I’m about to hit the sack and get some rest. Tomorrow at 1PM I tee of in my yearly appearance at the Salt Lake City Amateur. This to me is the hands down biggest and most intense tournament of the year. I’ve been playing in this event for years. I’ve enjoyed every round, barring some of my performances.
This is the primary yearly tournament which I really want to play well in. I’m in championship flight. This puts me, a current 2 handicap, up against college players and young flat bellies who will shoot 66’s. Unless I break my personal record two days in a row, under pressure, I don’t have a chance at winning. I don’t expect to win. I just want to perform my best and maybe, just maybe, finish IN the money for the first time ever.
They do this tournament right. No handicaps. You play in flights, straight up stroke play for two days, 36 holes.
This tourney is on one of my three home courses, Bonneville. Bonneville isn’t the longest course out there but they do lenghthen it and toughen it up. The greens at “Bonney” are the primary defense for the course. When they jack them up to an 11-12 on the stimp they are brutal. There are places you just can’t go. Downhill putts are dead. It takes true putting skill to tame these babies. Even the hot college players can be baffled by the subtleties of these greens, which I know like the back of my hand.
This tournament is the longest continually running amateur tournament in the USA. Yes you heard me.
My history in this tournament is that of ups and downs. I’ve shot 73 in the first round several times, putting myself right in the mix with the big boys. One year during high winds I managed a 73 in round one. The head pro for the course came up to me and put his arm around me and said, “Tony, that was one hell of a round in those conditions.” How cool to hear that. It was one of the 3-4 lowest rounds that day. Unfortunately every year I’ve shot low on day one I’ve knocked myself out of contention and out of my satisfaction with 2nd rounds in the 80’s.
Just last year I shot 73, 81. I get so nervous that my stomach feels like it is twisting into a knot. I can’t breathe. I’m shaking. I want to perform well so badly, that the desire to do so hurts my performance.
This year I just fought off a complete breakdown of my entire game, including my 2nd ever bout of the shanks just last week. The first bout started back in 2004 during this tournament, where I scored some sort of double digit number on a par-3.
I feel a bit different this year going into it. I’ve gone through so much crap in my personal life that playing in a damn golf tournament seems like nothing. I think I have some perspective this time around and I’m looking forward to teeing it up in a more relaxed fashion, with more perspective. I’ll make some bogeys and maybe even a double or two. I’ll try not to get too bent out of shape because on this course I CAN make birdies and lots of them.
I’m also looking forward to playing golf with a long time golf pal Jim, who just suffered the loss of twins with his wife after complications with her pregnancy.
I’ve played a ton of golf lately, and I feel pretty good about my swing. I have some new short game techniques and some areas which still suck. I feel REALLY good about my putting, which is crucial in this event.
Wish me luck. Round one starts in 13.5 hours.
Anyone who has read my blog with any regularity knows I’ve been, shall we say, “critical” of Sergio Garcia. The spit incident tarnished my respect for him long ago. Recently Sergio’s play hasn’t been great and the old me was there to ride that horse, predicting a poor performance in the Masters and making fun of the promotion awarding free TaylorMade drivers to players who bought them before the Masters if Garcia won…
Now we know why Sergio’s play has been so rocky, he’s done with Greg Norman’s daughter Morgan Leigh
Back during the Masters I commented that Sergio had a look in his eye which didn’t look right. It didn’t look good at all. I wasn’t sure if he was ill, being audited by the IRS or what. He looked beaten down. He looked like he was in a daze.
As it turns out his relationship with Greg Norman’s daughter Morgan Leigh is over. Some articles are saying he was “dumped” which is not terribly nice.
I feel your pain Sergio. Can I buy you a beer?
Well guess what? My game has SUCKED this season so far. My handicap has TRIPLED and it is still getting worse. I’ve thought about hanging it up a few times. I’m so fragile emotionally on the course I want to cry with joy when I make a birdie and throw a temper tantrum like a big baby when I make a bogey. I’m an emotional wreck now and my concentration level is horrid.
I’m in a similar boat to my now friend in misery Mr. Garcia. I too broke off a relationship months ago. It has been very tough. Food hasn’t been terribly appealing and I have moments where I just stare off into space. Several times a week I just want to go to sleep in the middle of the day, though I got plenty of sleep the night before. In my morning shower I have these moments where I just fade off into some other universe. I’m not exactly sure how long I stare at the wall of the shower some mornings. I’ve lost 22 pounds in two months. It has been tough to gag food down and sometimes I’ll realize I haven’t eaten a meal in 24 hours or more, just a couple of olives.
Getting better slowly
I’m slowly adjusting to having that big hole in my personal life without a special lady who I thought was the perverbial “one.” If Sergio felt the same way as I did, you can be sure his game won’t be back any time soon. I’m about four months in and just barely coming out of my shell. I still have moments where I zap back to the past and get sad, but I’m trying to move on and move forward. I’ve now got the feelers out to friends and some dating sites, and maybe I’ll find me a nice lady who golfs.
So Sergio I humbly apologize for all the crap I’ve given you here on my little golf blog. I feel your pain man. It will get better, but not as quick as you may hope. That pain will never really go away. You’ll just figure out how to process it. Call it a character builder like those four foot putts.
