Matt Liringis has big plans, so going small now only makes sense.
The Desert Vista senior is one of countless golfers who have benefitted from the use of a long-handled putter, known as a belly putter.
He won the Division I Arizona state individual title in the fall at Aquila Golf Club in Laveen while using one, but an anchored putter will start being outlawed by the United States Golf Association (USGA) on Jan. 1, 2016 as rule 14-1b.
Players like Liringis, along with four of the last seven major championship winners (Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els, Webb Simpson and Adam Scott), have to make the switch to the more traditional tool on the green.
“There is no reason to wait (for the starting date) and depend on something that’s not going to be available later,” Liringis said. “It is something you have to do, so you might as well get used to now.”
So Liringis went back to the short putter before he entered the Callaway Junior World Championship qualifier at Raven Golf Club June 27-28.
He carded an opening round of 6-under 66 and came back with a 1-under 71 to win the event with a two-day total of 137 to better runner-up Austin Stadeli of Scottsdale by three strokes.
The win sends Liringis, and a few other Ahwatukee Foothills residents, to the World Championships at Torrey Pines in San Diego. The event got started on Tuesday and goes through Friday.
The first-day 66, including eight birdies, was exactly what he needed to show himself, and maybe more importantly, the rest of the field that he was going to be just fine with the regular putter.
“It meant a lot because it was my first competitive round,” he said. “Getting eight birdies certainly helps with the confidence. I wasn’t bad with it before, but the (belly putter) is more consistent.”
Liringis, who also won a club-based event while playing for team based out of Ocotillo Golf Club with a 69-69-138 at Grayhawk Golf Club, heads to the Junior World Championships along with 13-year-old Davis Evans, an eighth-grader, and Mountain Pointe senior Ben Harden from the area.
Evans finished second with a 3-under 70-71—141 to sit two shots behind J.J. Gresco of Scottsdale.
He’s played 13 competitive rounds since January on the JGAA and managed to shoot under an 80 in every round, including two rounds of 70, and to finish in the top 10 in all six events.
Harden qualified a couple of weeks ago when he won the Thunder qualifier in June.
“It’s a little weird because I never thought of myself being that good,” Harden said. “That is really overwhelming to me. Still haven’t really grasped my mind around that I’m playing at a junior world (championship).”
Liringis will get another chance to play in front of some college scouts after missing the cut last year when he played the first two rounds — 74-75 — before carding an 83 to miss the cut.
Although the college route might not be the path he is on as he’s contemplating turning pro after this senior year.
While plenty of college coaches have been in contact, he doesn’t have an official scholarship offer so Liringis has considered turning professional after graduation ala Richard Lee, who did so in 2007 after his sophomore year at Hamilton and is now on the Asian Tour after failing to gain his PGA card through Q-school.
It is a tough route, no doubt, as Lee can attest, as the mini-tours are anything but glamorous. The daily grind of having to earn a paycheck on the course, along with the cost of travel, is not as comforting as the college route where everything is handled for the golfer by the university.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing professionally,” Liringis said. “I’m considering it and might pursue it. I’ll have to do some research.”
Like if his short putter can handle four straight rounds at a tough course like Torrey Pines.
“I can’t wait to get back there,” Liringis said of his third trip to this event. “I was playing well (last year), tied 15th, and then I had one of those rounds where really nothing goes right and on that course it doesn’t take much to get sideways.
“It will be a good test to see where I stand in a lot of ways. If I can finally play well there against the best in the world in my age group then it will answer a lot questions about my future one way or another.”
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