Sometimes life is simply about showing up and giving it your best, no matter how good or how bad that may be. Such is the case for me this past couple of weeks at my club championship here at River Oaks Golf Course.
I came into the championship fighting a very bad case of tennis elbow. On several shots during the 36 hole event the pain was so bad I nearly withdrew.
The pain, and fear of pain, made my golf swing change drastically. It became much more hands-oriented in an attempt to take the elbow/arm out of the swing. As a result I started drawing or hooking the ball and had to start aiming farther and farther right. Strangely, the new changes increased my distance, especially with my irons. I had several shots which airmailed the universe, like a pitching wedge from 140 yards which flew 28 yards over the target. That’s a 168 yard pitching wedge.
I stuck with it though the pain and was the beneficiary of a few breaks in the championship. One break came on the 4th hole, a very long and tough par-4. I hooked my driver into trees short of the fairway. I knew at that point I was going to have a hard time making a double bogey. Upon reaching the fairway though, my ball was perched up in a good lie in the dead center of the fairway. It had careened some 75 yards right and forward somehow. I would have a similar break on the 35th hole.
The format and timing of this championship was such that the field was whittled down to a small number. Great for me as there weren’t that many people to beat. One of those players was a preacher. He was playing well and was certainly a threat to beat me. He even had the same exact irons as me. On the par-3 6th hole though, he hit a line drive tee shot which hit his own golf bag, then bounced into a hazard. He was infuriated. He turned to our group, took his hat off and said, “I’m so mad that I’m afraid I will start cussing if I play anymore. I’m going to withdraw.” With that, he walked off the 6th hole. Fine by me. The more narrow the field the better.
It would seem that all the stars aligned and the golf gods saw fit to help me as all the other players would succumb to the pressure of the championship, shooting very high numbers.
Going into the final nine holes with basically one arm, I had to hold onto a 16 shot lead. There were a few key shots, like the tee shot on #10 which was clutch and down the middle. There are so many hazards there and the drive is so tight that big numbers can happen there. One guy scored a 10 on that hole in the championship. It hurt, a lot. But the drive was perfect. I made a couple of birdies on the 14th and 16th holes and when the final results were in, I’d won the championship by a whopping 13 shots.
The proudest moment of my amateur golf “career” (for lack of a better word) was winning my club championship in 2005. That year the format was match play and I had to take out numerous opponents to get to the final. In the final I shot a 70, making birdies on the final two holes to win the championship over my opponent 1UP.
This championship was different. It was more like a battle for survival than a battle of golf skill. The last player standing won. That was me. I didn’t bring my best to the table, but it was better than the rest of the competition. Funny how I can be disappointed in my performance yet still be the winner. But I’m happy and proud to have my name on the champions board again, nine years after my first championship.
As a benefit of winning, I’m given an exemption into the Utah Golf Association’s Tournament of Champions next month. It is an honor to play in that event, and all the best players in the state are there. In a strange bit of bad luck though, I’m going to be out of town that weekend and will not be able to play since I will be in the Bahamas playing golf with Greg Norman.
Yeah, you read that right. Tough gig.
With the completion of the championship my core tournament season is mostly over. I went to the doctor yesterday and received a cortisone shot in my arm. First one and hopefully the last. Hurts like hell.