Thursday, July 22, 2010

Scratching the Surface Again; British Columbia Beckons

My home club instituted a new match play competition this year called the "Scratch Cup", likely to be renamed at some point before the end of the year after one of our multi-time club champions.

The Scratch Cup is the overall match play championship at St. Catharines, is played from the back tees and no strokes are given, as opposed to the Langley Cup, a competiton I've talked about quite frequently over the years.

Cal G, friend of NOTT, is the man who delivered the idea to the powers that be at our club and they decided to implement the idea right away so kudos to the Cal man!

I had a first round bye in the competition and faced young Brandon M in the second round. Brandon is a member of the Niagara Men's Tour so he can definitely play but I hoped my solid mid-season play would help me prevail.

Well, it proved to be a bit tougher than anticipated. We both made solid pars on the first two holes before I was able to hit my approach to about three feet on the 3rd, taking the hole with a birdie three to go one up.

I'd give it back right away on the par 3 fourth, making bogey from in front of the green while Brandon made his routine par. We'd both par the tough fifth so we were all even more than half way through the front.

The first turning point in the match came on the par five 6th. I actually hit a poor drive left of the fairway but did well to hit out and eventually hit on, stopping about 18 feet away for birdie. Meanwhile, Brandon drove perfectly and would end up hitting a great wedge to about five feet.

Figuring I'd need to make, I'd be disappointed when my ball stopped right on the front lip of the cup, settling instead for par. I then watched in disbelief as Brandon missed his putt and it went sailing six or seven feet by the hole. I couldn't give him that one, obviously, and he would miss the comebacker as well, giving me the shocking one up lead.

Brandon would miss another shortish putt on the 7th to give me another hole and then I'd hit the shot of the day, a 3-hybrid from about 225 yards that flew the creek, landed just short and rolled up to about six feet.

Sweetness!

Brandon also hit a great shot, a long iron to about 30 feet. He'd lag it to gimmie distance for the birdie but it wasn't an issue, as I'd roll in my putt for the eagle three, my first eagle in 2010.

I really knew things were going my way on the long par four 9th. I hit a poor drive, this time to the right but it looked like it would be okay, as it didn't go over the maintenance road.

However, I'd walk up to find my ball right beside a tree, with almost no shot righthanded and only a clear look from the left side.

Brandon really should have checked to see how my ball was sitting but instead just walked up and hit his shot left into the greenside bunker.

Knowing I had some wiggle room, I decided to try to hit the ball normally. With the tree hugging my right thigh and the ball way back behind it, I tried to chop the ball back into the fairway.

WHIFF!

I completely missed the ball, hitting about eight or nine inches in front of the ball.

"I missed it completely", I informed the group.

"That's a whiff", I said again, just so they knew I intended to hit the ball and that it wasn't a practice swing.

I regrouped without any anger whatsoever and decided to gamble now, taking a 5-iron out of the bag and turning it over to hit lefthanded.

I play hockey left-handed so I can swing it pretty decently from that side and I was able to make solid contact with the ball on my third shot, hitting it to the 100 marker.

I still looked dead but hit a decent wedge shot to 18 feet. Brandon hit a poor bunker shot then putted to about three feet, giving me a slight opening to at least tie the hole.

I stepped up and knocked that sucker in for the unbelievable bogey! Awesome!

Brandon would make as well but that has to go down as one of the most satisfying halves of my life!

I would end up winning the match 4&3 on the 15th hole when we both made pars to move on in the competition and finished the round with an even par score of 72, which dropped my handicap to 0.2, bringing me back to a scratch handicap after starting the year at 4.1.

I briefly hit scratch in 2008 but the 0.2 represents the lowest index I've ever had in my life, something that is very, very satisfying! Hopefully I can keep the scores down over the next couple weeks, as club championships are right around the corner!

Also, as you're reading this, I'm in beautiful British Columbia on my second golf vacation of the year. While in BC, I'll be playing two rounds at
Tobiano Golf Club and one round at the brand new Ridge Course at Predator Ridge.

We'll also be spending three full days at
Sagebrush Golf and Sporting Club, Richard Zokol's private getaway near Merritt on Nicola Lake.

I'll be certain to take lots of pictures and post about my experiences at all three courses upon my return. You can also look forward to my upcoming two-part review of the highly esteemed Sand Hills Golf Club, coming within the next week or so.

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