The Augustan has never won the Augusta City Amateur, which begins today at Forest Hills Golf Club.
“I’m surprised because he’s very consistent,” said Frank Perry, who has won seven senior titles, including one this season. “He should be the favorite.”
Indeed, the most consistent golfer – the one who stays away from bad holes while grinding out pars with an occasional birdie – normally emerges as the winner in the city amateur, the only 54-hole event in the nine-tournament series.
That description sums up Larry’s style of play, which is why he has seven more career senior victories than anyone in the series, which started in 1985.
“It’s definitely the consistency,” said Mark Ernyei, a senior division tournament champion who was paired with Larry in the final round of the Camellia Classic in June. “He’s a grinder; he knows how to get it in the hole. It may not be pretty at times, but he knows how to get it in the hole.”
Larry, 56, has never even contended for the senior title in the city amateur, but then again he hasn’t given himself that many chances. This will be only his fourth start as a senior.
He missed the city am in 2006, 2007 and 2011 because he often visits his daughter in Seattle at this time of the year.
“He hasn’t played in that many,” Perry said. “That’s probably the only reason.”
Larry knows better. One of the top putters among the seniors, he has never figured out the Forest Hills greens. That’s why his best finish in the city amateur is fifth in 2009 and why he’s only broken par once in nine rounds.
“The thing that has prevented me from playing well is my inability to read the putts,” Larry said.
Larry spent Wednesday and Thursday playing at Forest Hills trying to remedy that problem.
“I’m working extra hard on learning the greens,” he said.
The problem, Larry said, is the breaks changed when some of the contours on the greens were altered in 2003 when they went to Tift Eagle bermuda on the greens.
“Before they changed over, everything used to break toward Wrightsboro Road,” he said. “That has stayed in my mind even though they’ll changed it,”
Larry said a number of putts still look like they break toward Wrightsboro Road, but they don’t anymore.
“This week I’m going to stay focused when I do misread one,” he said. “And I’m not going to get frustrated when I hit a good one that doesn’t go in and make sure it doesn’t roll over (affect him on the next hole).”
That frustration has led to first-round starts which put him in a catch-up mode. In 2008, his opening 73 left him four shots behind the first-round leader (he finished seven behind after 54 holes). In 2009, he was six behind after Round 1 (he finished 11 back). And in 2010, he trailed by six shots after an opening 72 (he finished 20 back).
“You can never win a golf tournament on Day 1, but you can lose one,” Larry said. “I don’t seem to put up a decent number on Day 1. I get so far down that I can’t catch up.”
Then he starts to press, he said.
“Rather than play smart, I start shooting at the pin and then miss the green and can’t get up and down,” he said.