Saturday, July 15, 2006

Light at the End of the Tunnel

It's always easy to blog about golf when things are going well.

However, when things go bad on the course, the last thing I usually like to do is talk about it. Same thing goes with practicing - why do we always have the tendency to work on things WE'RE GOOD AT as opposed to practice our weaknesses?

But I digress...

When we last talked, I had a big weekend of tournament golf planned. Saturday was the second leg of the Niagara Cup competition, held at Links of Niagara (Willo-Dell). I played out there earlier this year on the Men's Tour so I was at least relatively familiar with the place.

I teamed up with my buddy Gary as we faced two players from Port Colborne. PC was leading the competition after the first leg so it was important that we take as many points from them as possible before our August singles matches back home at St. Catharines.

The format was two-man best ball and things started poorly for us when Gary couldn't get up and down from a trap and I three-putted, both for bogeys, losing the hole. The yips were in full effect. Oh no.

This meant going away from my normal putting stroke to my 'Choke-proof stroke', where I hunch over the ball a la Nicklaus - I don't make as many with this setup but my shoulders control the stroke and I don't yip it at least.

I was able to par the second and Gary made an improbable birdie chip from way off the green on number three to get us back to even in the match. The Port Colborne team came right back with a birdie on the par five fourth to take the hole, as Gary and I both missed our own birdie efforts. We sawed off on five and Gary then made a 10 footer for birdie on six to halve the hole after the PC guy made a bomb from 30 feet. We halved seven and then Gary three putted eight from 12 feet to give the PC guys a two up lead and a guaranteed point for winning the front side. I was unable to birdie the ninth after a nice shot into 10 feet and we were two down heading to the back.

That's when we started to play.

Gary made a birdie on ten to get us to within one. I made a nice par on eleven with Gary out of the hole for the halve and then Gary took hole 12 with a par to get us back to even on the match and 2 up on the back nine. We took our first lead of the match on another great putt from Gary on the 13th and my par on 14 was good enough for another win, putting us 4 up on the back and 2 up overall.

15 was halved and the Port Colborne team pulled to within one hole after a nice birdie on 16. But we were able to close out the win with consecutive pars on 17 and 18, winning 1 up overall and 4&3 on the back; we get 2 out of the 3 available points for St. Catharines in the match and our team won a fantastic 10.5 out of 12 available points on the day, giving us a big lead going into the third and final set of matches in August.

Gary and I didn't play great golf but he was able to scoot around in 74 while I plodded along with a lot of pars and shot 78.

I felt pretty good about my game going to Hunters Pointe on Sunday for the fourth leg of the Niagara Men's Tour. I had no idea what I was in for...

I had a late tee-off time and was in the third-to-last group. It was an overcast day and really windy and that makes Hunters a pretty difficult golf course. I started off with two very solid pars and reached the mid-length par three third startled to find THREE OTHER GROUPS on the tee.

Oh no...

25 minutes later, I hit my tee shot into the bank right of the green and watched my ball get propelled into the fescue. Double bogey.

I came right back with a nice 18 footer for birdie to make the 'turn' (the first five holes at Hunters are on one side of the road, with the rest of the course on the other side) at +1 through five.

Six is another par three and again there was a three group wait. It's pretty tough to get into a good groove when you're waiting 20 minutes to hit golf shots. I was able to finesse my three iron onto the left side of the green but with the pin on the top right, I had to CHIP the shot from the green over the rough to get to the upper shelf.

That didn't go so well. I left it in the rough and was able to get up and in from there for bogey. I three putted number seven for bogey and bogeyed eight from the middle of the fairway with a wedge in my hand to head to the par five ninth at +4.

After driving into the fescue left and squibbing it out, I had 235 yards left to the pin over a huge lake. Figuring I have nothing to lose (which of course is ridiculous), I pull out a three-iron rescue and ALMOST hit it perfectly. Almost being the key word, as I almost clear the water but don't. Double bogey to finish the outward nine and a discouraging 42.

After driving into the fescue left, my approach on the par four tenth goes WAY left into heavier fescue and I'm ready to walk in. I was able to find the ball, hack out and make bogey. The 235 yard par three eleventh was next. It plays into a two-club wind.

Wonderful.

I hit a soaring two-iron rescue to 15 feet and make par but on the par five 12th, I proceed to hit the ball so far right that I can only laugh. I literally hit it 50 yards right of the hole boundary. I'm forced to reload and I'm almost fortunate enough to squeeze a bogey out. Alas, I miss a four footer and take double.

I'm now feeling pretty sorry for myself, sitting at +9 for the day. I finally hit a fairway with my driver on 13, only my third of the day but three putt for another bogey. I also bogey the short par three 14th.

I just want to go home. It's starting to get dark out now - we're about five hours into the round and we're only on hole 15. Brutal.

My carefree attitude about my score was in full effect on 15. I hit a really nice drive but for whatever reason, Hunters ends the fairway at about 275 yards from the tee and has a 40 yard stretch of rough, penalizing good straight shots. So I'm sitting in a horrible lie after a great drive and proceed to hit my layup down the left side of the fairway.

I walk up to see my ball has somehow ended up in a pond just left and short of the green. Half of the ball is looking up at me and half is submerged...

"Who cares", I shout as I approach the ball LEFT HANDED, turn my eight iron over and take my best Mike Weir swing.

SPLASH! Nice follow through, eyes open...no ball.

It's laughing at me, still in the water. I HATE this game!

"Guess I'll drop now."

I take a lovely snowman on the par five, almost eagle the par four 16th (I did birdie!), three putt the 245 yard par three 17th for bogey after hitting a gorgeous 3-iron tee shot and routinely par the 18th for a fantastic 44 on the back and 86 overall.

I end up in a tie for 48th on the day out of the 63 golfers who teed up and now find myself back in 28th place overall on tour. Only the top 30 at the end of the year are exempt for next season and I'm unable to play in the fifth leg of the tour being held at Sparrow Lakes in August.

That means I'll likely be on the outside looking in for the tour's final stop in September at Thundering Waters. I've played pretty decently this year but one bad event cost me. Oh well...no one to blame but myself.

I couldn't have played worse on Sunday but things ARE looking up. I took Friday off work and got to play some free golf out at Legends on the Niagara (Battlefield Course) with Harris. We played the tips, all 7300+ yards on soggy fairways - I literally had about ten yards of roll combined ALL DAY.

Here's the good part. I hit 13 out of 14 fairways today!!! That's definitely a personal best. Hitting 3 and 4 irons into the greens all day, I still hit 8 greens in regulation and had a yip-free putting day going back to my old stroke. I still shot a disappointing 82 but I played MUCH BETTER than the score indicates.

We'll see if the better swing holds up this morning when I play at St. Catharines.

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