Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Golf Season - Year in Review

With mere hours remaining in the 2008 calendar year, I figured there was no better time to write a recap of what turned out to be the best year of my life both on and off the golf course.

I didn't score an invite to any top 100 in the world courses this year but I did see quite a few great courses for the first time in 2008.

DIFFERENT GOLF COURSES PLAYED:
2008 - 19

2007 - 19
2006 - 19
2005 - 21

COURSES PLAYED FOR FIRST TIME:
2008 - 11

- Brantford Golf & Country Club, Brantford, Ontario, CAN
- The Club at Bond Head - South Course, Bond Head, Ontario, CAN
- Eagles Nest Golf Club, Maple, Ontario, CAN
- Ginn Hammock Beach Resort - The Conservatory, Palm Coast, Florida, USA
- Ginn Hammock Beach Resort - The Ocean Course, Palm Coast, Florida, USA
- Lakeview Golf Course, Mississauga, Ontario, CAN
- Niagara Falls Country Club, Niagara Falls, New York, USA
- Oviinbyrd, Footsbay, Ontario, CAN
- Riverview Golf Club, Fenwick, Ontario, CAN
- Thornhill Golf & Country Club, Thornhill, Ontario, CAN
- Wanakah Country Club, Hamburg, New York, USA
2007 - 7
2006 - 9

From a quantity perspective, it was a prolific year with eleven new courses seen. Among them were five courses listed among the Top 100 in Canada by ScoreGolf Magazine: Brantford, Bond Head South, Eagles Nest, Oviinbyrd and Thornhill.

The best experience out of them all was Oviinbyrd, as we stayed in a boathouse near the course right on the lake the night before playing and basically had the course to ourselves that entire Autumn morning. It was a truly beautiful golf course in the Muskoka's and a treat to play - the Tom McBroom design is quite strong and the very exclusive nature of the club made it a privilege to play.

Another highlight was the four day vacation I took with Harry to the Ginn Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Florida, where we played two world-class courses, one of which (The Ocean Course) is listed among Golf Magazine's Top 100 Public Courses in the U.S. The resort was spectacular, with stellar accomodations and I ate for free the entire trip after throttling Harry daily on the scorecard.

Good times!

Now, let's look at some numbers for 2008 from a quantity and quality perspective:

TOTAL ROUNDS PLAYED:
2008 - 65

2007 - 65
2006 - 63
2005 - 62

TOTAL TOURNAMENT ROUNDS:
2008 - 27

2007 - 19
2006 - 14
2005 - 20

TOTAL NINE-HOLE ROUNDS:
2008 - 5

2007 - 2
2006 - 4
2005 - 7

Boy, am I ever consistent year-over-year with respect to rounds played! 65 again this year, same as last year. The big difference was how much competitive golf I played, with 27 tournament rounds under my belt. This DOESN'T include the 2 scramble events I played this year so I almost hit 30 competitive rounds in '08. A bit crazy and a number I won't come close to hitting in 2009.

TOTAL ROUNDS (80 OR UNDER):
2008 - 51

2007 - 52
2006 - 44
2005 - 45

TOTAL ROUNDS (75 OR UNDER):
2008 - 22

2007 - 13
2006 - 4
2005 - 11

TOTAL ROUNDS UNDER PAR:
2008 - 2

2007 - 2
2006 - 0
2005 - 3

Pretty similar numbers as far as shooting 80 or less, with me hitting that mark over 78% of the time this year.

The huge difference in my 2008 season compared to others was how many times I 'went low', with an incredible 22 rounds where I shot 75 or lower, over a third of my rounds!

I broke par twice this year, shooting a late-season 71 (-1) at St. Catharines. Earlier in the season, I finally broke par at a course away from home for the first time and to make it even sweeter, it was a tournament round. I'll touch on that briefly a bit further below.

OVERALL SCORING AVERAGE:
2008 - 77.58

2007 - 77.74
2006 - 78.93
2005 - 78.50

SCORING AVERAGE (ST. CATHARINES G&CC):
2008 - 76.46

2007 - 77.09
2006 - 77.91
2005 - 77.55

SCORING AVERAGE (OTHER COURSES):
2008 - 79.27

2007 - 79.32
2006 - 80.38
2005 - 80.50

LOW SCORE:
2008 - 69

2007 - 69
2006 - 74
2005 - 68

TOURNAMENT SCORING AVERAGE:
2008 - 76.89

2007 - 77.89
2006 - 79.36
2005 - 78.00

LOW TOURNAMENT SCORE:
2008 - 69

2007 - 74
2006 - 76
2005 - 71

LOW NINE-HOLE SCORE:
2008 - 34

2007 - 33
2006 - 34
2005 - 33

My scoring average both overall and away from St. Catharines were down only slightly and that was due to the early season rounds at the Ginn Resort. Both of the courses we played had extremely high course ratings and slopes and that meant higher scores. Still, I was able to put up lifetime best yearly marks in all of the scoring categories both at home and away.

