Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Golf Channel Amateur Tour at Lakewood Ranch Royal Lakes and Sunday morning thoughts

The clock was set forward and considering that , I am up early. But I simply could not sleep any more. It is daylight and I feel good. As a matter of fact I am excited. First thing I read when I started reading golf news, sports news and so on was an article about Miguel Angel Jimenez. Without a doubt one of my favorite players. For his game and for what he stands. Although there was all kinds of things written. The following words he said are significant to me, because they are pretty much a duplicate of what I say and feel:

I still enjoy what I do, that's the main thing,” he said. “I enjoy what I do in my life and I enjoy to play golf and I enjoy to compete.  That's probably the main thing.  Then I'm not lazy to go to practice or go to the putting green or go to the gym work. But the main thing is that you have to enjoy what you do in your life, and I do.”

Those words are the same I am telling people when they ask me about my golfing plans and about what I am working on and do. I enjoy what I do. I enjoy to compete and to improve. As a matter of fact, I enjoy my life  and love my life. That is why I work on my game, find ways to go play golf, get better and am in constant search of tournaments or any competition. When I am on the golf course , playing a tournament, any tournament, I am happy and feel good. Sure, I also feel good doing other things. Like sitting on the Zapfsaeule in Cala Millor, Spain, having some self poured draft beer, looking over to the ocean, being with friends and snacking jamon and cheese. There is plenty of things which bring forward this feeling of happiness.

But that is all different. When I get up in the morning on any given day and I get ready for a round of tournament golf. Make coffee, sit in my chair and play the course one more time in my mind, find the clothes I like for the day, pack my bag, have breakfast and do meditate for a few, I feel that I do exactly what I am supposed to do. I feel like I am doing my part. It is hard to describe the feeling. It feels right. That simple.

I also enjoy practicing. As a matter of fact I can practice for hours. I can make it a happening including pool breaks, beer breaks, chatting and nature watching. Yet it is also my job, my work and what I need to do to get better in what I am doing to make a living.

Miguel said it right and I can feel what he feels. I even developed an appreciation and taste for cigars. Unlike cigarettes, which I smoked a ton in my life, cigars are something to enjoy like a good rum or a good wine. But I will write a little about hat in my golf chat blog.

Yesterday I did what I described. I got up at 5 am after a night which did not bring me any good sleep. Not exactly sure why, but I think that my mind was occupied with things happening in our daily lives. That and some other issues made the night before the tournament not very relaxing. However, I did get up and starting my morning tournament routine. Something , everybody who plays tournament golf should have and most PGA pros do have.

Made myself some coffee first, sat down in my chair and went through the upcoming day in my mind. After enjoying more coffee I then read some news on the Internet. Nothing specific. Just browsing to see what the World is doing and golf results as well as soccer results. I then made myself some breakfast and a snack for the round. Picked out the clothes for the day based on the weather forecast and then off into the shower. Which was cold yesterday morning.

My tee off for this one day Golf Channel Amateur Tour Event was 8 30 am. The lead group. So I had to leave early in order to have some time to warm. The set up at Lakewood Ranch Country Club is a little inconvenient. The range is at the main club house and from there you have to drive a few minutes to get to the other course. Not a big deal. I got there at 7 25 am. That gave me 35 min to warm. This is plenty . After all , before a tournament you warm up and do not work on your game. They have an excellent driving range with Titleist range balls. I really like the chipping green. It is not as flat as most others I know. So I spend most of my warm up right there. Did my usual line up on the range and although it did not feel perfect, I liked my wedges and mid irons very much no that day.

Being in the lead group is a good thing. I love it. Because  you set the pace for everyone and you are in control. I was teamed up with Dag Rasen from Norway and Russel Nicola. Both live in Tampa I believe. From the get go we got along well. I like the Golf Channel Amateur Tour. It is by far the best organized and very professional.

How was my round at Lakewood Ranch Royal Lakes?

