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Golf strategy and Arkansas-Vandy

By Harry King

Razorback football fans who sweated Arkansas 31, Vanderbilt 28 can appreciate the ups and downs of match play golf at the Western Amateur on Saturday.

Following only two of the 12 matches, there were situations similar to things that happened in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 29, 2011.

Eleven points behind late in the third quarter, Arkansas’ Zach Hocker kicked a 50-yard field goal to make it 28-20, an important moment in the Razorbacks’ comeback. A football team can’t make up two scores on one possession any more than a golfer can overcome a two-hole deficit with one swing.

On Saturday afternoon, Sean Dale was two down to Tyler Dunlap after four holes. A wild-left tee shot opened the door for Dale, but he left his birdie putt six feet short. His par putt was as dead center as Hocker’s kick.

Fans of both the Razorbacks and the Commodores remember Zac Stacy’s inexplicable fumble inside the Arkansas 5 and Jerry Franklin’s wherewithal to scoop and scoot 94 yards. All of that would have been wasted if not for Tyler Wilson’s two-point conversion pass to Jarius Wright. Dale followed his victory on five with another two-putt winner.

From 114 yards on the seventh, Dale’s approach landed at the back of the green and spun back 30 feet for a gimme and the lead. Dale’s 54-degree wedge shot was struck as solidly as Hocker’s 42-yard field goal that put Arkansas in front with less than seven minutes to play.

That field goal is easier to remember than how Arkansas got in position for the kick. On third-and-five, Bobby Petrino called a draw play, a call that produced catcalls on more than one occasion when Houston Nutt was sending in the plays. Ronnie Wingo Jr. made 21 yards. Two plays later, Wilson to Julian Horton was good for 11 yards and a first down.

On Saturday morning, Razorback golfer Sebastian Cappelan was one down to Robby Shelton on No. 17. From 260 yards or more on the 580-yard par five, Cappelan selected driver — a risky decision with today’s straight-faced clubs — and hit it square. He got up and down from behind the green for a birdie that meant extra holes.

Two plays after Wingo’s run, Wilson threw to Julian Horton for 11 yards. Cappelan remained aggressive on No. 20, taking driver over the bunker on the right side with the risk of thorns and pines if he misses right by a few yards. The big drive, like Wingo’s run, would be a waste unless there is a productive follow-up and, from 49 yards out on the 400-yard hole, Cappelan stuck it close.

As for the turn-around associated with the Stacy fumble, check out Jonathan Garrick vs. Seth Reeves on Saturday morning. First on the tee in an all-square match, Garrick stuck it six feet from the hole. Reeves holed it for a one and went on to a two-and-one victory.

Running late because of a 100-minute lightning delay and two extra-hole matches in the morning, I headed for the media tent early but I’m betting at least one of the 16 players missed a tying putt from inside three feet,

much like Vanderbilt kicker Carey Spear failed on a 27-yard field goal attempt that would have meant overtime in Nashville.

Dale’s victory over Western Amateur medalist Patrick Rodgers did not go into overtime, but there was football-like strategy involved.

Dale, one up on the 18th tee, matched Rodgers’ tee shot to the point that a rules official opted for a coin flip to decide who was away. Dale won and chose to go second, same as a football coach who wants to know what he has to do to win.

Rodgers’ second was in the fringe — an unlikely position for a birdie — and Dale made sure he stayed right and away from the steep slope on the left. Avoiding a turnover, if you will.

Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com

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