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  • Tom Caruso



(thru: 11/1/2023… Playoff Round)


Mother Nature gave one last challenging swipe at the 2023 STATracker season at the Harbour Pointe GC last Wednesday during the season’s final round of play and the final major of the year, the STP (Statracker Playoffs).

Just 24 hours before the round, the weather was gorgeous…perfect for golf. However, come Wednesday morning, the day of the playoffs, the temperatures had dropped 30 degrees and the winds were brisk. At the first tee time, the temp was 47 degrees. By the time the featured group came into 18, the temp had only risen to an “unsteady” 52 degrees.

BUT… the day’s champion, was not daunted by these conditions and pulled off an “upset” 2-stroke victory.

KEN PLANTIN carded the winning score with a +4 round of 76. Mr. Plantin comes from Vermont and that may help to explain how this “Wildcard” contestant surprised everyone. On a day when the best players in the field came together for a competition, Plantin was only 1 of 2 players that never carded a 7 or an 8 on any hole, all day. Mark Carmichael was the other player who never reached that “height.”. Plantin was as steady as a pro downhill skier. He plowed his path staying very close to the “fault-line” as they say in skiing, and carded 4s and 5s and only a couple of 6s. For Plantin, it’s the first major of his career. He finished the season ranked #24 and ultimately made the playoffs as the #2 wildcard. A look at his playoffs scorecard reveals that the key to his win may have been his play on the par 5s.

In the championship round, Plantin played the par 5s in… 5, 6, 6, 5, 6… a 5.6 average, on a day when the par 5s were giving most of the players fits. Plantin’s nines were 45/44 netting him a 38/38. If there was one weakness in Plantin’s game on Wednesday, it was the par 3s. He averaged 4.2 on the 3s but then again, he never had a blowup hole.

Plantin now joins the exclusive “Majors Club” (winners of STATracker major competitions) and now can rub elbows with the likes of Bruce Hice, C.A. Smith, Paul Cormier, Mark Carmichael, Bob Reivik, Jim Furman, Sean Mulhall, Joe Pillow and Mark Nolan.

And speaking of MARK NOLAN… this season’s two-time major winner almost got a third one. Nolan had been a little up and down in his play towards the end of the season. But in Wednesday’s conditions, he really pulled his game together to finish in a tie for 2nd place, along with Johnny Harrell, only 2 strokes behind Plantin. After taking a double bogey the par-5 2nd hole, Nolan righted his ship and finished with a promising 43 for the front 9. But a triple bogey on the par-5 12th followed by another triple on the par-4 15th may have kept him from an uber historic victory.

STATracker Central was keeping a sharp focus on rookie sensation, JOHNNY HARRELL… going so far as to label him the “Dark Horse” favorite in the playoff field. It almost came to be as Harrell carded the day’s lowest gross score, an 85. Harrell had to settle for 2 double bogeys on the first 2 par-5s of the day, #2 and #4. After that, he was rock steady, but it was too late. Harrell will be someone to watch out for, come next year.

And now… for some interesting facts about this year’s STP…

*19 players competed… Dave Lange was a late withdrawal

*this was the first STP where the winning score was over par… (+4)

*NO BIRDIES were scored by anyone in the field

*only 4/19 players parred the first hole

*only 5/19 players parred #9 (par-3)

*NO pars on the par-3 11th

*only 4 pars on the par-5 12th …ranked the easiest hole on the course

*only 3 pars on the closing hole… #18 (par-5)

*13/19 players in the field scored 8s or higher during their round

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