Monday, May 25, 2015

Exhilaration! The Thrill of Breaking Par

Just a glorious scoreline!

I just realized that I've been writing here at Now on the Tee for over ten years. That's simply astonishing to me.

When I started this blog in 2005, I wanted a place to write about my two favourite hobbies at that time, which were golf and poker. I was 32 years old and had just started dating a new woman, someone who would eventually become my wife and the mother of my child.

Practically a quarter of my life is documented here at Now on the Tee and while I don't have the time or inclination to play poker anymore, I'm still smacking the little white ball around the golf course six or seven months of the year.

Priorities have changed over the years and while I still play about the same amount of golf that I always have, the quality of my game has dropped off severely. Those four footers that I used to grind over a decade ago simply don't mean as much to me as they once did and as a result, my scores more often than not have an eight at the beginning as opposed to a seven.

In fact, prior to Sunday, I had gone almost a full month without breaking 80 and I hadn't broken par in almost 25 months, the longest cold spell I've had since I broke par for the first time on August 30, 2003.

Right off the bat, I knew Sunday was going to be special. I teed off from the back tees with two new members at St. Catharines G&CC, brothers Mitchell and Hayden. We were sent off the back nine to start and on the par five 10th, I'd chip in from about 15 yards in front of the green for an eagle three, my first eagle of the year.

A wonderful start.

I'd bogey the 13th from out of the greenside bunker and would have my first big moment on #14, sinking a 12 footer for par to stay at one under. The rest of the first nine holes were routine pars and I headed to the first tee after carding a 35 on my first nine.

The 1st hole at St. Catharines is a short par four and I hit a very poor 4-iron tee shot into the fairway trap then came up short of the green on my approach. A mediocre chip and two putts gave me a sloppy bogey but I'd come right back with a birdie from about 20 feet on #2 to get right back to one under par.

First fist pump of the day there and I was fully engaged in this round.

If I didn't already think it was going to be a special day, I definitely knew it by the time I hit my approach on the 3rd hole. I got a huge break off the tee, with my drive coming to rest in a grass finger of the right fairway bunker. I had a pretty routine 150 yard approach but I'd thin my 9-iron and screamed "get down" as it reached the green.

The ball bounced two times and then rattled the centre of the flagstick, coming to rest about 9 feet away.

Another incredible break!

It was a super easy putt but I'd just miss it on the pro side before tapping in for par.

Another key moment came on the long par four 5th hole. I hit my drive hard down the left side and got a bad kick into a grove of trees beyond the fairway bunkers. I had absolutely no shot at the green so I just chipped out to the 150 marker. My third shot was average at best, coming up about 35 feet short of the back hole location. My par effort just missed but rolled well past, almost reaching the back fringe. I had a right to left 10 footer to save my bogey and I let out a huge sigh of relief when my putt just dropped in from the high side.

Whew!

Back to even par but only temporarily, as I'd play the par five 6th hole perfectly and hole a 12 footer for another birdie to get back to red figures with three holes to play! Another fist pump for that one!

I'd make two putt pars on both #7 and #8 and stood on the 440 yard par four 9th with only one thought in my mind.

Lets make birdie and shoot 70!

I didn't feel any nerves as I hit a decent fade off the tee, leaving me about 190 yards away for my second shot. I was pretty pumped up and pulled a 7-iron out but I basically flinched on my downswing and pulled my approach left, ending up well short of the green.

I couldn't feel my hands as I set up for my 20 yard pitch and I'd end up hitting it extremely thin. I watched in horror as the ball rolled well past the front hole location, up the hill and about 15 feet away.

It was a tough putt under any circumstance - 15 feet, screaming downhill and a sharp right to left breaker. I quickly stepped up and stroked the ball as lightly as I could and watched it curl right into the middle of the cup.

Unbelievable!

Congratulations came from my playing partners as I looked to the heavens with a smile that still hasn't left my face a full day later.

A one under par 71 on the day and my first subpar round since I shot the same score on May 4, 2013.

When I got home, I was curious about how many times I've been fortunate enough to break par in my life. I pulled out my shoebox of notable scorecards and was a bit surprised to see that this was the 14th time I've broken par.

Just for posterity, here is a summary of my under par rounds. If you're bored, you can cross reference the dates shown here with my archive section to find my writeup of each round (from 2005 on).

