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Recent Hot Streak Part 2

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Now to the Newport Cup.

I've been so pumped for this event ever since I was selected to play in it.  But, it's nerve wrecking, for me, because you're meeting people you've known for a couple years over the forum, but want to impress them I guess?  I don't know how to explain it other than because I'm a +1 cap, how can I prove that I play well?  Not many people can say they're a scratch golfer and when we see new people come on the forum and say this and that, we are all skeptical until proven otherwise.  Even though I've been around for a while, I've only ever played with one guy from TST, and he doesn't participate anymore.  My swing doesn't look great, I know it.  But I'm flexible and athletic enough that I made a swing that works.  So this is my chance to show how I play and I didn't want to screw it up.

I'd never played in an alternate shot format before.  Playing with Tyler ( @Pretzel ) was good because we play the game similarly but both of us have not played alternate shot.  We played alternate shot together on both day 1 and 2. We both play a grip it and rip it style of golf.  But, we both struggled, because we couldn't get into a rhythm I think.  We had a lot of wayward tee shots, but we both were recovering from them nicely.  I feel I may have done better if I still got out when it was his turn to hit the ball, but I kept swinging to stay loose.

Afternoon on Day 1 was best ball, which is a format I've played before with my boss at a couple events.  But, it's another style that I don't perform as well in.  I'd say it's because I can let it go a couple times.  I get wild and try to hit too hard, because I know that I can when my partner is in good shape.  This was the round, I holed out from 85 or 90yds for an eagle on the 1st hole.  It was funny, I had a lot of shots I caught on the bottom grooves, so they were skinny, but they ended up in perfect spots or went in the hole. So in regards to my overall swing this day, I knew I needed to practice those 50yd-70yd pitch-like shots.  But my overall swing was in decent shape, I just needed to find my rhythm and slow down a bit.  My individual score was a 73, I believe.  Certainly, knowing the course for the 2nd day helped out a lot.

The morning alternate shot Day 2 went slightly better with Tyler, and we had an agreement to NOT hit any drives into the straw-grass but that ended pretty quick.  And once again, we were able to recover from those drives pretty well.  Afternoon best ball was an interesting round for me.  I thought I was going to hit the ball well, but for some reason I still couldn't get into a rhythm.  Drew ( @Golfingdad ) and I played well as a team, more of a ham and egg deal.  I remember somewhere on the back 9, he told me that the last 6 holes were going to be mine.  It clicked me into another gear I think.  On #15, a par 5, I hit my drive right, but in a playable position. I had to punch a 4 iron with a draw through the trees, but it's a shot I keep in my bag.  I put it out in the FW and into that zone I had been practicing.  I put my approach to within 10ft and managed to sink a birdie to win the hole when we were all square.  On #16, I took out 3wood and ripped it down the middle to 110yds out, I think.  I wanted to make sure I was beneath the hole and I gave myself about 20ft, but a slider.  It came down to me to sink it, and I made the clutch putt.  I think I shot around 75 or 76 in my individual score during best ball.

This event helped me realize what mentality I have to take to play well, and I knew what it was going into individual match play. 

Before getting into Day 3, I want to talk greens.  I don't have a ton of experience on bermuda grass greens.  But, I understand that if cut to a short enough length, they should behave nearly the same as to what I play on, because grain won't take too much of an effect.  I also haven't used a lot of aimpoint before, but these greens were tricky.  A lot of flat-ish looking putts that was hard to eyeball and I have rather sensitive feel with my feet ever since I got vertigo a couple years ago.  So, I used that part of aimpoint to just let me know to what side, if any, the ball would break.  It helped quite a bit.  I made a lot of putts day 1 in alternate shot and made a few putts again day 2 in both games.  

Day 3, it was decided I was going to play Brian ( @bkuehn1952 ) and I had to give him 11 strokes.  From playing in men's league at my course, I'm used to having to give someone up to 2 strokes a hole, so I'm ok with giving a lot of strokes and I've learned how to play with it. During warm-ups, my focus was to get my rhythm and keep it.  My game plan was to come out as strong as possible, because if I dig myself into a hole, I figured I wouldn't get out of it.  So I hit my drive down the left side on hole 1, put my approach to about 7ft and sink my birdie putt to go 1 up.  The 2nd hole is interesting. 

(Flashback to day 2 with Drew) I had him go first so I can decide whether or not to go for the green.  He puts it in the FW, time to bomb it.  OK, so the carry to the green, over the pond is about 285-290yds.  BUT, if going directly at the green, you are aiming over the homes surrounding the course.  From the corner house, I was aiming at the 5th or 6th house in.  As in, if I top this or hit it too skinny, I'm breaking something.  Well, I ended up hitting it slightly low on the face, but I hit my line spot on and I figured I carried it, so I scream FORE and Drew said he did not see a splash.  I managed to carry it by a foot.  It was still in the hazard but with a crappy lie.  

So, my plan was to not go for the green but to cut off a little bit, at least, to force the pressure on Brian to hit a good 2nd shot.  Well I hit it skinny again but it just barely had enough height to go over the trees I was aiming for.  I got into that zone again, and had a good shot that put me to within 5 or 6 ft and got my 2nd birdie to go 2 up.  After that, I stayed automatic.  Driving the ball where I'm aiming and hitting nearly every single green in regulation.  When Brian had a pop on a hole and he got par, I managed to make birdie to tie it.  The only blip on a tee shot I remember was hole 14, when I hooked my tee shot into the pine straw.  I had an opening, though to hit a drawing 9 iron.  Once again, I caught it slightly skinny, but I ended up within 15ft of the hole and got birdie anyway.

I had every green in regulation, except 1, up to hole 16.  I left my approach from 115yds 1 foot short in the fringe, and it was lucky enough to stay up from going in the water.  Before hitting my putt, Brian conceded the match, and having known I got my 3 points, I lost focus.  3 putted from 15ft to get a bogey.  On 17, still out of focus, I leave my shot short of the green, but make a good scrambling par.  Hole 18, still not in focus, I push my tee shot into the water.  Got my my bogey there too.  But I shot 69 anyway.

I'm finally finding my game, and it's getting better every time I go out.  I hope that I can keep it going this winter and start strong next summer.  I'd like to give the US Open qualifying another go, but I need to be playing this way and better to have a chance at sectionals and then get lucky to move further.  It's a reach, but I'll keep working until it happens.

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You'll have to let us know if you attempt U.S. Open qualifying again, I'd be interested in checking out your scores again. I know I plan to play in both the U.S. Open qualifiers and the U.S. Amateur qualifiers going forwards whenever I can fit them into my schedule and keep my handicap low enough to be eligible.

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I found your first paragraph interesting... that you were a bit nervous about playing to your ability.

It's amazing that this game can be played at your level @phillyk. There are just so many skills needed to average 18 holes of golf at or below par on difficult courses. 

The margin of error is low and if you do exceed it, you have to possess the ability to make up for it on the next few shots or the next few holes to end up with a low score. 

I hope you continue to improve.

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I think everyone is nervous about playing to their current ability, and in some ways it helps me play better becuase I stay focused.

I hope I continue to improve too!

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Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading this and following along with the action at the Newport cup from afar. I haven't played much competitive golf but I can imagine that experience you are describing. 

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