Over the past three days I played in a two-day member guest tournament at Heron Lakes and an annual Portland State University (PSU) fund raiser tournament at Langdon Farms. These are the types of events that have just enough pressure on your shots to get a glimpse of where the tournament swing is and what needs to be worked on next. And, in the case of the PSU event, it was the third one I have participated in and a good way to track progress over time while supporting a good school’s athletic program.
In the Heron Lakes member guest I played with Scott Cherry. Scott is a friend and is also taking golf very seriously with the ambition of playing in mini tour events down in the desert or Southern California next year and going on from there. He hits it far and has a solid overall game which was apparent both days, but especially on Saturday. He is a great person for me to play with, learn from and compete against to push my game.
Scott and I were paired up with Chris Hudson and his son. Chris, too, is a great golfer and has qualified and played in both the US Mid-Am and US Senior-Am and has won the Heron Lakes men’s club title five times. I met Chris and his son very early on in The Dan Plan as they are out at Heron practicing all the time, but this weekend was the first time that I actually got to play with them. It was exciting to finally get out there and see his game as well as show them how far I had come. That said, Saturday was a bit rough for me all around.
Saturday’s format was best ball on the front 9 of the Greenback course and then a shamble on the back 9. A shamble is a format, similar to a scramble, where both players hit from the tee, the best tee-shot is selected, and each player holes-out from the selected tee-shot. On Sunday we played the Great Blue course and it was best ball on the front 9 then a scramble on the back. A scramble is where each player tees off on each hole, and the players decide which shot was best. Both players then play their second shot from within a clublength of where the best shot has come to rest (and no closer to the hole), and the procedure is repeated until the hole is finished.
On Saturday’s front 9 best ball I couldn’t figure out what I was doing with my tee shots and hit 2 of them OB for doubles on the second and fourth holes. It wasn’t until later in the day when Chris pointed out that I was flipping my wrists at the take-away that I realized I had reverted to my old swing for those shots. It was pretty brutal and I began 7 over after 4 holes. I pulled it together and shot one over on the next 5 holes, but the damage was done. Luckily, though, Scott was on fire and shot 3 under on that side even with a bogey that came from a missed two-footer for par on one of the par 3s.
On the back side he played even better. We used just two of my drives and on both of those his were very close by and could have been just as easily played. He shot 4 under for the back. All in all, Scott scored a 65 on his own and I was carried through the entire first round. My score from our best drive on the back was 2 over which was better than the front, but the swing was not going well at all.
After the round I went to the range to try and figure out what was going on with my swing. I hadn’t played that poorly in about a year and wasn’t sure what was happening. On the range, though, I still couldn’t hit a solid shot. Everything was going off the hosel or toe of the club and I hadn’t a clue as to why. After about an hour of not being able to figure it out (even with the help of Scott and others out there) I decided to chip and putt and then head home to separate myself from the day’s results for a bit before having to go back out Sunday morning.
I was determined to have an impact on the second day and knew that things would only be better out there after how bad they were Saturday. I jokingly told Scott that if we didn’t use any of my shots that I would forever quit golf. It was a joke, but I was also pretty darn serious that I had to contribute no matter what.
It would be totally inconceivable to hit the ball that poorly twice in a row.
The day started well with a solid drive down the middle and a straight approach shot that landed a hair short. It was two decent ball strikes and immediately I knew the swing was back. The day before had been some frustratingly incomprehensible dream not unlike those in which you are running in water or speaking without words.
I had a few chances for a birdie on the front 9 best-ball side but nothing dropped. Scott and I both bogeyed the third hole and outside of that he got a birdie to balance the bogey on the second hole and then we parred out the side to be even at the turn. The day was a stark contrast putting wise for Scott who dropped everything on Saturday but burned edges all day Sunday. I played pretty solid through 7 (two over) then hit an errant drive on both 8 and 9 to end the side double-double. Still, much much better than the day before and I was excited to see what we could do as a scramble on the back.
From tee to green, so not including putts, we used one of my shots on 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18. It was great to contribute and I really stuck a handful of iron shots tight that led to two of our three birdies on the side. We both putted half decently, but left a ton out there Sunday. We ended with a team 69 on the second day which unfortunately wasn’t enough to maintain our Saturday lead and we ended up taking second place gross for the event.
It was encouraging to be able to show up the second day despite the bizarre performance on Saturday. I’ve never experienced anything quite like that and don’t have an explanation outside of thinking that I was putting too much pressure on myself to play well. I wanted it so much that I think I let it go. On Sunday I played more like myself and was getting comfortable in my own shoes. It goes to show you how important it is to perform your task, not just practice it. I have a bunch of tournaments lined up for the rest of the summer and each one will help me get to a position where pressure, whether external or internal, has less affect on my game.
Taking from the weekend’s experience, I went out and played a three-person scramble at Langdon on Monday and had a blast while hitting some great shots. Not everything went exactly as I aimed, but for the most part I was happy with how I played and could see a HUGE difference from when I played that event last year.
Two years ago, the PSU event was the first golf tournament I ever played in; at the time I had an 8-iron, PW and putter and would play shots after the drive was hit into play. I remember standing on that first tee back in 2011 visibly shaking from nervousness and not being able to settle down and hit a shot until about the 15th hole. In 2012, I was also very nervous but was able to hit a couple of greens and make a putt or two. This year, I felt comfortable on the first tee (in fact, I didn’t even think about whether or not I was nervous) and hit that drive right down the middle. I felt not nervous, but excited to score low and didn’t think at all about missing a shot, rather I spent my mental energy trying to decide which type of shot to hit. It was great!
We had a good time yesterday and our 3-person team (one guy had to drop out last minute, everyone else had a 4-person team) placed 3rd for the event. We shot a team 58, which was really good for a team that consisted of an 8 handicap, a 24 handicap and me.
Next year we win the event.
This blog is brought to you by Progress. It’s not always a linear curve and at times necessitates backtracking, but with eyes set on the long term it will always prevail in time.