1. August 30, 2003 at St. Catharines G&CC (Blue Tees): 36-35-71 (-1)
- Made one eagle and three birdies, playing with Jay B. 11 greens in regulation and 27 putts.

2. September 3, 2005 at St. Catharines G&CC (Blue Tees): 34-34-68 (-4)
- Perhaps the best round of golf in my life. Five birdies and only one bogey, which was a three putt. 14 greens in regulation and 28 putts. I played with Jay B once again, along with Charlie A.

3. September 5, 2005 at St. Catharines G&CC (Blue Tees): 35-36-71 (-1)
- I did the deed once again only two days after my 68. This was in the semifinals of the Newlands Cup, the 0-40 handicap match play event at St. Catharines, playing Dave M. I was three under and bogey free until making bogeys on the 17th and 18th holes to shoot the 71.

4. September 24, 2005 at St. Catharines G&CC (Blue Tees): 34-37-71 (-1)
- Closing off a remarkable month, this was the Newlands Cup final against Brett R. I was three under through 10 before bogeying the 13th and 17th holes coming in. Only 10 greens in regulation and 27 putts here.

5. May 20, 2007 at St. Catharines G&CC (Blue Tees): 33-36-69 (-3)
- A 20 month drought ends in spectacular fashion, as I make six birdies and three bogeys while playing with Jon P, Cal G and Bernie B. 12 GIRs and 27 putts here.

6. October 14, 2007 at St. Catharines G&CC (Blue Tees): 36-34-70 (-2)
- Playing with Jon P and Cal G once again, this time alongside Andy A. Pretty clean card here, with three birdies and one bogey. 13 greens and 29 putts on this day.

7. June 29, 2008 at Legends on the Niagara - Battlefield (Blue Tees): 35-34-69 (-3)
- My first under par round away from my home course and in competition, no less! This was a Niagara Cup match against Brian E from Hunters Pointe - it was moved from a water-logged St. Catharines G&CC to Legends and I remember almost every shot of this incredible round. Five birdies, including three of the last five holes to break 70. 13 GIRs and 28 putts.

8. October 12, 2008 at St. Catharines G&CC (Blue Tees): 35-36-71 (-1)
- Three birdies and two bogeys while playing once again with Andy A, Jon P and Bernie B. 12 greens and 29 putts.

9. June 19, 2010 at St. Catharines G&CC (Blue Tees): 34-34-68 (-4)
- Another remarkable round where I actually had a birdie putt for 66 (!!) but three putted the last green for my only bogey on the day. This was during the 2010 Men's Invitational at St. Catharines, playing with my guest Henry S, along with Chuck D and his brother Larry. Five birdies, one bogey, 12 greens in regulation and 27 putts.

10. June 26, 2010 at St. Catharines G&CC (Black Tees): 34-36-70 (-2)
- My first under par round at St. Catharines from the back tee deck comes one week after my 68. Played once again with Jay B, Andy A and newcomer Mike F. Four birdies and two bogeys, 12 greens in regulation and 29 putts.

11. August 7, 2010 at St. Catharines G&CC (Black Tees): 36-35-71 (-1)
- An under par round for the first time with Gary P, Harris N and Wes J. Quiet day with only two birdies and a single bogey. 12 greens and 29 putts here as well.

12. June 30, 2012 at Dismal River - White Course (Tees Were Up): 37-34-71 (-1)
- Another long drought ends with my second under par score away from home, played during the "5th Major" event in Nebraska. Made four birdies and three bogeys, playing with Tyler K from Winnipeg in two nine-hole matches.

13. May 4, 2013 at St. Catharines G&CC (Black Tees): 38-33-71 (-1)
- Playing again with Jon P and also playing with Brandon M and Sean M, I birdied three holes on the back nine to offset my two front nine bogeys. 11 greens in regulation and 28 putts on this round.

14. May 24, 2015 at St. Catharines G&CC (Black Tees): 36-35-71 (-1)
- Played with new members, brothers Mitch and Hayden M. Two birdies and an eagle are offset by three bogeys. 11 GIRs and 27 putts.

Fourteen times. Man, it will never get old and I hope I get the chance to experience those nerves again soon. What a thrilling weekend!

Thanks for reading.