Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reaching the Ultimate Goal

On Saturday July 26th, I bogeyed the 18th hole to shoot a fine 73 (+1) from the tips at St. Catharines, a score that brought my handicap index down to a 0.3.

For the first time, I've officially reached a scratch handicap!

I really didn't know if it was possible for me to reach this goal - I play about twice a week on average and I maybe hit 200 balls per year on the driving range. I just don't have the time or patience to practice when that time can be spent on the golf course or doing more important things.

It's not all roses though. I followed up with an ugly round of 77 (+5) on Sunday and hit some really poor shots, especially off the tee with the driver and didn't make one putt of consequence in a birdie-less round.

That being said, I have gotten into quite a groove with my swing over the past twenty rounds, especially with my iron play. It's at the point right now where I just aim right at the pin with anything from a 6-iron down to my wedges and pretty much expect the ball to go right at it.

There are a few slight adjustments I've made at setup and during the swing this year that have helped me get where I am and I want to note them here for the future when my game goes back into the gutter ;)

  • DRIVER: Setup in athletic position with about 60% of weight on back foot and left shoulder up. Hands should be as low as possible. At the beginning of the backswing, I pull the club back outside the target line (more of a perception thing...I'm sure I'm just pulling it straight back) and then up over right shoulder to complete the backswing. Finish with weight fully transfered to front foot.

  • HYBRIDS: Setup in athletic position with about 60% of weight on back foot and left shoulder up. Hands should be as low as possible. If I want to cut the ball or hit it straight, weaken the grip, with my left and right hands turned much more to the left. On hybrids off the ground, I want to stand a bit closer to the ball than I do with hybrids off the tee, which will promote more of a downward blow. Use a three-quarter swing going back and finish with weight fully transfered to front foot.

  • IRONS: Setup with weight evenly distributed and hands as low as possible. Grip down an inch or two. Bring club straight back from target line, using what feels like a half swing but is more likely a three-quarter swing. Swing back and through right down the target line and finish with weight fully transfered to the front foot.

  • CHIPPING (GOOD LIES): Setup with a narrow, slightly open stance in athletic position. Ball position should be slightly behind center and about 90% of weight placed on front foot to promote downward strike. Follow through should be low to ground.

  • CHIPPING (POOR LIES): Setup with wider, slightly open stance in athletic position. Ball position depends on severity of lie with majority of weight placed on front foot to promote downward strike. Break wrists early on backswing and either splash down slightly behind the ball or hit the ball off the toe of the clubface for a softer blow out of the rough. Follow through should be short and low to ground.

  • PUTTING: Set stance first to stabilize body then set putterface square. Trust your line and speed, complete the stroke with head down and keep it there until well after the ball leaves the putterface. Don't be scared - try to make EVERY putt - don't think about the consequences of a missed putt. Good putting is almost 100% psychological. Crouch lower for shorter, important putts.

  • At this point, I have no personal tips for bunker shots. It's been a huge weakness in my game this year and I still haven't figured out what's best for me. I definitely need new wedges soon, as the grooves on my lob and sand wedges have almost worn down to nothing. I imagine that will help a bit with my sand play!

    The timing of my solid play couldn't be better, as Club Championship weekend is approaching in four days. It's my favourite tournament of the year.

    I'm excited and actually a bit nervous about it and my expectations are just a bit higher than usual. I'm going to try to tell myself to play just like any normal round and most importantly, I can't be afraid to succeed. Sometimes, when you start out on fire with a birdie or two, you start trying to protect your score - I want to have the feeling that I can swing free and just try to make as many birdies as possible.

    My goal for the weekend is that I put myself in a position to win after two rounds. That's it...I just want a shot at it.

    As usual, I'll have daily reports during the championship. I'll be back on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning with my first round recap.

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    2008 Auction Pool

    In preparation for Sunday's Auction Pool, I played with Harry and Toast on Saturday morning in our regular game.

    I was playing quite well, going one under on my first eleven holes and could have been lower if not for some lipped out putts, including a ridiculous horseshoe miss on our 8th hole (the 17th).

    However, one loose hole got me, as I made a double bogey six on the 5th hole (our 14th), taking four shots to get in the hole from just off the green. I'd stumble home and finish with a 76 (+4) and I wasn't thrilled. It says a lot about how far I've come this year that a 76 qualifies as a poor round but that's where I am right now.

    I had a lot of confidence going into Sunday's Auction Pool and it turned out to be a fun day.

    I made a 20 footer on our first hole (the short par four 11th) to start us out perfectly with birdie in the scramble format. We'd par 12 and 13 and then took advantage of my 'C' player's excellent tee ball on the par three 14th to move to -2 with two par fives coming up in a row.

