Saturday, September 24, 2005

On Vacation!

I'm taking a week off!

This will be my second week off this year and I plan on laying low most of the time. I have a couple golf rounds scheduled, may stop in at work a couple times and also may go to Toronto for a night or two with the girlfriend.

Other than that, the plan is total relaxation.

The Niagara Men's Tour is now complete and I exceeded my own expectations with a fantastic finish last Saturday. Coming into the event in 22nd place overall out of 56 golfers, I'd hoped for a good finish to get me close to the top 15.

I was sharp right out of the gate. On #2, a 195 yard par three, I hit it to about 7 feet. On #3, a par five, I hit my third in tight to about 6 feet. #4 I had about a 10 footer for birdie. Then on #7, I was in close AGAIN, putting from about 8 feet.

Unfortunately, I missed all of those putts.

Fortunately, I did par all of them, along with the other holes on the front nine to shoot an even par 36. I hit ALL NINE greens in regulation and only missed one fairway on the front nine.

Due to very heavy rain during the early morning hours, we were playing 'lift, clean and place' through the green. This helped me on the tenth hole when I got a horrible lie in the rough but was able to mark my ball, clean it, and replace it in a nice lie. I'd hit the green and par. I hit my best iron of the day (which is saying something when I was striping it every shot) on the par three eleventh, hitting a four iron to six feet. I MISSED AGAIN.

I was making good strokes but just couldn't find the back of the cup. Lots of lip outs, including one that went in and then...looped out and horseshoed out of the hole. Ugh.

I missed my first green in regulation of the day on the par five 12th, leaving my approach on the back fringe. My first putt was horrible, as it was propelled 8 feet past the hole on the downhiller. I picked this time to make my first real putt of the day to keep the par streak going.

It ended abruptly on the par three 13th, when I misclubbed off the tee and hit into the front bunker. Good bunker shot and another missed medium length putt (9 feet) meant the first bogey of the day.

All good rounds have 'bounce back' holes and this qualifies as a good round for yours truly. I hit the par five 14th hole in two shots (driver, three-iron rescue) but completely misread my eagle putt, leaving it almost 9 feet away off-line to the right. I buried the birdie putt however to get back to level par. Another par five followed and I temporarily lost concentration due to one of my playing partners making a TEN on the hole (he almost put a club through his cart!) and hit at least two provisionals along the way. I hit a wayward second from the middle of the fairway into the trees left and was lucky to escape to a position just short of the green. I hit a nice chip to three feet and made it for par.

I scrambled the whole way down 16. I hit a terrible tee shot that looked like it might be in trouble, necessitating a provisional for myself. I did find the original tee shot, however. I was about 175 yards away and had to go over trees on the dogleg right par four. I opened up the face of my 6-iron and tried to hit a big cut. I hit the big cut alright but it was hanging in the trees...and then rebounded off one of the branches back into play, safely in front of the green. Whew! I hit a horrible chip shot to 8 feet but made the putt for a good four.

Continuing my suddenly shaky play, all three in our group hit long on the par three 17th, leaving a tough pitch back to a green with water on the other side of the hole. I hit a PERFECT chip shot, right into the bank, and the ball trickled to about 2 feet. Another par.

Feeling nerves a bit, I was able to compose myself on the intimidating par four 413 yard finisher and nail a beauty right down the middle. I then hit a fantastic six iron into the green and almost holed it, the ball trickling past the hole to about 14 feet. I narrowly missed that but tapped in for an even par 72.

At the time, I was the clubhouse leader by three shots. Group after group came in and the lead held up. The Niagara Falls Review reporter interviewed me and took a couple pictures as well. Jacky was there to watch me come in and have dinner with me and she was pretty excited. The last group (containing the four points leaders on the tour) was approaching the 18th green in almost complete darkness, giving me the thought that I MIGHT JUST WIN THIS THING!

Uh, no.

The guy in second place overall on the tour, Jamie, shot a fantastic 69, birdieing the last hole in the dark to emphatically claim the event and also, win the 2005 Niagara Men's Tour overall championship. My 72 placed me second alone, easily my best ever finish on tour. 6th place at Rolling Meadows earlier in the year had been my best finish.

On the strength of this finish, I propelled myself to 11th overall on the tour, a result I'm ecstatic with. I obviously need to be more consistent on an event-to-event basis but 11th overall is a HUGE IMPROVEMENT from last year, where I finished 31st or something. I finished 'in the money' twice this year (gift certificates are awarded to the top six finishers in each event), taking $210.00 in pro shop vouchers. Plus, my 11th place finish also won me a nice Titleist golf bag valued at $180.00 or something. Good stuff!

Even with the second place finish, I got about five paragraphs in the local paper, mostly because the reporter loved the fact I was hospitalized earlier in the week, yet still played great golf on Saturday. I kind of figured I might still get some ink even after only finishing second: the guy had this big smile on his face as he was taking notes from me on the Deerhurst incident. Wish the guy hadn't written me down as 'Mike' instead of 'Matt', but hey, small complaint!

Sunday was the finals of the Niagara Cup at Twenty Valley Golf Club and I played like garbage. What is with this game?? I missed a one and a half footer on the first hole (for some reason the kid I played with didn't understand that you can CONCEDE putts) and never got into a good rythym all day. I was one up through 10 after a birdie there but then he started to play well, birdieing 11 and parring the tough 12th and 13th to go one up on me. He was able to hold on and took 2.5 out of 3 available points.

St. Catharines finished tied for 4th out of the six teams in the final, a pretty poor performance. Niagara Falls Country Club, out of Lewiston, New York, won the overall title, gaining 16 out of a possible 24 points. Hopefully they host the Niagara Cup one of these that's a nice golf course!

My Newlands Cup Final is taking place at 8am Saturday morning. I'm looking for my second consecutive match play title at St. Catharines Golf and CC but this match will be my biggest challenge yet. I have to give Brett, my opponent, 18 shots in the match. One shot on every hole. It will be the most shots I've ever had to concede in my two years playing this event.

Again, steady play usually works well for me when playing higher handicaps so I'll go out and just try to par him to death. I'm playing 'on and off' golf so I'm due to be ON later this morning. Hopefully I can bring home the hardware for the second year in a row.

I'm also lucky enough to be playing beautiful Cedar Brae Golf and CC on Sunday with my buddies Ryan and Jay. Ryan was a member out there last year and still has some priveleges out there so we're going out in the early afternoon. I'm also playing Fort Erie's gem Cherry Hill on Monday with Harris and Preston and may try to tackle Grand Niagara again on Tuesday or Wednesday. Should be a fun week off!

I'll report back on my Newlands Cup effort sometime tomorrow or Sunday. Have a great weekend!

1 comment:

  1. A week off will be nice. I wonder if you will really end up resting and relaxing. That was a good post and an exciting read. Thanks.