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Ruminations Part 1


billchao

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First tournament win. It still sounds good. I realize that I've written about this tournament in various posts and topics but I kind of want to put it all together in one place. I have won the net division of the 2024 William Anderson Match Play Championship at Neshanic Valley Golf Course. That's probably the last time I'll type that sentence. It consisted of a single round stroke play qualifier in which the top eight players advance to match play. Four rounds spread between two weekends. There were 22 competitors in the net division this year.

Not My First Rodeo

My first tournament round ever was in this tournament last year, but last year the odds were stacked against me. I had only played three rounds of golf outside of a trip to Hilton Head the whole year and my handicap was significantly beyond my reach due to a few really good rounds I played in the summer of 2022. If I remember correctly, my index at the time was around 12 and the best differential I had shot so far in 2023 was a 16. It was the best round I had since sometime in September 2022. I knew I wasn't going to make the cut. I signed up just for the experience and I went into it with zero expectations. I shot a 98 in the stroke play qualifier for some double digit net score over par. Needless to say, I did not make the cut. But I did gain the experience of playing in competition. I learned the format of the tournament, how to keep track of other people's scores as well as my own, and I thankfully was of sound enough mind and didn't rake any putts away. It was enough, I think, to say that I had done it and would know what to expect next time. Unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts, next time didn't happen in 2023. Every club championship in the county happened on a weekend where I was unavailable for one or both of the rounds.

So next time had to be 2024 and this year I could not have been more ready. I've been playing a money game with a couple of guys regularly for months and we played all through winter. I had already played almost 20 rounds of golf this year by the time of the qualifier round. I played enough golf to knock off all of my low summer scores. I was accustomed to the pressure of competition and how every stroke matters outside of my own personal satisfaction, which I've discovered is not much of a personal motivator for improvement. Left to my own devices, I could take it or leave it. I find ways to enjoy a round while playing poorly and I often joke about enjoying the weather when I'm playing poorly. I've stated many times in the past that I don't enjoy the game any more now than I did when I first got hooked and struggled to break 100. I like hitting the ball better as much as everyone else, but knowing what I'm capable of, both good and bad, I've simply accepted my game as it was. That mentality keeps me grounded and keeps my expectations realistic, but more importantly it doesn't drive me to score better. Personal improvement is nice, but it turns out not being the guy that's handing out money at the end of the round - that's a motivator for me.

Tournament Prep and Qualifier

I played a round at the course on the weekend before the tournament. It was in part to familiarize myself with the course. Neshanic Valley is a great golf course, but not one I play that often because it's the farthest one from my house out of the county courses. It's also the most expensive with a riding cart included in the greens fee and no discount if you walk. I don't know it like I know the other three I regularly play. I don't know where my regular misses end up, or what the optimal strategy (which I typically learn through trial and error) was. I wanted to make sure I knew, or at least as much as possible, and also to get a feel for the greens. I shot 91 (net 74) that day on what felt like a fairly mediocre round and I knew I had a chance to make it, so I started taking it more seriously. I even made some posts about it in the week leading up to the tournament and even though I only discussed a few holes, I took the strategy I devised and applied it everywhere. I needed to play within myself - embrace my strengths and try to reduce the impact of my limitations.

A range bucket was included with each tournament round. I used it to warm up and get feels for the day. That usually doesn't take long for me so I used half the bucket practicing my short game. Then I went to the putting green and hit long putts to get a feel for the speed, followed by short putts as I typically do. I actually arrived too early for my tee time and found myself having exhausted my routine with more than 30 minutes to spare.

I ended up shooting 91 again, which was good enough for the 6th seed. I was almost undone by a combination of poor greenside bunker play (one of my many limitations) and a massive brainfart on the #8 that led to a 9 on the card. I don't even remember how it happened, whether from a bad lie or simply a bad swing, but I had managed to put my second shot under a tree. It was a short tree with a wide canopy, one that I could not stand up straight under. The ball was buried deep in native grass and vegetation of some kind. And in that moment, I had completely forgotten about the many relief options available to me by declaring the ball unplayable. Instead, I thought I could simply get enough clubhead on the ball to bunt it onto the cartpath, which would cause it to roll down the slope and into the fairway. Instead, I bunted it several feet in front of me, still under the canopy of the tree. And then I bunted it several more feet which did clear the canopy of the tree, only to hit one of those hosel-grabbing pulls one typically gets out of tall grass. I almost put it on the next tee box. I got down in four from there. I thought for sure that my tournament was over at that point, but I soldiered on. I smoked my drive on #9, only to find my ball on the right third of the fairway, in the middle of a divot (or is it a divot hole?). I couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of it, but that was generally my demeanor the entire day. I laughed off hitting dumb shots or bad luck instead of getting upset about it, and I think that was a tremendous asset. I was unflappable. I topped a 9 iron so badly on #12 it didn't make it past the forward tees. I laughed quite a bit at that one. I hit the next one inside of 8'. On the par 5 #13, I was in the right greenside bunker in two. I skulled it into the penalty area and made 7. I followed that hole up with three straight pars. No matter what happened I kept focus on the moment and what I needed to execute the shot at hand instead of what I screwed up to get me in that predicament in the first place. And in the end, it was good enough.

Thoughts

In retrospect I wasn't really hitting my approach shots that well. There were a lot of mishits short and when I did hit the ball solidly, I missed long. I did hit the ball well off the tee and I really leveraged my length. I credit my game plan for that. My short game was poor but I actually putt to my handicap which is actually a good day on the greens for me. The round felt much the same as my practice round - mediocre. I kept focus and I grinded. It was good enough.

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Very heartfelt congratulations on being the winner of the WAMPCNCGC. I have blogged in the past about my various efforts, including MY win at the O&ECOLSSF. It feels good to win. You rightfully are excited about this milestone. A lot of people play golf. Some play in competitions. Only a few actually go all the way and win.

Let @iacas know you have earned the Tournament Winner badge!

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9 minutes ago, bkuehn1952 said:

Very heartfelt congratulations on being the winner of the WAMPCNCGC. I have blogged in the past about my various efforts, including MY win at the O&ECOLSSF. It feels good to win. You rightfully are excited about this milestone. A lot of people play golf. Some play in competitions. Only a few actually go all the way and win.

Thanks! I've been meaning to write more parts to this blog but it's been really busy at work and I've been really tired lately for some reason.

10 minutes ago, bkuehn1952 said:

Let @iacas know you have earned the Tournament Winner badge!

I sent him a text before I even made it to the parking lot B-)

  • Funny 1
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