Amateur golf tournament season is winding down here in northern Utah. I’m playing one of the last tournaments of this year a little later this morning. It’s the club championship at Bonneville, one of my home courses. I didn’t realize it was club championship weekend and I didn’t plan on playing in the 36-hole, two-day championship because, well, I’m not going to shoot two rounds of 66. So I’d just be donating.
But my buddies signed me up for the “Saturday” portion of the event. I came to find out the club also has a “Senior Championship.” I qualify now, at 50. So “what the hell?” I’m thinking. I’m not going to beat the 22 year old flat-belly college scholarship guys on the University of Utah golf team, but maybe I have a chance against the old farts.
Bonneville Golf Course Aerial Photo by Tony Korologos
Bonneville Golf Course Aerial Photo by Tony Korologos
Yesterday I played my 3rd round of net match play for the 2016 Bonneville men’s club. Any rounds at this point are gravy since I’ve gotten my entry fee back. Today’s match was against a very good player, a 1-handicap. After blowing at 8-iron over the green on the par-5 first hole in two, I went one-down with a par. On the 2nd I 3-jacked (not normal for me) to go two-down. If I didn’t get my ass in gear this was going to be the world’s quickest 9-hole net match…
Fortunately I made two good shots to get to about 15 feet for birdie on the tough par-4 3rd. Made the putt to go 1-down.
My opponent, knowing I was getting a pop on the 4th hole, made about a 40 foot bomb for birdie to tie my net birdie. Still 1-down.
On the par-5 5th my opponent made an impressive par after hitting his drive in the lateral hazard to the right. My net birdie put the match back to even.
I screwed up on the par-3 6th. My opponent missed the green and made bogey. I ran my birdie putt by too far, too aggressive. Missed the downhill come back putt. Still even. Should have been 1-up.
On the par-4 7th I hit a killer approach right at the pin from 125. Hit landed, went up to the hole, then spun back about 25 feet. Bad luck there. Opponent makes birdie and I go 1-down.
On the short par-4 8th (about 330ish?) my opponent actually waited for the green to clear before teeing off. He made it to just short. I don’t have that shot in the bag so I hit my best shot of the day, a solid 4-iron. I hit an okay approach to about 20 feet and said “Houston, we have a problem.” A player as good as my opponent should make birdie from so close to the green and that’s just what he did. My birdie putt to extend the match just missed.
In the most entertainming moment of the match my opponent shook my hand and said, “nice match, Troy.”
He realized the name mistake and apologized, but not after I gave him some grief.
On the 9th, playing for fun, I made birdie. Of course…
I shot even par for the nine holes and lost 2-down. My opponent shot 3-under. I don’t feel too bad. That’s some damn good golf being played.
Even though I lost today, match play is still my favorite form of golf.
Not much time to think about this match. This afternoon I play my gross match, against a pro who is one of the best players in the association.
At the time my handicap was the absolute best I was playing with a group of eight guys, none of whom was higher than a 5-handicap. In the group there was a zero and a bunch of 1’s and 2’s. It was a tough group. If you didn’t bring your A-game, you had to make sure you brought your A-TM game. I really loved the competition level and intensity of those years, and I think playing in that group helped me improve and play at a high level, for an amateur. I was playing 4-5 times per week as well, which I’m sure helped. My handicap got as low as a 0.9.
Unfortunately that group dissolved. I still play with some of those guys, a time or two a year.
Fast forward 10-15 years to now. Because of where I am in life (translation: day job, wife, 3-year old, limited time), I can’t play 4-5 times per week. I’m only able to play two times, and perhaps a 3rd time if I’m lucky. Yes it sounds crazy that I say “only,” because many amateurs play once a week, once a month, or maybe a few times a year. I realize despite a 50% drop in rounds, I play more than probably 90% of amateur golfers. Playing less does not help my game. Winter around here in northern Utah hurts the game as well. Nothing hurts your feel and crispness as much as a six month frost delay.
But now that summer is here I’m past the spring rust phase. I’m also playing quite a bit right now. It’s not cold either. Many of the reasons or excuses I could use for not playing well are not useable. Up until about 1.5 weeks ago, I’ve struggled to break 80 with many rounds around 85. Why? If I knew that, I would fix it.
The last week and a half though, I’ve finally seemed to turn a corner. Rather than mid 80’s, I’ve got a 74, 76, and two nine hole rounds that come in at -2 and even. What happened? Did I suddenly become a better golfer? Did I change swings? Did I put a new driver into play? What?
