Saturday, March 29, 2014

Club Championship at Terra Ceia Golf Club

The last two days I was busy playing the Club Championship at Terra Ceia Golf and Country Club in Palmetto, Florida. You could call it my home course. However , it really is the place where I have my handicap and where I practice.

I like to work on my game there and at times I play there. Certainly I signed up for the Club Championship. It was to be held as a stroke play tournament, which is my preferred format.

The weather did not look good on the morning of the first day when I got up in the morning. But before I took off it cleared up and no rain in sight. The round played pretty tough. Not because of the 14 water holes, the tightness of the course, the small greens or speed of them, but because of very strong ever changing winds.

It was pretty difficult to find the the right line and distance. But I navigated nicely through my front 9. The two holes deserving to be mentioned here were number 5. A short par 4 with plenty of water to the right and only a tight opening to lay up and OB to the left. I had a not so good hybrid which luckily did not go in the water, but stopped in the deep rough close to a tree. I had a clear shot, downhill lay. In order to avoid landing in the water when hitting it too short, I played it to the left of the green.

Gave myself an outside chance to save par and took a bogey. Considering the tee shot and the lie I had as a result, the bogey was acceptable. The very next hole is one of the toughest par 3s. Tee box, water, green. Wind from all sides and you never know where from. On that day clearly it blew right into us. 170 to the pin. Took a 5 wood and gave it a good punch.  Was just left of the pin. Downhill putt and made it. There was hope.

The 1 over par on the front 9 was OK with me. I gave myself some opportunities to make birdies and made one good one. Saved par when I needed too.

The back 9 started different. Bogey on the first two par threes, one of them a 105 shorty which often causes trouble because of the wind. Followed up with a good par, another bogey and another par.

There we are at 15. Short dog left right. Hit a good drive, leaving me 65 yards to the pin. But , I was a little too long and ended up with a palm tree in front of me. Now here comes a bad decision. While the shot I can do best is a 7 iron pitch, I decided to take a SW and play a high  lob like shot over the palm tree. Ended up hitting the tree and the ball came back . This time  a downhill lie. Miss hit it and ended up over the green behind yet another palm tree.

Only chance was to pitch between the trees on to a mount to the right of the green, hoping that the ball will roll down towards the pin. The shot was great and it started rolling towards the pin but stopped 10 feet from it. Missed my bogey putt.

Only chance I had to stay in the match was to play 3 pars minimum. In my mind I decided to shoot 3 birdies.

The last three holes are all around a little lake. Water comes into play all the time and to the left is OB. Tight and tough. I got myself a par on 16. Chipped in for birdie on 17. Faced with a similar shot like on 15 after my drive I this time took my 7 iron, pitched close to the pin and made birdie. Here is the good news. I learned from my mistakes and did better. 67  was my first round and I was good with that.

Today was the final. 3 players had a realistic chance for the title. My front nine worked out well. Played pars and a birdie. Made a bogey which was again on 5 and this time got myself a bogey on 6. Different wind, different shot.

7 and 8 I saved par despite not so good tee shots. Thanks to my LW. 9 looked pretty simple this time. I hit a good drive and was 29 yards from the pin. Right in front of  a small trap. The fairway on that spot felt a little solid. Like concrete. My first thought was to chip it with my GW to the right and two putt. However, I decided to take my LW again after hitting it well and lob it over the trap right to the pin which stood and the narrowest spot of the green.

I missed the shot and my ball ended up in the trap. My first trap shot. I like bunker shots. Really worked on it and it paid off. I just did not realize that there was not much sand in this one. Even when stepping in it. I did not catch much sand and hit it not only OB but on to the roof of the house behind the green. So I had to hit another one. Again I learned from my mistake and hit a good shot out to leave me a putt for a 6, which I missed. This 7 almost took me out of the match.

Needless to say that I had some mental issues to fight. But I am currently working on getting my mind under control. 10 worked out just fine. Had a bad tee shot. Used my LW again and left it just short of the green on the fringe. I made the putt and felt my confidence coming back.

The short 11 is not my favorite hole and this time I took an extra club. Still I missed the shot and ended up in the water taking a 5. Horrible to say the least. Bad tee shot on 12, but almost made birdie. Great tee shot on 13 and made birdie. Poor tee shot on 14 and yet another bogey.

There was 15 again. I went back and forth with my club selection and still took my driver. Again I was too long, overshooting the fairway and ending up in the bunker. Downhill lie, one foot in the trap and one food outside about 1 ½ above. Palm tree in front of me ( same as the day before) 68 yards to the pin, OB to the left. The correct shot : PW ion to  the fairway, chip on and put for par. My choice: 8 iron, going for the pin. The shot felt good and looked good. But when I got to the spot where I thought it was I saw that the ball was OB again.

I was later told it rolled of the mount and hit the cart path. So I went back. Same club, same shot, got it out and left it short behind the same tree again. Only shot available : PW fade around the tree. This I actually made happen. Still needed another chip and 2 putts to save an 8. That was it. Finished with par, par and birdie. Considering I just had an 8 , it was good golfing to finish par , par and birdie on those water holes.

73 on the second day gave me a 3 place finish with some $. I am never happy to not win. I only needed to play par on those two holes to win that thing.

Overall I must say my game improved. Better turn, more power, longer shots with all clubs, putting is much better than just a few weeks ago. I made many good decisions and scrambled nicely.

I surely learned an important lesson from those two holes. Play the % . I knew it before and did not follow through with it. I guess that is what mental strength and ability is all about. Whenever I played the higher % shot on any hole, I was right and finished well .

The wind was tough, but it was for everyone the same. We had no rain and the greens were running nicely. There was really no reason to not win this tournament.

3 place is not a bad thing and I take  any price I win :).  I will take some good points from this  two rounds and remember all the great shots I hit and putts I made.

What really is worth mentioning is the improvements I saw on the course. The greens were in good shape despite all the rain. Nice and firm and green. The fairways looked OK to me as well. Compared to last year this course improved a lot. I reviewed last year or so and it is like a different track.

Tomorrow we are at Laurel Oaks Country Club to play a practice round for the West Florida Amateur Event on Monday. I am excited about it. This is one of my favorite clubs. Nice people, great course and always good players to compete with.

Monday will be the beginning of a wonderful tournament series.

Laurel Oaks Country Club, Sarasota

Belleair Country Club in Clearwater

Sarabay Country Club, Bradenton

Lakewoodranch Country Club , Sarasota ( 2 times)

Really feeling blessed that I am able to play all those golf courses and tournaments.
What is on the list today? Just taking some notes about those rounds and my improvements and things to work on. Rest. Write.

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