Saturday, September 08, 2012

Improvement? 16 shots better but way off USGA Sr-Am pace

If improving by 16 strokes is redemption for the terrible, mistake-filled round of 100 in the 2012 Carolinas Senior-am qualifier at Carolina Trace in late August, then I should be happy with the 84 on the card I signed and turned in Sept 6 at the 2012 USGA Senior-Am qualifier at Forsyth Country Club in Winston-Salem. I was, and I was not.

Obviously, it was a better score but I was still disappointed. My putting was off on the front side. I hit seven of nine greens in regulation but had 19 putts including three 3-putts. My ball striking and accuracy was off the inward nine. I hit two greens and had 17 putts.

After another good warm-up on the practice range and extended putting green attention, confidence abounded, or something like that. Even after I sprayed my opening tee-shot way right into the rough my confidence level was good, especially when I muscled a 9-iron about 150 yards onto the first green. Three putts later the air started to leak from the balloon.

Concentration got the best of me when my short, 58-degree wedge play to the second green was hit thin, the ball flying over the green and stopping inches from the chain link out-of-bounds fence. One attempt to stroke the ball to a safe area gave me an unplayable lie and a penalty shot. Eventually, I one-putted from about 12 inches for a triple bogey seven, and I headed dejected to the third tee four-over par.

"When you're playing in something like this," a friend asked me after the round, "do you get the jitters?" He may have been right, but I wouldn't admit it. "No, actually, I like the competition, playing in a group (the entire field) that plays strictly by the rules, putting everything out, even taking time for explanation of certain rules when there's a question," I said, but my guess is I had the jitters.

Which didn't stop for several holes. After hitting the next two greens, a par-3 and a par-4, in regulation, I three-putted each. An 8-foot birdie attempt came up short on the next hole, but somewhat settled my putting. Three holes later, I rolled in an 8-footer for birdie.

Playing tournament golf, and even in a casual Saturday morning round, requires knowledge and understanding of the USGA Rules of Golf and to be willing to ask for rulings from your playing opponents and from officials roaming the course. For instance, on the 8th, my second shot on the 516-yard, par-5 ended up pin high in the left rough. An official, spotting the hole, led me to my ball. I studied the lie, noticed rocks under and around the ball and in a line to the right and left, and asked the official, "Is this a drainage ditch of some sort?" He decided it was a french drain, offered me relief and talked me through the correct drop process. As he road away in his golf cart, I carefully played the ball over a sand bunker, onto the green and to 8-feet from the hole, making the putt for a four.

After starting six over through four holes, I remained that way on the par-36 front nine. My back side started out with a mid-length one-putt par but after a three-putt bogey on the 12th, the round was getting the best of me. My spirits were lifted temporarily with an excellent up-and-down from thick rough behind the par-3, 14th hole but then came my next rules reminder.

On the 15th tee, as my opponents hit their tee shots, I recounted my round: Nine over par with four holes to play on the superb par 71 Donald Ross layout. I shouldn't have counted those unhatched chickens, but there was a chance to break 80 if I would just steady myself, hit a few good shots and make at least one putt.

When I took a big cut at my 15th-hole tee shot, my head came through the ball before my clubjead and I topped the shot so violently that the ball created a three-inch long skid mark directly in front of the white peg. The ball darted hard to the left, scurrying through a red-lined hazard and toward the 14th green. We found my ball next to but not in a white-lined (free drop) area of timber steps and liriope. At first I was trying to determine how to hit the ball back into the fairway when I was reminded that since I was standing inside the free drop area, I could take a free drop to my nearest point of relief no closer to the hole. But, six shots later, due primarily to a poorly struck fourth shot, a bad chip and two lousy putts, I announced a double bogey seven.

So, on the back side, par-35 and considered to be the easier of the two nines at Forsyth, I was seven over par, 42. And, there's my 84 (which will be posted as an 83). I hit only seven fairways and 11 greens that round. There were four 3-putt greens and 36 total putts. And one penalty shot, along with at least four or five "stupid" shots. Could I have scored better than 84? Maybe, maybe not, but at least I think I could have.

More importantly, as I was departing the parking lot, I was reintroduced to a golfer I first met in the 1960s while playing junior golf in Raleigh (Wildwood Country Club) and Fayetteville (Highland Country Club). He asked about my round. Knowing he finished one-over par 72 after starting his round three over for the first two holes, I sort of hung my head and mumbled, "84." He slapped me on the shoulder and encouraged me to keep trying, to keep playing in this type of competition. "At least you're out here trying, and that's important," he told me.

He's right. While I want to score better, just playing competition golf is special. Better play, not better luck, next time, I told myself as I headed home.
Five players at the Forsyth Country Club qualifier advanced to the USGA Senior-Am. Each was under par. I tied for 63rd. Complete results: USGA Sr-Am Section Qualifying at Forsyth.

