'Just like one of us': Pros blend with amateurs to create memorable day

By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 28, 2018 10:00 pm Updated: May. 29, 2018 7:54 am

QUINCY -- Lauren Hawley felt a little uneasy about the advantage she was given.

"I'm the only one playing from up there," Hawley said pointing to the set of red tees on the 13th hole at Westview Golf Course.

PHOTO GALLERY: View more than 50 photos from Monday's Pro-Am

The advantage would have been lost if she didn't find the fairway, but the Pittsfield High School senior hit her drives steady and straight.

Hawley found herself in the middle of the fairway often Monday during the third annual WGEM/Herald-Whig TriState Pro-Am, giving her team the chance time and again to attack the pins. It led to the team of Hawley, Palmyra senior Laithan Sublette, Chase Wilson, Merlin Roth and Tour pro Josh Teater blitzing the field. One team was within five strokes of the winners, and no other team was within 15 strokes.

The 18-hole event used a shamble format, with the two best scores counting on every hole. Each member of the five-person team -- four amateurs were paired with one professional -- hit a tee shot. The team selected the best tee shot, and each golfer played their ball from there to the hole.

"My drives happened to go straight today," Hawley said with a smile. "It's nice when that happens."

The second shot and subsequent putts were nearly as important. That's where having a pro like Teater alongside helped.

Now in his 17th season playing professional and his second year in the pro-am field, Teater helped his playing partners read the tricky Westview greens and line up putts. It was useful and well-received advice.

"He was giving us good tips throughout the whole round," said Sublette, who along with Hawley were randomly selected to fill spots donated by Noxin Trucking. "He was just like one of us, like playing with one of our buddies. He was easy to talk to and very personable.

"He helped me with my putting a little bit, helped me straighten some things out. He was great."

Teater was as complimentary of the high school players as they were of him.

"They were fantastic," he said. "They hit it like pros."

He even sort of told them so.

"After one of my putts, he was like, 'Well, it doesn't look like you need too much of my help,'" Hawley said. "That was kind of cool."

Anyone pulling up to the group and walking in the gallery would have had a difficult time picking out the pro from the amateurs because they blended so well together.

"He didn't really seem like he was a pro," Hawley said. "He seemed like he was a normal guy. It was like playing in my high school group. Everyone talks. Everyone has fun."

The difference came with the ball striking.

"You could tell he was a pro when he hit it," Sublette said. "He was impressive."

A number of shots hit by both amateurs and pros alike were impressive.

Justin Potterfield of Monroe City, Mo., stuck his tee shot on the par-3 ninth with 18.5 inches of the hole. In the next group to come through, PGA Tour pro Troy Merritt rolled his tee shot to within 3 inches of the cup. Potterfield still won the closest to the pin since he was the amateur.

With money to be raised for charity -- the Quincy Medical Group Foundation with an emphasis on cancer and the Junior Rangers Golf Academy are the 2018 beneficiaries -- the camaraderie with the players and the interaction with the fans is what made the day such an overwhelming success.

"Every year, you want to see this grow," said Luke Guthrie, the Quincy native playing on the Tour and one of the Pro-Am headliners. "People are so great here, and it's great to see how thankful some people are for this event and to be a part of it. People are working so hard to put this thing together.

"Honestly, I just kind of show up and play some golf and just hang out for a couple days. You're looking to build the relationships and keep the momentum going."

The community's ability to connect with the pros should keep that going in the right direction.

"It was unbelievably fun," Sublette said. "I'm truly blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of this."