My play in tournaments continues to be a huge highlight, as my scoring average in tourneys is actually two strokes lower than casual rounds! I am a pretty big grinder so I obviously get geared up for tournaments as opposed to our little weekend games with the guys.

As mentioned, I played quite a bit competitively this year and had a number of noteable accomplishments.

Starting out at the top was my biggest 'win' - qualifying for the 2008 Ontario Mid-Amateur Championship! I shot a 35 with three birdies on the back nine at the Club at Bond Head South Course to overcome a mistake-laden front nine 43 and qualify by a shot for the main event, which was held at Thornhill Country Club. I wouldn't fare well at the actual tournament, missing the cut by a wide margin but just making my first Provincial event as an adult was a goal acheived.

On the strength of making it to the Provincial, I actually received an invitation from the Royal Canadian Golf Association to play in the Canadian Mid-Amateur Championship, which was held on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. What an honour that would have been, playing in my first ever National Championship! However, a long-planned business meeting in Quebec trumped any thoughts of participating in the Canadians and I was forced to turn down the invite.

Harry and I teamed up earlier in an attempt to qualify for the Ontario Better Ball Championship but fell short by a few shots with our 74 at Brantford G&CC.

It was an excellent year on the Niagara Men's Amateur Tour. I finished 12th overall, which doesn't sound great but I missed the final event of the year and the standings were based on event to event points, so I got a big, fat goose-egg for that one. I would have been safely in the top 10 if I just teed it up there and even had an outside chance of winning the Tour with another win but my wife had a major fall with our child-to-be in her belly and she needed my help more than I needed to be on the golf course.

The highlights on the Tour were a second place finish in the event at Riverview G&CC and then to top it off, my first ever Tour win at LochNess Links in August, where I shot 74 in adverse conditions for my first stroke play trophy since I was a junior.

I played in a few fun events outside the club as well, as we ventured down to Pennsylvania once again to play in the Pine Acres Better Ball. I teamed up with my buddy Jay and we proceeded to stink up the joint, shooting a better ball score of 75 and we finished in D.F.L. with a net score of 71.

You can figure out what DFL stands for, I'm sure...haha.

I also played in the very informal 'Lakeview Open' with Bernie and Joey B, getting to see that wonderful municipal in the Toronto area for the first time.

I played in a lot of club events in '08. For the first time, I teed it up in the Auction Pool, a big gambling type event that saw my team finish just outside the money in 4th place with our scramble score of 66 (-6) but we ended up getting pro shop certificates that allowed us a slight profit.

I also played in our Member Guest for the first time, playing with my wife's uncle in the three day event. Henry and I played very well, shooting 66 (-6) each day in the modified better ball competition but we ended up finishing in the middle of the top ten. Still, a good result and a tremendously fun week!

My match play season was a huge success: first, I made it to the semifinals of the Langley Cup, our club's Match Play Championship for low handicappers, losing to Joey B 1 Down after defeating Brad B and Bernie B in earlier matches by a 4&3 score in both.

The big accomplishment though in match play was the victory by St. Catharines G&CC in the Niagara Cup competition, an interclub match play event modelled after the Ryder Cup.

We rolled over Lockport Town G&CC in the US, LochNess Links and Rolling Meadows in the first three rounds before facing the tough Niagara Falls Country Club from Lewiston, NY in the finals. NFCC had NEVER lost in this competition ever since joining the Niagara Cup three years earlier.

Well, we knocked them off to win the Niagara Cup, barely holding onto the commanding lead we built in the home leg of the competition to eke out a win by the slimest of margins.

I ended up winning 7 of my 9 matches on the year and in the Niagara Cup, I won 15 out of a possible 18 points in my best showing yet (won 5 of 6 matches there). I also shot my best score of the year in one of my matches against LochNess Links, shooting a 69 (-3) at Legends on the Niagara's Battlefield Course, which doubled as our home course for the day when heavy rains pelted St. Catharines and forced us to play away from home. It was my first under par round at another golf course and to do it in a tournament round AND shoot three under made it even more special.

Again, the biggest disappointment of the year came in our club championship. I really thought this was going to be the year I could contend and after an opening round of 75 (+3), I was at least in the running. But I got off to a tough start in the second round and just ran out of steam, shooting an unsightly 83 to miss the cut by a shot. The only thing that helped was the fact that I caddied for Cal in the final round and watched him play a great round of golf, doubling the 18th hole (with a chip-in!) to shoot a 74 and finish tied for second.

