Lessons learned from my first round with an LPGA pro

Lessons learned from my first round with an LPGA pro

SYLVANIA, Ohio — What sporting enthusiast wouldn't love to see how their skills compare to the world's best? It's easy to do in a timed sport like swimming. It's dangerous in MMA.

In golf, comparing our games with the pros might be the most fun, even if it's a bit humbling. At least there is swag.

I've played in a handful of Pro-ams over the years on the PGA Tour, European Tour and PGA Tour Champions, but had my first LPGA experience at the Highland Meadows Golf Club in Slyvania, Ohio for the Marathon LPGA Classic presented by DANA.

Highland Meadows is a historic, tree-lined Midwestern layout with small greens and narrow, gently doglegging fairways. As a 7-handicapper, that means feeble attempts to steer drives onto short grass while not making too many mistakes with the scoring clubs.

And lots of punch-outs.

Fortunately there wouldn't be too many punch-outs. The format for the Pro-am was a team "Shamble" (Everyone in the group tees off from the same place, selects the best drive, and then play their own ball into the hole from that location). Our pro was Ssu-Chia Cheng, from Chinese Taipei and now resides in San Diego. She was very pleasant company but clearly there with a task at hand. As she scribbled up notes with her caddie and putted to various pin locations on each green, I was helping myself to barbecue sandwiches and lagers at the hospitality tents. For Cheng, at 23 years old and ranked No. 268 in the world rankings and No. 104 in the CME, future playing opportunities on the LPGA are no guarantee.

There is a common notion that it can be more fruitful for amateur men to watch and learn from the LPGA or Champions Tour over the PGA Tour. The relatable part is the length of course (this was the first pro-am where we got to play the same tees as the pros). A well struck drive by us will be in the neighborhood of theirs.

After nine holes (our back nine was rained out, sadly) playing with Cheng, it was evident what parts of our games were a galaxy or two away from relatable.

Sure, I had a few flashes of brilliance on this afternoon; a birdie using my own ball tee to green on the opening hole (Boom!), a crafty sand save on a long par 3. On a long, 580-yard par 5, I connected perfectly on a drive with a high fade that found the narrow sliver of fairway.

Sign me up for the next qualifier!

But in between the highlights were all the sad shenanigans you'd expect from an am: A skulled PW on a par 3 over the green, a double-cross tee shot squirted dead left, worm-burners, mis-clubbing approach shots and more. The 3-wood I hit after that perfect drive sailed into the trees.

All these mistakes put me in a spot where double bogey would be more likely than a par.

Meanwhile, Cheng hit 6 of 7 fairways (the one she missed, she still had the only non-punch-out position so we took her drive and she made an easy par). She played a nice and tight high draw with her driver. Her approach shots were almost always pin high. After peeking in her bag, my fellow am Eric - a 2-handicap - remarked to me in disbelief that the worn spot on her irons were ever so tiny and dead center of the face.

Posted in News By Lorenzo Benavides