Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Finishing off the '00 Trip

It's funny how your impression of things or events change over time.

I say this because I was doing a bit of architect research over at golfcourse.com, a nice Golf Magazine-sponsored reference site for courses. While looking at the courses I played on this trip, I realized that I had made comments back in 2000 on each of the courses we played.

Of course, I had nothing but positive things to say about Cog Hill at the time!!! Weird. I even noted that "the staff is genuinely interested in making sure you enjoy the experience"!

I wonder if I meant GENERALLY interested...

I did mention the fact that the bunkers were poorly maintained and that the greens hadn't been cut but I still gave them a 4 out of 5 for conditioning.

Well, I'm a much harsher critic six years later.

I'm a lot more experienced as well, having played a great deal of excellent golf courses in the past half decade so my expectations have increased.

Anyway, back to the trip.

We moved on to Ohio for our last three rounds of golf. The centerpiece of the vacation was an INDY Car Race in Lexington, Ohio - the guy who planned the vacation was a huge CART fan and had full paddock passes for all four of us for the entire weekend, including practice runs, qualifying and the actual races (there's an INDY 'Lights' competition as well).

We played the Maumee Bay Resort in Oregon, Ohio first (Arthur Hills - 1990), a links-style design right in the middle of a state park. I loved the place back then (all fives at golfcourse.com!) but in reality it's just a run-of-the-mill type of design. Nothing really memorable except for some variety on the green complexes. It doesn't help that I shot an 85 out there! That's my buddy Rick teeing off the par-four third hole with Jamie and Will looking on in the photo above.

We played Punderson State Park GC next, in Newbury, Ohio, a pleasant parkland course designed by Jack Kidwell in 1969. Well conditioned course and fantastic value ($25 or so) and it has a couple of great holes, most notably the par four eighth.

The 420 yard dogleg right (seen below) is intimidating off the tee, due to the treelined fairway. There is also a bunker on the left side in the landing area off the tee that acts as a target bunker. The second shot is played over a large pond to a small, very undulating green. Pretty hole.

I ended up shooting an 81 even though I hit 10 greens in reg. It didn't help that I had 35 putts for the round.

The final round was scheduled for Pebble Creek Golf Club in Lexington. The William Mitchell design (1974) is decidedly unremarkable but my round there certainly wasn't!

I came out of the gates quickly, sinking a 25 footer on the short par five 1st hole for EAGLE and the game was on! I threw one birdie and two bogeys in there on the front side for a -1 35. I was still one under when we hit the relatively easy 14th, a 391 yard par four. I ended up hitting my approach into the greenside bunker and bogeyed the hole to move back to even on the day.

My career best score at the time was 73, likely shot years earlier. Needless to say, I was nervous as hell the whole back nine.

I was even when I hit the uphill 534-yard par five 17th, a hole that doglegs 90 degrees to the right just past the landing area off the tee. I drove it perfectly, laid up to about 90 yards and then threw a dart at the green with my wedge, the ball stopping about 8 feet away.

In she went for the birdie!

My buddy Rick asked if I was even for the day.

"One under", I muttered, trying DESPERATELY to get the score out of my mind.

The 18th is a pretty easy finisher, a 356 yard uphill par four. There is a creek that runs across the fairway about 180 yards from the tee but that shouldn't be a problem for any well-struck ball.

I took out my two iron and hammered it right down the pipe. Whew! Mission accomplished.

I had about an 8-iron left and slightly pulled the approach but it caught the fringe, leaving me with a difficult 30 foot downhiller.

I was shaking like you wouldn't believe. I completely choked on the putt, running it about 7 feet by.

7 feet for my first ever subpar round.

I didn't even scare the hole.

Three putts on 18 for a 72 and I was completely inconsolable, even though I had shot a personal best. Thankfully, I got over it quickly and posed for a photo with the scorecard in hand. I have that photo and scorecard mounted in my office.

It took five years before I would better that score and those rounds have been documented on this site already (68, 71 and 71 in September 2005).

Here's hoping for a 67 sometime in '06!!!

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