So what is contributing to the better scores? I don’t feel like I’m hitting the ball much better, but I’m scoring better. I don’t feel like my abilities have suddenly changed. What has changed is my “playing environment.” I’ve changed from the casual buddy group to the more intense competitive match play and tournament rounds. Also played 18 with a different group a couple of days ago, all who hit the ball as far or farther than me and could clean my clock on any given day if I don’t bring the A-game. It seems that perhaps for a while I’ve been in a playing rut due to the group I’ve been in. All good chaps for sure, but I’ve gotten too comfortable in the group. I’m not focused. There are higher handicap players in the group as well. Perhaps there’s a bit of “playing to the level of the other players” going on. Perhaps being around a higher handicapper for round after round has caused me to lose focus in my own game. Try not to interpret that as an arrogant comment. Think of another individual sport like tennis. A high level tennis player may not improve or keep his skills in top shape playing an opponent who is not at the same level. Yes one could argue that another player’s game should not affect one’s own golf game and there could be some truth to that. But I’m generally the kind of player who plays better if I’m around better players.
So where does that put me if the above analysis is true? Part of what makes golf enjoyable is the camaraderie of playing with friends. Perhaps the approach should be to keep the serious golf on the schedule, and play the casual and less intense rounds with the buddies now and then too.
Or maybe all that is a bunch of nonsense and I’m just playing better now. It could just be the phase of the moon or because I put my left sock on first instead of the right one this past week. Wait, I think maybe the better play is because of better underwear scripting…
In the previous post about the 2016 RCK Salt Lake City Amateur tournament, I mention briefly a sock scripting malfunction. I thought the story deserved it’s own golf blog post so here it is.
In the 2nd round of the tournament Sunday I had some other problems in the shoe/sock department. I can laugh now but at the time I was not laughing.
I walked some 20+ miles in some new shoes early in the week and as a result got a bad blister on my left heel, along with some kind of injury on my right arch. So I had some pain in both feet, which makes walking 12 miles in the tournament a little difficult.
I taped the hell out of my ankle and changed shoes on the 2nd day. That helped a lot. The new old shoes did not rub or make the blister worse thank the golf gods.
Sock Scripting Malfunction
It was about 7 a.m. and my bedroom was still dark Sunday morning, the day of the second round. As to not wake up the lovely sleeping beauty bride, I quietly grabbed a pair of white Kentwool Tour socks from my drawer and tip toed out of the bedroom and headed to the tournament. In the parking lot of the course when I attempted to put the socks on I found they were about 8 sizes too small. They were my 3-year-old son’s Kentwools, accidentally located in my sock drawer! Complete and utter sock scripting #fail.
I had no choice. I stretched them and put them on. Surprisingly I could stretch them enough to cover my feet and ankle. My playing partners/buddies told me “just buy some damn socks in the pro-shop!” I told them, “I’m not going to buy a crappy pair of cotton socks. I’d rather wear my 3-year-old’s Kentwools than adult size crap socks.” They thought I was nuts. Then again, they don’t wear Kentwools so they can’t possibly understand.
A few holes in my toes were being crushed together and the stretched fabric was not giving me enough padding. I knew if I continued on I’d do even more damage to my feet. On the 3rd hole I called lovely bride and asked her to bring me new socks.
On the 8th fairway a cart from the pro-shop came down with a grocery sack for me. Special delivery from the wife. Inside was a pair of white Kentwools. Thank you thank you. On the 9th tee I started to put the socks on and realized something. The socks were my wife’s socks, not mine! Too small again! Dammit to hell! I looked in the sack and fortunately she brought an extra pair of Masters green Kentwools, which were my size. What a relief.
Below are all the socks involved in this event, after I wore them all. The smaller sizes are a bit stretched out now.
Left: 3-year-old’s socks | Middle: wife’s socks | Right: my socks
I finished the hot round in 95 degrees with comfy feet and no further issues. Ironically I played better in my 3-year-old’s socks than ones that were my size.
- Score while wearing 3-year-old’s socks: one over par.
- Score while wearing socks my size: six over par.
The stats don’t lie. I guess I’ll be wearing my 3-year-old’s socks from this point on. Kentwools only, of course.
2016 has been a struggle for me on the golf course. Most of the spring I’ve been shooting some very high scores and trying to keep myself calm and “enjoy the walk.” Because I’ve been playing a lot of golf recently my game seems to be getting better, slightly. For the last few rounds my driving has gotten very long and accurate. The iron game is very good, putting solid. Short game improved from that of a 36 handicapper to maybe a 15. Yes, short game is my weak point and source of most of my frustration.
Coming into the 2016 City Am at Bonneville Golf Course I had just won a 27-hole tournament with my dad, and won a match a few days prior. I was feeling very confident in my driving and irons, and thought my short game was improved enough that it wouldn’t cost me too many shots.
