LSU Gold

Column: Is Bear Trap That "Bearish?"; And Seeing Past LSU Golf Stars

by Kent Lowe
Round 1 Recap Live Scoring Photos +0
Column: Is Bear Trap That "Bearish?"; And Seeing Past LSU Golf Stars

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida — Well, I’ll admit it. I’m living my best golf watching life this year. Which means “Geaux Lowe” is back.

Amen Corner in April. The Bear Trap in May.

There isn’t what I would call a signature named stretch of holes at Grayhawk in Scottsdale, but hopefully I will be there to watch some golf later this month.

Which brings us to why we are here in Palm Beach Gardens at PGA National’s Champion Course – the NCAA Women’s Golf Regionals, one of six being held from coast-to-coast. Each event has 12 teams and it’s so very simple – just be in the top five and punch a ticket to Scottsdale.

It’s one of those times when winning isn’t most important. Oh, it would be great and a record tying win for LSU as it would be the second time with five wins in a golf calendar year, but anywhere in the top five gets the goal accomplished of getting to the big show.

And, so LSU is here to so to speak, attack “The Bear Trap.”

It seems simple – the par 3 15th hole, the par 4 16th hole and the par 3 17th hole. You see them at the Honda Classic and you also see the inevitable shots in the water or up against the grandstands in impossible lies, etc.

Well, after seeing it in person for the first time Sunday, I have to admit for the hacker like me, I would need to head to the pro shop for an extra sleeve, maybe an extra dozen golf balls. For the majority of the women playing here this week, just another set of holes.

There is a giant Bear and a smaller plaque on a rock as you walk to the 15th tee that says, “It should be won or lost right here.” If the words of course architect Jack Nicklaus don’t intimidate you, maybe that eight-foot-tall menacing statue of a bear standing beside it will.

There’s no denying that “The Bear Trap” is among the most well-known three-hole stretches played in professional golf. PGA Tour stats say that among non-majors, Nos. 15-16-17 at PGA National are the third-toughest such collection on tour, behind Quail Hollow’s 16-17-18 and Pebble Beach’s 8-9-10.

But is this trio of holes really as formidable as we’re led to believe? Has the legend of the Bear Trap been overdone? Is the roar bigger than the bite? It depends on the person facing the test probably. I have seen it on for many years as a champions major was played here before the Honda Classic. Sunday, I have to admit, the holes look difficult, but there appear to be more bailout areas without all the infrastructure around the holes.

Amen Corner doesn’t have an infrastructure situation I have to admit.

“Sometimes when they put these names to these holes,” LSU Coach Garrett Runion said, “it kind of psyches people out a little more with the Bear Trap and the Snake Pit in Tampa and all that.”

Runion said after the team’s practice round to “avoid the big number.” So could that be a deciding element in the Regional. Remember, six teams will play that set of holes as their front nine each day.

They are fun holes, especially for those of us watching the action.

Had a lot of good memories come back to me on Sunday when two former stars of LSU golf came out to watch the team practice.

Megan (McChrystal) Pierce has several distinctions in her All-American LSU career, including being a part of the first third-place finishing team in the NCAA Championships in 2011. But the year before in 2010 in Wilmington, North Carolina, she rolled in nine birdies to shoot an 8-under 64, the lowest score to date in NCAA Championship women’s golf event.

She went on to several winning years on the Symetra Tour and reached the LPGA Tour but now is enjoying life as a junior high history teacher.

Also, out on watching the ladies was another LSU star, Ben Taylor, who is 48th in the current FedEx Cup standings on the PGA Tour. A missed cut at the Wells Fargo allowed him to be back in the home area Sunday, as he also was able to watch the ladies play in the Jackson T. Stephens Cup at Seminole in the fall.

I was fortunate to get to cover McChrystal’s success at LSU and Ben Taylor spent time in our communications office interning when he wasn’t helping LSU win a men’s golf national title in 2015. Since getting his PGA Tour card back prior to the start of the 2022-23 wraparound season, he has had some great finishes, most recently in the Mexico Open and has earnings over $1.7 million.

The team got to meet Megan and visit again with Ben after the round and it is pretty special to see a couple of different generations of LSU golfers interacting.

Remember, Runion was the assistant coach for the men’s team at the time LSU won the men’s title and present women’s assistant Alexis Rather was a player for the Tigers team when McChrystal was a freshman and later her assistant coach when the Tigers finished third in the NCAAs in 2011.

And you never know who we might see before this trip is over.

So here we are with the second round teeing off this Tuesday morning. Did Monday give us any indications of what it will look like. I think we will have to check out another nine holes today to get a better feel.

What you always watch for is those 8, 9, 10 seeds that play the best golf of the season and find themselves in the hunt and that’s a bit of what we have right now. Remember Wednesday the famed Golfstat red cut line will appear and that’s when the watching will truly begin.

For LSU, it’s simply be what you have been all season long and don’t back down. If they do that, we’ll “Geaux Lowe” in Scottsdale.