Tournament golf in a typical club here in America are events where the ego is on the line, and suddenly the little three-foot rake-ins that are gimmes in a casual round become testers. It is the members' rare taste of a higher level of golf, something I like to call "real golf" that contrasts greatly from our usual Sunday foursomes. Someone once said that there is golf and then there is tournament golf, and to me at least, the latter can be far more enjoyable. Especially when you win, which is what we did this weekend.
It was our annual Spring Member-Member here, and while I cannot boast winning the gross or the net prizes, my partner and I did win our Calcutta (2nd place the first day, 1st the second) as well as second in the club's prize pool the first day as well. In other words, we doubled our entry money in the two prize pools, and for that, we were both happy. It's always good to roll to the house with a few crisp new portraits of Ben Franklin.
You may ask why we were pleased, given a relatively mediocre showing. After all, we didn't win outright, which was our goal (and ending a three tournament winning streak) and there was money left on the table. The answer is simple: we played below our handicaps, which are true handicaps and not bags of sand. We both buckled down, played great partner golf and we made nearly all of the shots and the putts we needed to make to get us into the money. Getting beaten by someone else who played a little better doesn't bother me, all I can do is golf my ball and let the chips fall where they may. You're just not going to beat a 53-55 nets for a dazzling -34 total.
That, and being a good sportsman and a gracious competitor means I slept very well last night and had some thoughts and ideas about how to play even better next time. There's always a stroke or three left somewhere out on the course, and something to work on no matter what kind of golfer you are.
For example: sitting 126 out from the green on "Home" -- the hole I live on -- I pulled a seven iron to make sure I got aboard safely to an island of short grass surrounded by a churning sea of death. That club is normally a 155 yard club for me, but this shot was in a four club wind. I hit a piercing draw that bit into the wind, the kind of ball that feels like butter as it comes off of the center of the club face. The ball flew true, turning left, and then a gust of wind turned the ball around, ballooned it skyward then slammed it one yard to the right of the putting surface and down towards a watery grave. But it didn't go into the coffin. It stopped one foot short and I was able to save par with a nifty up and down.
Now then, why tell you about a bad shot that fell shy of its target? Well, if you have read the early entries from this blog, you may remember that the wind is no friend of mine out of the golf course. I've let the wind get in between my ears and inside that empty chamber there, it has caused some of the poorest games I have had in years.
In the case of this particular shot (and it was critical in the standings,) with a difficult carry facing me and a strong wind challenging my nerves, I hit precisely the shot I visualized beforehand, executed it calmly and got the result that I wanted. At least until the breeze turned a three clubber into a four clubber for the wrong three seconds. That the breeze stiffened and gave me less than I hoped for was a rub of the green that no one can account for and that's just golf.
I did let out a John McEnroe-ish "you have GOT to be kidding me!" when I saw it come up short, but I collected myself and took the next shot that was given to me, and pulled it off. I also made a good shot in a difficult position just before that and didn't let any tension ruin my thoughts or my swing. And the tee after that, I hit my best drive of the day and that also showed me something.
That's a great case of sometimes even when you lose you still win, and that calm before and after is what I plan to carry into the next tournament. All too often we beat ourselves in this game, but this was not a weekend where I let that happen, and that's a win no matter what the final score.
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