Bonneville Golf Course Aerial Photo by Tony Korologos
This tournament, as I’ve said many times, is the one that I look forward most every year. I really value my performance and have thoughts of winning it, after placing 2nd a couple of years ago. I feel a lot of pressure, adrenaline, butterflies. It is difficult to get the ball airborne for the first tee shot. In fact, the first tee shot of the event I missed going out of bounds by about five feet. Since I don’t play a lot of tournaments I don’t have a lot of experience in dealing with that kind of pressure. That lack of experience doesn’t help. I find that nervous feeling very strange yet interesting. I feel like I’m strong mentally. I can’t believe I don’t have the mental strength to overcome having rubber arms that feel like they’re made out of lead. I’m sure more experience in the pressure of a real tournament would help me get used to it better.
So many factors and weird things happened this week. Temperatures jumped up big and the end of the 2nd round the temperature was 98 degrees. For the first time of the season my hands were sweating so much that I couldn’t keep them dry. Some of my grips, like on my driver, get slippery when wet. Try hitting a pressure shot when you can’t hold onto the club. So I wear a glove. I hate gloves. I only wear them when my hands are slipping. As a result, I think my accuracy suffered. My driving was not as good as normal, which put me into situations which brought bogey and double bogey into play. I’m talking about trees, bunkers, even snack bars. More on that later.
Shoe/Sock Scripting Malfunctions
I had some other problems too, in the shoe/sock department. I can laugh now but at the time I was not laughing. Read the next post for details on that. Needless to say, the pressure, sweaty hands, 95 degree temperatures, bad short game, wrong socks, blistered feet… all added up to my simply trying to eek into the prize money.
Highlight of the Tournament
This is surely the 2nd craziest par I’ve ever had. The first being one I made on the Road Hole in 2011.
I nutted an 8-iron on the 160 yard par-3 17th. It flew over the green and hit a downslope, rolling some 40-50 yards into a pile of sand in ground under repair near the snack shack. My nearest relief from the ground under repair left me an impossible situation. I was behind a wall of trees about 80 feet high, hitting up to an elevated green some 20 feet above my head. I could barely see the top of the flag and I could not go right at it. To top it off, my drop slowly moved from grass to a bare piece of dirt.
All I could do was try to punch a 7-iron into the hill and hope that it bounced onto the right half of the green, or off the front of the green. Then maybe I could chip and one-putt for a bogey. The situation had big numbers written all over it.
I chopped the 7-iron in a downward motion because of the dirt lie. The ball came off left of target and went right at one of the trees. It went right through a V in the tree, ticking some leaves. It then hit into the hill and bounced straight up into the air, right at the flag. I didn’t know they were watching, but the players behind me on the 4th tee saw it and clapped! I was left with about a 20 foot par-putt. I made the putt. It was probably the only putt over 15 feet I made all weekend.
I’m not sure how I managed that par. I think perhaps I had a little help. One of the trees behind 17 green has a plaque under it, with a dedication to an old friend named Jeff Dalebout. Jeff was a bouncer in the bar my rock band used to play at for many years. When his favorite X songs would come on, Jeff would jump up on stage and sing them with us. We became good buddies over the years. Along with being a bouncer, Jeff was one of the “night watermen” at Bonneville. For about the first 86 years the course existed, it had no automatic sprinklers. The night watermen would haul hoses all around the course and water it in the dark. Jeff and I played many rounds of hungover golf at Bonneville, after gig nights.
Jeff passed unexpectedly back around 2003 at a very young age. I tip my hat to him every time I walk by his plaque behind 17 green on the way to the 18th tee. I think he gave me a helping hand on Sunday. Thanks my old friend. You are missed.
Best Bud Caddies On Sunday
Speaking of old friends… My best buddy once told me the best things in life are “experiences.” If that’s true, Sunday’s round was one of the best things in life, and an experience I’ll never forget. My buddy Alan Nelson, who normally resides in Philly, was in town. He asked if he could caddie for me in the 2nd round. How cool is that?
Naturally I said yes as long as he understood the “three ups” in caddieing:
- Show up
- Keep up
- Shut up
I loaded my golf bag full of bricks and let him have at it. A fine job of caddying he did. Old Course caddie John Boyne would be proud. Alan did an even finer job of doing what he has been best at for years, being a great friend. He knew when to talk to me and when to leave me alone to cool off (like after I bladed a wedge across the 16th green).
What a great experience. I should find out if I’m in the money when I get to the course tomorrow. Rest assured my caddie will get his customary 10% of the take. I hope he doesn’t spend the whole $1.75 in one place.