By Kathryn Imrie, Assistant Women's Golf Coach
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -
I first met Condi (she says "anyone who watches my golf swing can call me Condi") during a fundraiser for the Stanford women's golf team in 2011. It was the Juli Inkster and Condoleezza Rice show, and if there is a better fundraising bill, I would like to know about it!
Around 30 people from the Bay Area were treated to a day of golf in the morning followed by lunch and a talk from Condi. The afternoon consisted of a par-three tournament on our famed Siebel Varsity Golf Training Complex.
I started working with Condi shortly after that special event. Along with her other coach, Eric Eshleman (from Condi's hometown of Birmingham, Ala.), we have been working on improving her posture to allow an inside-to-out angle of attack into the ball. Prior to this, Condi struggled with aiming well left to accommodate a weak, left-to-right shot caused by her out-to-in path.
When the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was added to her calendar this year, we scheduled a fairly intensive practice plan to get ready for that first tee shot, and when the moment came on the first tee at Pebble Beach, I am pleased to announce she nailed it!
Condi was supposed to be paired with Davis Love III for the tournament, but, unfortunately, he had to withdraw due to neck surgery. I was disappointed because I was itching to ask him about the Ryder Cup! Only joking -- I had promised Condi that I wouldn't mention it.
Jason Bohn, a graduate of the University of Alabama, was his replacement, and what a delight he was. After nailing his first tee shot, he asked Condi, "So, what's easier, hitting this first tee shot or solving peace in the Middle East?" Condi didn't hesitate a bit and replied, "The tee shot -- at least I have a chance at that!"
The first few holes on Day One were very memorable as Condi played some of her best golf including some long drives and meaningful putts. An unfortunate incident on the sixth hole (an errant shot hit a spectator) changed the mood somewhat, but at the 14th hole, she hit an extremely difficult chip very close and all was good again.
Not many people noticed what happened when we were playing the famed last hole at Pebble Beach that day. Condi's ball came perilously close to the cliff edge along the left side of the fairway as she played her third shot. When I was walking up to it, I didn't think she could take her stance without falling into the ocean, and I all but begged her not to attempt the shot. However, she was adamant that she could handle it and said, "Kathryn, I was an ice skater from an early age and balance is not a problem for me!" Good thing, because all I could imagine was an international incident involving the former Secretary of State falling off a cliff. As soon as she made contact (and it was solid contact), I grabbed her and pulled her to terra firma and we laughed all the way to the green about it.
Day Two was probably the least spectacular of them all despite playing the beautiful Monterey Peninsula Country Club. We warmed up next to Vijay Singh for the second day in a row (no deer antler spray in sight!), but it was just one of those days when nothing went our way. The weather was cold; the tee times were delayed from the beginning, which made everything we were trying to do very hard. However, there was one wonderful moment from the greenside bunker at the par-three 11th hole when she hit a terrific bunker shot to 4 feet and then made the putt for par. Joe Ogilvie, the other pro in our group, sidled up to her and said, "Tiger or Phil would be happy with that!"
It was at that moment that the sizeable crowd showed their appreciation with vigorous applause and shouts of, "Go, Condi!" At about that time, I am told someone with a Stanford cap tried to get under the ropes to get a better view. An overzealous marshal immediately stopped the gentleman and said, "Just because you have a Stanford cap on, doesn't mean you can walk inside the ropes." Oops, big mistake --the man trying to get a better view was President John Hennessy, who was out supporting Condi and probably some of the other contestants with Stanford connections, players like Jerry Yang, George Roberts, Doug Mackenzie and Jim Harbaugh.
Speaking of Coach Harbaugh, he came over to say hello to Condi before we teed off on our third round. I overheard him say that he had not played golf since last year's AT&T. And, on the subject of the Super Bowl, he said "I'm happy for my brother, but next year I am going to beat his butt!" He is one competitive guy! Not unlike his famous friend, because that day Condi had her best warmup ever and went out to tackle Spyglass Hill and take revenge after the travails of Day Two.
Yes, revenge is sweet and it certainly was nice to see Condi play the way I witnessed in the practice sessions at Siebel and over at the Stanford Golf Course where we would play a few holes to get ready for the pro-am. Just like the first round, Condi nailed the opening tee shot at Spyglass and gave the crowd something to cheer about. A couple of pars in a row and an almost "real" birdie on the third really got them going and once again life was good.
By Condi's own admission, the last day was some of her best golf ever and the plan is to keep on doing more of the same in practice so that the swing will become a little more natural. Any golfer reading this, who is learning the game or making swing changes, will know how hard it is to take it from the range to the course. My instruction mentor, Jim McLean, always preached that the hardest walk in golf is the one from the range to the first tee.
Condi did incredibly well last week considering the stage she was on. As for me, I keep pinching myself. If anyone had told me back at the fundraising day that I would be caddying for Condoleezza Rice and be part of a small group listening to President George W. Bush and President Clinton (who spoke at an event at the AT&T), I would have laughed. I did not understand how the Stanford University family worked in my early days. Now I do. Simply put, no words can describe how fortunate I am to be working here as part of the women's golf team. Go Card!
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Kathryn Imrie is in her third year as assistant women's golf coach at Stanford. She spent more than 20 years playing on the LPGA and European tours, and was a member of several European Solheim Cup teams.
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