ARDMORE, Pa. — The “white faces of Merion” are the beautiful snow-white sand-filled bunkers at Merion Golf Club’s East Course, a phrase stylishly coined by amateur great Chick Evans.
But part of their facial features this week for the 113th U.S. Open is their long, gnarly scuff.
Ask the man who sports a pretty robust beard of his own – Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley – what it was like to be up close and personal with one of those scraggly bunkers on the 14th hole Saturday.
It was frightful.
Stanley’s hopes of contending at the U.S. Open ended well before that. He shot the worst score of his professional career – a 15-over-par 85 – in the third round.
He began his round with a double bogey after taking two shots to get out of a fairway bunker on the first hole.
And with the greens “3-4 feet” speedier than the previous two days, according to Stanley, he struggled adjusting to the new pace.
But he was coming off a birdie at the short par-3 13th hole – his last of three in the round – when he leaked a drive right off No. 14.
Trying to get it back in play, his next shot was a line drive into a left-side fairway bunker some 75 yards away from the green.
But when he got to the spot where he thought his golf ball was, it wasn’t there. Somehow it hopped through the sand and into an awful spot in high grass just in front of the bunker.
“I don’t really know how that happened,” Stanley said while shaking his head. “And you couldn’t see much of (the ball). It was right in the middle of a bush.”
He first tried advancing it. It instead kicked a few feet right.
His second attempt at trying to get it toward the green was just as futile – the ball bounced backward.
“When it ends up in that thick stuff … it is so unknown when you get in there,” said Scott Langley, who was playing in the same group with Stanley. “You never want to see that happen to anybody. It is such a pain.”
Oh, another pain started in on Stanley. An intoxicated heckler standing nearby yelled, “While we’re young” as the golfer patiently went over all of his options.
Deciding there was no way to move the ball forward, he decided to chip it back into the bunker. But the ball hit his foot in the process, costing him a one-stroke penalty.
Finally with some breathing room, Stanley hit a clean approach on the green, receiving a rousing ovation for finally solving his pesky predicament.
But a three-putt from 50 feet left him with sextuple-bogey 10 on the par-4 hole.
“I know it was an 85, but I got a ton of really bad breaks out there. They kind of compounded on top of one another,” Stanley said. “It happens. I am not going to really think too much about it. It is kind of one of those crazy, fluky days. You forget about them and move on.”email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/golf @ManyHatsMilles