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!

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