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Pin High: Short putts prove pivotal at STC Men's Tournament

Published: Friday, Aug. 17, 2012 5:28 a.m. CDT

ST. CHARLES – Putting woes bedeviled Garrett Patten early and late in Sunday's St. Charles Men's Tournament Championship flight final.

That 30-foot roller for eagle he nestled in between was only a footnote.

Shaking his head and staring at a suddenly balky right hand, Patten left Pottawatomie Golf Course knowing what cost him against Matt Daly in a 4 and 3 defeat. It's the same affliction that's been resurfacing in most recent tournaments.

"I've got to figure that out," Patten said, "because it just comes out of nowhere. I'll be putting fine, and all of sudden, I'll feel it right on my backswing, this hand will just want to [pull away]. Have you ever had that? It's called the yips."

Yips, shanks, nerves. By whatever name, Patten has let his struggles with short putts in meaningful rounds mount in his psyche.

During qualifying and the first three rounds of the tournament's match-play portion, the 1998 St. Charles High grad boasted a solid short game to match his booming drives.

There figured to be no problem in the early going Sunday. Patten took a quick 1-up lead against Daly by birdieing the opening hole, but surrendered the advantage moments later by missing a three-foot par putt that would have halved No. 2.

Playing the loop for a second time, Patten eagled No. 10 to slice Daly's lead to 1-up, but fell behind by two once again after missing a short putt on the 11th hole. Another short miss on No. 13 put Daly in the driver's seat while also putting Patten on edge. He admitted frustration led to his out-of-bounds drive on the 14th, which ultimately allowed Daly to surge to a 4-up edge.

"I've had trouble with my short putts in the past in tournaments, and it's always kind of haunted me when it matters the most," Patten said. "Matt's a great player and he's steady. Bottom line is I wish I could have given him a better match, but when you start missing those little putts, then it gets in your head."

Daly, who never hit a club longer than his 3-hybrid, will not convince Patten to put down his driver. Still, Daly's recent switch to a belly putter had Patten pondering a possible trip to the pro shop.

The belly putter's extended handle sticks into a player's stomach – or sometimes the chin – and helps remove wrist movement from the equation in the putting stroke.

Belly putters are on sale at Pottawatomie, but club pro Ron Skubisz knows they aren't for everyone.

"I don't know that it is that much of an advantage," Skubisz said. "It seems to kind of go directly when people decelerate and maybe have trouble with short putts. I don't necessarily think it's a better putter for long putts. So you may get better at your weakness, but you could possibly get weaker at your strength."

It wasn't long ago that Patten switched to a cross-handed grip on his standard-sized putter. For a time, it took his yips away.

"If I hit those three little putts, we're a game," Patten said.

At least he knows he's doing everything else consistently.

• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or kdruley@shawmedia.com.

Drop him a line Pottawatomie Golf Course pro Ron Skubisz helped oversee his second St. Charles Men's Tournament over the past three weekends.

After emceeing a brief awards ceremony that concluded the event late Sunday morning, he made clear he was open to suggestions for 2013.

"We're trying to find a way to keep it relevant because it's a well-respected event with great history," Skubisz said. "But we want to make it more accommodating to people's lives these days. It's hard for people to make a three-week commitment or four-week commitment to an event, all those weekends in a row. How do you keep the match play? How do you keep it competitive to qualify and yet not have it for four weeks or three weeks?

"I don't have the answer to that yet, but we're working on it."

No repeat for Biddle St. Charles resident Blake Biddle was unable to duplicate his 2011 run at this week's U.S. Amateur, shooting a two-day 151 at Cherry Hills Country Club and CommonGround Golf Course outside Denver and failing to qualify for the event's match-play tournament.

Biddle's aggregate six-over-par score was tied for 199th among more than 300 individuals. The top 64 players advance out of stroke play.

A UNLV junior and Wheaton Academy graduate, Biddle placed second in the stroke-play portion of last year’s Amateur at Wisconsin’s Erin Hills before advancing to the third round of match play.

In Colorado, Biddle's week included a speech from former Denver Broncos quarterback and longtime Cherry Hills member John Elway at the Amateur Players Dinner. A two-time Super Bowl winner who now serves as the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations, Elway addressed the crowd about handling pressure.

– Kevin Druley, kdruley@shawmedia.com

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