Thursday, August 27, 2009

Club Championship Medal Play

This weekend I will compete in our club championship in medal play. I believe I am there as much to round out the foursome as to compete. I am the highest handicapper of the bunch, although I am still among the four lowest handicappers at the club. In medal play, it doesn't matter, I get no strokes, so it's everything I've got and I have to be at my best for 36 holes over two days.

On the upside, I have been known to shoot some pretty good golf. I've won the handicap championship twice at our club. When I'm on, I'm on. When I'm not, I can be horrid. On the downside, I've spent the last month plagued by a bizarre left shoulder pain that has kept me off the course more than on. Mostly, these gals score in the 80's. Mostly, I score in the low 90's. I need to break 90 for the first time in my career to even have a chance to win. One shot at a time.

My strategy will be to prepare for the championship rounds practicing my putting and chipping leading up to the event and saving my shoulder for the big day. Especially on the crazy seventh green, a hole pictured here that is tiny, drives golfers crazy and is very difficult to par. I need to get there in 3 and 1 putt this green.

These girls can all hit a long ball - as can I - but as we all know, it's drive for show and putt for dough. When my putter is hot, I've been known to sink a lot of putts; long and short. Now that's what I'm talking about.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dedication


First day out at the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National paired Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington together again. They had just left each other last Sunday at Firestone where Tiger took the crown, after rallying from behind to win the tournament for the seventh time. The two prior years’ winners were teamed up with Rich Beem, who won at Hazeltine in 2002.

Woods, posted a 67 for the day. He hit 12 of 14 fairways and knocked in 4 birdie putts. Woods was clearly pleased with his performance according to the PGA website and his interview with Helen Ross, PGATOUR.com Chief of Correspondents. "It's always nice to get off quick," Woods acknowledged. He also knows it’s a long way from Thursday to Sunday. “But the first round, you can play yourself out of a golf tournament. Certainly cannot win the golf tournament on the first day. And it's something that I've always believed in, is just keep yourself around. You don't have to be eight ahead after the first round. That's not it.

"Just gotta just keep plodding along, and major championships are set up so they're difficult. They beat you into making mistakes. And the whole idea is not to make that many mistakes. All the majors that I've won, made very few mistakes for the week, and I think all of the other guys can say the same as well for the championships they've won."

Defending champ, Harrington finished the day one stroke behind Woods and is certainly not to be counted out. In fact, I believe he may just be the one to watch this weekend. Tiger better be on his game. Tiger may have one the day, but as he said, it’s only the first day and Paddy looked sharp. Aside from his first hole bogie – the 10th hole they played on the day, he carded 5 birdies overall - just like the Tiger man.

People talk a lot about Paddy’s swing. Yeah, critics claim he’s probably changed his swing more often than Jack Nicholson changes girlfriends, but whatever he’s doing, it appears to be working for him. From tuning up his mental game with Bob Rotella to working on his swing in the with “Swing Whisperer” Bob Torrance in an eight stall practice range in Inverclyde in southwest Scotland, Harrington is focused.

According to Harrington in an interview in Golf Magazine, he goes there for one reason: "Bob Torrance," he says. "If Bob wasn't there, I wouldn't be there." http://bit.ly/akamA

Woods is a golf machine, but me, I’ll be rooting for the man who is willing to stand in the gale force wind in the driving, cold rain off the Firth of Clyde to work on his swing. That's my kind of dedicated golfer.

Go Padraig!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Third Time, No Charm

This week I lost my match in the first round of the Handicap Club Championship. I deserved the loss. I did not play well; in fact I carded what was my highest score of the summer - 10 strokes above my average. My opponent proved superior in match play and I lost on the 15th hole. She was an absolutely adorable, long-hitting, sweet, twenty-something young woman with great future potential in the low handicap range. Now I'll be cheering her on with gusto.

I couldn't find the sweet spot on my driver and I hit too many chip shots short of target, leaving myself with long putts that I had to make to save the hole. Five of those long, putts lipped out while I groaned in agony. I just never found my game for more than fleeting moments during the entire 18-hole round and made a few costly mistakes. That's golf.

I was a late entrant this year, and decided at the last minute to join in the fun. I haven't competed for the past few years because of other life priorities. Competition golf requires diligence and drive. Perhaps I've lost that edge. I didn't feel the same energy to compete that I was conjured up when I won this tournament back to back a few years ago.  Back then I used to hit the course at 5 am 3 days a week to practice during the competition season. Perhaps I was more daunted by the 17 strokes I had to give up than I thought I would be. Who knows.

In the end, I was bested by a better player on that day, but I had enormous fun playing with someone new. I thoroughly enjoyed watching my young opponent hit long drives, scramble from trouble and play some pretty darn great golf to win.

