May 20, 2010

By Neil Amato, Special to

WILMINGTON, N.C. -- The divots at the drop area told the devilish story behind the par-3 second hole at Thursday's NCAA Division I women's golf championships.

That spot, about 35 yards from the front of the green at the Country Club of Landfall's Pete Dye Course, looked more like a tee box. It's gotten plenty of use the past two rounds.

In a span of about 20 minutes on Thursday, six players tried to land safely on the green, the perimeter of which is 70 percent water. Three balls swam with the fish and a fourth should have.

The hole has been a mental bear for the players, and not just those at the bottom of the leader board.

One San Jose State player put three shots in the water and took a septuple-bogey 10. An Arizona State player also scored in double digits, and Southern California's Cyna Rodriguez, whose team began the third round with a seven-stroke lead, struggled to a quintuple-bogey 8 on No. 2.

The pin location Thursday was on the left side. It was about 12 feet from the lake that snakes along the first fairway, behind the second green and around to its front (save for the cart path and a little swatch of grass on the right side). The body of water's cruel homonym of a name: Dye Lake.

No matter where the pin was, players have struggled with No. 2, which, along with the water-protected par-3 16th, has been the course's toughest in relation to par.

One golfer who hasn't struggled on No. 2, South Carolina's Katie Burnett, still did not enjoyed navigating the 131-yarder.

"(Wednesday's) pin location was kinda ridiculous, actually," Burnett said. "It was back right, tucked in. You can't get it there.

"I've just been taking a really, really conservative target every day that's well right of the water. It's almost middle of the bunker, and just kind of punching it to the green. I've just completely stayed away from the left. I've been clubbing up and hitting a three-quarter shot, which is a much straighter, much more consistent kind of flight."

Burnett has parred the hole each day, so her strategy is worth mimicking. She said playing the hole Thursday, with the left pin location, gave it a triple-whammy.

"It's on the left, short left," she said. "If you hit it left at all, it's going to go in the water. If you hit it short, or hit it long, it's going in the water. I just completely picked a target way right of the flag and didn't even look at the flag."

Courtney McKim of Oklahoma State seemed to go for the flag, and she took a double-bogey, escaping further damage with a shot she'll never forget.

McKim was playing in a group with Florida State's Hannah Thomson and Duke's Kim Donovan. Thomson went first, landing her tee shot safely on the green. Donovan, who had a quadruple-bogey 7 there on Tuesday, thought she had found a safe spot just to the right of the green. But her ball landed and spun back, going off the edge of the bulkhead and into the water.

Donovan took her drop, pitched onto the green and took a double bogey.

McKim went for the pin, which was on the far left of the green, maybe 12 feet from the water. She hit the shot too long, and the ball took one bounce and dropped off the back side.

McKim took her drop and then pitched toward the green, her third shot. The ball seemed to come up short, which meant another splashdown, but it hit a horizontal support beam for the bulkhead around the green, bounced about 5 feet up and onto the green.

"I don't even know how to explain it; it was pretty amazing," McKim said. "I knew I had chunked it, and I thought it was in the water again. If I took another 2,000 balls, I'd never pull it off again."