by Jeff Skinner
Helen Alfredsson navigated her way around The Upper Montclair Country Club Course with a personal best 62 today to take the lead at the first day of The Sybase Classic. She was playing as well as she ever has hitting the fairways and hardly ever missing a green. Paired with South Koreans, Hee Young Park and Jimin Kang, she showed the youngsters what a little experience can do for a player. Alfredsson is a former Solheim Cup Captain that has just come returned from a back injury. The South Koreans seemed to play a different game than Alfredsson. They are slow and methodical, taking their time on the green and in between shots. Alfredsson was striding out ahead of the group by twenty or thirty yards on each hole. She seemed to be saying,” Let’s get a move on here. I’m on a mission.”
She opened with a 30 on her front (back nine) and I caught up to her on her back nine at the third hole. She was driving the ball close to 300 yards and down the middle on each hole. At the par five fifth she reached in two with a fairway wood and two putted for birdie. On the sixth she actually played before Kang, with her permission, while Kang and her caddy discussed yardages. At the par 5 seventh she barely missed the green in two and stayed in the greenside bunker. Undeterred, she played her bunker shot to eight feet and made the birdie putt. On the next, the eighth a par three, she stuck her tee ball to eight feet and made the birdie. That brought her to ten under with one more to play. She said on the last tee box was the first time she thought of her score all day. She then proceeded to make her standard two putt par, but she could have gone lower.
While recalling her round she thought she missed two makeable birdies putts. Those putts and a three putt bogey on the par three fifteenth were all that kept her from the magical score of 59. Afterward she spoke of how she is finally recuperated from her back injury and can practice full time now. When she spun her ball into the hole on eleven for eagle and chipped in for birdie on thirteen she asked herself,” What’s going on here?” She felt comfortable all day and looked confident on each shot. “It’s typical that on a day like today you are staying in the moment,” she said. “I was only nervous on the last putt.” When told that Lorena was stunned that a 62 could be shot under these conditions today she responded good naturedly,” Ha, Ha, Ha…when you play like this you wonder, why don’t we do this all the time?” When asked how a former Solheim Cup Captain can compete on the tour, meaning at 43 you’ve usually seen your best golf, she said,” I have been able to work on my game now…I want to give it two more years.
She wore a hat and jacket with one of her sponsor’s logo,” Peak Performance.” When asked if today was a peak performance, she laughed and said,’ Yes, and my sponsor will be very happy.” Yes Helen, a 62 will get make you happy anytime.