Saturday, December 08, 2018

2018 Year in Review Part One - The Game

A lifetime low nine hole score of 32 on my favourite course in the world was a 2018 highlight

My annual "Year in Review" series is always a personal favourite to write. 2018 was very similar to the previous year for me, where I had no real concrete plans as far as travel coming into the year and as a result, low expectations for the season ahead.

Both 2017 and 2018 provided major surprises on that front but while I was fortunate to see a number of architecturally significant courses once again, my actual game deteriorated significantly.

As usual, this will be a three-part series, starting today with "My Game", perhaps the most boring piece for my readers but something I like to write for the sake of posterity. I'll follow that up with posts about "The Courses" I was fortunate enough to visit in 2018 and finally, "Looking Ahead" to what looks to be another wonderful year of golf travel in 2019.

The Game

I started 2018 with a 2.9 index and it didn't take long for that to rise significantly, going as high as 5.1 before settling at a season-ending 4.8. I only broke 75 once all season and that was in September at Sand Hills GC in Nebraska, where I made five birdies overall in a one over par round of 72, punctuated by a thrilling 32 on the front nine, a lifetime low nine hole score (scorecard pictured above).

Simply put, I did not play well at all at any stage of the year. I made way too many big numbers in 2018, with an incredible amount of double bogeys, mostly due to a balky driver and the ensuing penalty shots.

Opportunity certainly wasn't to blame for my poor golf game, as I posted 68 scores this year, up five from my 2017 total and when you include scramble or alternate shot rounds, plus the 5-6 rounds played at Sand Hills that can't be posted due to the lack of a course rating/slope, I played somewhere in the vicinity of 75 times in 2018, an absurdly high total for me. My overall scoring average was just under eighty (79.7) and I'm definitely trending in the wrong direction with the quality of my game.

I had some major highs in competition this year but also some sizable lows.

The most disappointing club event at St. Catharines for me this year was our Scratch Match Play event, where I'd lose in the first round by a lopsided 5&4 score. The only saving grace there was the fact I was matched up against our two-time defending club champion, Robbie E, who would ultimately win the "member's major" for a third-consecutive time in early August.

Speaking of which, I didn't play in our club championship at St. Catharines G&CC this year due to the fact I was in Duluth, Minnesota for my first-ever "Midwest Mashie", an annual event put on by some members over at Golf Club Atlas. I went 1-1 in my two matches at Northland Country Club, with the lone victory coming in my singles match against tournament co-host Pat C.

For a second straight year, I'd go deep in the Langley Cup competition, a 0-7 handicap event with full strokes from the back tees at St. Catharines. I'd win three close matches over friends Graeme F, Stan D and Mark D to make the semi-finals for a second straight year but bow out to another good friend, Colin P, in the final four in a 20-hole nail-biter.

The most emotionally satisfying event for me personally in 2018 was easily the St. Catharines G&CC Parent/Child tournament, where I teamed up with my nine-year old son Evan for the first time.

Beaming with pride, as I'd partner with my son Evan in our first-ever Parent/Child tournament at St. Catharines G&CC

This was Evan's first round at St. Catharines and his first round on a regulation-sized golf course. We played a modified alternate shot format where each of the players would tee off and then you'd pick the best one and play alternate shot from there. Evan was flabbergasted that we used 10 or 11 of his drives, mostly a strategic decision to allow me to hit the approach shots but as far as he was concerned, it was because his drives were just that much better than mine! Months later, I can still barely contain my smile thinking of that day. We'd make a gross birdie during our round and finish in third place in the "Future Club Champions" division, a nice touch by our head pro, Cameron T, at STGCC.

It was a very special day for both of us, one I'll never forget.

For the sixth consecutive year, I ran a season-long competition on Sundays at St. Catharines G&CC called the "Premier League". It's proven to be very successful and gives everyone something to play for during our normal weekend rounds. We had a whopping 57 players take part in 2018, up one from 2017 and up from 44 players in 2016 and TaylorMade returned for a fourth consecutive year as our league sponsor as well. I'd play in the Blue Division for the second straight season, one league lower than the Black Division that contains all the flat-bellied scratch players at St. Catharines. After finishing in 3rd place (out of 23 players) in 2017, I'd falter greatly this year, needing a last round charge just to finish in 10th place (out of 29 players), barely making it into the money.

Likely the most fun match I played in this year was the vaunted DEATH MATCH at Sand Hills, teaming up with Jimmy O against the stalwart team of Keith O and Tom H in a two-man, trash talking extravaganza of a modified alternate shot match. Jimmy and I would take control on the front nine and move to the 10th hole with a 3up lead. Perhaps we were overconfident, perhaps we were just thirsty but we felt obligated to get a six-pack of beers on ice for the inevitable celebration, a celebration that ultimately would not take place. Our opponents would turn up the gamesmanship, halve the 10th, birdie the 11th to get within two and then win #12, #13 and #14 to shockingly take the lead in the match, one that we would end up losing on the 17th hole by a 3&1 score.

I brought shame to my home country of Canada and upon my return, I spent many hours at customs getting grilled about my "performance" by officers before they finally let me back into the country in pity.

Finally, the last major event on my schedule is the Turkey Two Ball Invitational that I run on Canadian Thanksgiving Monday. I started this event eight years ago as a way to have a season-ending competitive event for the large group of guys who play on weekend mornings at the club. It's a 40-man event, with a pre-tournament draft conducted to pick the teams. Incredibly, my name came out of the hat fifth and I was lucky enough to be able to pick Adam S, a former Canadian Tour professional, as my partner. I'd three-putt the first for bogey with Adam out of the hole to get us off to a poor start but then Adam's class took over. He'd make five birdies and I'd contribute one myself, as we hit the 18th hole at three under par and in a tie for the lead with our playing partners, Brandon M and Mark D. Adam and I would both hit poor drives well left but after I could only punch out well left of the green on my approach, Adam was able to get his shot to the front fringe, about 30 feet away. With a huge crowd watching us from the patio, Adam would MAKE HIS PUTT to move us to four under and the lead! Mark had a putt to tie but would come up short, so we now had to wait for the last four groups to come in.

No one was able to catch us and with that, Adam and I were the 2018 Turkey Two Ball champions!!!

True bliss - finally winning the event that means the most to me!

My first ever Turkey Two Ball win and an incredibly bittersweet moment, as this would be my final round as a member at St. Catharines G&CC after 30+ years of enjoyment and memories.

What a way to go out!

COMING SOON:

2018 Year in Review Part Two - The Courses
2018 Year in Review Part Three - Looking Ahead