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Hutton: Couple’s love story revolves around golf

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Porter AMATEUR

What: Masters (handicap under eight), open and women’s divisions

When: Saturday and Sunday; Sept. 21 and 22

Where: The Brassie Golf Club, Sand Creek Country Club, Forest Park Golf Course and the Valparaiso Country Club

Check the Post-Tribune for daily coverage of the Porter Am

Updated: October 15, 2013 7:26AM



CHESTERTON — Larry and Natalie Achten are for as much golf for as long as possible, likely until “death do they part.”

They were married 18 months ago and they live across the street from the Brassie Golf Club, where they have a membership.

They get off work and they play nine holes together. If Larry isn’t at his league at Aberdeen and Natalie isn’t playing in her league at Duck Creek.

They play for stuff, too. Larry just won a golf bag that Natalie paid off. He is ruthless about the terms: Natalie doesn’t get strokes even though she is a nine-handicap and he is scratch. He does allow her to play from the ladies tees. She doesn’t mind at all. They both enjoy the competition and she enjoys the challenge.

The Achtens’ love story actually started years ago, when the two first met while playing in the Post-Tribune Junior Match Play tournament. She was the only female participant. Same deal then for her — she didn’t get strokes, but she got to play from the women’s tees.

Not surprisingly, the two of them will tee it up Saturday in the Porter Amateur, each as past champions.

Natalie has this one on Larry: She actually won the first time she played in it, which was last year.

Larry hasn’t won it since 2008. Natalie could be called a prohibitive favorite — she won her division by “around 15 strokes.”

Larry has his work cut out for him. Carl Kalinka, a Valparaiso resident who works at the Dunes Club in Michigan, has won two of the last three Porter Am titles. Everybody is chasing Carl — at least for now.

None of this — who won last year or what courses they have to play first in the unusual rotation (The master’s division plays at Forest Park, Sand Creek Country Club, the Brasssie and Valparaiso Country Club) — matters one whit to Larry.

He just loves to play. Period.

“I don’t have the kind of ego where I have to win,” Larry said. “I got bumped down a couple of years ago and I won the A-flight. I had a blast.”

Don’t be fooled by Larry’s low-key attitude.

It’s precisely because he doesn’t care as much that he seems to do so well. He said he is playing some of the best golf of his life now.

A Portage graduate, he totally had to retool his swing two years ago after he had surgery for a rotator cuff injury.

Too much golf and bowling had taken its toll on him. He gave up the bowling but the golf is permanently etched in his DNA.

Larry reinvented his game by going from being a bomber off the tee to more of a control player.

He doesn’t hit down hard on his iron shots — think Steve Stricker — preferring to pick the ball.

He isn’t consumed by distance. And more importantly, he knows how to win.

He took home the club championship trophy at the Brassie earlier this year and he finished third at the Aberdeen club championship.

In 2008, when he won, he shot an opening round 65 at Forest Park, and he was the front runner all week.

Larry is particularly fond of the Porter Am because each course presents a different challenge. The Brassie, a links style course, is tricky if the wind kicks up. Forest Park is quirky, particularly on the back side, where you can dial up some low numbers on the last four holes, and VCC is an old-style, tightly lined course that is just plain hard. Sand Creek is just a monster.

“I don’t know if I like it or hate it but I tell myself I love it,” he said. “I’m hoping to get that mind advantage on everyone else.”

And Achten has this to look forward, too. No matter what happens, there is more golf in his future, at least until the winter freeze sets in. Natalie will make sure of that.



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