Monday, October 01, 2007

Niagara Men's Tour 2007 Finale; Niagara Cup Finals

It's been awhile since I've actually talked about my game and my tournament schedule. Writing a Riviera novel obviously has something to do with that but I've neglected to talk about a couple of season-ending events in the process.

I prepared for the finale of this year's Niagara Men's Tour by playing a round at Mystic GC in Ancaster. The Tom Pearson-designed Mystic is much-maligned in these parts due to poor conditioning, worse management and generally speaking, a very bad business model.

The course itself, however, is pretty interesting and extremely penal, two things I can appreciate. Cal and I made the trip, my second appearance and third round there while it was his first and the conditioning was a bit better than expected, thankfully.

It certainly was still tough as nails and I ended up shooting 81 (+9) from the tips, which has a course rating of 76.9 and a slope of 150, making it one of the toughest tests in the province.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's a bit TOO tough, especially for higher handicappers. I just don't think it is a FUN golf course for anyone who has trouble breaking 90 due to the many forced carries and tight fairways. This course is not for the faint of heart.

However, Cal and I are golf masochists so we enjoyed the day, enough to go back sometime in the future I'm sure. Harry would like this place a lot but he's got fantasy football and invitations to St. George's to worry about these days and can't be bothered with commoners like us.

The next day I headed out to Twenty Valley G&CC for the last event on the Niagara Men's Tour. I was in 12th place overall heading into the finale and was assured of retaining my status for next year, as the top 25 overall are exempt for 2008. So I could just concentrate on putting a good round together and hopefully getting into the top 10 overall for the first time in my four years on tour.

Things started out perfectly.

I chose driver off the tee on the par five 1st hole and luck was on my side right away. My ball took one hop toward the creek that crosses the fairway and proceeded to BOUNCE OVER ON THE BRIDGE!

Great reaction from everyone watching. I'd hit my second into the greenside trap but lip out my eagle attempt, tapping in for birdie.

The mid-length par four 2nd saw me drive perfectly down the middle and hit a 9-iron to about 12 feet. I'd curl that one in to go -2 through two holes and bring back memories of Pelham Hills and my last round on tour, which saw me start three under through five.

I flamed out a bit quicker on this day. I would hit my next tee shot out of bounds and make a crippling triple bogey 7 on the par four 3rd hole. I'd settle down a bit from there and shoot a 37 (+2) on the front after bogeying the 9th.

I played unspectacular golf the rest of the way but was only +4 as I stood on the par five 18th and figured I had a chance to post a decent number. Not to be on this day, as I'd once again block my tee shot onto the road and O.B.

I wasn't a happy camper.

I'd make another triple bogey and finished with a very disappointing 79 (+7), showing you just how damaging the two blowup holes were.

The 79 placed me in a tie for 13th in the event and I finished 12th overall for the 2007 tour, the same place I was in at the start of the day. I won a nice Taylor Made golf bag for the overall finish and won my second skin in as many events for the birdie on the 2nd hole.

All in all, a good year on the tour but I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't make a run at an event title. Perhaps next year.

A week later, I had the opportunity to play Glencairn GC in Halton Hills, a lovely Clublink course where my wife's uncle happens to be a member. It's a links-style course with great sodwall bunkers throughout the property.

I must admit I was a bit frustrated in the early going, as there were some blind shots that fooled me and hurt my score. I was +5 through five holes but played in at even par to shoot a pretty darned respectable 77 on the day.

I had a great day with excellent company and look forward to going back again soon. Something I should also note before signing off on Glencairn is their TREMENDOUS clubhouse. Just a beautiful place with a great lockerroom and a lovely dining room as well. Nine of us got together for a fantastic dinner after the round and it truly was excellent.

Last weekend saw the conclusion of the Niagara Cup competition, the annual 'Ryder Cup' style tournament between all of the clubs in the Niagara Region and in Niagara Falls, New York.

St. Catharines once again moved onto the finals at Rolling Meadows G&CC, albeit by default when the other two courses in our regional, Peninsula Lakes and Lancaster G&CC dropped out due to an inability to field a team.

I was in tough in my match but welcomed the challenge, as I was set to face off against the host professional Bob P.

I've never played with Bob before but his brother was a member at St. Catharines last year so I knew of the guy.

I knew what I was in for right off the bat. This guy hits a very, very LONG BALL. He almost drove the 390 yard par four opener and made a long putt for birdie to quickly take a 1up lead. I'd square the match on the 3rd with a birdie of my own and we'd continue the up and down nature of the match the entire way.

I shot a 37 on the front side but was 1 down heading to the back, giving up one of the three points available in the match.

Unfortunately, I couldn't crack the guy, even though I was getting up and down from almost everywhere. I was two down on the 17th and had an opening when Bob drove left into trees and could only punch out on the long par four. I had a 9-iron second from position-A and ended up pushing my approach right of the green and shortsiding myself on the one hole you can't do it on. I tried a flop shot but it rolled 20 feet by and I could do no better than a bogey, tying Bob on the hole to lose the match 2&1.

I'd snag a half point in the match when I won the 18th hole with a par versus his bogey, tying the back nine. My 1/2 point out of 3 available didn't help our cause much but I wasn't alone.

One guy on our team DIDN'T EVEN SHOW UP while two others were completely shutout. We ended up finishing 6th out of the six teams in the final round, another disappointing result for St. Catharines in this event.

Kudos to Niagara Falls Country Club out of Lewiston, home of the annual Porter Cup. They won the Niagara Cup for the third consecutive year in dominating fashion. They have some players out there!

There will likely be changes for next year's event which may see only THREE amateurs from each club along with a pro partake in the competition. The problem seems to be that most of the clubs suffer from a lack of depth and have trouble finding low-handicap players, something that isn't the case at St. Catharines.

That's too bad...this is one of my favourite yearly competitions and it looks to be falling apart.

I played two casual rounds at the club this weekend, shooting solid rounds of 74 and 76 as the game continues to be strong. I thought my tournament schedule was finished for the year but I just signed up for a charity event at the end of October.

It's a very notable development due to the course I'll be playing...

Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania - home of the 2007 US Open! The fifth-rated golf course in America by Golf Digest and one of the top 10 courses in the WORLD by every major golf publication!

What a year for golf for yours truly! First Riviera, now Oakmont? Talk about lucky!

I'll be teaming up with my good buddy Harry, his friend Preston and an as-of-yet unknown fourth in the better ball tournament at the end of the month. I'll have more on this in the coming weeks.

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