Kaitlyn Papp takes one step back and squats down behind her ball, her club in her left hand. She tosses away a few pieces of dirt and grass. She adjusts the ball, looks up, adjusts it again so it’s just right and looks up one more time before standing back up.
Papp then tees off on the par-4 11th at Champions Golf Club.
Her first shots, from the tee box, actually look a whole lot like her last shots, from the green.
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“It’s interesting what she does on tee shots,” analyst Kay Cockerill said during NBC’s broadcast of Saturday’s third round of the U.S. Women’s Open. “She kneels down and lines her ball on the tee as a lot of players would do on the green.”
“Yeah, I was wondering why she was doing that there for a moment, Kay,” announcer Tom Abbott said. “It’s very unusual. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that from a player in a professional tournament in my life.”
“I haven’t either.”
Unusual, yes. Effective, yes.
Papp, an amateur and a senior on the University of Texas golf team, was tied for fifth entering the final round of the Open, which will resume Monday after play was suspended Sunday due to storms. Through three rounds, she has shot even-par 71, three-under 68 and three-over 74 at Champions.
Her pre-shot routine becomes more routine after her alignment. On 11, Papp took four steps back away from the ball, took a half-swing, then took two full swings. She then took another three steps back and held her driver out in front of her. Finally, she walked back to the ball, paused for a few seconds and swung.
The alignment works as if she’s lining up a putt, her dad, Tony, said, as much as it looks like she is.
“I talked to her father about her squatting down and lining up the ball, and he says, yes, she’s been doing that for years,” Cockerill said later in the broadcast. “It just helps her get the right target line, and it’s been a big, successful part of her routine.”
Even at a U.S. Open. Her caddie, University of Texas associate head coach Kate Golden, has reminded Papp to stay patient this week. She has. From first shot to last. From tee to green.
“I think I just have to convince myself that that’s my only option if I want to try to play the best golf I can,” Papp said of being patient.
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