Friday, August 10, 2007

Langley Cup Quarterfinals

I was matched up against Joe, one of the Sunday regulars, in the round of eight in the Langley Cup, the club's 0-7 handicap match play championship.

I liken Joe to Ty Webb, the character in Caddyshack played so memorably by Chevy Chase. Joe is extremely carefree and doesn't give a rat's ass about scores or keeping handicaps, which makes it tough for him to properly compete in a handicap event.

I was prepared to go with the flow and work off whatever handicap Joe thought he was playing to, figuring he was about a 5 or 6 and knowing him to be an honourable fellow. I was surprised when he stated we should just play straight-up to avoid any hassle.

Great! Off we go!

Joe is in his mid-50's and has lost quite a bit of distance over the past couple years but his short game is sublime and he doesn't get into too much trouble.

I'll be honest though. I didn't think I would have much trouble in this match, especially in light of how well I was playing and because of the distance advantage I'd have playing the back tees against Joe.

Little did I know how epic the match would end up being.

Let's go with the encapsulated version of the match:

Hole 1 (Par 4): Joe misses the green but hits his chip to gimmie range. I hit a poor tee shot and a great recovery to 30 feet but leave my putt 8 feet short. However, I'm able to ram home the par putt. All Square
Hole 2 (Par 4): We both hit good drives down the middle. Joe hits on to about 15 feet and I come out of my 9-iron, hitting it into the greenside trap. The sand is soaking wet and I don't get the ball out of the bunker on my first attempt. My blast for par rolls to about four feet but it's a mute point, as Joe hits his birdie putt center cut. Joe 1up
Hole 3 (Par 4): Joe gets into trouble off the tee and can't get home in two. However, his chipping is on today and he gets to within three feet and ends up making it. I drive nicely down the middle and hit the front of the green. My birdie putt comes up 10 feet short (I'm still thinking the greens are at Club Championship speed I guess) but again, come through with a great par save. Joe 1up
Hole 4 (Par 3): Joe hits perfectly to about 15 feet and makes par. I misclub off the tee and I'm woefully short. I can't get up and down. Joe 2up

So Joe is one under to this point and I'm two over and I'm getting slaughtered early. However, this is where I started to step it up a bit.

Hole 5 (Par 4): Joe hits a weak hook against the out of bounds fence and is in trouble. I hit a horrible block into the fairway trap, close to the lip. However, Joe pretty much whiffs on his attempt to get away from the fence and is lying five by the time he gets on the green. I take out a 4-iron from 200 yards in the bunker and just pray I don't hit the lip...instead, I hit one of the best bunker shots of my life, hitting it straight up into the air dead at the pin. It lands softly on the green and ends up within a foot and a half. Joe picks up as I tap in the birdie. Joe 1up
Hole 6 (Par 5): We both play this hole well and barely miss birdie putts but end up halving with pars. Joe 1up
Hole 7 (Par 3): I hit a great 5-iron to about 12 feet and Joe's tee shot ends up in the bunker. He skulls it out over the green and duffs his chip. I roll in my putt for another birdie. All Square
Hole 8 (Par 5): I nail my drive down the pipe and have about 215 downwind and downhill to the front pin position. Joe has to layup to the bottom. My 5-iron second shot barely clears the creek, as I thin it ever so slightly. Joe hits his approach to about 18 feet. My chip shot ends up rolling just by the hole and Joe concedes my birdie putt. He isn't able to roll his home. Matt 1up

Three birdies in four holes and I now find myself in the lead! Crazy match! I'm one under at this point and Joe is two over.

Hole 9 (Par 4): I hit a nice drive that ends up right beside the 'pimple bunker' on the right side of the fairway, only leaving myself an 8-iron approach. Joe is left with 205 yards but hits a chokedown 3-wood to six feet. My shot ends up just short of the green and I three putt from there. Doesn't matter, as Joe makes his birdie putt to even the match. All Square

Geez. What a birdie fest! We're 5 under best ball at this point! Just when we thought we were world beaters, it was time to cue the ugliness...

