Notebook: Erkenbeck Comfortable In Soldier Hollow's Rarified Air


Medalist James Erkenbeck of San Diego is quite comfortable playing at altitude, something he does regularly at the University of New Mexico. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)
By Hunki Yun, USGA
July 10, 2012

Midway, Utah – If medalist James Erkenbeck wins the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, expect him to play a lot of holes at Soldier Hollow Golf Course.

“I can’t really seem to take a big lead,” said Erkenbeck, 22, a San Diego native who is a rising senior at the University of New Mexico. “But when things start going the wrong way, I find a way to get back into it. I think 90 percent of my matches go to 18.”

After being the underdog in previous matches at the Public Links – he lost to Rickie Fowler in 2009 and Harris English in 2011 – Erkenbeck will be the favorite against Alex Edfort, of Somerset, N.J., in his first-round match.

“I feel like after playing against [Fowler and English], I’m pretty well tested,” said Erkenbeck, who reached the third round last year at Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon.

Eckenbeck hopes his relatively error-free play – he only made two bogeys in stroke play – will carry over to match play.

“You’re still going to hit the same shots off the tee,” he said. “You’re going to play the holes differently depending on your opponent, but the strategy remains the same.”

Although he is from the coast, Erkenbeck is energized by Soldier Hollow’s altitude, which is similar to the elevation in Albuquerque, N.M., where he plays and practices collegiately. Plus, he has a trick for playing a mile above sea level.

“I love playing altitude,” he said. “I feel like there’s less friction so the ball is harder to curve. So it lets me relax a little bit because I know if I hit it solid and start it on line, it’s going to end up in play, which is the most important thing on this course.”

Miller’s Call 

Wearing a cap and sunglasses, Johnny Miller cut a relatively anonymous figure at Soldier Hollow. But it was easy to recognize the 1973 U.S. Open champion and NBC lead golf analyst once he started providing his views about the hilly layout.

“A lot of these kids play on flat golf courses,” said Miller, who lives in nearby Charleston, Utah “And when they play a lot on flat courses, they struggle on hilly ones.

“And then adjusting to the altitude is really hard for them. The thing that people don’t know is that when you hit it in the rough and you can’t spin it, the ball just comes out and drops. It’s not like down at sea level.”

Insights like these have made Miller an entertaining presence in the broadcast booth, as he will be this week during the U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich. He has never been afraid of making a prediction, and he has a favorite this week.

“Zac Blair has a chance to win it all,” said Miller. “He’s played this course and he’s a Utah boy. My son [Todd] coaches him [at BYU].”

The honorary chairman for the Public Links, Miller would like to see additional USGA championships in Utah, especially at Thanksgiving Point, which he designed.

“We have some very nice courses now,” said Miller. “Thanksgiving Point was designed for big events. I don’t see why not.”

Home Matches 

Speaking of Blair, the Ogden resident shot 2-under 69 in the second round for a 36-hole total of 2-under 140. The improved round made him feel better about his game going into match play.

“It was a little better today,” said Blair. “If I can get the putter going, it should be pretty good. As long as you can shoot around par and not make too many mistakes, you have a pretty good shot [of winning your match].”

Blair, 21, made it to match play in the 2009 and 2010 Public Links, but lost in the first round both times.

“I’ve taken myself out of it in the first round by making too many mistakes,” said Blair. “As long as I can keep playing the way I played today, that should get it done. It’s avoiding bogeys more than anything.”

Also trying to improve his USGA match-play record is fellow Utah resident Dan Horner, who matched Blair at 2-under 140 after shooting 71 in the second round.

“I didn’t play great, but I would have taken this score at the beginning of the day,” said Horner, 34. “I prefer match play because it frees you up a little bit. I know my match-play record in USGA events is not that great. I think it’s 1-4.”

Hunki Yun is a senior writer for the USGA. You can reach him at hyun@usga.org. 

Follow the USGA
Become a Facebook Fan of the USGAFollow us on Twitter @USGA
World Amateur Golf Ranking
WAGR Counting Event
Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
Chevron
   

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.


Chevron image
Rolex
   

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.



Rolex image
IBM
   

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image
Lexus
   

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express
   

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment


AmEx image