Read a post from Mike at Life in the Rough called “My Best Learning Experience Yet” that inspired me to play in my first competitive tournament in over 7 years. It was a Mens Open play at Coyote Creek just west of Sundre, Alberta, Canada.
The course there is not long and the fairways are wide and forgiving but the greens are large with many elephants buried under them and fast. Leading up to the event I have only played 8 rounds all season and only twice breaking 80. And I could count on one hand how many times I have been to the range to practice and even less on the short game. I was unsure of how my short game would hold up.
Since I am in limbo where the RCGA does not recognize me as an amateur and the CPGA does as a professional since leaving the business in 2003 I was entered a 0 index. This put me into the Championship flight. The first round was match play format. Two matches in each foursome. And each match was 9 holes. The winners of the front nine matches played each other on the back nine where the winner of the second match played in the final match on Sunday. The losers of the matches on the front nine played each other on the back and the winner played the consolation final on Sunday. Losers of all back nine matches played a stroke play format on Sunday.
I was fighting a cold leading up to the event and did not eat a whole lot on Friday and had a small breakfast on Saturday morning. It was evident that my blood sugar was low on the fourth green because my hands could not stop shaking (No I was not drinking the night before). I could not hit a fairway on the front nine if my life depended on it. On the greens my speed was fine by did not have the correct line. In the end I was one down on the ninth tee, hit a poor tee shot again, and lost 2 down.
In between nines I got my self a quick hot dog and a Gatorade and ate most of it prior to teeing off on the back. Amazingly enough I began to find my rhythm on the back nine. This time I felt I was more competitive on the back nine. Made a couple quick hook on two holes and was one down on the 18th tee. My opponent hit a hook into the left rough and I hit a high draw down the middle. I birdied the hole to force extra hole but ended up losing the match. So I was relegated to the stroke play event to play for pride on Sunday.
Even though I played horribly on the front nine I kept my cool and gained confidence on the back nine with some solid drives and iron shots.
On Sunday I could do no wrong on the front nine. Hit the first six fairways and greens and was two under. Slightly missed the green on 7 and eight but got it up and down for par. Missed the fairway on nine with a block fade into a fairway bunker, hit an eight iron fat, then hit a 90 yard sand wedge to 2 feet for par to shoot 2 under on nine.
On 10 hit a quick hook into a fairway bunker, laid up by hitting an eight iron to the fairway, then made my only real mental error of the day on the third. Was left with 185 to the pin with the wind blowing right to left and a little into us, the lie was a little downhill and about my feet. I was set up to play the draw from that lie but changed my thought process at the top of my swing. I decided to play a cut back into the wind trying to be a hero. Resulting in an over the top fat smother that land in a water hazard 20 yards short and left of the green. Took my medicine dropped the ball in front of the hazard and hit a six iron to 20 feet and two putted for a double bogey. I bogied the 11th hole but hit a good tee shot to the green just misread the wind a bit hit the ball about 10 feet to far and short sided my self, landed my pitch 2 yards further than I wanted to kill the momentum to the short side pin and two putted for bogey. Proceeded to birdie the last par 5 and by the 15th hole I was tied for the Stroke Play lead. We exchanged pars on the next two holes. On 17 I still had the honor hit my drive solid in the fairway and the other competitor hit his drive into the fairway bunker on the left. Unfortunate for him he ended up double bogeying the hole where I hit my approach to 20 feet and made my putt for birdie. Parred 18 to shot a 1 under 70. My first sub par round in 2 to 3 years and first sub par round in a competitive round in at least 8. So of course I was flying high from that round. Even though I was not competing for the Championship due to play on Saturday.
I forgot what a thrill it was to play when every stroke matters. And how to for stretches at any point in the round you can play both brilliant and pathetic in a span of just a few swings. The week before we had the LPGA Tour stop in Calgary and I made it for the first round. Probably the things I took with me was their commitment to each shot, how they swung within themselves each time, and their demeanor after each shot whether good or bad. I could have gotten down on myself but the third hole and Saturday but I kept playing one shot at a time and accepted my bad shots and did not gloat on my good shots. Again I would like to thank Mike again for planting that seed in my brain and to get out and play.