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First tourney disappoints but does not dissuade Clemente

Odette Clemente plays out of the trees during her first venture into competitive golf, the Charwood Country Club championship, on Saturday. Despite a last-place finish, Clemente daws praise from several fellow competitors for coming so far in only a few months.
Odette Clemente plays out of the trees during her first venture into competitive golf, the Charwood Country Club championship, on Saturday. Despite a last-place finish, Clemente daws praise from several fellow competitors for coming so far in only a few months.

On the Monday after her first stab at playing in a real golf tournament — the two-day Charwood Country Club championship — Odette Clemente returned to the Charwood driving range to find the golf game that went missing most of the previous weekend.

She hit five consecutive good shots, turned away and threw down her club.

“I hate this game,” she told instructor Brad Frick, whose year-long project is to turn Clemente, a golf neophyte when they first began in December, into a single-digit-handicap player.

“I think she realizes now that it takes more than hitting a bucket of balls twice a week to play this game,” he said.

Clemente agrees. Her scores of 97 and 103, which left her dead last by 12 shots in Charwood’s women’s division (six contestants), saw to that.

“I couldn’t hit anything,” said the 21-year-old senior this fall at USC. “I liked (the competition), but it was frustrating. But you can’t blame anyone but yourself.”

Perhaps not. Still, Clemente’s first venture into competitive golf (besides an informal July match with two radio talk-show hosts) was more unpleasant that it needed to be.

On her first hole of Saturday’s first round, a competitor playing ahead of Clemente’s group confronted her, complaining about the presence of Frick, who was acting as her caddie for the tournament. The woman, who Clemente declined to identify, contended having a caddie was “illegal,” but Frick said he cleared his presence with tournament official Evan Schiltz.

Rattled by the incident, Clemente made a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 hole, and double-bogeyed the next two holes as well.

“I was ready (to play) until that,” she said afterward. “I wasn’t nervous; I thought it would be fun to see where I am.”

Saturday’s round had good moments and bad. Grouped with Brookland-Cayce High player Elizabeth Hill (who finished second for the weekend, seven shots behind her mother, Cathy Hill) and third-place Wanda Vincent, Clemente made consecutive pars at the par-3 fourth hole and the par-4 fifth, where she nearly holed out a chip for birdie.

But Clemente’s irons play and putting were inconsistent. She left too many approach shots short of the green, a result of “fat” or pushed iron shots. After a drive to the center of the fairway on her final hole, she pushed her approach, chipped over the green and then came up short with her fourth shot and made double bogey.

“I thought she played pretty well for someone just starting out,” said Vincent, a regular player with a local Executive Women’s Golf Association (EWGA) chapter. “I wish I had her (chipping ability).”

She gestured toward Frick. “He brought her from nothing?”

On Sunday, Clemente was paired with the woman who objected to Frick on Saturday (he by now was following her round as a spectator). Again, there was friction: When Zoe Dommel, the third member of the grouping, pointed out to Clemente that she was teeing her ball ahead of the tee markers, the other woman complained that Dommel was giving her advice.

“I enjoyed the weekend other than those run-ins,” Clemente said. “I wish I hadn’t played with (that woman).”

Frick found other areas of concern. Clemente was moving her head during her swing, resulting in the “fat” shots, and her swing plane was too flat, he said.

Still, he said, the experience was probably a plus.

“Brookland-Cayce’s golf coach, Roger Smith, told her, ‘I shot 112 in my first tournament,’” Frick said. “He was very encouraging.”

Frick said that eight months into their project, he still wants to see more passion from Clemente about golf.

“I think you have to have that if you want to be as good as you can be,” he said. “A lot of people have taken an interest in her and want to see her succeed.

“I hope that she does.”

Reach senior writer Bob Gillespie at (803) 771-8304.

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