Cheers to my spectacular opponent. I'm going to enjoy the rest of my summer golf without the worry of my next match.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wet Weather Women’s Whackers

As a light rain began teeming down on the 21st, I called the club to find out the status for Tuesday morning women’s golf. It was just before 8 am. Bobby informed me that Kelly, the head of our golf league, said we were on. I dressed for the weather and drove on up to the club.

It was raining lightly, but it was playable. When I arrived, it was clear the rest of the Tuesday women’s league had an aversion to playing in the rain. The parking lot looked like a ghost town.

Only one other woman, Cindy with a “y”, was getting out of her car and going into the club, but she had no interest in golf. Kelly was dressed for the weather. “Well?” she said. “Are you game?” “Why not,” I responded. “I’ve played some of my best golf in a light rain. What’s a little rain?”

Don got our cart ready and we took a few extra towels and off we went. We both blistered our drives down the center of the first fairway to about the 200-yard mark on the par 4 first hole, with Kelly outdriving me by about 15 yards or so. We were off.

We had the course to ourselves. How often does that happen?

Distance Envy

The first four holes went along fairly well and we were both playing at about our normal game. My friend Kelly can hit the snot out of the ball. She can easily hit her drive 210-220 yards and her fairway clubs almost as far. I hit the ball far, but not that far. I have distance envy every time we play.

When we teed off on the Par 5 fifth hole, Kelly blasted her drive to about 190 out, and her hit her second shot over the pond and just below the green. Although my drive came up at about 210 out, I was not willing to risk the long shot on this “always plays 20 yards longer than the yardage says” hole. I knew I couldn’t make it, and laid up in front of the pond. I stroked a sweet third shot to the green and made the tough downhill 6-foot putt for birdie four. Kelly chipped up and on, but had an impossibly long and difficult putt on this heartbreaker of a downhill sloping green. She left with bogie.

This green is a killer. In the blazing heat of late summer, you might barely tap a putt at the top of this green, only to have it roll clear off the bottom at the other end it gets so fast.

Our Par 4 seventh hole is 370 yards from the women’s tees. Easy right? Most of the women view this as the number one handicap hole – no matter what it says on the scorecard. In my eleven years as a member, par has found me here maybe half a dozen times.

The entire fairway slopes downhill to the left, so no one gets a flat lie unless you’ve made it to the fairway bunker at about 120 out. The right side rough is flanked with a nice row of trees. I don’t think I’ve ever made this green in regulation – even with two perfect shots. It simply plays long. The best approach shot comes from the left to help avoid the bowl.

The bowl? The green is small, as are most of our greens, and the tip of its oval shape faces you on approach. The front half of it is shaped like a small bowl. If the pin is up front, landing a shot and getting it close requires landing it on the top right and praying you get good roll down to the pin. The middle of the green has a giant hump on the left hand side protecting the back left – a favorite tournament pin placement. The back of green is one big downhill slope – same as the fairway. No matter where your putt is on this green, if it’s longer than two feet, it breaks; some have double breaks.

Not only did Kelly hit a monster drive on the Par 4 7th hole, but she was on the green in regulation and hit a long putt to get close, then dropped it in for par. I hit drive, rescue 4 to get close. On in three shots, but two putted for bogie on this crazy green. I was happy to leave with bogie.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Still lightly raining and we’re about to approach the ridge again. Our golf course runs along a ridge where the first and eighth holes run parallel to each other in opposite directions, and then on either side of those two, the rest of the seven holes are tucked into little valleys. We get a lot of wind.

As we made the turn the to play the back, it started to rain a little harder. We finished the 10th hole pretty wet, despite the cart, the towels, and our rain gear.

But Enough was Enough

As we made our way down the 11th fairway after watching our drives get pushed about 20 yards West from the “driving” wind, it started raining too hard even for us. We diehards we gave up the rain and the wind in favor of a dry and warm clubhouse.
Kelly was hot all around, carding a spectacular 39 for our 9 hole round to my 45. Wet weather golf – gotta love it.

Post Mortem

In an effort to finish the round, we went out the next day in stunning sunshine and hooked up with Dana to play the back nine.

With two holes left, we all teed off on the 17th. Dana hit a picture perfect drive down the fairway. Kelly and I both hit our drives into the pine trees 17th hole. This was the Happy Gilmore moment of the day. I took out my rescue and huddled under the pine tree branches to take a whack at the ball.

I couldn’t see a thing – just smacked and prayed. “Where did it go?” I called out to Dana. Dana was doubled over laughing and hollered out to Kelly, “You’ve got to see this!”

No, I did not jam the golf ball in with my hands. It’s a two-stroke penalty for hitting your own equipment in tournament play, but the girls let me off easy.

You just can’t make this stuff up.