Louis de Kerillis might well be the most well-known golfer on the South Fork. The 39-year-old Southampton native and assistant professional at Sebonack has spent nearly his whole life on the South Fork’s golf courses.He spent 15 years as a caddy and then as a teaching professional at National Golf Links of America, and the last eight as an assistant pro at Sebonack. He’s played on a variety of mini tours and in Met PGA tournaments for more 20 years.
He will be caddying in the upcoming U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack for 16-year-old New Zealander Lydia Ko, the top-ranked amateur woman in the world, a three-time LPGA tour winner and the youngest LPGA tournament winner ever.
As he prepared for the tournament, de Kerillis talked with the Press.
Question: What are the first impressions golfers have of Sebonack?
Louis de Kerillis: It’s a beefy golf course with a lot of deep bunkers and trouble around them, but there’s a lot of room. It’s a very generous golf course but visually intimidating at the same time, especially on the approach shots. You’re looking up at the green, and you have all these deep bunkers with fescue around them. But there is a lot of room out there.
Q: Without the trouble of narrow fairways like most Open courses, what is going to pose the biggest threat to the players?
LdK: There’s been a lot of negative ink saying that the greens are scary. That’s people who only played it once. I was playing at Shinnecock a couple weeks ago, and I was talking with someone on the range. They were talking about how the greens at Sebonack are so hard. But you look at Shinnecock’s greens, they look easy, they look so simple. But Shinnecock’s greens are way, way harder. They look welcoming, but they are impossible. Everything at Shinnecock runs away from the hole. National has that, too. At Sebonack, you see the undulations and the false fronts—it’s daunting, but the more you play, the more you realize there are a lot of backboards that people don’t even see, and the slopes that fall back to the hole, if you know where to hit it.
Q: How will the women professionals attack the greens?
LdK: Most amateurs see a pin and they hit at it. Pros are looking at a target, which is not always the pin. It’s looking at the slope of the green, for a way to get the ball closer to the hole. Or, actually, not even necessarily closer but to the place that puts you in the best position to get up and down. The benefit for the pros is that they’re going to be hitting their targets—they put it pretty close to where they want it most of the time. That’s where creativity will come in. At Sebonack, with the greens being as big as they are, there might be undulations they don’t even see that can get you next to the hole if you hit your target. It took me five seasons of golf to really feel that I had a sense about the greens, and every year I feel like I still learn something. They’re amazing that way. Every green has its own personality.
Q: How will the pros and their caddies prepare themselves?
LdK: These caddies are professionals, a lot of them have been up here already walking the course. For the two weeks before the tournament, there will be a lot of guys coming getting the idea of the greens. They know what they’re looking for: the grain, green depth, rolls, landing areas, approach areas. Based on the pin positions, they’ll figure out where the misses should go and where they can’t miss. They’ll know where the green lights and the red lights are when their girl goes to hit.
Q: How does the work a caddy does before the tournament help his or her player make their shots?
LdK: When you are sure your golfer trusts you, you can push them to the edge and assure them you’re giving them a place that if they hit it, they will get it close. That relaxes them. You don’t want to plant the seed of doubt, you want to reassure them. That slope back there, the ball is going to come off that—that’s what you want to be able to tell them, it reassures them.
Q: What holes will be key to score well on to stay in contention?
LdK: Right out of the gate, 1 and 2 are going to force them to get creative and challenge them. You’ve got all these bunkers coming at you, you see those false fronts, and then the approach shots are going to have so many options. The more options you have, the more you start second-guessing. You want to get off to a good start. Getting off good and finishing strong is going to be the key. The inland holes soften up a little bit, and you can settle down. Those first few holes can grab you. You want to be even par going into that fourth hole—then you can settle in and start hitting shots, and you’ve got your scoring opportunities on the back nine.
Q: What will be the keys to winning?
LdK: It helps if you’re long. Sebonack is going to be a big golf course for the ladies. But hitting it solid is more important than long. There’s a lot of room out there, but you can’t miss the fairways. If you miss the primary cut, you have zero chance of getting it close. The high grass is definitely a hazard. It’s long and it’s thick. But the fairways are wide, and the ladies hit very, very straight.
Q: How big of an advantage will having a local caddy on the bag be?
LdK: I would love it if it came down to [local knowledge]. There are lots of secrets out there that they have to look for. There are slopes that you just don’t see playing it a few times. At the end of the day, the golfer has to hit the shots, but we’re going to be a big advantage. Two strokes per round—that’s worth its weight in gold.