Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Niagara Men's Tour: Pelham Hills G&CC

The fifth leg on the 2007 Niagara Men's Tour took place on Saturday afternoon in Welland at Pelham Hills G&CC.

I wasn't feeling it before the round due to exhaustion - I had played four grinding, competitive tournament rounds in the previous seven days and I just didn't feel I had a lot of fight in me. However, the game has been really good for a couple weeks so I was hoping for the best.

I had no idea what kind of rollercoaster ride I was in for.

I drove perfectly down the par 5 opening hole but quickly found that the ridiculously firm and dry conditions would cause havoc all day. The course was as parched as you can possibly imagine, with cracks in many of the fairways due to lack of water. The greens, however, were soft and receptive. Very strange.

My tee ball rolled just off the fairway behind a stray tree so I had to punch a 6-iron up front. I hit my pitch shot to five feet but missed the simple putt, leaving me with a disappointing par.

Cue the magic.

Hole 2, a 405 yard par four: Driver, PW to a foot and a half. Birdie.
Hole 3, a 185 yard par three: 6-iron to 40 feet. Two putts for a Par.
Hole 4, a 450 yard par five: Driver, 9-iron to 15 feet. Two putts for Birdie.
Hole 5, a 400 yard par four that doglegs 90 degrees to the right: 4-iron, PW to two feet. Birdie.

Oh my. I'm three under par through five holes and I'm just STIFFING shots right beside the pin. I felt like I could birdie EVERY HOLE out there.

The fun wouldn't last.

I hit a 4-iron off the 339 yard par four and drew it into the hazard, eventually making bogey. Lack of course knowledge cost me here, as hitting driver would have put me past all the trouble.

I then badly hooked my 7-iron on the par three 7th and made another bogey.

I'd bogey the 8th and 9th as well, hitting 4-irons again off both tees to stumble out in 37 shots (+1).

I figured my conservative play was costing me so I yanked the driver out of the moth balls and ripped it down the middle on the 405 yard par four 10th, leaving only a sand wedge approach over water. I hit a good one to 15 feet but the tough downhiller went three feet past. I'd MISS the par putt for my fifth consecutive bogey.

Now getting a bit angry, I LAUNCH a Nepon-like missle down the 346 yard par four 11th and I only have a pitch shot into the green. It rolls about 10 feet past but I make the putt for my fourth birdie of the day to get back to +1.

Adam, one of my playing partners, offered encouragement.

"Way to stay with it."

The tricky par five 12th was next. I ripped another perfect drive and was shocked to see it barely stayed out of a creek that ran about 320 yards from the tee. I only had about 215 to the pin but the shot was over a huge pond. With the guys ahead struggling, I decided to layup to about 85 yards, a perfect lob wedge distance.

My approach epitomized the day. It hit about four paces onto the surface pin high, then spun back off the green, down the embankment and into the water. Unreal.

I'd drop and almost chip in, settling for another bogey. Keep in mind, I haven't made a par since the THIRD HOLE!

The streak would continue. I'd hit my first poor drive of the day on the 13th, hitting into fescue well right of the fairway. I'd chop out to the front of the green, getting lucky to bounce over the same creek that almost nabbed my ball on the last hole. Again, I was unable to get up and down, making bogey to move to +3.

The long and difficult par three 14th, at 223 yards into the wind, offered a huge challenge from a club selection perspective. I decided to hit a hard 4-iron and left it out a bit to the right, barely clearing the pond. I had about a 60 foot putt and I would THREE-PUTT that for yet another bogey.

Things would only get worse. I would hit my approach shot on the par five 15th out of bounds, necessitating a drop. Without any delay, I hit a poor fifth shot short and right of the pin. I could only offer a laugh when I CHIPPED THE NEXT SHOT IN for a crazy bogey.

I raised my hands in victory on the short par three 16th when I made a six or seven footer for par, my first in 13 holes but would lose that momentum immediately on the next hole. I hit my tee shot slightly left on the difficult 374 yard 17th and we couldn't find my ball after five minutes of searching. Double bogey there.

Feeling numb at this point, I proceed to somehow finish in style, bombing a 300 yard+ drive on the 18th and hitting lob wedge to 4 feet, making my fifth birdie of the day to shoot a nutty 78 (+6).

Scoring was relatively low so I finished a disappointing 17th on the day. I was pretty surprised that 71 (-1) was the low score...I figured one or two guys would easily break 70.

The one positive that came out of the day was the fact I won my first skin in my four years on the tour for the birdie on the 5th hole. There were only three skins that day so I won a pretty tasty $170.00 for that bird. Not bad!!

Anyway, I was bumped down to 12th overall on tour with only one event remaining, the season finale at Twenty Valley G&CC in September.

I have never been able to score well out at that course so my expectations aren't high. I'd like to finish in the top-10 overall but I just don't think I will be able to put together a good enough score at that place to contend for an event win.

So after a round where I made three paltry pars but five glorious birdies, I went back to St. Catharines on Sunday and played a remarkably steady round, with only one bird, four bogeys and 13 pars on my way to a solid 75 from the backs.

What a nutty game.

I'll be back tomorrow with the story of how my house got broken into last night...with my wife and I in the house sleeping. Scary stuff.

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