Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Gentlemen's Invitational; Langley Cup First Round

It was another long, golf-filled week for yours truly.

For the first time, I decided to play in our club's Member/Guest tournament. It's one of the more prestigious tourney's of its kind in Ontario and one of the few that runs for three days.

My wife's uncle, a member at Glencairn, was really anxious to play this year and he made me an offer I couldn't refuse so I booked Thursday and Friday off from work to partner up with him.

The week began on Wednesday night with a big party at the tournament chairman's house. There were well over a hundred people in attendence, with all the beer and liquor you could imagine being served in the backyard, along with a buffet dinner. It was a great way to kick off the tournament and I met a lot of new people that night.

The tournament began on Thursday morning. All three rounds were two-man best ball, with Thursday utilizing 80% of your handicap, Friday 90% and Saturday the Full Monty. We picked up our bag of goodies (Personalized Pro V1s, printed divot tools, printed flasks, printed wallets), ate the barbeque lunch and then headed to the tee.

It was a shotgun that morning and we started on the par five 8th hole, a great starting hole. We would make a net birdie there to get off to a good start and in fact, I'd play lights out for most of the round. I was -2 on my own ball through 10 holes but started to run out of gas a bit by the time I hit the 18th (our 11th hole).

I'd bogey that for my first blemish of the day and make three more bogies coming in, shooting a fine 74 on my own ball (net 70). Unfortunately, my partner was a bit nervous and didn't play very well, only contributing four shots to our score but our 66 was good enough to tie for the win in our flight for the first day.

A note about this tournament: there is more gambling during these three days than my buddy Toast would see in his lifetime. First of all, there are pari-mutuel bets every day, where the top teams in each flight pay out based on the bets placed in the overall pool, similar to track betting.

Then there is the calcutta, which was much different this year than in previous years, where there was a live auction for each team and the bidding would get well into the thousands for certain teams. It began to get uncomfortable for many members to have to pay four figures just to get half ownership of their team so the club decided to go with a different structure this year.

Part of our entry fee went to the calcutta and there were to be four-team calcutta baskets this year, based on the reflighting of the teams after the first day. You with me so far?

Didn't think so. You need a doctorate to understand all the wagering.

Then, lastly but most importantly, there are 'Challenge Matches', where the members go out and whore themselves to other members to try to get games. You basically commit to playing three, one-day matches with as many teams as you choose for five bucks a man, or ten per team. The club gives each team a nice scorecard so you can keep track of all your wagers and list all the scores after the round concludes.

So, if I decide to wager Team A, if we win all three days, we profit $30.00 ($5/man times two men per team, times three days). If we win two and lose one, we profit $10.00 there.

Anyhoo, there were actually a lot of people that didn't want to play us, saying the odds of beating low handicappers is too long and they would prefer to not wager against us. Wonderful. So we only had ten challenge matches going out of the 63 possible opponents. Wimps.

The first day was a good one. We had wagered three pari-mutuel tickets on ourselves and since we tied for the flight win, our ticket was a winner. However, there must have been a lot of people wagering on us because our $10 ticket paid a crappy $12.00. Ha.

We also won two other pari-mutuels to come out slightly ahead on day one there. We only lost one challenge match too, to the Morrison brothers, who I was told the night before to avoid betting. Well, I decided to go for it because I'm a stubborn son of a bitch.

The tournament was reflighted and thankfully, we stayed in the Championship flight. Once the reflighting took place, things were set for the entire weekend. Staying in the Championship flight still gave us a chance at winning the entire tournament, although we were five shots back after the first day to the aforementioned Morrison's, who shot a 61.

Don't even get me started on the guest's ridiculously high handicap that allowed them to shoot that score.

The night ended with a spectacular live lobster and New York Strip dinner and an open bar.

I got seriously trashed on the first night and was pretty much hungover the entire next day at the course, which didn't bode well for our prospects in the tournament.

I'd shoot a terrible 81 on day two on my own ball, not making a single birdie along the way. I doubled our first hole (the par four 2nd) when I hit my second shot about 30 yards over the green down to the rope tow that comes up from our 8th green.

I've played golf at St. Catharines for over 20 years and I've NEVER hit a shot there before.

