Thursday, August 12, 2010

Inconsistency Sets In

With the club championship now behind us, the dog days of summer have really started to set in.

There's not a lot to play for competitively for the rest of the year so my focus on the course may start to falter a bit and that's been quite apparent lately. After my final round 81 in the clubs, I went out last Saturday and played a really nice, solid round of golf - there was nothing spectacular, as I only made two birdies but I made even fewer mistakes, with a solitary bogey on the relatively benign par 3 14th.

I'd barely miss a birdie putt on the last and settle for a one under par score of 71, my third subpar round this year.

That obviously gave me some confidence heading into Sunday's round, which was the fifth leg of the 2010 Niagara Men's Tour. We were supposed to play the Stanley Thompson-designed Whirlpool GC but disease infected a number of their greens so we were forced to move the Tour to Links of Niagara at WilloDell.

I'm going to try to be as diplomatic as possible but simply put, WilloDell isn't a very good golf course. They have recently fallen into receivership but you can tell the place needs some work, especially with the trees, which have overgrown to the point where a number of tee shots from the back deck are almost silly. The chutes in some cases are only about 10 yards wide and force you to start tee balls on lines that are borderline unfair.

I should have been carrying a chainsaw with me as my 14th club.

I started poorly with a three-putt on the par five first hole then hit as bad a tee shot as I can remember with my new driver, actually hitting it through the rough TWO FAIRWAYS OVER! Talk about a push!

I'd double that one and really, I'd never recover on a front nine of 42 (+6). I had a glimmer of hope when I hit the mid-length par five 10th in two shots and barely miss my eagle putt, settling for the birdie. I was only +5 through 13 and thinking I could salvage a decent score but I'd skull a greenside bunker shot on the tough par 3 14th on my way to double and fizzle in from there, finishing with yet another 81 (+9).

I finished way back in the pack and head into the last event at LochNess Links, one of my favourite local courses, in a tie for 16th place overall on the Tour. I actually have played well on the Tour this year but this poor finish at WilloDell combined with my missed event at Sawmill mean it's going to be tough to finish in the top ten by year's end.

As far as my game, I'm a bit off with my posture right now and my ball striking has suffered a bit lately. Putting seems to be okay but I'm just not comfortable over the ball right now. I may try to hit the range this weekend before playing just to get a few extra reps in.

On a positive note, I just got the news that I'll be part of a foursome that gets to play the highly-ranked Thomas McBroom and Bob Cupp-design Beacon Hall, a course that seems to have permanent residence in the top ten courses in Canada.

We'll be heading to Beacon Hall in a few weeks when our course is hosting the 2010 Canadian Tour Championship, the second consecutive year St. Catharines is hosting the Canadian Tour's flagship event. Our club signed reciprocal agreements with a number of top courses in the province and I was lucky enough to win a lottery for the weekend Beacon Hall time.

A great surprise and I'm already looking forward to the experience!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Club Championship 2010

The yearly Civic Holiday in Canada is reason for celebration purely because we get a day off work but it also signifies that the biggest event on the golf schedule is upon us: our club championship tournament.

I went into this year's event full of confidence, especially after a nine round, five day trip to British Columbia that ended earlier in the week. I also had a really great first round draw, playing with two young stalwarts in Jamie and Will along with solid vet Jim.

I had a great session in warmup on the range (yes, I actually hit some balls) and it rolled over into the round, as I didn't mishit a shot for six holes, hitting every fairway and every green to start one under through two-thirds of the opening nine.

I missed the 7th green but chipped to tap in distance and would also par the 8th and 9th to shoot a solid outgoing 35 (-1).

I'd hit a bad run from there, three-putting the short par five 10th for bogey to start a run of four consecutive bogeys which included two misses from inside 3 feet. Frustrating!

I'd get a shot back on the par five 16th when I made birdie after going for the green in two but would make tough bogeys on both the 17th and 18th holes to stumble home to a 76 (+4), a score that put me in 6th place.

I'd actually play worse tee to green on Sunday but a solid short game saved me for a little while at least. I started two over after three holes but birdied the 8th hole on my way to an outgoing 37 (+1). I'd slip up a bit on the back nine again, sandwiching a birdie two on the 14th hole in between bogeys at the 13th and 15th and would end up with my second consecutive 76 to make the cut comfortably and go into the final round in 6th place all alone.

I was a whopping 11 shots back of the leader and multiple-time club champion so I had no illusions whatsoever about winning but a top-three finish was certainly in reach and a worthy goal. However, my game simply didn't show up on Championship Monday.

I'd make an awful double bogey on the easy starting hole when my wedge approach went into a bad rake job in the bunker. I'd just get the ball out, chip on and two putt for the double. I'd nuke a 9-iron about 20 yards over the pin on the 2nd on my way to bogey but really knew it wasn't my day when I pulled my tee shot on the long par four 5th hole over the left fairway bunker and watched it bounce over the fence out of bounds. The ensuing triple bogey seven basically killed me, putting me at +6 though five holes.

I'd keep grinding, as I'm prone to do, making birdies at both par fives on the front nine (#6 and #8) and made a nice up and down on #9 to shoot a 40 (+4) on the front, a score I was very satisfied with considering my two bad holes.

After pars at the 10th and 11th, we had a bloody 30 minute wait on the 12th tee. Any momentum I had completely disappeared and I'd hit my tee shot into the water left of the green on my way to double. Things got even worse, as I'd miss a five footer for par on the 13th then three-putt the 14th hole from about four feet, making double there to essentially ruin any chance of a respectable score.

I'd finish with four consecutive pars, including a 30 foot sand save on the long par three 17th and lip out for birdie in front of a huge crowd on the 18th to finish with an 81 (+9) and a +17 total over three days, a score that put me in a tie for 7th overall.

I just don't know if I'll ever win that thing - I'm certainly capable of putting a good score together and competition obviously doesn't make me nervous but putting THREE GOOD SCORES TOGETHER, in a row, is something that isn't easy to do for a player of my caliber.

Anyway, as always, it was a great weekend and the club did a great job as usual putting the event on. It still remains the title I long for the most.

With that out of the way, my tournament season starts to wind down. I still have two events left on the Niagara Men's Tour, including one this weekend now taking place at Links of Niagara at Willo-Dell. We were supposed to be playing the esteemed Stanley Thompson-designed Whirlpool GC but disease has evidently infected their greens to the point where they are practically unplayable. So Willo-Dell it is.

I'm also still alive in our Scratch Match Play championship at St. Catharines and will be facing Brad B in the quarterfinals later this month. Other than that, it's just fun golf for the rest of the year!

Sand Hills review on the way!