Valdosta Daily Times

April 23, 2013

Players prepare for Kinderlou’s length

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — It is longer than Augusta National. It is longer than Whistling Straights, Pinehurst, Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines and nearly every other golf course on the PGA Tour schedule.

Playing at nearly 7,800 yards for this week’s South Georgia Classic presented by First State Bank and Trust Company, Valdosta’s Kinderlou Forest Golf Club is the second longest course between the PGA, and Championship Tours. It is a course built to challenge the best golfer’s patience and driving abilities.

As the South Georgia Classic approaches, some of the world’s best players are preparing for the mammoth course and all the obstacles that stand in the way this upcoming weekend. Some golfers got their first look at the course Monday in the Pro-Am. Others will get their first look of the course today when they participate in the official practice round for the tournament.

“I have never played this course before,” said Danny Lee, the youngest-ever winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship when he won the tournament at 18 years, one month in 2008. “So I don’t know what is important or what is wrong here. I will play (today) and hopefully I will have to hit it long and straight.”

Although Lee has yet to see the course, he does think he has a good chance of playing well because of his ability to drive the ball. He ranks 42nd on the Tour in driving distance, averaging 299 yards per tee shot.

“Some of the players told me this is by far the longest tournament on the Tour, so I will see what I have to change,” Lee said. “My average distance is like 300 yards, so I don’t see too many problems with distance.”

While Lee, and many others, have yet to see Kinderlou, 2007 Classic champion, John Kimbell, knows this course well and that it fits to his strengths.

“Something about Valdosta I like,” Kimbell said. “The layout is perfect for me. There is nothing I don’t like about it.”

The course may be suitable to Kimbell’s skills, but it isn’t to others.

“Hopefully I hit a 4-iron really good,” said Billy Hurley III, who is currently 50th on the Tour’s money list. “I am not the longest hitter so you try and hit some quality shots around the green and make up for it with the putter. But it is definitely going to be a lot of long shots into the greens.”

Regardless of how the course fits golfers, the competition at this year’s event will be tougher than ever, thanks to new PGA TOUR qualifying rules that place an emphasis on winning on the Tour.

The new format to the Tour was discussed on Monday.

“I don’t really have an opinion on it,” Kimbell said. “I kind of liked it the old way just because we all knew how it worked. I think this will be better just because you get the bigger names down here.”

Other players agree with Kimbell that the new format is good for the Tour, the official proving ground of the PGA TOUR.

“It is fun to have a mix of guys you’ve heard about,” Hurley said. “I think that is some of what this Tour lacks — people don’t know who the players are. So having big names playing here helps the Tour, I think. Part of the trick of the media is people you haven’t heard of doesn’t mean they aren’t good golfers.

“There are a lot of good players. I think in the country, as a whole, the sense of golf is that there are about five good golfers on this whole planet. And there are actually 150 of them here this week. Some real good golfers.”