Sunday, January 29

A Personal Glimpse at Kyle Stanley

Stanley as a junior golfer.
IT’S HARD TO WIN ON THE PGA TOUR, especially that maiden victory. Kyle Stanley saw a seven-shot lead fritter away on Sunday afternoon at the Farmers Insurance Open. But three shots is a comfortable cushion with one hole to go, the relatively short but tricky par-5 18th on the South Course at Torrey Pines. All Kyle had to do was put his ball in position and keep his wits and he would walk off with his first of hopefully multiple PGA Tour titles. He is just 24.

Then splash. Or, to be more accurate, ripples. Inexplicably, the golf ball went into the water.

Stanley’s three-quarters wedge shot flew beyond the hole but spun too hard, eventually trickling into the pond that fronts the 18th green. He ended up with a triple-bogey 8. Playoff. Brandt Snedeker bested Stanley on the second hole of sudden death when the PGA Tour sophomore caught the edge of the cup with his par try. It was over.

I couldn’t help but think of Kyle’s parents (Matt and Michelle) as I watched the playoff, how nervous they must be, the agony they must have felt as they watched Kyle stumble at the finish and head back out onto the course for the playoff.

I knew Matt and Michelle from periodic social events at Glendale Country Club in Bellevue, Washington, where my father-in-law, Ed, was a member. Matt and Ed were golf pals and friends. This was perhaps 15 years ago. Kyle was a kid, about 9 or 10. We used to watch him run around on the clubhouse lawn with his sister. There was a group of us that would gather for Memorial Day and Labor Day barbecues at Glendale. I wasn’t a member. I was a guest, a guy in the buffet line and an occasional “son” of Mel in the father-son tournament. It was an opportunity to eat too much and make small talk with people I saw twice a year.

There was Kyle throwing a baseball or football out on the grass with his older sister. Every once in a while he’d make a breathless pit stop at our table to check in with his mom and dad. That kid out on the lawn turned out to be a phenomenal golfer. He was an All-American at Clemson and won the 2009 Ben Hogan Award, the most prestigious award in men’s college golf. He then played on the Nationwide Tour before advancing through Q-School and joining the PGA Tour last season.

I remember seeing Kyle at the 2009 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, pounding balls on a sweltering August afternoon. I had a fleeting thought of saying something to him but quickly reconsidered. He wouldn’t know me. What would I say? I used to eat ribs and corn on the cob with your dad on Memorial Day weekend.

I still get occasional calls from my brother-in-law, John, who was also a part of that Glendale gathering. “Hey, did you hear about Kyle Stanley?” He made the cut at the U.S. Open. Or he’s near the lead in Boise (when he was playing the Nationwide Tour).

I got one of those “Kyle” messages a little more than a year ago from Karen, who along with her husband, Lance, also sat with us and the Stanleys in the Glendale dining room.

“Ever thought about looking into Kyle Stanley?” she wrote in an email. “He is not winning but I see on Sunday reports that he hangs around the 10-30 spot. Big Ed loved Kyle.”

Kyle Stanley will learn from his tragic finish at Torrey. He will win. I’m a believer. He has the talent, work ethic, character and determination. I hope it’s soon, this season. When that first win comes, it will be that much sweeter.

−The Armchair Golfer


Unknown said...

Too bad what happened over the weekend. But sometimes you have to get that harsh "punch in the face" moment and it changes how you approach those situations again. Look how the Masters meltdown helped Rory McIlroy. Be interesting to see how he responds.

Troy Vayanos said...

I felt so sorry for Stanley as he didn’t do a lot wrong to lose this tournament. The 3rd shot he hit into the last wasn’t that bad but just had too much spin on it and backed up into the water.

I guess that’s golf and hopefully his time will come in the near future.

Brian Kuehn said...

Reading your piece I got a bit of deja vue. After a "search" I can see that you predicted (correctly) that Kyle would do good things on the PGA Tour. He came up short this time but he has put himself in contention several times. He will prevail sooner rather than later.

The Armchair Golfer said...

Thanks, guys. Yes, Brian, Kyle is a solid player and showing a lot of grace in the aftermath of his collapse. I think he'll be OK.

Will o'the Glen said...

The TV commentators are always talking in awe-struck tones about how much spin the pros get on the ball on approach shots, but spin isn't always desirable -- as young Mr Stanley discovered to his chagrin (and at a direct cost of $432,000) last Sunday afternoon. I think that these guys, who are getting SO much money for playing golf, should have that shot in the bag -- the no-spin 75-yard lob…

If Kyle had had it Sunday, he would have hoisted that trophy and pocketed the REALLY big check.

Dizzle said...

KYLE NEEDS TO READ THIS TOO- after my Medical evaluation- I believe Kyle was DEHYDRATED for more than a few holes @ the end of the Tournament in San Diego... Dehydration causes a person to be DISORIENTED. Kyles CADDIE should offer him fluids/wet towel,snack you cant play golf and not drink any water/fluids. I did not see Kyle drink ANYTHING the whole time I watched him play on TV 2 hours @ least. He appeared to be suffering from DEHYDRATION/Disorientation.