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In spite of some putting woes, Scappoose golfer consistent at OGA tournament

PMG PHOTO: KYLE GARCIA - Chase Elliott of Scappoose, getting set to putt, tied for 14th in the Oregon Junior Stroke Play championship last week at the OGA Golf Course in Woodburn.WOODBURN — Scappoose golfer Chase Elliott tied for 14th in the 22nd annual Oregon Junior Stroke Play tournament at Oregon Golf Association Golf Course last week.

Elliott shot a 4-over-par 220, firing a 2-over 74 on Tuesday, July 2, and 73s on Wednesday and Thursday.

"I played decent," Elliott said. "I putted pretty bad, which cost me the majority of my strokes, but I hit the ball pretty decent. I'm not that disappointed."

Elliott finished 10 strokes behind the Boys 12-18 winner, Brandon Eyre of Salem, who had a 6-under 210 total ignited by a first-round 66. Beaverton golfers Mateo Fuenmayor and Collin Hodgkinson were second and third, respectively, with both shooting 212.

Elliott shared 14th place with William Fleck of Bend, who had an identical three rounds of 74-73-73.

A total of 69 golfers entered the tournament, and the field was cut to the top 35 after two rounds.

It was Elliott's first time playing the OGA layout and the second week in a row he'd played a new course, after competing in the Oregon Junior Amateur at Oswego Lake Country Club.

It took the first round for Elliott to adjust to the OGA course environment.

"It took me that round to get used to it, so that might have cost me a couple strokes," Elliott said.

Even though he'd never played the course before, it was more manageable than Oswego Lake the week before. Both courses had plenty of trees to navigate and required irons off the tee most of the time, but Oswego Lake was significantly hillier than OGA.

"Oswego Lake was set up harder," Elliott said. "The greens were more undulating and faster, which can be harder if you're not used to it. But I think the course layout with the hills and stuff just makes it harder."

Elliott felt he understood the OGA course by the second round but struggled with some tough shots off the tee as well as three-putts on the greens.

In both of the two tournaments, Elliott found himself relying more on his irons and woods off the tee, mostly due to the plethora of trees and shorter hole lengths. While he felt comfortable with all of his irons, he admitted that he'd rather be hitting his driver, which he can usually hit 275 to 280 yards.

"If I could hit my driver, I would much rather hit it," Elliott said. "It just allows you to have short irons near the greens, which is so much easier. I was like 160 (yards) out a lot, so I was having to hit 8-iron, 9-iron, sometimes 7-iron into the green, which just makes it a lot harder."

Putting was an area of struggle for Elliott throughout the Oregon Junior Stroke Play. The same three-putts that plagued him the first two rounds struck again in the third round.

While he felt his irons were treating him kindly, the slow greens of OGA were a far cry from the blazing speeds of Oswego Lake. They were the toughest adjustment for Elliott.

"I think last week it was in a lot better shape," Elliott said about the difference between the greens at the two courses. "Oswego Lake's were really nice, and they were really well maintained, but they were really fast."

Elliott said he already has seen some improvement in his shots this summer. He has worked mostly on getting a better draw, and he started to see progress at OGA.

"I was drawing the ball a lot more consistently, which was really good to see," Elliott said. "Toward the end, it was starting to click."

His shot shape is something he's been working on with Jerry Mowlds, who's one of the most renowned golf instructors in Oregon and has worked with Elliott on his swing and ball flight. They've only worked together a couple of times this summer, however, with Elliott mostly practicing on his own.

"At most it'll be like once a week," Elliott said about what it's like practicing with an instructor. "They give you something to work on, you work on it, and hopefully you improve or get it down and then they give you something else to kind of build layers to your game."

This model of practicing puts the onus on Elliott to keep practicing and improving without supervision.

"If you just go to a lesson, not practice at all, and then go to the next lesson, you're not going to get any better," Elliott said. "It definitely puts some responsibility on you to actually apply what they're giving you."

Elliott also has been satisfied with his course management this summer. He's managed to avoid taking risky shots that could lead to big mistakes, instead opting to play it safer. That approach has worked to his advantage.

"I think I'm not making horrible mistakes," Elliott said. "Like if there's out of bounds, being smart enough to hit an iron off the tee and just making sure to get the ball in play."

He's making smarter plays on the course that have allowed him to shoot consistent scores, but Elliott is still searching for his stroke on the putting green. If he can get that going, he should be able to put together some lower scores.

"If you get those really streaky, low rounds it's because your putter's going, and I'm just not having that right now," Elliott said. "I think that's something I'm going to really work on is getting my putter dialed in so I shoot those low numbers instead of right around par."

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