Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Protégé Is Born!

My wife and I welcomed our first child into the world on Monday October 20th at 7:42pm!

Evan Alexander Bosela weighed in at 8lbs 2oz and had a head full of spiky dark hair just like his daddy!

Both Evan and Mommy are doing well and we've been home since Wednesday evening. Words can't express how happy I am being a dad!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Golf Season Ends on a High

The last leg of the 2008 Niagara Cup Finals took place last Saturday at Niagara Falls Country Club in Lewiston, home of the annual Porter Cup competition.

St. Catharines had a commanding 14.5 to 3.5 lead going into the final leg, so we only needed four paltry points to bring the Cup back to St. Catharines for only the second time in the competition's history.

We knew it would be tough knocking them off on their home turf, especially since they would have all of their big guns going in this one.

I had the distinct privilege of playing with two of them. I would be locking horns in a singles contest against Raman, the 2008 NFCC Club Champion and a participant in this year's Porter Cup.

Raman finished tied for 36th in the '08 Porter Cup, finishing at +6 for the four day event and ahead of great amateurs like Buddy Marucci and Peter Uihlein.

Gulp! I think I'm a bit overmatched!

However, that was topped by the other man I'd be sharing a foursome with: Fred S, the twenty-seven time former club champion at NFCC and a man who has teed it up in the Porter Cup an incredible 26 times. He is also a member of the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and is a much decorated amateur golfer at the regional, state and National level in the U.S. He would be going up against Bernie in a singles match.

Needless to say, I was probably more nervous on the first tee than I had been all year and it showed as I hit a weak slice off to the right of the fairway to start things off.

I'd pitch out then hit a nine iron approach to about 10 feet. I'd miss and concede Raman's short par putt and I was immediately one down.

I'd get it back on the short par four second, watching Raman make bogey from just off the green while I made a nice two-putt par.

Things would get ugly on the 552 yard par five 3rd, as I'd skull my wedge approach over the green and I was pretty much dead. I'd hit a good shot to 35 feet but three-whack before conceding Raman's four foot par putt.

Ugh...not good.

We'd both hit great tee balls on the par three fourth, with mine ending up 12 feet away and Raman about 8 feet. We'd both miss...in fact, Raman left his about two feet short so I could tell he was a bit nervous.

The 463 yard par four fifth is a monster but I hit driver/3-iron hybrid to about 20 feet and made the routine par while Raman made bogey, squaring the match once again!

The see-saw match continued on the straight away 417 yard par four 6th, as I'd miss about a six footer for par to drop one back again.

I'd watch Raman hit his tee shot on the 183 yard par three 7th into the front bunker but then do exactly the same thing. Damnit!

He'd splash out to about six feet then I almost holed my shot, ending up a foot and a half away. Shockingly enough, Raman would miss his straight in, uphill putt and I nailed mine center cut.

Tied again!

We'd both make solid pars on the 8th then both ran into some trouble on the ridiculously long par four ninth, a 477 yarder. Again, it was driver/hybrid into the green and I ended up in the rough just left of the green. Raman got his 3-wood onto the front edge so he had the advantage.

The rough was so long, it took about a minute for us to even FIND my ball! When I did, I just hacked it out and still had about 15 feet left for par. Raman's birdie putt was way too frisky and ended up five feet past the hole, leaving a treacherous, downhiller for the par save.

I did what I could with my putt but still went three feet past the hole. Thinking I was done, I'd watch Raman knock his par putt FIVE FEET PAST!

Whoa!

So with both of us facing bogey putts, his longer than mine, I walked up to him and said,

"Look, if you want to, we can putt them but how about we just move on to the back right now."

Ramon contemplated it then said,

"I'll have to ask my captain"

He meant Fred of course, who was just systematically DESTROYING Bernie at this point.

Fred just looked at him and said,

"You guys have a good match going. Just pick 'em up and move on to the back."

So I sawed off the front nine with the NFCC Club Champ, shooting a decent 39 in the process, all things considered. So I had a half point.

Bernie was holding on for dear life, four down after the front nine and Fred wasn't showing any cracks in his game, making one birdie and one bogey on a front nine of 35.

This man just doesn't miss a golf shot. What a pleasure he was to watch!

But I still had a match to play. Raman and I would both make routine pars on the 10th and get into great position on the par five 11th.

I hit my gap wedge approach right at the stick but my ball came up about 12 feet short. Then Raman followed with a laser at the pin, ending up four feet away. I knew I needed this one but I just couldn't get the line right, ending up just left of the cup. Raman would step up and knock his birdie putt into the hole and I was one down again.

The tricky 576 yard par five 12th was next and my 6-iron third shot came up about five yards short of the green. I got too fancy with my chip to the front pin and barely made it on the green. I'd then miss my ten footer for par while Raman easily two-putted for his.