    We knew we'd have to take advantage of the fives, as we figured we'd need to hit -7 or -8 to get in the money.

    Unfortunately, we couldn't take advantage of my solid third shot approach into 15 and we all missed the ten footer for birdie there. We'd come back with a short birdie on the 16th to go -3 through six holes, keeping the pace.

    However, we'd only get pars on the next three holes (17, 18 & #1) so we fell behind our target pace.

    Needing to make a putt desperately, I was able to coax in another 20 footer on #2 for the satisfying birdie to get to -4. We'd par the 3rd and 4th holes then I hit an awesome approach into the long par four 5th, almost holing it but settling a foot away. We'd kick that in and we were now -5 with five holes to play, three of which were par fives.

    We're in good shape!

    We had one problem though - my 'B' player was having a tough time off the tee and we had only used three of his drives to this point. We needed him to come through one more time on the last five holes. My 'C' player was done so there were no worries there.

    On the par five sixth, my 'C' player ripped one down the middle but my 'B' player hit a weak hook that was 30 yards back and it would be tough to reach the green in regulation from there. So we took the 'C' drive and I hit hybrid 3-iron/9-iron to 10 feet and we made the putt for yet another birdie! -6 with four to play!

    On the par three 7th, the 'B' player insisted he'd come through but you could tell he was feeling the pressure. He hit a big hook (left hander) around the pond and his ball settled 40 yards away from the flag. My 'C' player dunked his ball in the water and then I hit, coming up just short of the green. I walked all the way over to the 'B' player's shot and even though he wanted to get his drives out of the way, I didn't like where his ball was so we played from my spot. We made a routine par to stay in the picture.

    The par five 8th was next. Three holes left, with two of them par fives. We pretty much needed the 'B' player to come up big here, as the ninth hole is an 'A' player hole (very long par four) and while the 10th is an easy par five, I did not want to wait until the last hole to use his drive, just in case he smoked one out of bounds or something.

    Thankfully, he hit a good one but was about 275 yards from the green. I considered not even hitting a tee shot here so I wouldn't have a decision on my hands but decided to give it a go. Of course, I nailed it center cut and only had about 215 yards into the green, making it very reachable.

    Decision time!

    Well, I decided to get the 'B' players drive out of the way so I picked my ball up and went back to hit from 275. It may have costed us, as we'd all miss the 12 foot birdie putt and settle for par.

    We'd barely miss birdie on the par four ninth then on ten, after ripping a drive to the 200 yard marker, I hit my only real poor shot of the day, hitting 5-iron into the right greenside bunker.

    Terrible timing!

    We wouldn't be able to get up and down, settling for a very disappointing par and finishing at 66 (-6) for the event.

    Of course, -8 won the event and -7 got in the money, just as we suspected. Damn!

    Good news was that they awarded pro shop vouchers for all of the teams that finished at -6, so each of us got $250.00 in credits. Considering our team costed $200.00 each, I guess that means we pulled in a slight profit!

    I also took $30.00 from Harry in the challenge matches, as his team came in at -3 for the event. I'd lose $15.00 to Bernie, who eagled the last hole playing with my group to squeeze into the money at -7 so I profited $15.00 in the challenge matches overall.

    Good day - not sure if I'll play next year but we'll see...

    In other interesting news, I received an email from the RCGA yesterday (Royal Canadian Golf Association)...

    I have been given an exemption into the Canadian Mid-Amateur Championship!!!

    Crazy stuff! They handle things on a 'quota-points' system and because Ontario is the biggest province by population, we get a larger percentage of golfers at the national championship. I guess that a number of the players who finished ahead of me at the Ontario Mid-Am turned down the invitation due to the fact the Canadians are being held on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, a long, long flight.

    So they went down the list to the guys who got cut from the tourney, including me and Bernie.

    Great opportunity to play in my first National championship, run by the same association that runs the PGA's Canadian Open but it's one that I had to decline. I'll be in Quebec City on business during the event so I had to give up my spot. Too bad...the way I'm playing, I may have been able to make a run at the cut in that tourney.

    Still, a really cool invitation!

    Thursday, July 17, 2008

    Smiling Like a Cheshire Cat

    I'm having a hard time containing the grin on my face right now.

    See, I'm playing in the Auction Pool tournament at the golf club this weekend, a three-person scramble tournament with an 'A' player, a 'B' player and a 'C' player, with the teams selected carefully so that the handicaps pretty much all add up to the same number.

