coach I’ve had the opportunity to be part of some special moments. In my first year at Oregon State I’ve seen the team set the school scoring record vs. par at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational, watched Alex Moore shoot a school record 63 at Eugene Country Club, but none have been more special than what happened this past weekend at the 2011 Pac-10 Championships.
After being tied for the 36 and 54 hole lead at the Championships, I had a feeling we were in for something special with Alex on Sunday. As he warmed up on the range I admired as he hit every shot right on the button. As we headed up the hill to 1st tee at Stanford I told him this is why he spends so many hours on the range, for days like this. He said today was going to be fun. And it was.
Typically Alex is not someone I spend too much time with on the course because I know he can handle it on his own and quite honestly he probably prefers to do it alone. Although I wanted to make sure I had plenty of opportunities to catch some photos of what could be history in the making.
After a tee shot that went through the fairway on #1 resulted in a disappointing par we headed to the 2nd where Alex again hit it thru the fairway into some long rough. This time from about 170 yards, Alex muscled a 7-iron onto the front 1/3 of the green which left about 30 feet for birdie. From there I didn’t see Alex again until the par 5, 7th. Following Golfstat I knew he had made par on the first six holes and would be expecting to give himself a chance to reach the green on #7 in two. Unfortunately a pulled tee shot in the left rough resulted in a two putt par.
As Alex putted out on #7 I headed up the hill to the 11th tee to check in with the rest of the guys and see how we should attack the short birdie hole #11. On #11 green I met Alex where he still had made all pars and now faced a 6 foot putt for par. We both read it to pretty straight and he made it center cut for par. On the 11th, after a 5-iron off the tee went about 240 yards he had just 100 yards to the flag. He pulled his wedge just a bit and it bounced over the green. A pretty mediocre chip shot left a downhill left to right breaking putt that we both agreed moved enough to play it outside the hole. He hit the putt center cut again and had now made 11 putts in a row. After Alex made the putt on 11 I really felt like the momentum was going to swing his way and birdies would soon result. Sticking with what I had done all week, I left Alex alone after he striped one off the 12th tee and headed to the 16th to see each of the guys as they came through.
As I kept checking Golfstat while working with each of the guys to finish off their day as best we could, I received a text from Tim saying Alex had birdied #13 and just lipped out for birdie on #14. He now had a two shot lead. The next time I saw Alex he was chipping for birdie on #15 from just off the green. Unfortunately, the chip shot was not great which resulted in a 4 foot par putt with some left to right break. I watched from about 200 yards away as his putt just slide under the low side. He now walked to the 16th even par for the day and hanging on to a one shot lead.
Alex and I haven’t talked about this, but I never brought up the fact that he was leading and he never asked me how it stood when I saw him again in the 1st cut of rough on the left side of 16. I assumed he thought even-par for the day would not be good enough and he was going to need a birdie or two to finish his round. A front left hole location on the par 5 16h left a difficult downhill sliding putt which we both over read…frustrating par. After a solid iron to the middle of the green on the par 3 17th, Alex two putted from about 50 feet up and over a ridge and headed to the 18th. For the first three rounds Alex had made two bogeys on and par on 18. Probably feeling like he needed to make birdie Alex hit a tee shot that he said was a double cross….a pull hook. It rolled down the cart path a long ways down the hill and we found it in the long rough. With about 125 yards to the front and 150 yards over the green we decided he was strong enough to muscle a PW out of the rough and try to get it to the front edge. He was definitely strong enough as the ball flew over the back right part of the green…
After a chip shot to 10 feet below the hole, Alex knew he needed to make his putt on 18 to have any chance. The large leaderboard behind the 18th green showed he was now 1 stroke behind Trainer. As we both read the putt, I couldn’t believe how straight it looked. We agreed it was going to move just a hair left and it was a right edge putt. As I stepped away to watch Alex putt he went through his pre-shot routine and looked very solid over the putt as he had all day. As the ball left the putter face it looked good, it was just a matter of whether or not it would get to the hole in my mind. It fell just in the front right part of the hole and Alex gave it a big fist pump.
With rounds of 71-65-69-70 Alex finished the tournament at -5. As he signed his scorecard, Martin Trainer of USC, had taken a one shot lead and now Alex, myself, and the team waited to see how the rest of the tournament would unfold. Would he end up falling short by a shot, have the chance to be in a playoff, or become the first Beaver golfer to win the PAC-10 Championship since 1971.
After a 45 minute delay on Alex’s score becoming official due to pace of play issues with the NCGA rules and missed ‘time par’ checkpoints being resolved we headed to the clubhouse to get some lunch. (I could expand on this…but it would take forever, probably make me angry again, and in the end, it did not end up mattering anyway. Next time you see me in person…I will explain.)