Tuesday, January 7, 2014

West Florida Amateur Tour - Sarabay Country Club Tournanment and how it went

So the new year is 7 days old. Yet , I had some experiences already. Starting with the hangover skins game which went well, an OK Bobby Jones Friday Round and a Tatum Ridge Golf Links round which left open some questions.
I know that if I do not practice every day for hours and work on my game as planned and needed, I can not expect to play exceptional golf rounds. After all I am a talent, but by far not a talent like some as the guys you might find on tour right now. However, I still have more to offer then the average player. Be it talent, ethics, will, desire  and believe and that in itself helps to keep you going through times like that. Although I have huge plans for 2014. The current month and the next month are also packed with other events and obligations, which might not be part of the plan towards pro golf but are part of our life, which is quiet wonderful. So when I got ready for the West Florida Amateur Tour event at Sarabay Country Club I put my focus on my mental game. I did not want to make any changes nor did I want to confuse myself on the range or so. So I worked on keeping my focus and sticking with my game plan.
Sarabay Country Club is by far one of the most difficult courses we play. It does not have the length like the Ritz Carlton Members Club, it does not have the trickiness lick The Founders Club and it does not have all the water like Waterleaf, to name some other good tracks.
However, Sarabay has something which by far is more  difficult, Donalrd Ross greens with a stimp speed of 11.5 to 12.5. The greens are build like mounts. Falling to the front and sides and with falls fronts all over. You never know what will happen to your putt and need to study well.
I was looking forward to it. I do well on fast greens. My putting and chipping is much more accurate  than on those regular greens or soft carpet like things, which we find often on other courses. On top of that gusty and high winds where said to come in. Not very pretty and certainly for golf that is not what we are looking for. However, the weather is what it is and as a player you just have to work with it.
When I got up in the morning it was 68 . A great temperature. When I stepped out it was nice but very foggy. I prepared myself for a round with some fog, some rain and little bit of wind. But I did put on some long pants and took my sleeveless jacket. 2 sleeveless golf shirts and I was ready to go.