Balancing this out was the biggest accomplishment in all my years of golf: becoming a scratch player for the first time in my life! I hit scratch on July 26th and stayed there for a little over a month before ending the year as a two. I never thought it was possible for me to reach that goal but when I'm an old man (in five years), I'll be able to sit with my piping bowl of soup (after returning it three times for being too cold) and tell all the kids that I once reached the ultimate goal of a zero handicap! ;)

I'm not going to bore you much further with numbers. Usually, I compare my individual stats like Driving Accuracy, Putting, Greens in Regulation, etc to previous years but I'm thinking that is pretty redundant. Most of my ball striking numbers, funny enough, were WORSE in '08 versus '07. My putting and chipping, however, were much better. Still, I can improve in all areas and I will need to maintain a very sharp short game if I have any chance whatsoever of keeping my momentum going for 2009, especially due to the fact I have a new son at home that will mean less rounds next year.

Speaking of which, what do I think is in store for 2009?

Well, for one thing, much less tournament play. I will continue playing on the Niagara Men's Tour in '09 but I will be stepping aside in one of my favourite events, the Niagara Cup for the upcoming year. We won the whole thing in '08 so I think it might be a good time to take a break - we played eight rounds of golf in getting to the championship, a very significant number. It's just too much, as it's a whole day affair and I just can't justify spending that much time away from home with an infant son.

Jury is out on the Provincial events this year. I'd still like to try for the Ontario Better Ball again but as far as the Mid-Am, I'm not sure...the home course is not very inspiring this year and will pale in comparison to Thornhill. But we'll see.

The Member Guest and the Auction Pool are also in doubt - they are both very expensive to play in and again, it's hard to justify the great expense when I have more important things in my life right now to pay for.

One tournament I'm really going to try hard to play in this year is the John R. Williams Tournament at the highly regarded Oak Hill CC in Rochester, NY. Bernie has played in it for a number of years and my handicap and resume is at the point where they wouldn't completely laugh at me when applying to play. So I'm going to give it a shot...worst thing they can do is say no and I've heard that enough to be immune.

As far as great golf courses, I'm hoping to play St. George's G&CC this year after turning down an invitation this year due to the impending birth of my son. I'm also hoping to play courses like Devil's Paintbrush, the National or Hamilton G&CC but we'll see if I can swing invites to exclusive courses like that. I've never played any of them so it would be nice to play one in '09.

No golf vacations are on the schedule but I am heading to Victoria, British Columbia in early August for a business convention and anticipate playing a number of good courses out there. I'm already booked at Bear Mountain and hope that tee times can be arranged at courses like Royal Colwood and Victoria Golf Club, which I hear are great. I'll be bringing my family for that trip too and may venture into the interior of the province as well - if so, I may try to swing a round at Tobiano, another course with great buzz.

It will be an interesting year, I'm sure, as I struggle to maintain balance on the homefront with my desire to play golf. I still think I can keep my game respectable and may have to make an early season bet with my buddy Toast to keep myself motivated.

No more betting with Harry though...he doesn't pay his debts! There's a resolution for you!

All the best to all my readers and I wish you luck, prosperity and great success both on and off the course in 2009!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and all that jazz from Evan, Jacqueline and myself!

Our good pal Toast must have a lot of time on his hands these days, as he made this absolutely HILARIOUS video of my family.

Check out the video right here. It will take about 30 seconds to load up but be patient...it's worth it! You'll want to make a video of your own right away, I guarantee it!

Thanks to Cal for making this. I'm going to have to burn a copy to send to my parents!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fantasy Football Meltdown

Apologies in advance for making a post that's not centered on golf...

I had a great year in the one fantasy football league that I'm in called "Trash Talking is a Must". It's a pretty significant league from a monetary standpoint, as the entry fee is $200.00 for the year.

I drafted a pretty solid team all things considered after getting saddled with a brutal draft position once again and was fortunate not to run into too many injury problems during the year, with only Reggie Bush missing significant time.

It added up to the best record in the league in the regular season, as I tied another guy with identical 10-3 records. However, I lost my one head-to-head matchup with that guy so I missed out on the $200.00 prize for winning the regular season.

No big deal, as there was plenty of money being paid out for the playoff rounds. I got a bye into the semifinals so I was in great shape, with three out of the four teams left getting paid out. First place gets $1320.00, second gets $550.00 and the winner of the consolation game gets $250.00.

Of course, I run into the one matchup I didn't want and lose my semifinal matchup, even though my point total would have beat BOTH guys in the other semi.

Sigh.

So I'm relegated to the consolation final and I'm in decent shape until Buffalo's Marshawn Lynch goes down with an injury yesterday afternoon, leaving me six points behind my opponent, with each of us having one other guy left to play.

