Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From Despair to Delight; Ontario Better Ball Qualifier

Coming off a horrible first weekend of golf that saw me shoot rounds of 82 and 85, I was hoping to end my mini-slump on a glorious Saturday morning this past weekend in preparation for the big Ontario Better Ball qualifier at Burlington G&CC on Monday.

Any thoughts of having a good round ended quickly, as I continue to struggle out of the gate, going +3 through the first two holes. I'd continue to make a bunch of bogeys and doubles on an outgoing nine of 44 and I had to go +1 on my last six holes just to salvage a round of 85.

Thankfully, my wallet didn't get emptied on this day, as Cal and I didn't really commit to playing our regular $5.00 nassau and he was only marginally better with an 82.

Undaunted, I showed up on Sunday morning convinced that I had a good round of golf in me. In fact, I told my wife that I'd bet my meager life savings that I'd better my score from the day previous.

Boy am I a fool.

I did come out of the gates with a par on the first hole, the first time I've done that all year. I even hit the green in regulation, which was great considering that over my previous three rounds, the earliest I hit a green in reg was hole seven!

I'd bogey the second and third holes but I still felt decent. My confidence was about to take a big hit, however.

On the fifth hole, I hit a horribly weak hook into the fairway bunker and stupidly tried to hit a hybrid over a pretty big lip.

It took me three shots to escape. After wedging out, I tossed my club toward my bag and EVEN MISSED THAT, almost killing Cal in the process.

I'd bogey the sixth then hit a really awesome shot on the 7th, which was playing into a strong wind. I'd make an eight footer for birdie there to get back to four over. Not too bad.

However, I'd make bogey on eight and yet another double on the ninth to go out in 43 shots. I just can't score!

The back nine was just an exercise to try to keep from complaining too much about my sorry-ass game. I wasn't even successful at that, as Cal said "I've never heard you bitch this much in my life."

Ha. He's likely right. I've never had this much trouble figuring out my swing problems.

The back nine was the same as the front. I'd hit it into the water on the par three 12th for the fourth time in four tries this year, which has to be some sort of record. I'd double there and follow it up with another on the 13th to completely take me out of it mentally. I'd stumble in with another 43 on the back for an 86.

Just mind blowingly bad golf.

I'd lose all three ways in my nassau match with Cal and lose every way in the Hollywood and skins game we had going with Harry and Ryan, a newcomer to St. Catharines. All totalled, I lost $27.00 on the day, which must qualify as the largest losing session I've had on a golf course.

I was pretty down about the game and after a post-round pop with Cal and Ryan, I did what most other people do when they want to fix problems.

Yeah, I needed a map and a compass but I actually went to the driving range!

I spent about an hour and a half hitting balls under the watchful eyes of our head pro Drew and one of our assistants Jon. Jon was quite helpful and spent at least twenty minutes watching me - he told me three things I was doing wrong:

- Hands not ahead of the ball at address
- Ball position too far forward at address
- Takeaway is too far to the outside

I still could barely hit a straight ball even with his tips and moving the ball back in my stance meant the ball barely got off the ground.

Everything felt weird. Nothing felt comfortable. Interestingly enough, the only way I could hit even remotely decent shots was to set up for a fade. Which is hilarious if you know me at all because a fade for me is hitting a ball dead straight.

I slowly walked away from the range feeling completely defeated. I was already thinking ahead to the next day at Burlington and trying to figure out how I was going to apologize in advance to my playing partners for what they were about to see from me and my game.

At least I was getting to play Burlington G&CC for the first time, a course I had heard nothing but great things about. Stevie G, our resident agronomy expert at St. Catharines, used to work out at Burlington and gave me an ultra detailed, hole by hole breakdown of the course and how to play it.

Harry and I have tried two other times to qualify for the Ontario Better Ball championship, shooting 74 at Bridgewater two years ago and an unsightly 77 last year at Brantford, where neither of us made a birdie. I knew there was no chance for us this year due to my awful game but I came ready to just have a good time on a good golf course.

What a beautiful facility! I went to the range and was a bit surprised to see that it was only 140 yards long and you had to hit off mats. Didn't faze me at all though...maybe if I thought I had a chance to shoot a good round I'd be a bit upset at not getting to warm up with a couple drivers but again, I was just planning on enjoying a gorgeous April morning on a great track.