    This is my first Auction Pool and tonight was the auction portion of the event, with all of the teams up for bid. Minimum bid for any team was $500 and bids moved in $50.00 increments.

    I was told that it was best to be drawn early, as the guys aren't really hammered up yet on the free booze and that the bidding really starts to intensify late in the proceedings as guys try to get the overall pot built up as big as possible.

    There are 24 groups playing in the event this year and the one rule is that if you aren't prepared to match the bids for your team, you are allowed to buy back half your team from the winning bidder.

    I've never played with either of my partners for the event but we talked beforehand and were prepared to buy a full share of our team as long as the bidding didn't exceed $1200.00.

    We were drawn a little past the half way point and got very lucky when a couple of teams got bid up very large just in front of us by the two really active bidders in the event. Each ended up getting stuck with the team they bid up, neither of them being their own team so both guys were silent during the bidding for my team.

    My team ended up going for the bargain basement price of $600.00, or $200.00 per man. We tied for the lowest price of any team in the event and went for HALF the price of my buddy Harry's team. Harry, unfortunately, was drawn LAST in the auction so that meant a bunch of guys tried to intentionally get the pot up in a last ditch effort.

    HAHAHAHAHA. I love it!

    Now, either we got very lucky because of those guys blowing their wad early or maybe the rest of the club thinks I suck ass at golf. Or maybe they don't like my partners. Or maybe all of my networking at the club meant guys didn't want to bid me up. I don't know, nor do I care.

    All I know is that I was called a thief the rest of the night by most of the guys in the event.

    The total pot in the Auction Pool is somewhere around $23,500.00 and the owner of the 1st place team gets 50% of the pot. That means if we win, we split $11,750 between the three of us, which would be over $3900.00 each.

    That is a pretty nice return on a $200.00 investment!

    2nd place gets 30% of the pot and 3rd place gets 20%.

    Now, all I can hope for is that no one puts money down on us in the pari-mutuel betting and if we win, boy oh boy will those tickets ever pay off too! There are also 'Personal Challenges', similar to what went on at the member/guest tournament and I've already got matches against Harry, Bernie and Matt N to begin with. I'm going to work on getting more guys to bet against on Sunday morning before we tee off.

    I feel like a bandit right now! I'm going to play my ass off on Sunday and prove the guys who didn't bid on me wrong!

    Sunday, July 13, 2008

    Langley Cup - Quarterfinals

    I played both Saturday and Sunday at St. Catharines this week, a nice break from the usual travel and tournament play.

    Teed it up with Charlie A, Joe T and one of our assistants, Ryan H on Saturday morning. It was ridiculously humid but I played extremely well, continuing with my great recent play. I made three birdies, including one on our last hole (the 9th) to shoot a solid 74 (+2) from the tips.

    The birdie on nine won a skin and I profited a rockin' $8.00 on the day.

    Sunday I matched up against our defending club champion Bernie in the quarterfinals of the Langley Cup Match Play event. Bernie, as expected, got back down to a scratch after his win last week on the Nevada Bob's Men's Tour so he had to give me a solitary shot in this match, with me playing as a one handicap.

    Feels so weird just writing that!

    I was pretty confident going in due to my recent solid play but Bernie can really light it up when he's on, especially at St. Catharines. I had a bit of an advantage right off the bat, as Bernie barely made it in time for our tee off and he was scrambling around just to get to the tee.

    Here's how the match went:

    HOLE ONE (Par 4): Bernie hits down the middle, goes slightly long with his approach and leaves his chip within gimmie range. My tee shot is down the middle and I hit a PW to about 12 feet and barely miss. Match All Square
    HOLE TWO (Par 4): Both of us hit down the middle and hit approaches to about 20 feet. We both two putt for par. Match All Square
    HOLE THREE (Par 4): Boring! We again hit good tee shots and good second shots, with Bernie hitting inside me by about a foot. We both miss 18 footers for birdie. Match All Square
    HOLE FOUR (Par 3): Bernie barely hits the green and has a 45 footer to the back right pin location. I hit a beauty just left of the pin and have about 15 feet back down the slope. Bernie leaves his first putt well short and misses the next one as well, making bogey. I nestle my birdie putt to gimmie range. Matt 1up

    To this point, I've hit every single shot right on the button but barely miss every birdie attempt.

    HOLE FIVE (Par 4): I hit my first poor shot of the day, hooking my tee shot into the left fairway bunker while Bernie is down the pipe once again. From 205 yards, I hit a perfect 3-iron hybrid that ends up just short of the green. Beauty! Bernie also ends up just short. I chip just past the hole and it runs about five feet past but Bernie then chips in for birdie. Match All Square

    Now I start to think we're in for an epic match after his chip in. Turns out I'd be wrong...

