Blog 182, 12/28/11 - Killmer, Gebhardt Ready to Break Through in 2012

killmerAfter rounds of 73 and 71 at Bear Creek GC in Murrieta, CA., Chris Killmer (right) was just a couple of shots out of where he needed to be. Having breezed through first stage PGA Tour qualifying at Oak Valley GC, 40 miles away in Beaumont, CA., two weeks before, the Bellingham native was now tied for 28th with two rounds to go at second stage where numerous players with PGA Tour experience, including one major champion and former world number one (David Duval), were mixing it with talented youngsters in the hope of advancing to the big leagues. The top 19 and ties would make it through to QSchool at PGA West and, on level-par 144, Killmer was handily-placed for a third-round push up the leaderboard.
An outward 37 wasn't what he was hoping for, but it wasn't disastrous. A good back nine would keep him in the hunt.
Three bogeys, a double-bogey, and just one birdie added up to 40 strokes, however. And though he certainly wasn't going to throw in the towel, Killmer's chances had more or less disappeared.
"I had felt really good going in to round three," Killmer told Bellinghamgolfer recently. "I was in a good position and had a good chance to finally play well after not playing well the first two rounds. I was playing well and then, coming down the final few holes, I just made a few mistakes and really put myself into a difficult position."
The five-over 77 saw Killmer drop into a tie for 45th, seven shots behind the group tied for 19th on 214. He would need a spectacular final round, and have to rely on others crumbling under the pressure, to have any hope of progressing.
Two early bogeys put paid to his chances, but Killmer made a spirited comeback, making four birdies and 14 pars thereafter for a final-round 70. He wound up tied for 33rd on three-over 291, five shots behind the group of six players tied for 15th.
"I turned in my card, got in my car and then it hit me," says Killmer. "I knew probably way before the final few holes that I wasn't going to make it, but you always hold on to hope. My dreams came down to that one week, so to not go through was obviously very disappointing. I was pretty emotional right after."
Asked if he feels encouraged, frustrated, hopeful, angry, or proud, Killmer says 'all of the above'. "It was a very difficult road, and to know that I got really close brought out a lot of emotions."
Killmer will begin 2012 playing tournaments on the Gateway Tour in Arizona before heading back to Canada where he finished 22nd on the Tour's 2011 Order of Merit. He'll also be attempting to Monday-qualify for various Nationwide and PGA tour events, playing occasionally in South America, and perhaps even a little in South Africa. 
It certainly promises to be an exciting year for Killmer, professionally and personally - he marries long-time girlfriend Alyssa Ryan in August. Not surprisingly, he can't wait for it all to start. "2011 was a pretty good year but, of course, it didn't end quite the way I would have liked," he says. "So I am very motivated for next year."
jessiSimilarly upbeat is Jessi Gebhardt (left) who came even closer to realizing her dream of competing with the world's best every week (at least, however many weeks the LPGA Tour can fill). After finishing second at the LPGA Futures Tour's season-ending Tour Championship, the former Bellingham High School student qualified for the final stage of LPGA Qualifying and, despite a fourth-round 77 on the challenging Legends Course at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, FL., looked good for a spot in the top 40 which would have earned her a few starts on next year's Tour at least.
The final round was played on the facility's Champions Course on which Gebhardt had done well earlier in the week shooting an opening 71 and a third-round 70.
She had every reason to be hopeful but, unfortunately, the wind had shifted since the third round and Gebhardt found herself battling a damaging hook, the shot she has long struggled to eradicate. "That really is my weakness and the wind just seemed to be pushing everything left," she says. "And you can't go left on that course."
Because of nerves and the fact she was also pressing too hard in order to jump into the top 20 which would have meant a spot on the LPGA Tour's Priority List Category 11 and therefore considerably more starts next year, Gebhardt's game unravelled over the final 18. Out in 41 following a double-bogey seven on the 9th, she came home in 39 for an eight-over 80 that saw her plummet 35 places into a tie for 73rd. 
It means Gebhardt, 26 on January 22nd, will head back for another season on the Futures Tour where she will naturally feel settled after two full years. "Most of the other girls are in their late teens or early 20s," she says. "So although I've only been out there for a couple of seasons myself, I do feel like something of a veteran. But I see that as a positive because I'll be familiar with most of the courses. So I should be better prepared."
In addition to becoming increasingly comfortable on the road, Gebhardt plans on bringing an improved mental game to the new season. "I've got to make every decision count," she says. "And I've got to know why I'm making every decision. I've played with some excellent players like Alena Sharp and Dina Ammaccapane who conduct themselves so well on the golf course. They're not unemotional by any means, but they stay so focused. I must learn not to get carried away and remember that one bogey isn't the end of the world."
Like Killmer, Gebhardt will begin the new year in Arizona (well, she does live there now) playing one of the three tours that are likely to be operating. "There's the Cactus Tour, I think Dina Ammaccapane is setting one up, and I've heard of another," she says. After that, she'll head back to the Futures Tour and hopefully qualify again for the US Women's Open. This year, having tied for first at a sectional qualifier at Royal Oaks in Vancouver, WA., Gebhardt shot two 82s at the Broadmoor in Colorado to miss the cut.    
As she is in the habit of doing, however, Gebhardt took only the positives out of what she remembers was a thrilling experience. "It was magical," she says. "I just learned so much."
Entering 2012, Gebhardt is convinced her experiences at the US Open and on the Futures Tour will enable her to get where she ultimately wants to go - the LPGA Tour. "I know I've got the game," she says resolutely. "I know I belong out there."

Don't forget two great tournaments coming up soon - 'How Low Can You Go' at Sudden Valley on December 31st, and the 'Polar Bear Open' at Lake Padden on New Year's Day (that's January 1st).
Congratulations to Messrs Williams, Wilson, Graber and Karson who shot a fine 62 to win the Sudden Valley Ball Buster on December 3rd, the fourth event on the KISM Winter Tournament Series. SV has posted new winter rates - $20 during the weekand $27 at weekends. It's $10 for a cart. And new membership rates have also been published.

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