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USGA Mid-Amateur champion Kelsey Chugg: A story of persistence

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It was February 2009, and I was sitting at my desk at the University of Kentucky, browsing through incoming emails. My modus operandi at the time centered around finding and critiquing recruits’ technique, often labeling them with the simple term “LOFT: Lack of F-ing Talent,” and sending a form letter back saying we had filled our spots. Sad, but true.

About eight emails into one of these sessions, I came to a rambling soliloquy from a girl in Arizona who was supposed to go somewhere, but her plans had changed. Yadda, yadda, yadda… where’s the video? Scrolling down I came to a YouTube link, clicked and…wait, what?! This girl was good. No, not correct. This young lady had one of the best golf swings I had ever seen; it was dynamic, athletic and powerful. I was impressed (which rarely happened) and started to scramble through the email trying to figure out the story of this girl… one Kelsey Chugg from Arizona.

I found a phone number, quickly dialed and started to find out the back story, which basically involved a kid from a tough family life who fell in love with golf and was set on playing at a local community college. Unfortunately, the deal fell apart and now desperate, she was trying to find an option. About 20 minutes into the conversation it was obvious; Kelsey was a great kid, loved golf and deserved a lot of help.

When there was a break in the back story, I explained that I had good news and bad news. The bad news was that at the University of Kentucky for the following year, we had allotted all of our scholarships and would not be in a financial situation to make an offer. However, I did think I had some options for her. “What do you think of Oklahoma?” I asked. Really long silence. Hmm, maybe she didn’t hear me. As I went to ask again, Kelsey responds with something to the effect of, “I would appreciate any help you would give me.”

The next year, Kelsey enrolled in Redlands Community College. No, Redlands is not in California, it’s in El Reno, Oklahoma. Home to a little more than 18,000 people, it has a prison, a Walmart, a manmade lake, a couple stop lights, a terrible golf course and the nastiest weather for golf ever from middle of November to middle of April. Despite the hardships, the team had a unique kinship and was led by Gerrod Chadwell, a dynamic local with a strong teaching background. It wasn’t Stanford, but Kelsey was grateful for the opportunity and worked really hard.

“I probably wouldn’t have been able to attend school without Gerrod giving me a chance. My family wanted me to go to college, but financially it wasn’t possible for me to attend without the opportunity at Redlands. My time in El Reno was beneficial because I learned how to play in tough conditions. I never had experienced wind like it blows there and I had to learn to be creative with my club choices,” says Chugg when reflecting about her experience.

Upon finishing at Redlands, Kelsey enrolled at Division 1 Weber State to finish her last two years under Coach Jeffery Smith. Weber was an ideal choice for Kelsey because it was close to her grandparents, who became a stabilizing force in her life during college by always providing encouragement and support.

After college, Kelsey continued with golf and eventually went on to win four Utah State Amateurs. Pretty good, eh? At this point, you may be wondering about this story. You may think Kelsey seems great, but what’s the big deal? Here’s your answer: recently, Kelsey Chugg, in her first USGA mid-amateur appearance, won and earned an exemption into 2018 U.S. Women’s Open.

Upon winning, at the press conference, she was asked about her plans for the U.S. Open and expressed her dream to play with her idol; Stacy Lewis. Soon after, Kelsey received a video message from Stacy congratulating her. Here is that message:

Funny enough, Stacy happens to be the wife of Kelsey’s college coach, Gerrod Chadwell!

So cool! However, to me the coolest thing about the story is Kelsey; a blue-collar kid who loved golf enough to follow it down a path which included El Reno, Oklahoma, and Utah because she simply loved the game. For her to be a USGA champion is simply an amazing story and I am so proud to know her and get the opportunity to share it with you. Keep dreaming big and happy golfing friends!

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Brendan is the owner of Golf Placement Services, a boutique business which aims to apply his background in golf and higher education to help educate players, their families and coaches about the process! Website - www.golfplacementservices.com Insta - golf.placement.sevices Twitter @BMRGolf

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  1. NevinW

    Dec 20, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Very good story.