You’ll always have those painful memories tucked away in the back of your golf bag, but you’ll find happiness in the future. At least thats my plan.
I haven’t chimed in on the latest Big Break lately. Big Break PEI (Prince Edward Island) has been on the low side of entertaining. Despite having my friend and mega hot golf babe Blair O’Neal on the show, I have yet to see any of the trademark Golf Channel “super slow-mo hot golf babe up skirt” shots. Come on guys. Get with the program.
About the only really entertaining part of this show is this Brian guy. He’s constantly saying how he can hit the ball farther than all the other players “if he wanted to” and how he could beat the pants of off everyone “if he wanted to.” If this show were a smack talking contest he’d be the hands down champ. I really think the strongest part of his game, and perhaps the only part, is his positive attitude.
Unfortunately for Brian, and for the entertainment value of this program, Brian couldn’t “positive think” himself out of elimination. He’s gone. I wonder why he had such skill to use in his arsenal of talent “if he wanted to” but chose never to use it. I guess he just didn’t want to.
I’ve now played two 18 hole rounds, plus five additional holes tonight since I hammered out my shank issue on the range yesterday. 77 yesterday and 78 today in a format called “Texas Toast” where you hit two tee shots and use the worst of the two. 78 in that format is pretty damn good.
My swing is feeling good right now. For that, I am thankful.
I got the shanks about five years ago. It was strange and very disturbing that I couldn’t simply make and adjustment and get rid of them. Never happened before. I went to the range for three straight days and hit jumbo bucket after jumbo bucket of shanks. Every shot. I enlisted my pro, who gave me a tip. One swing and the shanks were gone. That tip? Keep all 4 balls of your feet on the ground. Did that really solve it physically or did it just give me something else to think about?
Last Thursday I told my buddy Marius that my swing was on the verge of a complete breakdown. I could feel it slipping away from me. The hole after I told Marius of my feeling of impending doom, it happened. I shanked a pitching wedge. Then I shanked or nearly shanked every shot for the rest of the round (10 more holes).
I took a break of four days and didn’t even think about picking up a club. I have the biggest and most intense tournament of the year, the one I desperately want to play well in, coming up this Saturday and Sunday but I still felt no desire to pick up a club. I didn’t want to do it until I’d cleared my mind.
So today I finally picked up a club. First shot? A shank. 2nd? Shank… At that point I started to try some of the drills I’d gotten from two PGA pro pals and from many friends, along with the 4 balls of my feet thing.
4 balls of my feet didn’t do it this time. My buddy Dave told me my shoulders were aimed right of target and feet left. Then he said I was thrusting my hips (sorry ladies) forward and having to compensate with a pull to hit the ball on line. Thanks for telling me I’m golf’s version of a pretzel. But some of what he said made sense and I tried to adjust.
I tried my PGA Pro pal from Arizona Scott’s suggestion, hitting 7-irons with my feet together. I hit them solid and straight. Hmmm.
I then tried hitting shots with my stance open about 30-40 degrees and the ball on my right toe. Solid and on line with my intended target.
So I thought I’d reverse the last one. I closed my stance to an insane amount. I was basically standing with my left foot two feet farther forward than my right. Solid shots right on line.
So at this point I found that I could hit solid shots online with insane stances and ball positions. The only shot I couldn’t hit was with a standard setup.
BUT something happened in my swing with the open stance. For some reason I felt something click in my takeaway with the insanely open stance and ball on my right foot. The club fell into some sort of perfect position. My right elbow wasn’t a granny chicken wing and my wrist cock felt right for the first time in about a month.
I just tried to remember that feeling and kept it in my mind. I set up with my regular stance, pulled the trigger and felt the same takeaway. The ball flew straight and didn’t feel like a near shank. I looked at the clubface and the ball mark was in the center.
I had two swings as a result of today’s session. I had my old swing back, with the new feeling takeaway. And I had this crazy open stance punch something which I could almost never miss.
I played 18 holes, never made a putt under 10 feet (greens sucked) and shot 77 today. I had 8 bogeys and one birdie. NO doubles, no shanks. No shots even came close to a shank. I did however, start feeling a TON of pain in my left elbow. The pain is an all too familiar pain, that of golfer’s elbow. This is why I’m not a ball pounder. My damn elbow can’t take it.
During today’s round I tried to pretend I was under pressure and that my confidence was shaken during a tournament. I decided on the 11th tee that it was time to pull out my emergency “can’t miss” shot. I pulled a 5-iron and opened the hell out of my stance. I put the ball on my right toe. I swung the club, made solid contact and threaded it right down the middle.
City amateur, BIG tournament this weekend
I don’t expect to win this weekend’s tournament. I’m a 2 handicap in champ flight playing straight up gross against fearless -4 handi 20 year olds who can out drive me by 80 yards. The “flat bellies” if you will. Though my belly is flat these days… There will be players shooting 66, 67 over the two days. My lowest round EVER is a 68, two years ago, and I haven’t shot in the 60’s since.
I want to make a good showing and play well for my abilities and perhaps, finish IN the money for the first time ever in this event.
A report will follow.