    HOLE SIX (Par 5): Bernie hits a poor drive into the right fairway bunker, duffs it out to about 230 yards then hits just short of the green. He'd duff THAT ONE too, into the greenside bunker and blast out to about six feet. I'd make a routine two-putt par. Matt 1up
    HOLE SEVEN (Par 3): Another solid iron shot for me, leaving me about 15 feet. We'd both two-putt for par here. Matt 1up
    HOLE EIGHT (Par 5): I got my one stroke of the day here and conservative play almost cost me here. I killed my drive into the wind as the rain started to fall really hard at this point (we had been playing most of the front nine in a steady drizzle but it started to really come down here). Bernie hit a big push fade into the trees right. He punched down into decent position but I decided to play safe and layed up from about 245 yards. The rain had let up a bit for that shot but my hands were soaked so I didn't want to take any chances. However, Bernie stiffed his wedge into about 5 feet and I hit a mediocre shot to about 20 feet. I figured I needed to make to win the hole (birdie/net eagle) but I knocked my putt four feet past. Bernie shockingly missed his putt and I was able to coax my par save in for the net bird. Matt 2up
    HOLE NINE (Par 4): All pars to this point for me, by the way and I hit a poor drive well left. Bernie hits another big push near the maintenance path near the driving range. I have over 200 yards left and need to hit it high over the trees so I try to punch a 3-iron hybrid but pull it just left of the greenside bunker. Bernie hits a good one just off the left edge but his chip is very poor, going 8 feet past. He'd miss and make bogey while my pitch rolled up to 6 feet. I hit a good putt but it wouldn't fall. Disappointing bogey, my first of the day. Matt 2up

    Still looking good though but I'm getting a bit impatient with the fact the putts weren't falling.

    HOLE TEN (Par 5): I hit a big drive but slightly mishit my hybrid approach and I'm just short of the greenside bunker. I have a horrible lie, sitting on mud and do well to get it within 12 feet. I'd miss and Bernie would also two-putt for par. Matt 2up
    HOLE ELEVEN (Par 4): Bernie continues to struggle off the tee, hitting a poor rescue right of the fairway. We'd both hit the green, however, and two putt for pars. Matt 2up
    HOLE TWELVE (Par 3): Tough pin position today in the middle left. I played for the meat of the green and was successful, ending up pin high 25 feet away but right on the ridgeline. Bernie just made the green but had a straight putt up the hill. He'd surprise me by leaving the putt well short then he'd miss the six footer for par. I'd roll my first putt about three feet by and make the comebacker. Matt 3up

    That was a big momentum grabber for me, as I could sense Bernie was starting to press a bit.

    HOLE THIRTEEN (Par 4): Toughest driving hole on the course, especially from the tips but I stripe my drive right down the middle. Bernie hits a weak fade and has to hit a hybrid to the green, coming up short in the greenside trap. I hit a good six-iron about 25 feet left of the pin and hit a putt to within a couple feet, which Bernie surprisingly concedes. He then skulls his bunker shot over the green and can't chip the next one in. Matt 4up

    I'm actually feeling a bit sorry for Bernie here and I have to talk to myself a bit to keep my focus. I can't feel bad for him when a match is on the line.

    HOLE FOURTEEN (Par 3): Bernie and I both come up just short of the green. Bernie's chip shot goes about five feet past the hole and I pull a putter out for my birdie attempt from about six feet off the surface. I plan on giving Bernie his putt if I nestle my own putt close, as I HATE winning matches on another person's miscues. I thwart my own plan when my own putt comes up four feet short. Now, I have to make him putt, since I doubt he'll take a 'good/good' as this point of the match. He calmly rolls his putt in then I step up and do the same. Matt 4up

    I ask him if he would have taken a 'good/good' offer and he nods yes but our playing partner, also playing a match against another guy, says that there was no way Bernie would have done that considering where he stands in the match and the fact that he needs me to miss a putt or two to get back into things.

    Didn't think so, and that's why I didn't offer! ;)

    HOLE FIFTEEN (Par 5): I hit a solid shot but it just goes into the left rough. Bernie nails his best of the day down the middle. My ball is in a big divot in the rough and I do well to get it to about 160 yards. Bernie hits driver off the deck and is in good position about 40 yards short of the green. I tell Bernie as we're walking to the ball that I was hoping to have an 8-iron in my hands for the shot but 160 yards is at the outer range so I grip way down on a 7 and stripe it right at the pin...but it bounces past it and rolls through the green.

