WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Kent State’s Josh Gilkison came to Kampen’s par-3 17th hole on Wednesday with momentum after three straight birdies.
He was poised to take the first-round lead in this week’s Golfweek Midwest Collegiate at Purdue. But after the soon-to-be senior’s tee shot ended up in the water, he settled for a double bogey and was in second place.
Move ahead to Thursday.
Indiana’s Harry Reynolds was enjoying a stellar round. Five straight birdies to start. Three more on the back nine, along with a bogey. After 16 holes, Reynolds was 7 under for the day.
He dumped his tee shot into the water.
The daunting and scary No. 17 on Purdue’s Kampen Course continues to win.
Scores: Golfweek Midwest Collegiate
It happened in 2008 during the NCAA Championships when then-Oklahoma State freshman and current PGA Tour star Rickie Fowler hit two balls in the water in the first round and walked away with a quadruple bogey. He was all but eliminated from the individual championship.
Even in 2017 when Purdue hosted an NCAA regional, No. 17 proved to be the difference in which teams advanced. And it’s still making a difference this week, producing just seven birdies from the men’s field through the first two rounds.
“It was the first mental mistake all day. I stepped into the ball too quickly and made a bad swing,” said Reynolds, who is tied for second overall with Purdue’s Cole Bradley and Michigan’s Charlie Pilon after Thursday’s 6-under-par 66.
On Wednesday, Gilkison birded each of the four par 5’s and was in a position to move to the top of the leaderboard and cap a wonderful round.
“Just a bad swing,” Gilkison recalled. “I was playing really well. I don’t know if I was trying to sneak one over toward the pin on the right, but I pushed it and it went in the water.”
Gilkison managed to par No. 17 on Thursday and despite a bogey on No. 18, took a one-shot lead into Friday’s final round. Reynolds was able to bounce back Thursday with his ninth birdie of the round on No. 18.
“If there’s anything I’m most proud of today, it was the 18th hole,” said Reynolds, who is entering his junior year with the Hoosiers. “It could’ve put a huge damper on a great round. I bailed myself out. I won’t be losing any sleep over 17.”
Neither will Pilon, who as part of a small group to have birdied the tough hole, which, through two rounds, has produced 79 scores of bogey or worse. Only two players from the women’s field have birdied No. 17.
Pilon, a native of Australia, made his birdie Wednesday after posting a bogey on No. 16, a par 5.
“I was a little flustered, a little bit agitated and I went up there – obviously the water is very daunting – and being a bit angry, I said, ‘I’m taking it straight at it,’ ” Pilon said. “I hit a great shot to about six feet and rolled the putt in.”
The water to the right has always been an intimidating presence and when the wind starts to kick up, the challenge is nearly impossible. In the first two rounds, the wind hasn’t played a big role in the scores, but No. 17 still looms large.
“It takes a lot of focus and with water up the right, it can really mess with your head a little bit,” said Reynolds, who has 11 birdies through the first two rounds. “It was brought on by myself, and it wasn’t the only bad shot I made all day, but it was at an unfortunate time. It’s such a great round otherwise and I’m pleased with the way the day went.”
When Pete Dye designed the course more than 20 years ago, he wanted the last three holes to be the toughest in college golf. It was that way in 2008 and again in 2017. Another generation is now experiencing it this week.
“It’s a great test the last two holes coming down the stretch,” Gilkison said.
Mike Carmin covers Purdue sports for the Journal & Courier. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @carmin_jc