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Does Whisman have another 64 in him?

Column by Steve Yingling

At least Travis Whisman’s 45 competitors will have something going for them in local U.S. Open qualifying Wednesday at the Golf Club at Genoa Lakes.

Lucky for them the qualifier isn’t at Lightning-W. Plus, the 16-year-old Whisman hasn’t played Genoa Lakes this year. Lastly, they can hope that as part of the third group off at 8:14 am., he might miss his tee time.

But that may be their only advantages.



If the Galena High sophomore can top his 1997 U.S. Open qualifying feat, then area golf fans are in for a real treat Wednesday. As some recall, “The Whiz Kid” played like no teen-ager this area has ever seen by firing a course-record, 7-under-par 64 to win local qualifying last year at Lightning-W. But his score could have been lower since he missed several birdie putts inside seven feet.

“That’s probably the best I’ve ever played,” said Whisman of his memorable, bogeyless round of five birdies and an eagle. “Last year, I was playing really well at this time for a couple of weeks straight. I’m not playing too badly right ow, but it matters how I’m putting. Some days I’m hitting a lot of putts and on other days I’m not.”



What makes Whisman especially effective is balance of power and touch.

“He’s long and he has a terrific shot game. You don’t shoot the kind of scores he has without having an exceptional short game,” said Randy Fox, Genoa Lakes’ director of golf, who will compete in his first Open qualifier in six years.

Whisman’s best round to date at Genoa is a 4-under-par 68, but he feels some of the other entrants are capable of shooting in the mid-60s.

“Most of the par-5s are reachable, and if it’s not windy some of these guys can shoot in the mid-60s. But if it gets windy, any round under par is a good score,” Whisman said.

Just to make sure that Whisman doesn’t blister their course, Genoa Lakes has gotten in the Open spirit.

“We’re getting the rough up and the greens real fast. They’re won’t be any 64s out here, especially with how tough the course is from the gold tees,” said Nate Kelley, a Genoa Lakes pro shop assistant, who is making his Open qualifying debut.

With snow and rain in Wednesday’s forecast, Whisman may get to use more of his golf bag than usual. But he doesn’t mind.

“It suits my game all right there. It’s a good course because it forces you to use a variety of shots like a bump and run and a flop shot. You can get a lot of different clubs in your hands. It’s a mental-game course,” he said.

If Whisman’s weekend outing at Spy Glass with his dad, Jim, is any indication of how he’ll play, then look out. Included in his rounds of 78, 73 and 74 was his second career ace.

Like any of the thousands of golfers around the country, Whisman covets a spot in next month’s U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. That’s all he’s thought about since golf engulfed his life a decade ago.

“I’ve had dreams about me playing in the U.S. Open and the Masters since I was little. It’s always been my dream to play on the PGA Tour and win a major,” Whisman said.

Last year, the dream came apart 15 holes into his first 18 at sectionals – the final Open hurdle – at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, Calif. After playing the first 14 holes in one-under par, Whisman double-bogeyed the 15th and bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes.

“That kind of put me in a little bit of a bummer mind frame, but the second round I had it going again,” said Whisman, who ran into trouble on the 29th hole when he hit his tee shot out of bounds for another double-bogey.

“You have to hit it straight on a lot of these courses because usually the fairways are pretty tight and the rough is up,” Whisman said.

Surely, Tiger Woods, a 1997 Masters winner and U.S. Open pretender, would concur.

Whisman’s rounds of 74 and 76 left him six shots from a qualifying spot. But that’s the nice thing about being 16 – there are many more opportunities.

“Some of these guys like Steve Sheehan are playing real well right now. I’m just going to shoot as low as I can and see what happens,” Whisman said.

If Whisman takes his game any lower, he’ll make Al Geiberger and his exalted 59 nervous.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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