His guy was DeAngelo Williams on Carolina, who proceeded to score FOUR F'ING TOUCHDOWNS last night in a monsterous performance, leaving me over 40 points behind with Aaron Rodgers left to play. I'll need the best performance by a QB in this league all year to have a chance so needless to say, it looks like I'm going to finish in fourth.

Of course, there is a good chance after tonight's game that my point total would have been good enough to beat both guys in the actual finals so I'm feeling a bit ticked right now at my lack of luck in fantasy.

Two bad rolls of the dice, as the Toastman might say...

No fantasy football for this cat next year, I'm afraid.

I'll be back tomorrow with my long-delayed 'Golf Season in Review' for 2008.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

2009 Canadian Professional Golf Tour Championship Taking Place at St. Catharines G&CC

I heard the rumours about this possibility over the past few weeks as a member of the St. Catharines G&CC's Planning and Marketing Committee but word came out yesterday that it is now signed, sealed and delivered!

Our club will be hosting the biggest event on the Canadian Professional Golf Tour's schedule in 2009!

Canadian Tour Announces St.Catharines Golf & Country Club as host for 2009 Tour Championship

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. – The Canadian Tour today announced the host venue and a purse increase for the 2009 Canadian Tour Championship.

St. Catharines Golf and Country Club will host the tournament from August 31 to September 6, 2009.

Situated on the Niagara peninsula one hour from Toronto, the 6,792 yard par-72 course originally opened in 1899 as a nine-hole layout. The course will play as a par-70 6,850 for the tournament.

In July of 1947, renowned golf course architects Stanley Thompson and Robert Trent Jones were awarded the contract to construct an additional nine holes while renovating the existing nine. The classic course will be a stern test and competitors will need every club in the bag, along with patience, if they want to take home the title.

"This is a major golf championship with an international field of top PGA TOUR prospects that we are honoured to bring to St. Catharines," stated Canadian Tour Commissioner Richard Janes.

"The St. Catharines Golf & Country Club is a superb venue with a wonderful membership. We hope to bring them great golf and some memories to cherish for years to come."

The flagship event of the Canadian Tour – one of the Tour’s four major championships - also announced a purse increase to $250,000 in 2009, up from $200,000 in 2007 and $150,000 in 2006. The winner of the 2009 tournament will receive $41,000 and a two year exemption.

“The Canadian Tour Championship has undergone significant growth in both stature and prize money since its 2006 inception,” noted Bram Cotton, Canadian Tour Manager of Marketing & Communications. “We are very pleased to be bringing this event to St.Catharines Golf & Country Club in 2009. The Niagara community has an excellent reputation for the quality of its volunteer base and its hospitality. We are looking forward to working with the volunteers and the local corporate community to make this event a success.”

“We at the St. Catharines Golf & Country Club are absolutely thrilled to have been selected to host the 2009 Canadian Tour Championship the first week of September. We intend to make it a success,” says Joseph Gottli President of the St.Catharines Golf & Country Club. “This event will not only showcase the upcoming Canadian professional golfers, but also our quality golf course and facilities, the City of St. Catharines and the Niagara Region. Our golf course and its practice facilities offer much to young golfers and challenges to the seasoned veterans. The Region also has much to offer from world-renowned tourist destinations and attractions to new world wineries and uniquely local products.”

“I am confident we will be able to successfully partner with many and diverse business interests to support and sponsor the Tour Championship. The coverage on the Golf Channel and other media exposure has traction for the Club, the City of St. Catharines and this great Niagara Region. I am looking forward to promptly putting in place our committees and volunteers to ensure this event will reap benefits for us all, not the least of which will be the charitable group that will benefit from the Pro-Am portion of the week’s events.”

About the Canadian Tour:

The Canadian Professional Golf Tour is an International Tour with tournament operations in Canada the United States, Mexico and South America representing more than 200 members from around the globe. As one of seven (7) members of the International Federation of PGA Tours, official World Golf Ranking points are awarded to the top six finishers at each Tour event.

Some of the most recognizable names in professional golf have competed on the Canadian Tour, including 2003 Masters Champion Mike Weir. Other Canadian Tour alumni whom have moved on to successful careers on the PGA TOUR, include Chris DiMarco, Stuart Appleby, Steve Stricker, Todd Hamilton, Michael Campbell, Paul Casey, Stephen Ames and Dan Halldorson.

This is a huge deal for our club and will help considerably with attracting new members and bringing exposure not only at a regional level but at an INTERNATIONAL level, as the event will be televised on the Golf Channel.

I will have much, much more on this story and event as time progresses. Don't be surprised if I get involved in this event in some capacity...