Thursday, June 09, 2005

Niagara Cup Qualifying

This past weekend saw St. Catharines G&CC hold a two-day qualifier for their Niagara Cup team.

The Niagara Cup is an annual interclub tournament in the region that takes after the vaunted Ryder Cup. Basically, every club in the region gets put into a bracket with two other clubs. You have a set of matches (all match play) at all three venues and the club with the most points (1 point for a match victory and a half a point for a tie) advances to the finals with all of the other sectional winners. The finals are one-on-one match play.

There are seven amateur players on every club team along with that club's pro. I was lucky enough to qualify for the team last year and we did quite well, winning our sectional and advancing to the finals. There, we ended up finishing in fifth I believe.

There was a new wrinkle this year that's caused a little bit of controversy. Instead of picking the top seven scores, the club has decided to pick five players based on the scores and then select two 'Captain's Picks', based on players they feel should be on the team that maybe didn't play their best on the weekend. I was just determined to play my way on...

The competition for spots this year was fierce. A couple newcomers were almost guaranteed to make the team: Ben, a guy I've played a few rounds with this year, is only in his early 20's and has a boatload of talent and Will, who's playing college golf in the U.S. and leading his team as a freshman.

We were able to play both Saturday and Sunday and submit our best score from those two days to determine who makes the team. I figured I'd need to shoot about a 76 to get in...I was pretty close to being spot on.

Saturday's round was an absolute rollercoaster ride. I barely made my tee off time and really was having a hard time with my vision early. Funny enough, I started par/birdie to go one under after two holes.

The wheels fell off quickly. I proceeded to bogey the next five holes in a row, three putting three times. My lag putting was atrocious; in fact, on the seventh hole I left a 45 foot putt 25 feet short. I was then slapped in the face again when my par effort lipped out of the hole.

Determined to fight back, I birdied two of the next three holes to get it back to two over for the day. I thought things were really starting to go my way on #11: I snap hooked my drive into the hazard on the par 4 but somehow made a miraculous par save. Unfortunately, I dunked my tee shot in the water on the next hole and made double bogey to move back to +4. I started grinding big time, making up and down sand saves on both #13 and #14 for pars but the magic started to wear off shortly thereafter. I ended up shooting 78 Saturday, a score that put me on the bubble.

I found out that this one guy at the club (who no one really knows) shot 72, so he was in. Will shot a -1 71 and Ben shot 75. Last year's club champion, Josh, shot 76, while Andy, another of the regulars, shot 77. Toast and I were on the bubble with our 78's. I'd have to go out Sunday and shoot that 76.

It wasn't to be. I just couldn't make anything happen on Sunday, much to my chagrin. My putting was uniformly horrible all day, as I took 35 putts for the round, about 4 more than I normally average. I ended up shooting 79, once again the same score as my buddy Toast, so the 78's we shot Saturday were the scores we submitted. Unfortunately, they weren't good enough. Our buddy Gary squeaked in with a 77 on Sunday to likely lock up a spot.

We talked about things after the round. It's very likely that both Toast and myself would play on the team at some point this year as alternates. There are always conflicts for people in the summer so we'd likely be first in line if someone couldn't make it.

I found out yesterday that I wouldn't have to worry.

The pro called me at work yesterday to tell me that they were using their Captain's Pick on me. Sweet! He told me that my Newlands Cup win last year at the club (I won the overall match play title at St. Catharines), my solid recent play and my solid play in the event last year were the reasons for my selection.

I just hope that Toast gets on the team as an alternate. We shot the same scores both days and he certainly deserves to be there too.

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