When I arrived at the course it was and warm. First thing I was told was that we had a 30 minute fog delay. Oh well, better than playing in it. So I warmed up on the range. It was hot. My shots were OK but I did not have the best feel at this point. I simply was warm and sweating. Since I had shorts with me I first thought I will change, but then I was to lazy to do it. Just before we started on number 1 a cloud came in. High winds and temperature dropped . I was happy to have long pants. The winds were a little concerning, because my last few windy rounds did not go to well. Mostly because of my distance perception. But it is what it is. My first tee shot went right into the trees on the right. The wind took it and drifted it all the way. But I saved a bogey and was happy. From here on it was a wild front 9. The wind changed all the time, even in the middle of the swing or even then the ball was in the air. We never were really sure what club to play and what target to pick. It was difficult to keep the ball in play. However, my short game was right on. My chipping , bunker play and putting was very good. We played the course at 6500 yards and despite hitting into the wind a lot I was able to post a 39 or 3 over par on the front 9.  Keeping the ball in play, chipping it close to the pin on those super fast greens and not letting one single ball run of again once I was there. I had some miss hits, some bunker shots and some errand iron shots. But I was able to get it all done. Also I missed 4 very makeable putts. We will never know what score it could have been. The biggest issue I had was the cold which started on 6.
The temperature started dropping and we could feel it. The wind was freezing to be exact. I found my stalking hat and put on my jacket. Unfortunately the jacket as my shirt were sleeveless.
When I walked up to 10 the temperature dropped further and the wind picked up even more. Incredible to say the least. at that point I was not sure how cold it was , but I was told that it was 48 to 50 with the wind blowing and making it a windshield of about 40 or so. In other words. It was freezing cold on this course and the wind from here on not only picked up but started to change directions and swirl at all times.
I was so distracted that I made a double bogey on 10, which stayed the only one I had.
The back 9 I started with a double, a bogey and a birdie. The birdie being the result of one of my best approach shots in a long time. After a great tee shot I had 120 into the wind with the pin 4 yards from the back and sitting on the plateau. My plan was to land it behind the pin and get it back to the hole a little for a straight putt. After going back on forth in regards to what club to it, I made my choice and went for it. The result was perfect. I landed it right where I wanted and got some spin back. Although a ton of skill was involved, I have to say that I got lucky that the wind stayed as it was and made it possible. I made the birdie putt and was excited to be back. But, I started feeling my joints and my hands started getting really cold.
The next 6 holes were the toughest in a long time. Not because of the holes themselves. But because of the cold. I began to get stiffer by the minute. My arms which were not covered started to not be flexible anymore and my hands had not as much feel as I would have liked. My stalking hat kept me warm around my head and that was the big winner. Because I had to figure out to keep a good round going. My playing partners fell apart one by one. Simply not able to keep focus in the cold. So I changed my game plan.
Keep the ball in play, move it forward, if possible attack a pin and put all the focus on making the putts. Getting in without another double and get every point I can get out of it.
It was work. That is for sure. Had some good holes. 16 I put my tee shot in the green side bunker. Gave myself a chance to safe par, but missed the putt. 17 I putt my drive into the fairway bunker right on the edge. A 3 wood was the right choice, but I was thinking skin $. recovered with a great shot from the sand around some trees for a lay up. But left my GW short and had to take a bogey. But , bogey was fine with me. On the tee at 18 I pretty much did not feel my fingers any more. However I took the driver again and almost ran into disaster. Put it on the left side behind some trees. 5 yards from OB. The choice was to take a hybrid and to try to hit a 180 shot under the tree and between 2 trees 15 yards in front of me which were 2 yards apart ( which makes it like a tiny opening) or chip it out to the fairway to move on safely. Going with the % shot I pitched it out. A very unlucky bounce left me with a side hill on the edge fairway bunker shot. Not pretty. I only had this hole left and was determined to get something out of it. I was able to get the ball out of that thing and move it 10 yards in front of the 150 yard marker. A good shot. My 4th shot was from 147 over the water , with a tree to the left calling for a little draw to a pin which was all the way in the back on a plateau with the Ross green falling to the left and right. But the biggest challenge was the wind. It was howling. The entire back nine we had a hard time to even keep the ball still on the putting green or keep it on line. It took me 3 minutes to figure out my shot. I used my GPS, range finder, yardage book and even discussed the wind with my partner. I came up with 180 to 185 to the pin. So I opted for a 5 iron.
Just when I was ready the wind seemed to even pick up. But I made up my mind and set up for my draw. I gave it a huge rip and it worked out. Amazing. I can not tell you how excited I was about it. Huge iron shot. Pretty exciting and I actually left myself a make able 11 foot par putt. Downhill.
I took my time, but I missed it by an inch. Making the bogey was just fine with me. So I came in with a 43. Not to happy about the number. On the other hand , considering the conditions, I was pretty excited that I was able to bring that number home.
When I brought in my score card and looked at the leader board I realized that I shot a great round of golf. As a matter of fact only 4 players matched it in the end including a couple of the best players around. Although I matched the gross score and only one shot left me short of playing the best round of the day, I was lucky that they had a net division, which gave me the win in that division.
I do not care what quote I am assigned and I am not interested in handicap. What counts is that you play a good round beat whoever is ahead of you. On this day I beat my peers in the net division and the gross division. Which shows, that regardless of the quote on that tour, I am perfectly able to win and play great golf. My hands were frozen, my joints were hurting ( for the last 6 holes) and my ability to turn was maybe 50 percent. But I was able to stick it through. This win gave me some confidence in my game, a good pay out ( my birdie was cut though) and the assurance that I am more than able to handle any condition and the respect of some of the best players including some pro's.
But it took also most of my energy. I was not prepared properly in terms of clothing, food and drinks. So when I got home I was exhausted. My body burned more than I had in me. But I felt great anyhow.
 All of it will help to make it through the next 6 weeks and keep me going and afloat before I can enter a golf trainings camp and prepare for a more professional approach.
In order to move forward I have to work harder, play more, practice more and invest more of my time, money and passion into this game and that is exactly what I am planning to do. My time is ticking and I need to stay on top of things. Today is freezing and I have a home office day with some practice and some other work out.
Feeling pretty good about the fact that all my work from last year will have a long term impact. No doubt there is more to come.

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