U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Family Ties Fueling Hartlage at Old Waverly
August 8, 2019 | West Point, Miss.
By Tom Mackin
Every player-caddie relationship is fraught with potential pitfalls, even more so during a national championship. And when the person on the bag is also your mom, things can really get tricky.
Not for Lauren Hartlage, 21, of Elizabethtown, Ky., however. Playing in her third consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur, the rising senior at the University of Louisville advanced to the Round of 32 for the first time, defeating Trinity King, of Arlington, Texas, 4 and 3, on a sultry Wednesday at Old Waverly Golf Club.
And she did it with Kim Hartlage, an accomplished amateur golfer who coached her daughter at Elizabethtown High School, pushing her bag.
“We do great,” said Lauren, a finance major who finished third in stroke play with a 5-under total of 139. “She knows my game and kind of lets me do my own thing. If I ask her a question, she’ll give me advice. She’s there for moral support and pushing the bag, which this week helps a lot. If I had to carry my own bag it would be a long week in this heat. She’s good at keeping my spirits up.”
Hartlage, who faces University of Alabama rising senior Kenzie Wright at 9:15 a.m. CDT in Thursday's Round of 32, has been an All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection in her first three seasons at Louisville.
She opened her Round-of-64 match by winning the first four holes and then adding to that lead by taking the sixth hole to go 5 up. King, however, won the next three holes to trim the deficit to two. Hartlage then got back to 4 up after winning the 11th and 12th holes, before closing out the match with a par on the 15th.
Currently 56th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, Hartlage, who lost in the Round of 64 last year at The Golf Club of Tennessee, came into the 119th U.S. Women’s Amateur brimming with confidence. “I kind of know that I belong here now, so I came in with a winning mindset instead of a ‘don’t lose’ mindset, which I‘ve done in the past.”
Having her mother along for the ride has helped as well. “Sometimes there are a few moments where I’m like, ‘I got it Mom, don’t worry.’ And she says, ‘OK, you got it.’ We both love golf, so it’s been fun to be able to share it together.”
As a former college player who loves the game, Kim Hartlage considers her caddie role a blessing. Still, she would prefer some cooler weather rather than the steamy conditions – the heat index on Wednesday reached 105 – at Old Waverly this week. “I’m absolutely exhausted,” she said. “I tried to get in shape a bit before coming here, but nothing prepares you for this heat. It just zaps you. So I’m drinking a lot of water. It’s tough.”
Kim played at Western Kentucky and in three USGA Women’s State Team Championships for Kentucky. “I wasn’t a great match-play player because I couldn’t putt. But I did win the Kentucky Tournament of Champions in 1998, beating [Indiana native] Leigh Anne Hardin, who won the U.S. Girls’ Junior that year (at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.).”
She estimates her role this week to be 50 percent caddie, 50 percent parent.
“I don’t really read any putts for Lauren,” she said. “She and I don’t see greens the same way. Mostly on the fairways, if she has a question about a shot she wants to pull off, that’s where she will ask. I definitely never try to step in. I usually ask her what do you think instead of here’s what I would do.”
The older Hartlage freely admits that she’d rather be the player than the caddie. “It’s so much easier to play the game than watch your child play,” said Kim, who was an alternate for the 1997 U.S. Women’s Amateur. “You live and die with every shot. You’re just hoping they do the best they can. I’ve always told Lauren it’s not about winning, it’s about doing it the right way. But she’s made it a lot of fun, I’ll tell you that.”
Finding the right balance of being a caddie versus a parent hasn’t been easy. “Sometimes I think as a mom, I try to offer a lot of opinions. But when you’re a caddie, you can’t do that. You’ve got to be calm, follow along and answer questions if you are asked. It’s hard. If you want to be a good parent, go out and caddie for a while. If you could do it pretty well, then you might be a good parent too!”
Lauren is hoping to provide her mother with some more fun this week.
“If you’re not here to win then you shouldn’t be playing,” said Lauren. “I think that’s everyone’s goal. If not, then you should probably rethink it. I’m here and I believe that I can win.”
Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA digital channels. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.