The day never improved for me but thankfully, my partner was on fire, shooting an 84 or so off his 14 handicap and we were able to squeeze out another 66 on the day. 12 under was certainly respectable but it wasn't going to win us anything on this day, nor did it help us in our goal to get into contention. We were now 8 shots back of the Morrison's, who followed up their 61 with an equally impressive (suspicious?) 63.

Our calcutta basket looked okay but we were still well behind getting 'in the money'. The calcutta is where the huge money is and where you can easily pay for the whole weekend and more if you finish first.

Friday night was much more subdued than the previous evening, with a pig roast barbeque on the menu. Oh yeah, and no alcohol at all for this guy. Not a drop.

We were still in the top ten at this point and had the third last tee time on Saturday morning, when they went to a cross-over system as opposed to a shotgun start. My game returned a bit this day but unfortunately, my partner REALLY struggled. He was so wound up that even our playing partners were asking me if he ever says anything. Ha.

I tried to loosen him up a bit (and that's something coming from me, one of the more uptight guys on a golf course) but he was so upset at himself for playing poorly. Henry ended up shooting a 92 on Saturday but I shot a solid 76 with a couple key birdies, including a great one on the 18th hole in front of the gallery to nail down yet another 66 to get us to 18 under par for the tournament.

Very respectable, for sure, but we'd finish 12th overall out of the 64 teams and 6th in our flight of 8. So no money there.

We'd get shut out of the calcutta as well, finishing 5th or 6th there when the top three teams pay out big.

Thankfully, we scored huge in our challenge matches. We'd lose all three days to the Morrison's, who ended up winning the event, finishing at 28 under par. We'd lose $10.00 to one other team but other than that, we profited in every other match we played and ended up splitting about $200.00. Not bad!

The night was capped with an excellent cocktail party, followed by a four-course meal with the spouses along with dancing. It ended up being a really long night, with the main course not getting served until after 10pm but it was a FANTASTIC three days and one that I expect to repeat next year with the same partner.

Tremendous fun.

I had to follow that by getting up at dawn on Sunday to play in my first round Langley Cup match. The Langley, which was won by my buddy Toast last year, is the Club's Match Play Championship for 0-7 handicappers, with full handicap used.

My opponent, Brad B, a very solid player, was playing to a four so I'd have to give him one shot in the match.

I was exhausted after the three day member/guest but we had to get the match in before a) June 30th and more importantly b) before they punched the greens the next day.

So off we went. Here is the match in my special, encapsulated form:

- Hole 1 (Par 4): I hit 4-iron right of the fairway, punch out in front of the green and can't get up and down. Brad has just as much trouble and we both bogey. All Square
- Hole 2 (Par 4): I drive just left of the fairway, hit my approach short then pitch up to three feet. Brad hits his drive down the right side but inexplicably pulls his approach about 30 yards left of the green down the valley into 16. He concedes the hole. Matt 1up
- Hole 3 (Par 4): I hit it up top, right down the middle then Brad hits it way left off the tee. Even more strange is the sound that comes from his ankle after his swing. CRACK!!!

"I just got my ankle drained this week", he says, wincing in pain.

I wonder if this match is going to play out. He looks hurt.

He goes on to make bogey once again while I get up and down from just off the green. Matt 2up

- Hole 4 (Par 3): I hit my tee shot short right while Brad hits one to the left side of the green, about 30 feet away. My chip shot almost goes in, and my par is conceded. I'm ready to do the same but Brad leaves his birdie putt about 8 feet short. I have visions of being three up after four but Brad steps up and makes the putt. Matt 2up
- Hole 5 (Par 4): I hit a weak drive up the right side, leaving myself a rescue shot into the long par four. I duff it, leaving a full wedge third, which I hit to about 12 feet. I'd miss that putt and concede Brad's par putt. Matt 1up
- Hole 6 (Par 5): I hit a big drive down the middle but layup with my second shot, leaving myself about 60 yards for my third. I'd hit another crappy wedge just short but two putt from the fringe for par. Brad would miss a four footer and make bogey. Matt 2up
- Hole 7 (Par 3): I'd hit a good shot here but the ball would trickle through the green just over. My chip shot ended up five feet short but I'd make it. Brad hit his ball into the greenside bunker and blasted out to a foot, a putt I'd concede. Matt 2up

Interestingly enough, I still haven't hit a green in regulation at this point of the match.