    "Should have hit the eight", Bernie laughs. Hehe. Damn.

    Bernie hits a flip wedge that just creeps to about 12 feet but he just misses, settling for par. My birdie chip runs about 8 feet past.

    I was going to say something clever like "Bosela...to win the Masters" to lighten my mood for the big putt but decided on silence instead. I walked up and rolled in the 8-footer to take down our defending club champ in decisive fashion! Matt Wins 4&3

    What a great result for me! I'd end up parring 16 and 17 but three whacked 18 when I got uber-aggressive on my birdie attempt since I hadn't made one all day. I'd end up shooting yet another 74 on the day and I move on to play my Langley Cup nemesis, Joey B, who won his match against Rick B playing alongside us today. Joe has just an incredible short game and I will likely have to give him a few shots in our upcoming match, something that will be tough for me to overcome.

    The mind-boggling 'Scratch Handicap' watch continues, as my index drops to a lifetime low of 0.6 after this weekend. I have five high scores in a row coming off my handicap chart so I have five chances to get to scratch knowing the handicap can't possibly rise during those rounds.

    Could it possibly happen?! Perhaps but even if it doesn't, I'm having a pretty good season so far! Hope to see it last up to club championships, which are coming up in about three weeks.

    Wednesday, July 09, 2008

    2008 Niagara Men's Tour - Event Four (Rockway Glen)

    The fourth leg of the Nevada Bob's Men's Tour took place on Sunday afternoon at Rockway Glen, likely my least favourite course in the Niagara Region.

    Look up 'dogtrack' or 'pasture' in the dictionary and you'll find a photo of Rockway.

    However, I must say that the course is in the best condition I've ever seen - it's obviously rained quite a bit in the area this spring and it resulted in green, quite lush conditions at Rockway, with penal rough and no visible areas of fairway cracks.

    It also meant the greens were slower than putting on dirt, something that would provide a huge challenge for me on this day.

    I knew it wasn't going to be my day right at the start. I hit a good drive up the left side but walk up and find that my ball is in the left fairway bunker. No big deal usually but there is a grass island in the middle of this bunker with a tree protruding from it and my ball is RIGHT UP against the lip, with no other option but to blast out sideways.

    I'd make a bogey there, then get up and down for par on two and lip out for birdie on three so I'm +1 through the first three.

    Four is a tight par four with an orchard on the left hand side. I contemplated hitting a 4-iron here just to get in play but I decided to get aggressive and hit driver.

    One of my good decisions on the day.

    I'd nail it down the pipe then almost hole my lob wedge from 85 yards, stopping right on the lip of the cup after spinning it back off the slope past the pin. Tap in birdie and I'm back to even.

    I'd make a great two-putt par on the 5th but disaster would strike on the par three 6th.

    It's a 190 yard or so par three, into the wind but downhill to a front pin. I'd hit 6-iron into the greenside trap and there is NO sand in this thing. I make the crucial mistake of using my sand wedge instead of a lob wedge for the shot, a mistake because the extra bounce on my SW caused the club to skip right off the sand and skull the ball onto the adjacent 8th green.


    I'd end up making a triple bogey six on the hole and it took all of my power not to slap my leg in anger. ;)

    I'd miss a makeable birdie on the par 5 7th then bogey both eight and nine to shoot an ugly 41 on the front. Everyone in my group had a hell of a time reading and judging the greens, which seemed to break opposite from where you thought it would go. We were told by a local near the 10th tee that the escarpment really affects the putting out here and we had a little extra knowledge going to the back side.

    It didn't really help me but I played better on the back. Mainly, I started hitting greens in regulation as opposed to leaving myself 7 footers for par. I'd miss makeable birdies on the 12th and the 15th holes but I parred the first six holes on the backside before making an awful bogey on the easy par five 16th when my wedge approach took a crazy hop on the green and went over.

    I'd get it back right away, making my first real putt of the day from about 12 feet for birdie on the par four 17th but I'd miss a five footer for par on 18 to shoot 37 on the backside and come in with a 78 (+6) overall.

    Scoring was very low, with 27 of the 50 participants breaking 80 and my buddy Bernie ended up winning the event with a superlative 70 (-2). My 78 placed me in a tie for 14th with 7 others and that dropped me back to 13th overall through four events on Tour.

    Next on the agenda is LochNess Links in August, a course I had some success at a couple weeks back in the Niagara Cup so hopefully I can put something decent together for that event.

    By the way, in case you're interested, check out the brand spanking new Nevada Bob's Men's Tour website, designed by yours truly! I spent COUNTLESS hours revamping this sucker and I still have much more planned, including player bios and full stats for all participants.

