Gorches: Grassel-Dubsky duel a sight to behold
September 6, 2012 11:26PM
Updated: October 9, 2012 2:53PM
CHESTERTON — There are so many sports fans who say that watching golf is boring.
They say it’s not compelling or without enough drama.
Those naysayers should have been watching the Chesterton-Valparaiso girls golf match on Thursday at Sand Creek Country Club.
Specifically, it was the head-to-head competition between the No. 1 players — the Trojans’ Kelly Grassel and the Vikings’ Harley Dubsky — that piqued my interest.
You see, I find myself watching golf on TV fairly often on the weekends as long as one of my favorite teams isn’t playing in another sport at the same time. But in this case, I just had to see the top two female golfers in Northwest Indiana go mano-a-mano.
Actually, a case can be made they’re even better than that.
“It’s a pleasure to watch the two best golfers in the state,” said Valparaiso coach Bill Miller. “It’s amazing coaching a player like (Dubsky). Each year, she’s improved.”
Dubsky might be the longest hitter in girls golf in the state, launching little white balls 270 yards or more when needed.
Grassel just happens to be the defending state champ — the only region girls golf state champ.
So why would any casual golf fan, let alone a hardcore duffer, pass up the chance to watch them in a Duneland Conference dual meet?
“It’s like watching two LPGA players,” Kelly’s mom, Mary, said.
Turns out it was a rare occasion.
“How ironic, this was our first and last dual match against each other,” Dubsky said after the match that Chesterton won.
Dubsky, a junior, missed the DAC dual with Chesterton her freshman year to compete in an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) event in South Carolina. Last year, Grassel missed the dual to compete in the same AJGA tourney. This year, the dual was scheduled three days after that AJGA event finished — and both Grassel and Dubsky competed in it together this year.
“They’ve been good friends, playing together for several years,” Mary Grassel said.
That friendship goes back to the Northwest Indiana Junior Golf Association that the Grassels started 11 years ago, and it’s still going strong.
So the two skillful golfers who will likely be competing for a state title on the Legends of Indiana Golf Course in Franklin in a few weeks didn’t disappoint anyone following their twosome on Thursday.
Through five holes Grassel had a one-shot lead after both birdied the first hole on Sand Creek’s Marsh course, but Dubsky bogeyed the third hole. Grassel had pars on the other four holes. In fact, she had no worse than a par for the round.
The sixth hole, though, would have made the biggest PGA fan gawk in amazement.
It’s a par-5, around 400 yards, and both players hit their tee shots in the middle of the fairway. Dubsky’s, though, was quite a bit farther than Grassel’s. The defending state champ laid up to put her in position for a short and fairly easy approach shot.
And she would need to hit a good third shot because Dubsky hit her second shot like the old Tiger Woods on most par-5s, landing it seven feet from the cup for an eagle putt.
So Grassel had to put herself in position for a birdie to salvage a tie going into the final two holes.
She stoned it less than a foot from the hole. It was an amazing shot, except that Dubsky’s was better since it resulted in an eagle.
“I knew she was going to eagle because she bombed the (heck) out of her tee shot,” Grassel said with a smile. “That (approach) was definitely one of the best shots I’ve hit.”
Dubsky actually said she decided to be a little gutsy on the tee after Grassel’s perfect tee shot.
“If I would have played it safe and parred, I would have been upset with myself,” she said, sounding like Kevin Costner’s character Roy McAvoy in the movie “Tin Cup.”
“I have to think what kind of a player am I, and I’m a risk-taker. I like to take control on par-5s.”
More drama was coming. On the seventh hole, Dubsky hit her approach to within seven feet on the par-4 while Grassel hit a tree on the right. Dubsky got birdie and Grassel salvaged par for a one-shot lead for the Valparaiso junior.
But Grassel drained an eight-foot par putt on the par-3 eighth while Dubsky hit her tee shot into the left hilly rough, and got bogey.
Tied going into the ninth hole.
Sounds like one of the matches at the upcoming Ryder Cup at Medina.
But the drama actually died down on the ninth tee. Grassel put her shot in perfect position on the tough par-4 with a dogleg to the right, while Dubsky’s tee shot veered to the left, through the fairway and just past the out of bounds line.
Dubsky took the long walk back to the tee, saying she preferred walking so she could “cool down,” and finished with a triple-bogey seven, while Grassel got the par. Final score: Grassel 34 (2-under), Dubsky 37 (one-over).
“It was pretty intense, exciting,” Grassel said about their matchup. “It was a little different because it was just us two and neither had lost a match. It was bittersweet because it’s my last conference match”
In fact, Grassel and her Chesterton senior teammates finished their careers never losing a dual match.
As for the final hole, Dubsky was angry, but not at the end result.
“I wasn’t upset she won — we’re way beyond the point of feeling upset when the other wins,” Dubsky said, illustrating the friendship between the top two golfers. “I was more upset at the way I finished. That’s my mistake lately (fading the ball left off the tee) and I haven’t had time to get a lesson to fix it.”
It was definitely good theater. And it will be repeated, sort of, next week at the sectional, since they will likely be paired together. But that will be with another No. 1 golfer from another school, while this was one-on-one.
Maybe they’ll be in the last group on the second day of state finals.
“They’re unbelievable, aren’t they?” said Chesterton athletic director Garry Nallenweg.
After seeing them face off for the first time, my sentiments exactly.