Hole 10 (Par 5): I make a routine two-putt par and Joe can't get up and down. Matt 1up
Hole 11 (Par 4): I leave myself a bit longer of an approach than usual here (143 yards) and end up missing the green right. My chip shot is decent but rolls about 14 feet past the hole. Joe is already in with his par as I once again hole the long par putt. "You little grinder", Joe says with a smirk on his face, as Cal and Harry nod in approval I'm sure. Matt 1up
Hole 12 (Par 3): I step up and hit the ball into the hazard. Damnit! Joe doesn't take advantage, making a huge anti-left swing and hits it into Burgoyne Woods. We both make ugly doubles. Matt 1up
Hole 13 (Par 4): I drive perfectly, leaving myself about 160 yards and Joe barely makes the fairway. His 3-wood from 210 out is perfect and ends up on the front of the green. I thin a 7-iron to about 15 feet. Neither of us make. Matt 1up
Hole 14 (Par 3): I hit into the greenside bunker right while Joe hits a beauty to 12 feet, but he's above the hole. I once AGAIN can't get my ball out of the bunker. Wow! I shouldn't have been using my lob wedge I guess in the wet sand. I finally get out but two-putt for my second double in three holes. I concede Joe's par putt. All Square

I can tell I'm running out of gas by this point. I'm still focused but my energy level was rapidly falling.

Hole 15 (Par 5): Joe hits a weak hook and he's in jail in the trees left. I also hit a hook but it rolls through the grove of trees and seems to be fine from our vantage point on the tee. Joe is able to punch his ball out to 200 yards while I find my ball DIRECTLY behind a pine tree in front of the bunker on the sixth hole. I have no choice but to play a punch shot down six and leave myself about 225 yards away right across the huge holding pond. My rescue shot draws into the bunker and I make bogey. Joe also makes bogey from in front of the green. All Square
Hole 16 (Par 5): We both play two good shots down to the bottom of the hill. I play my third shot first and my wedge is right at the hole, ending up 3 feet away above the hole. Joe also hits a good one in there but is 12 feet away pin high, leaving a difficult right-to-lefter. He misses and says "knock it in". Inexplicably, I miss the putt. All Square

I knew that one was big.

Hole 17 (Par 3): Joe steps up and hits a great 3-wood to about 15 feet. I hit a huge hook with my 4-iron and once again find myself behind a tree. I do what I can with it and leave myself a makeable par putt from 12 feet. Joe nestles his birdie putt to gimmie distance and I miss my par effort. Joe 1up

Last hole. I figure I need a birdie to stay alive.

Hole 18 (Par 4): Joe hits another weak hook along the treeline and looks to be in trouble. I still have a shot! My drive is once again nailed down the middle. Joe was EXTREMELY lucky to bounce through all three willow trees and end up with an open shot from the greenside bunker. He hits his ball about ten yards short of the green. My 7-iron from 168 is struck perfectly and rolls just six feet past the pin! Joe pitches his ball to four feet so it looks like I have to make. It's a pretty routine left-to-righter...and I miss it on the amateur side. I take my hat off but quickly put it back on as Joe MISSES his first putt of the day. All Square

We're going to extra holes. Wow.

Hole 19 (Par 4): We head back to #1 and both hit perfectly down the middle. I hit a terrible shot to the front left portion of the green with the pin back right - a 50 foot putt awaits. Joe hits on to about 20 feet. My birdie effort comes up 12 sickening feet short. UGH! Joe also hits his short but he's about two feet away. I look down at the ground for a bit to compose myself, take two quick practice strokes and MAKE ANOTHER ONE! Yes! Joe is just laughing. I concede his par putt. All Square through 19

Hole 20 (Par 4): I completely block my tee shot and it hits the driving range fence and bounces wildly back to the left. I figure I'm okay. Joe is down the middle. I find my ball, of course, right in one of the pines and directly behind the huge cedar tree that frames the right side of the fairway. I have no choice but to go right of that tree and get to about 90 yards. Joe unbelievably hits a pathetic hook way left and is on the hillside near the 3rd tee. For some stupid reason, I step off the gas a bit and hit a mediocre third shot just on the front collar, about 15 feet away from the pin on the fringe. Joe steps up and almost HOLES his pitch shot and ends up three feet away. I have to make my putt...but it just rolls by. Joe steps up and calmly makes his putt. Joe Wins on the 20th Hole

Joe actually APOLOGIZED for winning! Haha. There is NO shame in losing this match. Joe played really, really well and WON the match. We both missed some shots here and there but as far as I'm concerned, he was the better player on this day and deserved the victory. Full marks for Joe, who will go on to face the Toastman himself in the semifinals. Harry is still alive as well but has the daunting task of trying to eliminate Mike, the four-time club champion I played with on Monday this past week.

Next up for me is the fifth leg of the Niagara Men's Tour, being played tomorrow afternoon at Pelham Hills GC. It's been a number of years since I played there and I've been told the conditions out there are extremely firm. Scores will likely be quite low.

I feel really good about my game these days and feel like I could possibly contend for a victory. Guess we'll find out tomorrow!

Then on Sunday, it's back to St. Catharines with the regular gang. I'll also be bringing out my buddy Rick to the club for the first time this year, something I'm looking forward to greatly.

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