Well, the first Indiana State Senior Golf Association (ISSGA) versus the Michigan Publinx Senior Golf Association (MPSGA) golf tournament is in the books. Foursomes and Four-Ball matches were played the first day (9 holes each) with singles the second day (18 holes). Sixteen four-ball matches, sixteen foursomes and 32 singles with a point for each match won, ½ for a tie. The team with 32.5 or more points was the winner.
For most of us, the Foursomes play was new. Some had experience with the Four-Ball format and most had played some Singles match play. I was not aware of any Rules dust-ups so any trampling of the special rules for the team formats was either ignored or allowed to pass because of ignorance.
The Foursomes was actually a modified Foursomes match with every player hitting from the tee. Each team selected a drive to play and then the other team member started off the alternate shot process from there. It was a concession to the fact that most of our teams had players with course handicaps in excess of 9. I always knew this as “Scottish Foursomes” but whatever the real name is, this format worked.
The event was also a “net” event. We tried to balance the opposing teams so few or no strokes were involved. Only a handful of the matches had more than 1 stroke a side.
I found the modified Foursomes to be the most interesting and it also was our closest match. There were definitely opportunities for some strategy. My partner was struggling a bit off the tee and with his lag putting. Fortunately, I was driving well so we could allow my partner to hit approaches, usually from the fairway and close enough to hit short irons or wedges. That allowed me to be the chipper and lag putter. The only time we deviated from that formula was coming down the stretch. We both hit good drives in the fairway with my partner at least 15-20 yards closer. With the approach over water, we agreed the shorter shot made sense and I managed to get the ball on the green about 15 feet away. Then the wheels fell off. My partner got a bit too aggressive on the lightning fast greens and hit it 10 feet past. I promptly missed the comebacker and we found ourselves only up by 1 going into #17. Fortunately, we played the 17th in par while our opponents imploded and gave us the match.
The Four-ball was actually our first match and because of the shot-gun start it was divided into two parts, 3-9 and then 1 & 2, if needed. We did not really employ any strategic moves in this match. We never had the closer player putt first; no one “went for it” when the other player was safe. Our idea was to always have two guys in the hole to reduce the pressure on each other. At least this time it worked with us winning 3 & 2 on the 7th hole.
Singles play was my least comfortable format. I had never met my opponent and the Michigan player in the other match for our group was at best a slight acquaintance. Also, we each rode in the cart with our opponent (a mistake). It is tough to make small talk and then try to figuratively kick the guy in the nuts. Better to have someone riding with you to commiserate or celebrate the prior hole.
My match started out to be a disaster as I struggled in all phases of my game. After 8 holes I was already 3 down with no sign that I was going to make a match of it. At that point, my fellow Michigander gave me a little pep talk. I re-focused and decided to try to stay in the match as long as possible. As mid to high handicappers, it is often hard to stay steady through 18 holes. My opponent had played extremely well up to that point. On a different day he may have been able to continue that pace and card a round under his handicap. On this day, however, he began to display some nerves. An extremely poor chip by my opponent allowed me to win the 9th and I was now 2 down. My 3-putt on #10 looked to be another loss but then my opponent gave me a gift and also 3-putted.
Still 2 down, the turning point was #12. He hit another solid drive in the fairway while I pushed my effort a bit right. I could not see the green and needed to hit a blind shot over large trees to a well bunkered green. I really wanted to see him hit first as that would dictate how aggressive I needed to be. Everyone assumed I was away but since the hole doglegged right, I felt I might be closer. I took a GPS reading where my ball was and then walked to the fairway where his ball lay. I told him my GPS showed he was away by 5-6 yards. To his credit he accepted the challenge and hit his approach to about 15 feet. Touché! Now I had to go up and over the trees, which I managed but still had to 2-putt from 75 feet, which I did. He disappointment in not winning the hole was palpable. After tying that hole, I steamrollered him the rest of the way, with a lot of help from my opponent. I won the next five holes and the match, 3 & 1.
I wish I could say I enjoyed the match, but I didn’t. My preference is to play the course rather than an opponent. My overwhelming feeling after the match was over was relief, not joy. On the other hand, the team games were fun. With a teammate one is not alone on an island, locked in a death struggle with a stranger. You have someone to lean on when things are going poorly and a fellow celebrant when there is success.
Being on the winning side (MPSGA) probably creates a warmer afterglow but the men from Indiana were gentlemen and did their best to at least pretend that the event was fun. Will I play again next year? Assuming Indiana is not too bitter about the drubbing (40 to 24), I will likely give it another try. Time will tell.