Whisman ready to use local knowledge on pros
Given that Tiger Woods, David Duval and other top touring PGA players will be halfway across the country competing in the World Series of Golf in Akron, Ohio, it’s not too outlandish to consider 17-year-old Travis Whisman as a threat to win the first Reno-Tahoe Open.
After all, Whisman, who will enter his senior year at Galena High School the day after Sunday’s final round at Montreux Golf Country Club, has played the course more than most of the field put together and has long been playing beyond his years.
“His goal is to make the cut, but he’d probably rather win. His expectations are always higher for him than mine are for him,” said Jim Whisman, who hopes to tote his son’s bag this weekend over the 7,552-yard Jack Nicklaus-designed layout. “It will be a brand-new course for a lot of the pros. He’s probably played 70 to 75 rounds at Montreux, and it’s going to be a big advantage, especially on the greens and with club selection. But you have to hit it there first.”
Knowing that he might be in over his head – for now – Whisman’s expectations are modest.
“I’m looking to make the cut. I’m looking to do better than that, but if I don’t, I don’t,” said Whisman, who qualified for the tournament via a sponsor exemption along with Steve Sheehan of Reno. “I don’t really know what to expect. I don’t know how good these guys will play at Montreux.”
Whisman, however, knows what he’s capable of on his “home” course. The amateur fired a summer-best, 7-under-par 65 last week while preparing for the biggest opportunity to date.
“With the 65, it’s easier to do it when it doesn’t mean as much,” said Whisman, who fell a shot shy of a playoff for a final qualifying spot for the 1998 U.S. Open as a 16-year-old at Lake Merced Country Club in Los Gatos, Calif.
A prolonged struggle with the flat stick frustrated Whisman’s scoring during high school play last spring, but he’s happy how his game has progressed during the summer.
“I’m playing a lot better lately,” said Whisman, who fired a 67 during the U.S. Junior Amateur qualifying and a 68 at the Rolex Tournament of Champions. Whisman finished fifth in the Rolex event, 14th in the Western Junior and advanced to the round of 16 in the U.S. Junior Amateur, a tournament where he qualified for the semifinals in 1998.
Whisman knows that a good performance might secure him a spot in next year’s tournament but says he doesn’t feel any pressure with that nugget out there. In fact, he claims he’s not nervous at all.
“Maybe if I do play well, maybe I’ll be able to play in it again. I’m just hoping to do well is all,” he said.
Unlike some fathers of talented golfers, Jim – a Reed High School algebra teacher – can give his son extra insight about what is on the verge of happening.
“I just want him to let things be natural and not change any part of his game between now and when he tees up Thursday. Whatever happens, happens,” said Jim, who played in last year’s U.S. Senior Open.
“It think it helps when I’m carry his bag as long as we don’t start fighting over something. Between player and caddie, it’s OK, but if it turns into player and daddy, it doesn’t work out that well.”
If Travis takes advantage of his local knowledge, father and son may experience an unforgettable weekend.
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