    Next weekend should be pretty relaxing on the golf front. No real tournaments coming up for a couple weeks but I'm playing my Langley Cup quarterfinal match against Bernie on Sunday. Should be a fantastic match and we may have to play even up, which doesn't bode well for me. Hopefully Bernie's 70 knocks him back to a scratch so I can at least get one shot!

    I'm also working on a couple of golf getaway possibilities for later this year. Merion would be my number one choice but it's a bit tough not knowing anyone from Pennsylvania! We'll see what the rest of the summer brings but I'm still looking good to go for possible trips to St. George's in Toronto and possibly Muirfield Village and Scioto CC in Ohio.

    Saturday, July 05, 2008

    What a Humbling Game Golf Is

    Just when you think you have everything figured out, the Golf Gods smack you on the ass and take it away.

    Playing the best golf of my life and getting the handicap index down to 0.8, I figured I'd be in for another great round this morning.


    I shot an 82 today and didn't make one putt over two feet. Ridiculously brutal round, with 35 putts and a number of loose swings off the tee especially. Iron play was 'okay' but that's about it for positives. I made only one birdie and that was the aforementioned two-footer.

    Not a great day of preparation for event number four on the Nevada Bob's Men's Tour, which takes place tomorrow afternoon at Rockway Glen GC. I was thinking that I had a chance to win considering my recent form but now...who knows?

    What a strange game...

    Tuesday, July 01, 2008

    One!!! (Part Two)

    The second and final leg of the quarterfinal round of the Niagara Cup versus LochNess Links took place on Sunday afternoon at St. Catharines.

    Again, we had a slight 3 point lead going into the final day so it was a good thing we had the home course advantage.

    Or so I thought...

    I once again drew Brian E as my opponent in a planned move - Brian told me after our round on Saturday that he wanted another shot at me so I went to Cam, our assistant pro, who was the decision maker for our home matches to see if he would accomodate us.

    "No problem", was the answer so we were set to do battle once again. Brian is a great guy to play with so I had no problem matching up against him, even though the revenge factor might work against me.

    I was once again sharing a cart with Bernie, who now drew Stephen B as his opponent for this day - his former employer's son! Bernie picked this matchup himself after consulting with Cam so the four of us headed to the tee under ominous skies around 12:30pm Sunday afternoon.

    I hit a beauty down the middle to start and Brian pulled his iron way left on our short par four opener. He hit a great shot around the trees to about 20 feet and I then hit a pathetic PW to about 35 feet with the pin cut front left.

    I'd three whack for bogey and concede Brian's three foot par putt in disgust, something that confused Bernie a bit but I had my reasons.

    So I'm immediately one down again and all of a sudden, the storm siren goes off.

    We head back to the clubhouse and within 15 minutes, the most WICKED storm I've ever seen in St. Catharines touches down on the golf course. We were just outside the clubhouse as lightning was rattling the clubhouse and the ground was literally SHAKING from the impact.

    Weather sometimes is an amazing thing.

    For almost an hour and a half, the rain comes down in sheets, the temperatures drop drastically and the golf course just starts to flood over. When it finally stops, the pro heads out to check out the course.

    "Course is closed", he says.

    Meanwhile, three guys on our team have left the club, guessing it would be a washout and we'd be rescheduled. However, there were no good days upcoming that we could replay the event.

    We had a problem.

    We quickly found out that while St. Catharines got killed by the storm, neighboring cities got off with barely a drop of rain. In fact, our opponent's course just 15 minutes up the highway had nary a drop! However, their tee sheet was filled for the day so we couldn't play there.

    Within minutes, Cam assembled all the remaining players and said that Legends on the Niagara could accomodate us within a half an hour.

    We're going on the road!

    We called up the three guys who left and said get your butts back to Niagara Falls...we're getting this in today! I'd get a reset on my match too so we were starting all square, a nice little reprieve.

    We teed off on the Battlefield Course at Legends, a 6862 yard par 72 track (73.3/130) designed by Doug Carrick with a ton of water and lots of target bunkering. It's not one of my favourite courses in the world, lets put it that way.

    But at least we got to play.

    Shockingly enough, I would end up having one of the more notable rounds of my life.

