Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pine Acres Better Ball Tournament

For the third consecutive year, I joined a group of St. Catharines members for the journey to Bradford, Pennsylvania for the Pine Acres Better Ball tournament.

I teamed up with Toast for the second year in a row and arrived at Pine Acres with a putting stroke for the first time. Pine Acres is a really nice traditional layout with tall pines framing the fairways and extremely slick putting surfaces that slope severely from back to front. I love this course.

Things started out well enough, with a narrow birdie miss on our first hole (the par three 7th) in the shotgun event. I also parred eight, nine and ten to keep us at even par. Toast took over for a few holes, making nice par saves on eleven and thirteen after bogeys by yours truly. I almost birdied the very difficult dogleg right fourteenth but we finally broke through on the straight-away 15th, our first par five of the day.

I was nestled in tight for birdie but Toast rammed home a 20 footer from above the hole to get us into red figures. We ran into trouble for the first time all day on the par four sixteenth: I drove into the trees and was forced to chip out and then hit an indifferent chip shot to 25 feet. Toast hit a great drive but his wedge rolled through the green. He hit a mediocre chip to 20 feet, leaving us both with improbable par putts.

Somehow, I was able to coax mine in for the great save.

The next hole was hilarious too. I half-shanked my eight iron on the par three 17th into the woods, leaving myself with a pitch shot through the trees, over a bunker to a tight pin location. I told Toast my intention of banking the shot off the face of the bunker and having it hop onto the surface.

It was my Babe Ruth moment and somehow I pulled it off, the ball coming to rest only eight feet away. High-five from my partner for that one and another when I made the improbable par putt moments later.

The magic would soon end for this tandem, however. We both hit excellent tee shots on the par five 18th, Toast ending up 235 yards away and myself 225 (yeah I outdrove him once). He asked me if he should layup in front of the water but I told him no way, go for it! He stroked a beauty two-iron rescue onto the back fringe and I followed up with my best swing of the day, a three-iron rescue to about 40 feet. Toast's putt ended up going 8 feet by the hole while my eagle putt snuggled to about 3 feet.

Cue the drama...

Toast just missed his birdie putt but he unknowingly swatted his ball away without tapping in, thereby not giving me the chance to be firm with my short birdie putt. I was already doubting my line, since our playing partners both missed short ones just before my birdie effort. My weak mental game was evident when I missed the shortie and proceeded to curse my way to the next tee.

I got the chance to cool down somewhat when our partners took off for the beer keg and was able to hit a decent tee shot down number one. My water started boiling again soon after, as I noticed our partners had marked an incorrect score down for Toast on our third hole of the day. I had already called them on giving me an incorrect score earlier in the day so I wasn't too pleased.

"Hey guys, you put us down for a four on number nine but Toast gets a shot on that hole", I said with venom. "I'm gonna have to inspect the whole card now."

Jim, one of our partners quietly retorted.

"Well, Toast never finished out the hole. You made your par and he picked up his two footer so we can't count his score on the hole. Since you DON'T get a stroke there, it's a par."

I gave Toast the death glare for his second miscue but I was really just embarrassed at myself.

I was just hot because of my own brainfart miss on the previous green and here I was getting out of hand at a fun two-ball tourney.

I apologized profusely and agreed they scored it 100% correctly. Needless to say, Toast and I putted EVERYTHING out for the rest of the day and I comically ran about 50 yards from the first green to our cart to see if Toast got a stroke on the hole as he stood over an otherwise meaningless par putt! Funny stuff.

I missed a pretty makeable birdie putt on number two and we fell apart shortly thereafter. We both bogeyed the tough par three third and then both hit our drives out of bounds on the dogleg par five fourth. I ended up making an eight while Toast made seven on the hole.

We both bogeyed the next hole as well but I was able to coax home a 15 footer for birdie on our last hole to give us a best ball score of 74 (+2), the same score we shot the previous year.

I ended up shooting a 76 while Toast came in with a 78. We just haven't been able to make enough birdies to do well in this event but I think we both have the games to play better in the future and maybe make 'the money'.

I know we'll be back next year.

The ice cream continues to rule the world ($2.50 for a HUGE sundae!) and the course is an absolute pleasure to play.

My handicap has gone up to 3.4 - double what it was when I started the year. My short game is great but I'm having a tremendous amount of difficulty with my ball striking. I'm having problems right at address with my irons - my alignment is off and I'm doing weird things with my hands to compensate. I've got some time this weekend to practice a bit so hopefully I can surprise myself and get out to the range for a bit to work on the swing.

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