Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Year in Review Part One - The Game

My first match play event of the year on a frigid late February morning at the sublime Wolf Point Club near Port Lavaca, Texas
(from left to right: Ben S, Don M, Alan L and myself)

It's amazing how quickly this year has flown by...

With the holiday season upon us, it's time to reminisce about my year on the golf course in 2015 through my annual "Year in Review" series. This will be a three-part series, starting today with "My Game" and I'll follow that up with posts about "The Courses" and finally, "Looking Ahead" to next year.

2015 was another wonderful year for yours truly, with some absolutely exceptional travel experiences and some positive developments with my game.

The Game

I started 2015 with a 5.3 index and that actually increased to a 6.0 by the time the Canadian golf season started due to some late February golf in Texas, where I was understandably rusty. Thankfully, I was able to knock a few shots off my game over the course of the year, finishing the season with a 3.3 index, a pretty solid improvement. For the first time in a couple years, my average score was back in the seventies (79.6 to be exact) and most of my stats improved as well.

I posted 65 scores this year, down four from my 2014 total of 69 but I also played three rounds at the exquisite Wolf Point Club in Texas that couldn't be posted due to the course having no rating. So, in reality, I was down only a single round in 2015. Interestingly enough, 50 of my rounds were played at my home club of St. Catharines G&CC, likely the highest number of rounds played at home since I was a teenager.

My first big event was just outside Port Lavaca, Texas at the aforementioned Wolf Point Club. Architect Mike Nuzzo and course superintendent Don Mahaffey put together an event made up of a number of architecture aficionados that would benefit a local family struck by tragedy some months earlier. Teams were drawn the night before play at a local restaurant and I was paired with a Colorado gent named Alan L for Team Texas and we were matched up against Don and USAF captain Ben S (see photo above), who representated Team Louisiana.

Only one day after sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s, we had to head out in weather that was very familiar, with temps in the low 40s and some intermittent rain.

Thankfully, nothing could dampen the spirit of this group of die-hards, especially on a course as incredible and exclusive as Wolf Point. I was carried by Alan's hot ball-striking and in the end, we were able to prevail 5&4 in our match over Don and Ben before heading into the clubhouse for some fajitas and a few beverages. Despite our win, it was Team Louisiana taking the inaugural Wolf Point Cup by a slight 5-4 margin.

My most notable round of the year came in late May during one of my TaylorMade Premier League rounds at St. Catharines, where I somehow put everything together and shot 71 (-1), breaking par for the first time in a couple of years and for the 14th time in my life, an astonishing number to me.

The scoring highlight of the year...a rare subpar round!

For the eighth year in a row, I participated in the St. Catharines G&CC Gentlemen's Invitational, our three-day member guest event in mid-June, with my wife's uncle Henry. This was a very special year for the tournament, as it celebrated its 50th year and our club put on quite a show, including a spectacular Black Tie dinner gala on the Friday night (with our wives of course!) in our curling rink, which usually doubles as our bag storage facility in the summer.

For this special event, all of the clubs were cleared out and the rink was turned into the most spectacular ballroom you can imagine (photo shown below), with incredible lighting, curtains, a stage and a wonderful band. One of the more truly memorable events I can remember, made better by the fact that Henry and I played pretty well, finishing in a tie for 20th out of 62 teams in the field.

The spectacular Black Tie gala for the 50th anniversary of the Gentlemen's Invitational at St. Catharines G&CC in June 2015

The club match play events have always been a big deal to me but I essentially flopped in both the Langley Cup, a 0-7 handicap event with full strokes from the back tees and the club's Scratch Match Play event. In both, I was only able to make it to the second round and would end up getting eliminated by friends Thane M. in the Langley (the eventual champion) and Jaret C in the Scratch matches.

There's always next year I guess...sigh.

I took part in only one match in the Niagara Cup this year, a "Ryder Cup" style event that sees many of the clubs in the Niagara region and beyond take part. I'd team up with Thane in a better ball match that we'd win handily to secure 2.5 of 3 potential points to help our club advance to the next round. Ultimately, our club would lose in the final of the event but as maybe the 15th guy on a team of 8, I was only called on for that one early round match in 2015.

The Club Championship at St. Catharines is always a highlight on my golf calendar. Coming off a 2014 A Flight Championship win, I debated moving up to the Open Flight for 2015 but my improved game would still be no match for the flat-bellied studs who were taking part in that event so ultimately, I opted to defend the A Flight crown. While perhaps a bit tired after returning from a long Western Canada vacation the night before, there was no excuse for the 86 I shot in round one and I could only follow that up with an 81 in round two, coming up woefully short of making the cut. What an embarrassment! Still, it's always a treat to take part in the Club Championship, my favourite event of the year and I hope to bounce back in '16.

For the third consecutive year, I ran a season-long competition on Sundays at St. Catharines G&CC called the "Premier League". It's proven to be very successful and gives everyone something to play for during our normal weekend rounds. The league continues to evolve, with me adding an allowance for a limited amount of Saturday rounds this year to encourage more participation and that resulted in the field increasing to 39 players, up from only 27 the year before. We also had TaylorMade step up and offer sponsorship of the league and they've pledged to do the same in 2016. Nice!

Interestingly enough, I played my best golf of the year on Sundays during the league and I'd end up finishing a solid 3rd place in the Blue Division (out of 24 players), taking home a sizable chunk of change while also leading the Blue Division in skins winnings. Not bad!

Finally, the last major event on my schedule is the Turkey Two Ball Invitational that I run and we increased the field to a record total of 40 players for the 5th Annual running of the mid-October, season-ending event. I'd draft second-last but was very fortunate to be able to draft my friend Paul L. as a partner during the pre-event draft party. I actually played quite well, making three birdies as the "B" player in my group and with Paul making two of his own, usually five birdies is a pretty solid total for the better ball event. However, we'd bogey an incredible SIX holes, faltering especially down the stretch to finish with a 73 (+1), four strokes back of the leaders and well back in a tie for 8th out of 20 teams and out of the money. We did win a skin to break even for the day, thankfully and the 5th anniversary of the event was easily the best yet and also included the first playoff in tournament history.

Another great year and I consider myself very fortunate to have such a great group of friends.

COMING SOON:

2015 Year in Review Part Two - The Courses
2015 Year in Review Part Three - Looking Ahead




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