    HOLE ONE (Par 5): I drive way right into the fescue to start then layup to about 150 yards. I hit a nice 9-iron to 15 feet and two putt for par to match Brian. Match All Square
    HOLE TWO (Par 4): My tee shot heads for the left portion of the double fairway and I'm left with an awkward lie, with my feet in the fairway bunker but the ball in the second cut. I hit a laser 6-iron to 20 feet and make a two-putt par. Brian gets up and down, making a five footer to halve. Match All Square
    HOLE THREE (Par 3): My 6-iron tee shot drifts just right of the green and settles in a chipping area just off the surface. Brian hits on and two putts for par while my chip ends up five agonizing feet short. I make it. Match All Square
    HOLE FOUR (Par 4): I again drive way right into the fescue and my lie is not great. I muscle a PW short of the green and can't get up and down. Brian, who is just hitting perfect shot after perfect shot after being a bit off yesterday, makes a routine two putt par to take his first lead since the first hole yesterday. Brian 1up
    HOLE FIVE (Par 4): Short par four here and Brian hits driver long but right of the fairway. I contemplate hitting 4-iron but decide to stick with my balky driver and hit a weak one up the left side. I still have a LW in and hit a good one to about 12 feet. Brian also hits on and we both two putt, with me lipping out. Brian 1up

    So I'm one over on the round, not playing particularly great while Brian is just hitting greens and two putting everything. He's going to be tough to beat today, I can tell.

    HOLE SIX (Par 5): Brian hits another big drive, almost hits the green in two then chips to about 9 feet. I hit another poor drive but find the fairway and my hybrid layup is mediocre as well, leaving a 130 yard approach. I hit it right online but it spins back to about 15 feet. I roll that sucker in for birdie and Brian rolls his in right on top of me to halve. Brian 1up
    HOLE SEVEN (Par 4): Brian again hits a big drive on this dogleg left around a big pond and I decide to hit the 4-iron. It was a wise move. I stripe one to about 160 yards or so then hit a great 6-iron into the wind over top of the flagstick, about 25 feet away. Brian FINALLY cracks, laying the sod over his wedge approach and coming up well short. He hits on to about 12 feet but it doesn't matter, as I walk up and stroke my bomb right into the center of the hole for another birdie. Match All Square
    HOLE EIGHT (Par 3): I hit a 9-iron into this short par 3 and have about a 25 footer. Brian hits a beauty about 15 feet under the hole. We both two putt for par. Match All Square
    HOLE NINE (Par 4): Probably one of the tougher holes in the entire Niagara Region. 446 yards, into the wind and a big dogleg left with a huge holding pond running down the entire left side all the way to the green. I hit my best drive of the day to that point but still have 183 yards into the green. With the wind howling, I pure a 5-iron right over the flag again and have a 15 footer for birdie. Brian hits 4-iron in and has 20 feet left. He runs his putt about two and a half feet by while my birdie putt snuggles up to gimmie range. I contemplate giving him the putt but decide to make him putt out. He doesn't miss and we halve. Match All Square

    We both shoot scintilating one under 35s on the front and each grab a half point for the front nine halve. Brian hasn't made a bogey yet and is playing great. What an epic match.

    It would only get better!

    HOLE TEN (Par 4): I start to find my groove with the big dog and rifle one down the right side, just into the second cut. I hit a fantastic PW from about 145 into about 12 feet and lip out, making par to match Brian. Match All Square
    HOLE ELEVEN (Par 5): Short par five and I hit a crappy drive up the left side and I'm forced to layup. Brian hits another big drive and he goes for it, ending up in the greenside trap. My gap wedge approach from 95 yards ends up way short, my first misstep with my irons on the day. I'd misjudge the speed of my first putt and run it 7 feet past then miss the comebacker, making a three putt bogey. Brian would make an easy par. Brian 1up

    I was steaming a bit after that one, as I knew I couldn't make any more mistakes against this guy, especially the way he was playing. But I kept my composure.

    HOLE TWELVE (Par 4): Brian hits a bit of a loose drive to the right, his first one of the day but is still able to reach the green with his second shot. He two putts for par. Meanwhile, I hit a great drive and my PW approach is all over the stick, ending up pin high about 7 feet away. It's an easy putt, right edge, and I can't pull the trigger, leaving the ball on the lip. HUGE missed opportunity and one Brian would later tell me felt like he dodged a huge bullet. Brian 1up
    HOLE THIRTEEN (Par 4): Quirky, short par four and both Brian and I hit irons down the middle. He hits a great shot into about 10 feet while my 9-iron spins back to about 18 feet. I lip out again and figure I might be two down but Brian misses his birdie putt. Brian 1up
    HOLE FOURTEEN (Par 3): Brian hits his iron left and long and I see my opening. I hit a 7-iron that never leaves the stick but still ends up 15 feet short of the back pin. Brian hits a fantastic chip that almost goes in and I concede his par putt. It doesn't matter though, as I finally have a putt I can be aggressive with and I rifle it into the back of the hole for my third birdie of the day to get back into red figures and even the match! Match All Square

    So we're both one under, the match is even and Brian STILL doesn't have a blemish on his card.

