About four weeksago my grandfather Arnold Palmer called and asked if I'd be interested in aspot in the Bay Hill Invitational. It was something we'd talked about before,at least hypothetically. Still, I wasn't sure it would actually happen. Then, afew days later, I saw him on the range, where we often run into each other. Hesaid, "Have you heard anything yet about playing in the tournament?" Itold him that I hadn't. He smiled. "Well," he said, "you can readall about it in the newspaper tomorrow."
Naturally, I waspretty excited about my first PGA Tour start. I can promise you that I've neverhad so much fun filling in one of the prearranged-absence forms at my school,Trinity Prep in Winter Park, Fla. Still, I was a little bummed that so manyquestions were being raised about my qualifications. True, I'm only 18 yearsold, but most people don't realize that Bay Hill has a history of givingexemptions to amateurs--there are always a couple of relatively young guys inthe field. And I've had some success in the recent past. I won the Florida highschool championship last year, and I was medalist at the U.S. Junior beforegetting knocked out by Kevin Tway, Bob's son and the eventual winner, duringmatch play.
Starting theweek, I liked my chances to shoot a couple of under-par rounds and make thecut. I play nine holes on the course every day after school and usually shootunder par. Obviously, the setup was harder than usual, with thicker rough andfirmer, faster greens. But I didn't feel as if that would hurt me too much. Infact, I played my practice rounds with pros Charles Warren and LucasGlover--both of whom went to Clemson, where I'll be going to school nextyear--and hung with them shot for shot, so I was pretty confident.
Thursday andFriday were a different story. I put way too much pressure on myself, tried toforce things and didn't play the way I could have or usually do. Part of it, Iguess, was wanting to play well for my grandfather. Unfortunately, the lowpoint of the week came on one of the three or four holes at which he waswatching me. That was the 18th hole on Friday, when I drove it into some azaleabushes and was forced to take an unplayable lie and replay my tee shot.
Overall, thetournament was a great experience, even though I shot 76-82 and missed the cut.My grandfather didn't give me any advice before I went out there except to say,"Relax, play your own game and have fun." I learned last week that it'snot so easy to do, but it should be easier next time.
By Rick Lipsey
Annika and the Koreans, not the glamour girls, willrule the LPGA this season.
BIG SHOES Club champ Saunders usually breaks par at Bay Hill.
Chris Eliopoulos, Writer; Michael Penick, Artist; Chris Sotomayer, Color