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TG2: What’s this on the back of the Mizuno JPX919 Hot Metal irons?!

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Speculation about Mizuno’s new JPX 919 irons that recently popped up on the USGA Conforming Clubs list, as well as in-hand photos of new Srixon Z785 and Z585 irons. Also, Editor Andrew Tursky and Equipment expert Brian Knudson talk to a special guest, Steven Bowditch’s caddie from the 2018 John Deere Classic (who he found on Twitter).

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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The 19th Hole: Mark Rolfing and architect David Kidd on Carnoustie’s challenges

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Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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How often should you actually get “Up-and-Down” based on your handicap?

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‘Up and Downs’ have long been the accepted measure of skill in the short game. The chart below shows average performance in this area for the PGA Tour and an array of handicap levels. How do you fit in?

A few points of definition: The above refers to short game shots around the green, other than from the sand. [Stay tuned: sand shots will be my next article.] I consider the short game to be all shots from within 50 yards of the hole. This distance was a topic of debate 30 years ago when I was developing my golf analysis program. I was fortunate to be working with Golf Digest Golf Schools and some of the top instructors were good enough to embrace the better form of game analysis that I was creating. In particular, I owe a great deal to Chuck Cook, Jack Lumpkin and Hank Johnson. Their help and encouragement in my early stages gave me a much needed boost of momentum. Little did we know that what I then called “Strokes Lost and Saved” would ultimately become the accepted standard of analysis on the PGA Tour — now know as “Strokes Gained.” Anyway, we agreed that 50 yards was the right distance range for the short game for two reasons:

  1. It represented the short game for virtually every handicap level, men and women.
  2. It was a short enough distance that it didn’t need to be sliced even further.

That said, I do NOT believe that “Up and Downs” are an appropriate or accurate measure of short game skill for two reasons:

  1. It represents the combination of two skills: Short Game and Putting.
  2. It ignores the ERRORS or shots that actually miss the green.

In my 30+ years of studying performance at all skill levels, I have found that it is the FREQUENCY and SEVERITY of bad shots (errors) that do more to influence a player’s scoring level than do all the good shots. Accordingly, I built the ability to capture data on the common errors in the game into ShotByShot.com.

The true measure of a player’s short game skill is their Strokes Gained in that facet. BUT, that is simply a number — a positive number is good and a negative number, not so much. But how then to best display the skill that is associated with the Strokes Gained number? I believe the combination of three stats to be the correct way to display short game skill:

  • Average putting distance, when the green is successfully hit.
  • Percent shots hit to within 5 feet of the hole
  • Percent errors, or shots that miss the putting surface.

Where does your game fall in these two important categories?

Note, that the two lines cross at about a 16 handicap. That is actually a better than average golfer yet for every Chip/Pitch shot that they successfully get to within 5 feet of the hole, they are also chunking or sculling one and missing the green altogether. Work to dramatically reduce the errors and that 16 will drop to 12 or 13?

You might ask: How can the PGA Tour make more errors than the scratch golfer? Good question! I have two explanations:

  1. They really are that good! Regardless of the relative difficulty of the shot, Tour players will go for it. They have the confidence that when they miss they will get the next up and down. At the same time, the amateur that has reached the lofty level of Scratch has generally done so thru rigorous consistency and the avoidance of errors. At the low handicap levels, a bogey can be acceptable but a mistake that results in a double is NOT.
  2. The tour Shotlink data considers the fringe of the green to be a miss whereas I recommend that players count the fringe as a green hit and a putting opportunity. Your long game has been efficient enough to get there and should be rewarded with the GIR. At the same time, to count the shot from the fringe as a short game shot will unfairly reward your short game skill for what was actually a putt.

That reminds me again of my very early days when Chuck Cook said to me: “Pete, Tour players don’t make errors in the short game!”  See Chuck, I was right, they do! For a Complete Strokes Gained Analysis of your game, log on to: ShotByShot.com.

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