The one thought I had as I started hitting balls was to not take the club back to the outside. And what do you know? I started hitting lasers on the middle of the clubface; every shot was perfectly straight and with great trajectory. I figure the mats were very helpful in correcting my flaws but I actually left the range with confidence, something I haven't had all year.

Harry and I ventured to the first tee and we got paired with a couple gents from London, both of whom couldn't have been nicer. We had the honour and Harry said he'd go first and let me anchor.

Oh, I'll be an anchor all right! I'll drag us both deep into Lake Ontario, baby!

Harry steps up and kills a perfect drive that fades right in the middle of the fairway. I step up and try not to duff it in front of about 20 onlookers and shock myself when I look up and see a bullet that draws beautifully around the bunkers, past Harry's ball and just through the dogleg left fairway. Nice start!

I'd hit a decent second shot to about 25 feet and leave myself a three footer for par but Harry would make a five footer to get us off nicely with a par. Our playing partners stumbled right away, making a double on their best ball.

I knew that things were a bit different on this day when I stepped up onto the 232 yard par three second hole and hit a perfect hybrid to the front edge of the green. Harry would bogey but I two putted for par to keep us going.

I'd just keep making pars on the front and Harry also continued to play well. He'd hit two of the three par fives on the front in two but unfortunately three-whacked both to keep us birdie-less through eight. However, we were also BOGEY-LESS through eight, sitting at even par, a number I figured would be good enough to qualify.

However, we both stumbled on the par five ninth. I hit a poor drive that ended up right in a tree, necessitating a chip out. The best I could do was get it to within ten yards of Harry's drive, leaving me a 267 yard third shot. I'd do well to get that into the front greenside bunker while Harry's second soared right of the green, behind a large tree. He would get a bit frisky and try the impossible shot and ended up going in a greenside bunker. He'd hit on and proceed to three putt for DOUBLE, putting the pressure on me. Unfortunately, I couldn't get up and down and settled for my first bogey of the day but it would have to count as our best score on the hole. So we were +1 through nine holes, which was also my personal score.

The last par five on the course was on the tenth and despite both having good birdie chances (Harry hit a miraculous pitch shot here from behind the green to a back pin that stopped 12 feet away), neither of us could make our putt.

Still birdie-less.

That would change on the next hole, a 190 yard par three. I hit a missile that never left the flag, stopping eight feet short. I'd ram that home to get me and our team back to even on the day.

Shake and bake!

We'd continue to make solid pars and Harry would bail me out on the 16th hole, making a par to my bogey to keep us on pace at even par.

The wind at this point was HOWLING and the long par four 17th was playing fiercely downwind. Both Harry and I KILLED our drives here. Funny moment as Harry was walking to the furthest ball and I had to EMBARRASS him by telling him that he passed his ball and indeed, it was I that hit the long drive.

Harry had 132 yards left on the 425 yard hole while I had 111 yards left. Harry would unfortunately hit his gap wedge a bit fat and he ended up in the pond short of the green, taking him out of the hole. I didn't feel any pressure and hit a decent shot about 25 feet left of the hole, which was on the back shelf. I misread my birdie putt and left it four agonizing feet short. With the wind just ripping and the ball oscillating, I couldn't ground my putterhead for fear that the ball would move and I'd get hit with a two stroke penalty. So I tried to steady myself and ended up hitting the worst putt all day, completely missing the hole. I'd tap in for a three putt bogey and I knew I just killed our chance to make the cut.

What a downer. That was because the par three 18th, measuring only 176 yards, was playing into one of the strongest winds I've ever seen. Harry and I both pulled hybrids and I was completely shaken when I saw Harris hit his ball left and about 30 yards long of the green.

What the hell was I going to do now?!

I didn't think I could get a 4-iron there in that wind so I gripped down on the hybrid and put the weakest swing you've likely ever seen on the ball, then watched in horror as the wind grabbed it and took it straight right toward North Shore Boulevard. It would hit a tree and stay in bounds and I actually had a nice little opening for my shot. I'd hit it just through the green, leaving myself a treacherous 12 footer for par. Harry pocketed his ball so it was up to me and again, I couldn't come through, making another bogey, my third in a row, to finish us off at 73 (+2) as a better ball.

Indeed, as expected, even par made it so the two bogeys at the end cost us a potential spot in the championship.

Still, I wasn't upset at all. I ended up shooting a 74, by far my best round of the year. I hit ten greens in regulation and generally hit the ball very well all day. Harry also played great and would have been in the mid-to-high 70's if not for the last two holes.