- Hole 8 (Par 5): I'd get distracted, like I easily do, and slice a ball well right of the fairway. I got lucky and had a small opening through the trees and punched safely into the fairway. I'd finally hit a wedge correctly and had a ten footer for birdie that just missed. Brad would make par as well but he got his shot here and took the hole. Matt 1up
- Hole 9 (Par 4): I would absolutely murder my drive here, leaving an 8-iron approach on the 449 yard hole. I'd hit it a bit thin but it was right on line and I ended up with a kick-in birdie. Brad wouldn't be a factor, making bogey. Matt 2up

So I hit it all over the park, hit only two greens, yet shoot 38 and lead by two. I was just getting warmed up.

- Hole 10 (Par 5): Brad pulled his drive into the bunker left and hit the lip coming out. He'd stumble to a bogey. Meanwhile, I'd rip a drive then hit a 214 yard 3-iron hybrid just onto the left fringe. From 30 feet or so, I'd nail the putt center cut for the eagle! Matt 3up
- Hole 11 (Par 4): Brad would hit two solid shots to about 25 feet but his putting continued to let him down. He'd knock his first putt six feet by and miss the comebacker. I'd hit 3-iron hybrid, PW to 12 feet and just leave it short, tapping in for par. Matt 4up
- Hole 12 (Par 3): I hit an awesome 6-iron to about 10 feet and then watch Brad hit it just inside me. We'd both barely miss our birdie putts and tap in for par. Matt 4up
- Hole 13 (Par 4): Brad played a great hole here, making a routine par. I'd hit my drive a bit left then hit my approach shot left of the green, which is just dead. However, I'd hit a fantastic chip shot to four feet and roll that in for the great par. Matt 4up

So I'm cruising along here at even par after being three over at one point and know that one more hole win takes the match.

- Hole 14 (Par 3): I hit a brutal shot into the front greenside bunker then skull the shot out from a good lie. I'd run my chip shot six feet past and concede Brad's par putt. Matt 3up

Uh oh. Is the match getting interesting?

- Hole 15 (Par 5): Brad plays the hole solidly, leaving himself a 20 foot birdie putt that he'd just miss. I'd drive in the left rough, hit a 7-iron to about 120 yards then hit a glorious gap wedge to four feet. I'd knock that in for birdie to win the match. Matt WINS 4&3

Really solid game from my standpoint, with the only drawback being the fact that Brad didn't have his best game. However, I really think I WON this match as opposed to Brad LOSING the match. Two birdies and an eagle is pretty good.

I'd go onto double bogey the par three 17th and shoot a fine 74 (+2) overall to end a great weekend of golf.

My handicap index has dropped back down to 2.2, right where I started the year and I continue to run hot after last weekend's great play at Riverview on the Men's Tour.

Hopefully, my hot putter can hold up. I recently bought a Taylor Made Rossa Daytona 1 putter and it has singlehandedly transformed my once ugly putting stats into the realm of respectability.

I'll need the flatstick this weekend, as Toast, Doctor Kosty and my good buddy Jay are heading down to Pennsylvania with Bernie and Joey B for the annual Pine Acres Two Ball tournament in Bradford. We missed the event last year so we're greatly anticipating the weekend ahead.

I'll be sure to bring the camera down for that affair!

2 comments:

  1. wow, wasn't sure the end of that one would ever come. To be honest, I had to skim through the Langley match.

    Hopefully I can get in the Invitational next year and enjoy with you guys.

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  2. Hey Matt

    The Invitational sounds like terrific fun. We never have anything like that at my club, although I doubt that, if they did, they would be able to command the same kind of interest that yours did. Still, the personalized Pro V1's sound cool. And what does a printed divot tool look like?

    I cannot follow all these bets. I've never evewn heard of a pari-mutuel. It sounds like some kind of insurance company. It's too confusing for a stupid like me. When we play, we all chuck £1 into the pot and the winner takes all. Big money stakes there. I can't remember the last time I won anything.

    Well done on winning your Langley Cup match. It sounds like you're playing some solid golf right now. That's always good. I'm getting there slowly. I've defeated the shanks (I think) and I'm close to playing well again. Still off 6, and I'm not going very far very quickly!

    How did the tournament in Bradford go? We have a Bradford over here in the north of England. That's a shit pit, though. I hope yours is nicer.

    Take care,

    David

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