WILLIAMSBURG, Va. | There are two kinds of golfers: those who stick with the same putter for decades, believing that it holds some sort of magic like Thor’s hammer or King Arthur’s sword, and those who collect putters like postage stamps, believing that changing arrows will make a better archer.
Jack Nicklaus was the former. He won 17 of his 18 majors with a classic heel-shafted MacGregor. Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam with the now famous, hickory-shafted Calamity Jane. And Ben Crenshaw, one of the greatest putters in history, used the same MacGregor 8802, nicknamed “Little Ben,” throughout his career.
On the other extreme, Arnold Palmer had so many putters that they took up an entire wall in his workshop in Latrobe, Pa., while Larry Nelson won the 1987 PGA Championship with a putter that he bought in the golf shop before the opening round and once won a PGA Tour event using a different putter every round.
Lauren Stephenson is not on either extreme. Yet. But a recent change definitely has an Arnie ring to it.
“Actually in L.A. I changed putters,” Stephenson said. “I stole a putter from my host family for the week and it worked out, so I'm keeping it. I don't know if it's changed my mind out on the course. But it makes me feel more freed up.”
Her renewed confidence on the firm, fast greens at Kingsmill led to a 3-under par 68 on Friday to move her onto the first page of the leaderboard at the Pure Silk Championship. But the “stole” portion of the putter story is a little misleading.
“It's a Scotty Cameron,” Stephenson said. “It's like the one J.T. putts with: The Phantom X.” That’s Justin Thomas for those who didn’t go to college with the No. 2 player in the world, as Stephenson did at the University of Alabama.
But back to the putter, there was a reason for the change. “I called my coach the Sunday of Hawaii because I missed the cut and I was like, ‘I'm just struggling putting. I'm hitting it great.’ And he's like, ‘Well, what side of the hole are you missing it on?’ I said, ‘Every side: short, long, left, right, doesn't matter.’ He was like, ‘You need to go buy a putter for the week. Just look at something different.’ So, I got to my host family and (Peter Mack, who housed Stephenson during the HUGEL-Air Premia L.A. Open) was like, ‘I’ve got 20 (putters) so just take one and try it out.’ He loves golf clubs. He had clubs everywhere.”
Mack also had a putting mat in his house. So, Stephenson rolled several balls with a handful of putters before putting the Cameron down and liking what she saw.
“I took it out on Monday, and I texted (Mack) after my practice round and was like, ‘I hate to tell you this, but I really like the putter. Can I cut it down? I'll buy it from you or something.’”
This wasn’t a best bud or a family friend. Stephenson had never met the Macks before her recent trip to Wilshire. A caddie, Scott Leonard, introduced them. But they will be pals from now on. Mack gave Stephenson the putter and, according to the third-year player, “Confidence on the green was kind of what I was looking for, and I kind of found that in L.A.
“(Peter) was like, ‘Hey, look at this. I got this new Scotty. Maybe you'll like this.’ I rolled a few. I’d always putted with a Scotty growing up. Then I had been putting with an Even Roll for the last two years. So as soon as I put it in the bag on Monday I was like, ‘This feels familiar, like comfortable.’ Now, I kind of feel like I just worked on putting, just continued my drills and stuff. But, overall, it just feels like I don't have to work on it too much.
“So, (the putter) has worked pretty well.”