I *know* we can make it in this thing one day. We just needed a couple birdies and we were in.

Still, a great day on a gorgeous golf course. How Burlington isn't ranked in the Top 100 in Canada is a mystery to me. It's a classy course and I really enjoyed the round.

Now, the true test will be to see if I can follow up this round with something decent next week! Then, I can officially say that I'm back. Oh yeah, it wouldn't hurt if I actually won a couple bucks off Cal, who is rumoured to be buying a brand new car with all of his winnings in April.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ugly!

It was a lovely weekend weatherwise and with my health pretty much at 100%, that meant two wonderful days of golf.

Unfortunately for me, the golf game was in disarray all weekend long.

On Saturday, I didn't hit a green in regulation until the TENTH HOLE and even that approach shot almost spun back off the green from 80 yards. I'd go out in 43 shots and was +11 through 14 holes before finally hitting a few decent shots coming in. I'd par 15 and miss about a five footer on 16 for birdie to settle for another before almost holing a 5-iron on the 222 yard par three 17th (it was screaming downwind).

I'd kick that in for my first birdie on that hole in three years. Unreal. I'd also par 18 to at least finish in style for a round of 82 and lose $5.00 to Cal in our regular $5.00 Nassau. I ended up hitting a whopping five greens in regulation for the day but actually drove it decently, all things considered.

That said, I figured I'd DEFINITELY be better on Sunday after ironing out the kinks in the swing the day before but boy, did I have another thing coming.

The wind was howling from the Northeast, a strange wind direction for our course, one pretty much opposite the prevailing wind. That meant a hybrid instead of an iron off the first hole, a rarity. I'd smoke one down the middle to start but little did I know that would likely be the shot of the day for yours truly.

I'd skull my 9-iron approach over the green and duff my way to a double. I'd bogey the second, make a nice up and in for par on the third but double the fourth after duffing a bunker shot. Bogeys would follow on the fifth and sixth and then I FINALLY hit my first green in regulation for the day on the par three seventh, hitting it into about four feet. I'd make that for the nice birdie but follow it up with two more bogeys on eight and nine to shoot a wicked 44.

My iron play is just rotten, to say the least. I layed the sod over the ball on the fifth from the middle of the fairway with a six iron, which is my favourite club in the bag so that's saying something.

The back started with promise, as I almost hit the par five 10th in two but made a pretty easy up and in for birdie then barely missed another at the shortish par four 11th.

However, for the second day in a row, I'd hook my tee shot on the tough par 3 12th into the water and would fight to save bogey both on that hole and the following hole, making a 12 footer to do so. I actually duffed TWO SHOTS on the 13th to put myself in that position.

Such a struggle all day.

Routine bogey on the 14th (tee shot short, stone hand a chip 12 feet long, miss the putt) was followed by a terrible double bogey seven on the par five 15th hole after a good drive. I couldn't even layup with my irons on this day.

By the way, at this point I have more doubles (3) than pars (2) and just as many birdies (2) as pars.

Again. Rotten.

I'd make a routine par on 16, barely missing my birdie putt. The par three 17th was fun, as it was playing into a wicked wind and I had to nail a 2-iron hybrid (biggest club in my bag other than driver) just to get to the front edge of the fringe. Heck, it was so windy that Cal used driver and still came up short!

I'd make par there then make a terrible bogey from the middle of the fairway on the 18th, again missing my approach by a mile in the story of the weekend to shoot a ridiculously bad 85.

I hit nine greens in regulation FOR THE ENTIRE WEEKEND. That's 36 holes folks.

I'm going to try to write the weekend off as an early season anomaly but I definitely need to work on my swing and my short game, which was almost as atrocious as my iron game. Strangely enough, I drove the ball quite well both days, hitting a lot of fairways and generally was in play the whole time. Just couldn't hit an iron to save my life.

I lost a boatload of money on Sunday. I lost each way in my $5.00 nassau match to Cal, even though he shot an 82 and lost three $2.00 Hollywoods in a team game with Harry, Cal and Scott so that put me down $21.00 for the day.

Hell, Harris even beat me badly today and he threw two clubs and cursed the whole way around.

Will it be a long year for the new dad? Tune in next week for more!

Haha.

Off to Montreal for a couple days. Fun city and it should be a crazy town with the Habs/Bruins game going on tomorrow night. No, I won't be going to the game but I expect to be out and about tomorrow evening so I expect to see a lot of passionate Habs fans around. Should be fun.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Health Update

Well, I'm happy to report that I DON'T have mono!

