The conference championship was yesterday, and it was a fun time, especially considering we were playing for a spot in regionals (we were second before the championship, and two teams advance to regionals), and I was playing for a spot in All Conference (top ten qualify for All Conference, I was somewhere between 8th and 12th, so I was close going in). We were so far ahead of third place that advancing to regionals seemed like a formality, so I was mainly focused on All Conference, which I said was one of my golf goals for this year. I wanted it badly. I had a feeling that if I shot 85, it would be enough.
Nine teams showed up, so we had a shotgun start all around the front nine. We would play the front twice from the white tees, and the fourth hole, usually a 478-yard par 5, would be moved to the red tees and we’d play it as a 345-yard par 4, meaning par would be 70. Lucky me, I was the second group off the first tee.
On my first nine holes, not a lot happened. The highlight was on the tough fifth hole, where I bombed my driving iron all the way down to the bottom of the hill (about 270 to that point), and only had a mere sand wedge in. I hit it to about six feet and barely missed the birdie putt for a tap-in par.
Other than that, I had a double (hole 4) and the rest bogeys for a 44. Not terrible, but I knew another 44 wouldn’t be good enough for All Conference. I had just missed a one-foot par putt on the ninth hole, and I was just hoping that if I did miss, it wouldn’t be by one shot.
Nonetheless, I knew I needed to shoot 41 at worst my second nine to have a chance. It started well, with a nice five-footer for par on the first and a driving iron down the middle of the second fairway. I had about 140 to a front pin, so I chose to hit a smooth 8I. Chunked it and left myself 100 in. I was thinking, “Okay, just hit this on the green, two putt for a five and move on. This isn’t a big deal.”
Except then I thinned that over the green and into a near impossible spot in the trees. Now I was gonna be lucky to make five. My coach came over and told me to punch a 6I under the trees and run it up. I took the advice, and landed it exactly where he told me to. I put the club back in the back and grabbed my putter, knowing I had a chance to save a bogey. Except I wouldn’t get that chance. Five seconds later, it went in. For par. Everyone around the second green went ballistic, including me! Staring a double bogey straight in the face, I made one of the craziest par saves I’ve ever had, sidestepping what could’ve been a complete meltdown.
Still a little giddy standing on the third tee, I composed myself long enough to hit the third green and two putt for my third par in a row. Now I just needed to bogey in for 41. But then I tripled four and bogeyed five. Now I needed two pars in the last four holes. Taking out my driving iron again, I split the sixth fairway and hit a wedge to four feet, but on a weird slope. Not wanting to do anything crazy, I hit it kinda softly. It dove sharply right, but I had a tap in par. Standing on the seventh tee, I realized that because three teams were represented in my threesome and only two would be going to regionals, at least one of us was about to play our last three holes of the season.
I made an easy par on the seventh hole, lipping out a birdie putt, and then I three-putted for bogey on eight. The last hole is a short par 5, and I needed just a bogey for 85, but a little voice in the back of my head told me I needed par. I was safely on in three and about seven feet out, a legit birdie chance. Again I barely missed, and another tap in for par. I had shot 84 and beat my number by a shot, but now all I could do was wait and see whether I made All Conference. We finished with a team score of 323, with a low score of three-over 73, meaning the team chasing us had to go sub-300. One of the guys had just turned in a 94, but then someone else came in with a head-turning round. He apparently shot 34 on his front nine, but then went on a birdie binge. His back nine score: 30. A total of 64, six under par, and I believe the lowest score anyone in our conference has ever turned in for a high school match.
They didn’t finish sub-300, meaning we had sealed a spot in regionals, but they did finish at 318, good enough to claim the championship. Then it was time to announce the All Conference standings. Top ten qualify, and it was announced that there was a three-way tie for tenth. My name was among the three. Since there was no playoff, I had qualified for All Conference!
Later, I realized that my chip-in on the second hole was absolutely critical. If I had not chipped in, I would not have made All Conference. It didn’t matter to me that I finished tied for the last spot, because I made it, and that was my goal for the season. Now it’s off to regionals in a week and a half!!