Iowa women’s golfers work on short game

BY TORK MASON | AUGUST 24, 2011 7:20 AM

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Drive for show, putt for dough. It’s an adage that has stood the test of time in golf, and Hawkeye golfers Chelsea Harris and Kristi Cardwell embraced it this summer.

The pair finished fourth in a field of 58 two-player teams at the 2011 Hooters Women’s Collegiate Team Championship — held Aug. 2-4 in Dahlonega, Ga. — thanks in large part to their play on the greens.

Harris and Cardwell carded a total score of 279, just four strokes off of the winning team, Lindsey Solberg and Caroline Powers of Michigan State. That total included a 138 (6-under) final round, which was the best in the field.

After the Hawkeyes finished 11th at last spring’s Big Ten tourney, Harris and Cardwell wasted little time zeroing in on what they felt was their weakness.

“We just have to get the ball in the hole,” Harris said.

Cardwell agreed.

“We always have problems getting the ball in the hole,” the junior said and laughed. “I didn’t go to my swing coach at all this summer. We all have great swings, but it’s short game that I mostly focused on, and I scored a lot better this summer.”

She said she spent her time drilling and getting as many repetitions on the greens as she could — and so did her partner.

“I think I saw my swing coach right after the season, and that was it,” Harris said. “I mean, at this point, you pretty much know what you’re doing wrong. At this point, it’s all about mechanics, fundamentals, and putting the time in.”

Not only did Harris go to work to refine her short game, she did so with a new piece of equipment.

“I went from a normal putter to a belly putter, so that took some time getting used to,” Harris said.

The hard work and longer putter had an immediate effect on Harris’ putting, said her brother, who caddied for her at the event.

“I think she used it for the last two tournaments of the season, and she jumped into it pretty quickly,” Nolan Harris said. “But it showed improvement right away, and her average [number of] putts went down by about four per round in her last six rounds.”

He said his sister seemed “a lot more comfortable over the ball” and that she seemed to know that she could make more putts instead of just get them close to the hole.

Chelsea Harris said she felt “very excited” about the effect the new putter has had on her game, saying her putting was “fantastic” at the Hooters event. She and Cardwell recalled several clutch putts, including an 8-footer on the 18th hole on the final day to cap off their best round.

Their improved games were put to the test at the tournament, in which the format changed daily.

On the first day, the teams played “alternate shot,” in which each golfer plays every other shot. The second day, they played “best ball,” in which only the better score on each hole counts. And on the final day, they played stroke play, in which both players’ scores were counted.

“I really enjoyed the format of that tournament,” Harris said. “This tournament really showed how every single shot counts. It showed me how much I need to focus on every single shot.”

The duo will try to continue their success as they prepare for the fall season, which will tee off on Sept. 12 in Lincoln, Neb., at the Chip-N-Club Invitational.

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