Looks like there are a lot of new viruses going around and I got hit with a doozy but it's just a bad viral infection and not as bad as mono.

Even better, I've had two pretty good days in a row. Still fatigued but no other symptoms and I'm eating again, which is great.

So there you go Harris: I'll see you on the course next Saturday by the looks of things. You were right, doctor.

In other news, the Masters looks like it will be interesting this year on Sunday for one of the first times in a couple years. No Mike Weir though, who fell to DFL after a piss poor 79 today. There goes my rooting interests!

I'm rooting for guys who haven't won a major, like Steve Stricker or Anthony Kim, although he might be a bit too far back. I think Cabrera has the game to win it and since he won the US Open at one of my favourite tracks, Oakmont, I'd have no problem if he added to his major championship total either.

Regardless, I'll be watching.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Unthinkable Happened Last Weekend

I actually walked off a golf course having played less than nine holes.

For starters, I despise nine hole rounds - if I make the commitment to play golf, I'm there to PLAY GOLF, and that means a full round of 18 holes.

I can't remember one instance in my life where I've walked off a golf course after only six holes, as I did on Sunday, other than in severe weather conditions.

I had been feeling under the weather off and on over the past couple of weeks, even telling Cal and Harris via messenger that I wasn't going to be playing on Sunday because of my health. Bad fevers, chills, sweats, headaches, shortness of breath and fatigue: how are those symptoms!

However, there's always something about beautiful sunshine early in April that makes everyone feel just a bit better inside and stupidly, I sent texts to both Harry and Cal that I would be playing that day.

I hit two good shots on the first hole and missed about a ten footer for birdie, tapping in for par, bogeyed the second and third then made a good par on four.

Then, I completely and utterly ran out of gas. Weak smother hook on the par four 5th that left me over 250 yards out for my second. Another smother hook later, I'm still 100 yards away. I'd punch that on and bogey.

I've got nothing at this point. I'm labouring about 40 yards behind Cal and Harry and really struggling to keep up. I'm having trouble breathing and I've got pain in my abdomen. I hit a big block off the par five sixth but get it out there then pathetically roll my next shot into the pond right in front of me. I try to keep going, skulling a shot down the fairway, hitting another shot short then pitching long through the green. Hilariously, I'd chip the next one in for double but that was it.

I had to walk in. I've never felt this much pain and fatigue in my life. Knowing how much I love golf and how much it pains me to miss any time on the course, I KNEW I wasn't well so I went straight to the walk-in clinic, where the doctor told me I likely had a viral infection of some sort, possibly mono.

MONO? I'm 36 years old! I haven't locked lips with anyone other than my wife in at least five years! How the hell does that happen!

I went in for blood tests the next day and I'm still waiting for the results to come in. It's been a very rough week physically and everyone in the house is sick, including my little dude Evan.

I'm heading to the clinic tomorrow to find out the results. Thankfully, today has been a very good day so I'm hopeful the results come back negative and I just have some bad, bad infection that has run its course.

Either way, no golf for this guy for a couple weeks, meaning I'm going to be ill-prepared for the big Ontario Better Ball qualifier with Harris in a couple weeks. I'll just have to wing it.

And I completely realize I'm opening myself up for countless jokes about possibly having mono but shit man, if you've suffered from what I've gone through the last couple of weeks, you'd understand. It's been torture.

At least I've got the Masters to watch tomorrow!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Improvement

Cal, Harry and I teed it up again on Saturday morning for our second round of golf in 2009.

After getting 'pwned' by Cal and Harry in round number one, I hoped to give them a bit more of a battle on this day.

Things didn't start out great, as I bogeyed two of the first three holes but then I settled down and started hitting decent shots. I'd par out on the side to shoot 38, still losing the front nine to Cal, who shot a nice 37.

I'd par 10 and 11 then bogey 12 to sit at three over par. Routine par on the tough 13th was followed with my first birdie of the year on the par three 14th to bring me back to +2.

I'd par 15 then birdie 16 to move to +1 on the day. I'm smoking Cal on the back nine by about four shots at this point so it's looking like I'm a lock to profit on the day. However, I bogey both the 17th and 18th to stumble home with a 75.

Thankfully, I squeak by Cal's 76 to win the overall and the back nine matches and profit $5.00 US. Big money, baby!

So two rounds of golf in the books before April hits - you can't complain about that!

I'll be back later with a post on poker, of all things!