Two down now.

Raman was gaining confidence and the momentum was his, never more evident when he hit his tee shot on the 185 yard par three 13th right over the flagstick to five feet.

I needed to step up and I came through BIG TIME here, hitting a glorious six-iron pin high, only 8 feet away.

Come on! You're still in this!

It was a tricky little right to lefter but after giving it a good look, I rammed it into the left side and watched it fall. Yes!

I wasn't surprised whatsoever when Raman calmly stepped up and knocked his home as well. We both birdie to saw off the hole.

I knew I'd need to make a bunch more birdies if I had any chance of recovering now.

I tried to cut too much off the dogleg on the 406 yard par four 14th and was punished, ending up in jail in the trees. The match was slipping away from me.

With Raman in the middle of the fairway, position 'A', I had to make the bold attempt for the green and tried to punch a four-iron through the small gap.

No dice. The ball hit a tree and propelled itself out of bounds left, hitting a maintenence shack loudly, announcing my fate quite clearly. Never one to give up, I'd drop another ball and try again, this time making it through and ending up in the greenside bunker. Now hitting five, with Raman in good birdie position, I tried to hole the shot to put even a bit of pressure on him, to no avail. I'd concede the hole and I was now in trouble: three down with four to play.

There would be no comeback on this day. I hit my approach shot on the short par four 15th into the bunker again and couldn't get up and down. Raman would knock his birdie putt to tap in distance and I conceded.

I'd lose the back nine and the overall match 4 & 3, giving him a 2.5 point to 0.5 point win. He was two under on the back versus my two over...nothing to be ashamed about, especially considering his talent and golf resume.

Bernie was ousted even earlier on the long game, losing 7 & 5 overall and 4 & 3 on the back side, getting zero points. Fred is just an incredible player, making one bogey during the round and just never mishitting a shot. A complete gentleman too, as was Raman and all of the NFCC participants.

We'd finish off the last few holes and have to hope for the best. I got a half point and Bernie was shut out. We'd need three and a half more and the reports weren't great. There was a four ball in front of us and the NFCC guys had a one up lead through 16 after making birdie there.

But we noticed our St. Catharines teammates Charlie and Andy teeing off first on the par three 18th. They must have tied the match on the 17th!

We watched from the tee as Andy made the par while the two NFCC guys were in greenside bunkers. They both splashed out and looked to have 10 footers for par. If they both missed, St. Catharines would get 2.5 points in that match...if they made it, both teams would split and get 1.5 each. Another Fred from NFCC stepped up to his putt and rammed it home! Tied match...great stuff!

So now we had two points and needed two more...

Joe T and Simon M from St. Catharines were in the group behind us and were playing singles matches. We'd find out that Joe got nothing in his match and Simon only got a half point, exact same results as Bernie and I in our foursome.

Uh oh...is Niagara Falls CC making the huge comeback?? We'd need a split, at worst, in the last fourball match to bring the cup home.

In that group for St. Catharines were our assistant, Cameron and Tom, the 2007 Senior Club champion at our club.

It wasn't close...Cam and Tom won all three points to take their match and lock up the Niagara Cup for St. Catharines!!! Wooo!

That's Bernie and Andy kneeling in the front with me, Simon, Cam, Tom, Joe and Charlie standing happily in the back. Sorry about the picture quality...we weren't smart enough to bring a camera and had to use Joe's cellphone for this shot.

Fantastic competition this year and what a thrill for yours truly to not only play NFCC for the first time, but to play with Fred S and Raman. Certainly a day I'll never forget!

I'd follow this up with my second subpar round of the year on Sunday, shooting an awesome 71 (-1), making three birdies and only two bogies during the round. I'd also play on a glorious Thanksgiving Monday, shooting a less-than-stellar 78 but I can't complain too much after the great rounds on Saturday and Sunday!

That's it for golf this year. The clubs are being put away, even though we still may have some decent weather left in October. It's been a fantastic season: two subpar rounds, including one in the sixties and that round was in competition and also winning my first ever Niagara Men's Tour event. I was also lucky enough to get down to a scratch handicap for about three weeks in the middle of the season. Mind boggling!

Now, it's time to be a dad! My wife is due with our first child tomorrow, although, sitting here on Saturday night at 10:30pm writing this, it doesn't look like tomorrow is the day.

Regardless, the next time you hear from me, I'll be someone's old man! Wish us luck!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Niagara Cup Finals - First Leg

St. Catharines G&CC once again has made it to the finals of the annual Niagara Cup, the interclub match play competition between most of the clubs in the region, including those in Niagara Falls, NY, USA.

However, this year there was a new wrinkle, with head-to-head, NCAA bracket style matchups during the preliminary rounds, culminating in a final between only two clubs as opposed to the normal six clubs.

