Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Niagara Men's Tour - Event Three (St. Catharines GCC)

I got the very rare opportunity to play some Friday evening golf after work last week to help prepare for the Nevada Bob's Men's Tour event taking place at our home course two days later.

I joined regular partner in crime Cal for the quick nine hole round, while Harry was nowhere to be found. He said the next day that he played earlier that afternoon but we don't believe him whatsoever - Harris was looking for linens and we all know it.

Anyway, not much to talk about - neither of us played well and that was punctuated by a three-whack on the 18th hole (our 9th) for bogey for both of us, with my miss costing me dearly, as I'd have to spring for dinner.

Sigh...yet another loss as I hacked to a 41 for nine holes.

Needless to say, expectations were low on Saturday morning as I teed it up with Cal, Harry and Kyle, a Twenty Valley member and Tour player who wanted to check out the course before the tournament the next day.

We teed off the back and I made a great birdie on the tough 13th hole on my way to a first nine score of 39. Breaking 40 on nine holes is an accomplishment for me this year so I was suitably happy.

It got even better on our back nine, as I'd get hot for the first time all year, making a birdie on the 3rd hole then making back to back birdies on the 7th and 8th holes to finish with a season-high four birds and a back nine score of even par 36, notching a 75 (+3) overall. Best score of the year at St. Catharines for yours truly and I even hit the ball decently, hitting nine greens and seven fairways.

Even better, I made some money for one of the few times this year, winning a pair of skins and besting Cal by six shots in our regular $5.00 game.

Still, I had a lot of butterflies before the Men's Tour event on Sunday. I wish I could pinpoint the reason but I suspect that playing my home course raises my expectations to a higher level.

I was in the last group of the day, playing with two former event winners and one rookie, neither of whom I had ever played with before. Still, I hit two good shots on the opening hole but I was faced with a slick, 25 foot downhiller that I left about five feet short. I'd horseshoe that out on my par effort, making the disappointing bogey right out of the gates.

Making it worse was the fact that there were still two groups sitting on the second tee waiting to hit.

It was going to be a very, very long day.

Like Harry though, I used the extra time to settle my nerves and I just destroyed my drive when we finally got to the tee, giving me a little wedge second shot in. I'd make par there and also make a nice up and down on the par four third, which was playing much longer than usual due to the wind being completely opposite the tradewind for the course.

We had another lengthy delay on the par three fourth and I'd fail to get up and down from the back bunker, making a bogey to go +2 through four holes.

I'd par the fifth hole and one of the turning points in the day, confidence-wise, came on the par five sixth.

I hit my first poor drive of the day into the right fairway bunker then proceeded to duff the shot out. I was left with a 240 yard third shot to a back pin placement and I hit my hybrid a bit fat, into the front right greenside bunker.

It was a very difficult bunker shot, likely about 25 yards or so and I had to fly it over a second bunker to the back plateau. I hit the shot perfectly and it landed on the downslope of that second bunker, rolled onto the green and stopped about six inches from the cup. Whew! Tap in par and I'd follow with three more on the outgoing nine to shoot a solid 38 (+2).

The golf gods would smile on me again on the short par five 10th. I hit a horrific block right toward the houses on the right and I'd tee up a provisional just in case. We ended up finding my ball about two inches inside the boundary and I was able to pitch out and save my par.

I'd almost repeat the feat on the par four 11th, hitting a 4-iron about 40 yards right of the fairway. I almost had to hit over a house at the corner to get to the green but I was able to get to within 15 feet and I rolled that in for the crazy birdie to move to +1 on the day.

I'd make solid pars on both the 12th and 13th and I started getting nervous...really nervous. Why, I have no idea but it is what it is.

With a perfect pin position for me (back left), I hit another huge block with a 6-iron and was BURIED right against the back lip of the right greenside bunker.

Completely dead.

I tried to hit out sideways, up towards the back of the green and there was the very real possibility that I'd skull the sucker straight out of bounds into the neighbouring dog park. Somehow, I connected perfectly and SNAP HOOKED the ball out of the bunker, watched the ball get killed by the rough and roll gently onto the putting surface, stopping 20 feet away.

Hilarious.

I'd miss that putt but was THRILLED with the bogey.

I'd come completely undone on the par five 15th after hitting a perfect drive. I just wanted to layup to the 150 marker with a 6-iron but snap hooked the sucker straight into the holding pond. Damnit! There goes the round!

I'd end up making a double bogey seven there, I'd par 16, bogey the tough par three 17th and barely miss a five or six footer for birdie on the last, finishing with a 77 (+5) on the day.

Much to my surprise, that score was good enough to tie me for third place on the day, my first top five of the year on the Tour. I finished three shots back of the winner...not too bad.

I move up to 19th in the Overall Standings, a huge jump from 38th spot where I was before the event started. In the process, I stay barely ahead of Cal, who finished tied for 7th in the event and is now in 23rd position and I jump ahead of Harry, who shot a disappointing 82 on the day and sits one slot back in 24th.

The next event on the calendar is in about six weeks at Twenty Valley GCC in Vineland, a course where I haven't scored well historically. I'll look to reverse that trend as I try to move toward the top ten overall.

Big week coming up, as our club is holding its three-day Member-Guest Tournament, one I'll be playing in for the second consecutive year. Looking forward to having some fun and continuing to work the rust out of my game.

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