By the way, Forsyth Country Club is one of my favorite and better Donald Ross designed courses in North Carolina. Those I really admire and consider his best in North Carolina include (in no particular order) Pinehurst #2, Pine Needles, Linville Golf Club, Mid Pines, Myers Park, Biltmore Forest, Charlotte Country Club, Asheville Country Club and Sedgefield Country Club. There are many others but these are the best, in my humble opinion.
“An Embarrassing Round: 100 Strokes of Solitude” (my post about scoring 100 in the CGA Carolinas Senior-Am qualifier at Carolina Trace) enjoyed a wide readership and prompted several responses from friends and acquaintances, but not the acquaintance who had got up and down from a green-side sand bunker for a 12 on his 8th hole of the qualifier. The comments were sympathetic and revealing.
There was this from an educator who has a 6.8 USGA handicap index: My condolences. I certainly understand the 100, and I appreciate your nod to Marquez. Few golfers will know who he is, but this might lead them towards some educated reading, bizarre and fascinating as it might be. We are getting a glimpse into your intellect.

An annual golfing buddy (we play together once a year) with no USGA handicap of note wrote: I love you but not as much as Nancy.  I swear as I read the story the first thing I thought was you should not be practicing.  You are taking it too seriously.  You play better when you are totally relaxed.  You should be drinking a beer and playing with logo school balls from the college tourney. (Note: That’s an inside story about the golf balls.)

From a randomly annual golf partner (we play at least once a year and sometimes three or four times together) who is a scratch golfer but for some reason I cannot locate his USGA handicap (my guess is he’s too cheap to pay the annual fee): In 1968, when I lived near the Haight-Ashbury District in San Francisco (during the beginnings of the flower child movement), I played Spyglass Hill (Pebble Beach was $50 and I said that was too much).  I was only six shots worse than (golf professional) Frank Beard when he played Spyglass in the Bing Crosby tournament that year.  Not bad, eh?  Except Beard had a 96.  I feel your pain.

From a PGA professional who has won two national PGA Club Professional Championships who remains competitive in lots of ways: Mark me down for an 87 in my last tournament round.

There was a 15-handicapper who chimed in with: Thanks for your email and your honesty. It makes me feel a little better.  I recently purchased a new driver, 3 metal and 22 degree hybrid. As you did, I practiced several times and played a couple of rounds prior to going to DeBordieu (Georgetown SC golf community) where I also shot 100 (adjusted).  Just wasn’t our day. 

Another no-handicapper who plays seldom but as often as possible wrote: ‘Scuse me for laughing.  Enjoyed your column; not your misery.  Keeps us humble.

Of course, there had to be one who gave advice, a long-time friend with a 6.3 USGA index: I haven't done that bad. Try this. Be sure on the first tee to grip the club as softly as you can almost to the point of it falling out and take the club back as slowly as possible. Tension produces high scores. Concentrate longer on the first putt of the day. It is the most important putt of the day. Good luck buddy. Enjoy your next qualifying round.

And, then there was this comment: A "5" handicap cannot shoot 100. Period.  (This guy makes a good point, but it happens to the best of us, but probably not him or least he will not admit it. He has a 6.0 USGA Handicap Index with 18 of his last 20 scores posted from rounds at Raleigh Country Club, though he has been seen playing at Lonnie Poole Golf Course (maybe in just non-post round such as Captain’s Choice). His posted scores used to compute his handicap range from 75 to 88. There are just two tournament scores: 75 and 76 in July at RCC. My guess is that if some of the scores in the 80s had been in tournaments or had been played on courses a lot tighter than RCC, higher numbers would have been posted. My guess, with his handicap and his scores, he’s probably a good member-guest or member-member player which means his handicap should be lower than it is.

But maybe the best response came from a long-time friend who once lived at Carolina Trace who pointed out a newspaper ad which appeared in The News & Observer the day after my wonderful experience there. From the advertisement: As part of our 20+ year history, legendary golf architect, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., designed Carolina Trace's two championship courses - the Lake and the Creek. Experience his famous "easy bogeys and difficult pars"... The ad was titled: GOLF. Our Legacy... Your Passion.

At Carolina Trace, I wish bogeys had come easy instead of double, triple and septuple bogeys. Golf may be one of my passions; I guess my score of 100 could be my legacy. Ha!
I'm not sure what competition round is next up for me. I'm sure I'll find one. But, next up here will be a review/perspective of my "home" course: Lonnie Poole Golf Course at NC State University. Here's a preview: It's been open for three years; as of this month, the course is now on its third Director of Golf Course Maintenance (fancy title for greens superintendent).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comments here. Thanks.