We were able to defeat Lancaster CC, LochNess Links and Rolling Meadows in separate, home-and-home matchups to roll into the finals against Niagara Falls Country Club, the Lewiston, NY home of the annual Porter Cup competition.

All year, we were hoping to have this matchup - NFCC has won every single Niagara Cup that they have participated in so you always want to matchup against the very best in these type of competitions.

From a personal standpoint, I also wanted the opportunity to play their golf course - I've never teed it up out there and haven't even walked it since Gary Nicklaus won the Porter Cup many moons ago. It's an A.W. Tillinghast design, the very same man who designed the Black Course at Bethpage and a course I've wanted to play for some time.

So needless to say, I was pumped when we got into the finals and found that NFCC got through their side of the bracket as well for the heavyweight final tilt!

The first leg took place at St. Catharines on Friday afternoon, necessitating a day off for yours truly. It was a bitter cold and windy day but thankfully, the rain stayed away.

There were to be two best ball matches and four singles matches on the day, each being worth three points. You get one point for winning the front, one for the back and one for winning the overall match. All matches are played straight up, with no handicaps.

I was put in a singles match against Mario, a very outgoing and chatty NFCC member. I was a bit worried at the outset that he'd be a bit TOO chatty but he was an absolute gentleman, as were all of the NFCC participants.

I'm not going to go through the entire match on a hole-by-hole basis...perhaps I will do that for the NFCC leg of the competition.

I came out of the gates quickly, making par to Mario's bogey after he drove into the trees left of the fairway, making the rookie mistake of hitting driver off the tee.

He'd get the match back to even when I three-whacked the par four 3rd hole and made bogey to his par. I quickly got back in the driver's seat on the par three 4th, making par to his bogey.

I'd make a great birdie on the par five 6th to best his bogey then make a routine par on the 7th after Mario put his tee ball in the water to move to 3up in the match.

However, he'd come back with a solid birdie of his own on the 8th and we'd saw off the 9th with pars, giving me a 2up lead on the 10th tee to win the front nine point. I shot 36 on the front while he came in with a 39.

I'd really grab control early on the back. I made about a 12 footer on the par five 10th for another birdie to go three up and get into red figures at one under for the round. Then, Mario would three-whack on the par four 11th, making bogey and giving me another hole.

I would blow a chance to take a five up lead on the downhill par three 12th, notching another three putt of my own for bogey to tie Mario then I three-putted AGAIN on the 13th from only 15 feet, making another bogey and tying him again.

I'm a bit ticked and try to tell myself to suck it up and close out the match right here but we both tally pars on the 14th hole to put the match at dormie.

Thankfully, I'd close out Mario on the 15th, making a routine par versus his bogey to take the overall match 5&3. We'd both par the 16th as well and that locked down the back nine point for me too, giving me all three available points in our match.

I'd bogey the 17th and par 18 to shoot a solid 74 (+2) on the day and our club dominated the proceedings on this day, coming out with a commanding 14.5 to 3.5 lead going into the final leg, which takes place at Niagara Falls CC on Saturday this weekend. I also won a $50.00 skin for my birdie on the sixth hole, a nice bonus!

I'm told that many of NFCC's top players weren't able to play at St. Catharines but will be playing on Saturday so it could still be a contest. I can't tell you how excited I am to finally get the chance to play NFCC after walking it a number of times while watching the Porter Cup.

On Sunday, there were nine of us at the club for our regular game, perhaps one of the final games of the year. I'd be one of only two guys to break 80 on the day, shooting 75 (+3) and winning two skins. We also played a three-man best ball competition that our team took down AND I took Bernie's money in our regular match play game so I had a nice haul on Sunday!!

The weekend was topped off with a CONVINCING AND DECISIVE victory over our favourite blogger Harry in Fantasy Football. Harry, if you don't already know, doesn't play golf on Sundays once September hits - he puts his football jammies on, fires up his laptop and watches the NFL Network from 8am to 1pm to make sure he has all nine of his fantasy teams in perfect order before the games start up.

Just to let you know, I played 18 holes Sunday morning, had a drink with the boys on the patio and still had time to take the two minutes necessary to set my lineup and DESTROY THE FANTASY GURU HIMSELF!!!

The fact that I'm tied for first in that league is just icing on the proverbial cake!

Ahhh...good times.

I'll be back on the weekend with my report from NFCC!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Full Weekend of Golf!

Thankfully, my wife is feeling a bit better these days as we approach the delivery date. She is now able to walk around, carefully mind you but she is able to place her weight on the broken foot with the walking cast.

That means she's less dependent on me and most significantly, it meant that I could get out of the house both days this past weekend for some golf!

Cal, Harry and I ventured across the border on Saturday around noon in order to play Wanakah Country Club, one of our recipricals at St. Catharines.

