By Cam Huffman
Strategy is a critical aspect of sports. That’s obvious when Nick Saban gambles on a fourth down and comes up successful or when Rick Pitino draws up the perfect play for a game-winning 3-pointer.
In golf, it’s sometimes a little more subtle. You won’t find the plans drawn out on a dry erase board, and it’s usually the athlete, not the coach, who’s making the decisions.
Strategy, though, could play an important role in today’s final round of the BNI Memorial Golf Classic.
Brandon Reece holds a three-shot lead heading into today’s play on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs, but he knows just how quickly that can slip away.
Last year, the two-time champion was four shots behind eventual winner Bosten Miller heading into the final round, but Miller got a little wild on a couple of early holes, losing balls out of bounds. By the time the players made the turn, Reece had already erased that deficit and was in the lead.
Miller recovered to win in a playoff, denying Reece a third BNI title, but that round might creep into the back of Reece’s mind today as he tries again for this third crown.
“It’s disappointing when you lose any tournament,” said the 2006 and 2007 BNI champion. “But it has to be a learning experience.
“I try to play about the same (in the lead or chasing the lead). I just try to pick my spots. I am aggressive when I can be but conservative when I need to be. It’s about making good decisions.”
Those chasing Reece will also have to come up with a game plan.
Michael Powers, who’s the closest at three back, is a member of the Senior Division, so he’s probably not going to win by trying to reach the green in two on the par-5s. But finding birdies on those holes, he said, is critical to his attack.
“I just have to play my round and let the chips fall where they may,” he said.
Aaron Kemlock takes a similar strategy. He’s well under the minimum age for the Senior Division, but he also is aware of his limitations. He’s not about to try to push the issue and do something that’s not part of his game.
“I’m not a long ball hitter,” said the former Concord golfer. “I play fairways and greens and lay up on the par-5s. I know (taking big risks is) not my game. I’ve always been short, so I just try to make it up around the greens.”
Kemlock knows he has his work cut out for him if he hopes to pick up his first win in the tournament he’s been playing in for most of his life. But he’s going to enjoy the experience, no matter what.
“I’ll go out and try to hit fairways and greens again and see what happens,” he said. “But I’ll get to see it first-hand in that last group.”
Winston Canada will have to watch the leaderboard to know what’s going on behind him, but the big hitter may play a different style than others at the top.
With six strokes to make up, he may have to take some chances to try to get himself in front. But he often plays the high-risk, high-reward type of game that can lead to comebacks.
The three other guys in Canada’s group — Mike Mays, Alan Wharton and Greg McGraw — have combined to win 11 of the 32 previous BNI tournaments. They’ll do what they always do, try to avoid mistakes and let the leaderboard come back to them.
With some in a 2-minute drill, trying to make up ground fast, and others, like Reece, possibly playing somewhat of a prevent defense, the plans on the course today will all be very different.
But just as there is on a fall Saturday afternoon or inside a packed gymnasium on a cold winter night, there’s sure to be plenty of excitement watching it all play out.
— E-mail: chuffman@
register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.