    HOLE FIFTEEN (Par 4): Longish par four and I drive perfectly down the middle. Brian picks this time to hit the worst shot I've seen from him in two days, a huge push slice that goes over the trees toward the 12th fairway. His back foot noticeably slipped on his through swing on the wet turf so he's thinking about that as he reloads with a provisional and does the EXACT SAME THING, going even further right.

    "There's your opening", Bernie whispers to me in the cart.

    We look for Brian's balls but can't find either one of them. We're about to give up when Brian notices a red stake over by the treeline.

    It's a freaking hazard. What a break for him! He's allowed a drop within one clublength but the problem is that he has to drop in the fescue. He draws a horrific lie and advances the ball literally about two feet.

    He smacks it again and hits the lip of the fairway bunker and falls back in it.

    He's lying four and pretty much out of the hole as long as I don't do anything foolish.

    I don't.

    I smoke yet another iron right at it from 148 yards and I have a 7 footer for another birdie. Brian concedes the hole, as he's putting for double and I contemplate not even putting but Bernie makes an improbable chip-in from well off the green and says I owe it to the field to try to cut up his skin.

    With nothing on the line, I lose focus for a second and miss the putt weakly to the right.

    Damn it! I'm a bit peeved at myself for not giving it my full attention, not because of the skin but because I could have gotten it to two under. Regardless, in more important matters, I take my first lead of this epic match. Matt 1up

    HOLE SIXTEEN (Par 4): Intimidating hole with water up the right side all the way to the green and I hit a bit of a pull down the left side. Brian drills one down the middle and hits onto about 25 feet and two putts for par. I hit a glorious 6-iron right at it and as the ball is in the air, I can only laugh at how well I'm hitting my irons. The ball almost goes in and rolls about 12 feet past. I walk up and make that sucker for another birdie! Matt 2up
    HOLE SEVENTEEN (Par 3): Tough par three and I know that a par here will likely seal the points for the back nine and the match overall. I pick this time to hit my only real poor iron shot of the day but I'm still safe, just off the green left. Brian hits a very poor response, going into the left trap. From there, he skulls his shot well over the green.


    He nails his own cart on the fly. Two stroke penalty. Unbelievable.

    Now, I was likely winning the match anyway but I felt awful for him there. I just make sure to get the ball onto the green and hit it to about six feet and he concedes my par and the match. Matt Wins 3&1

    Probably one of the best matches I've been a part of and I'm not really thinking of anything when I hit the 18th tee. I drill one right down the middle on the par five finisher and layup perfectly to about 80 yards.

    There's water right and long here but the pin is very accessible in the front right portion of the green. My wedge looks good but the ball spins back off the green, about 15 feet away on the fringe.

    Steve has beaten Bernie in the long game but their back nine match is still up in the air at all square so I have that in mind as I address my birdie putt. I tell myself to make sure I get it to the hole and give it a chance. No matter what, I intend to pick up my par putt to get out of Steve and Bernie's way.

    I line it up and as it's halfway there, it's a no doubter.

    Right into the center of the cup for my fifth birdie of the day to give me a 69! 3 under par!!!

    My lowest score away from St. Catharines and the first round I've ever shot under par away from my home course! Big fist pump for that!!!

    Brian finishes off with a nice birdie then Bernie steps up and makes a birdie of his own to salvage a point on the back nine for himself and it proves to be a big one, as St. Catharines edges LochNess Links by a solitary point to move on to the semifinals of the Niagara Cup.

    We will face the winner of the Rolling Meadows/Sparrow Lakes matchup and still look to be on a course to face Niagara Falls Country Club out of Lewiston, NY, home of the annual Porter Cup competition.

    I ended up grabbing only one skin for my birdie on 16 but no matter. This may have been the best ball striking round of my life. I hit 11 greens in a row at one point and almost every iron shot was a laser beam at the stick.

    I followed that up with a round of 75 today at St. Catharines from the back tee deck as we celebrated the Canada Day holiday on Tuesday. I just couldn't get the ball in the hole today but my iron game continues to run very hot.

    The biggest news is in the title of the post. After these rounds, my handicap index dropped to a lifetime low of 0.9! I'm down to a freaking one handicap!!! I don't know if I ever dreamed I'd be this low but I'm now only one subpar round from possibly being a SCRATCH!

    Absolutely nuts but a thrilling feeling!

    What a fantastic weekend of golf!