The Wanakah website indicates that the course was designed by famed architect Donald Ross in 1899. However, I'm being given conflicting reports by a number of posters at
Golf Club Atlas, who say Willie Watson is the real designer.

Regardless, Wanakah proved to be a fun little course and one in superb condition. The first hole is a downhill par four that doglegs slightly to the left and has a cool green complex, something that is prevalent throughout the golf course.

The uphill second is shown below. The tee shot is pretty wide open but the second shot is played to a green perched well above the fairway and it slopes dramatically from left to right and back to front. I hit my second shot about 20 feet left of the flag and I was DEAD. Three putts later and I had my bogey five. Hah!

The front nine is really wide open off the tee and you quickly realize that the difficulty lies in the greens and the approach shots.

One of the highlights of the day came on the par three 7th hole, a 211 yard par three. I hit a horrible five-iron way left and the ball stopped directly behind a large tree. The green is elevated in back and with the pin sitting in that area of the green, I had to open up my lob wedge and take a full swing and hope for the best.

Well, the ball went straight up over the tree and landed about three feet away before rolling about 8 feet by. Crazy good shot that was followed by a sick putt that started a foot or so right of the hole and broke all the way back into the cup for the AWESOME par! Harry had nailed a 20 footer for par just before me after a decent bunker shot so we were having a lot of fun.

Another highlight came two holes later on the 431 yard par four ninth. As you can see below, my drive ended up in the trees left of the fairway, about 185 yards away. I had to aim about 30 yards right, at a greenside bunker, and snap hook the shot in order to have a chance to reach the green.

Great photo by Cal here, getting me right in the backswing. I pulled off the shot perfectly and my ball ended up only 15 feet away from the cup. I'd miss that but tap in for my par and a 38 (+2) on the front side. We all played pretty well on the outgoing nine, with Harry coming in with a 39 and Cal shooting 41 despite two doubles.

The course really starts getting great on the back nine, with more varied topography than the relatively flat front side. Standouts include the par three 12th, shown below, a drastically uphill 174 yard par three.

The green here is unbelievable - Cal had a putt that was only 20 feet away but he was completely dead. He barely touched it and it rolled well off the green. We dropped a few balls and it took us a while but we finally were able to get one reasonably close. Fun stuff!

The downhill par five 14th, measuring 563 yards, is another stunner. You have to navigate around a pond that creeps up on you down the left side right where you'd place your layup. Then, the approach shot is played back up the hill to a great greensite with a putting surface that slopes sharply from back to front. I'd hit my second shot in the water here but get up and down from 115 yards to save my par.

The par three 15th, measuring 206 yards, is the signature hole at Wanakah and it may be one of the prettiest holes I've ever seen.

Not only is it pretty but it's as tough as nails. Very narrow putting surface and water runs in front and curls around the right side as well. You can bail out left but that's no bargain either, as Cal found out when his hooked tee shot bounced off the stairs left of the green and ricochetted back towards the water on the right, barely staying out. He'd get up and down, as would I from a nasty little lie left of the green to keep a solid round going.

The shortish par four 17th, measuring 362 yards from the tips, is another beauty. The drive is pretty wide open but the approach shot, seen below, is played to a green with a severe false front and is also protected by water on the left and in front.

We all hit great drives here but somehow, only Harry was able to make par and none of us hit the green in regulation despite all being within 100 yards. Nice hole!

I'd also bogey the final hole, stumbling home with a 77 (+5), still a decent round considering it was our first trip around Wanakah and also considering the fact I hadn't played a full round of golf in almost three weeks. Strange stats though, as I made five bogeys, 13 pars and no birdies, even though I hit 9 of my first 12 greens in regulation.

Cal made a crucial putt on the 18th to shoot 80 and top Harry by a single shot in their grudge match.

We really enjoyed Wanakah - I think it's a toss up but East Aurora may still take the prize as our favourite reciprical...it's a close race though! Good golf course and one we will certainly be returning to at some point.

I followed up that round by shooting a great 73 (+1) on Sunday at St. Catharines, despite bogeying the 18th in disappointing fashion and keeping me from my first par or better round at my home course this year. I hit my first 11 greens and hit 14 of my first 15 before stumbling home on the last three holes. Still, a nice round and I took home four skins on the day (three birdies; one par).

I'm taking the day off on Friday in order to play in the first leg of the Niagara Cup finals against Niagara Falls Country Club (Lewiston, NY). We play at St. Catharines on Friday then head to NFCC on the following Saturday for the second and final leg. I've never played NFCC, home of the annual Porter Cup, the second most influential Amateur tournament in American golf behind the US Amateur and I'm PUMPED to say the least.

However, my participation in the second leg will depend on my wife. She is due one week after the event so there is a good chance she'll pop early. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my little son-to-be holds off so daddy can play NFCC! ;)