I started of with an OK tee shot. The goal was to put it in play and gain some confidence. That worked out well. Made the only par on that hole in  my group and felt pretty good about it. After an OK hybrid into the wind and two good putts. My front 9 was OK. My tee shots were not exciting, but I put it in play and gave myself a shot at the green. Not many fairways of the tee and not too many greens in regulation as well. However, my short game , which is my best part, was in good shape. So I managed to play a good 39 on the front. I was satisfied but not overly excited. The shots I made from the waste areas were great shots, the shots from the rough were good shots and my chipping was OK. However, I missed a couple good birdie opportunities, one not so difficult par putt and had a three putt. Both par 5s I had a birdie putt. One long one and one from 7 feet. Both I missed by literally 1 inch and made par.
Best hole on the back was number 9. 410 par 4 on that day. My tee shot was horrible. I came over the ball to fast and putt it all the way left into the rough. The good news was that I had a clear short at the green. 217 years to the pin, up hill, into the wind which game front left to right. My plan was to hit an easy low 3 wood and land it somewhere left front of the green to get a putt or a close chip. Since my 3 wood was not the best club in my bag on that day, playing huge left to right shots, I actually decided to play exactly that. A left to right fade, almost slice. So I aimed about 25 yards left of the green and let it go. As a result I got myself a birdie putt from about 30 feet. The putt stopped half an inch before the hole.

The back 9 I started with a tee shot into another waste land , but hit a great 7 iron in between two trees and had a birdie putt again. Made par. 11 my tee shot was not too good. Followed by a bad approach but a good second approach and another good putt. I tagged along well on the back 9. Making the best with what I had, playing the game, having fun, working the shots. I was 1 over when I came to 15. Having missed 3 birdie putts I was looking forward to this short hole.

Put my drive in the perfect spot leaving myself a straight shot at the flag in to the wind for about 156. It was a downhill lie and I did not pay attention enough to that fact. So I missed the green to the right yet ending up in another waste land area. Here I made the biggest misstate of this round. After hitting 4 good shots from this gravel stuff, I was confident, that it was hard and I only took 1 practice swing to feel the ground. When I executed my shot, I went right under the ball. In the area I was in , the sand was softer !!! I did not evaluate my location enough. I chipped it within 7 feet then.

It was a side hill lie. Meaning the green fell to the right all the way and the pin was placed on that down slope. I missed my putt by an inch and thought that I have about a foot for double. However, the slope and the very fast green made my ball go another 7 foot downhill. I made this putt with confidence, but was glad to get out of this. Later I heard that the pin placement was so severe, that everyone was struggling and there even has been a 6 putt!
Again I was 3 over and not happy. I knew that I needed to shot at least 77 or better to get in the money. I made a par on each 16 and 17, again missing a good birdie opportunity on both hole. I only had one goal playing the par 5 18. Score a birdie and if a chance to get on the green , putt for eagle.

We had the wind against us again. Had a good drive, but had 250 to clear the water. So I decided to lay up. There it happened. I did not take enough time, came over the ball too fast and only with some athletic move was able to catch enough of the ball to move it forward at all. Luckily the fairways were nice and I got some extra roll. Had 110 to the pin. Knowing that there was a down slope right in front of the pin and the pin sitting up hill, the goal was to hit this down slope. That is exactly what I did , leaving myself 6 foot for yet another birdie.

This time I made it and what an important birdie it was. Only 3 players in my flight shot 76. Which left me and another player in 4th place together. In such situation there is a card play off. Counting from 18 backwards. That is where my birdie came in handy. What do we learn? Every shot counts.

All together , I played a solid round. It was not pretty to watch. Most of my drives not being in the fairway and not being the longest I can do. But , hitting some good approach shots and certainly having lots of control over my chipping and putting. There was plenty of opportunity. In all I had 4 or 5 make able birdie putts and a few putts with outside chances.

Kept the ball in play, was relaxed and had fun. Considering , that I practice about 1 time a week and did not practice at all for weeks  other then occasionally hitting some balls, I am pretty excited.

It clearly shows, that I can play this game with whatever I have and shoot a good round of golf.
My last note: We only needed 3 hours and 37 minutes to play this round of golf.

We were never rushing, never under stress and took all the time we needed. ( Might use some more time for putting in the future). It was a pleasure to play. Everyone was ready to hit when the turn got to him, everybody was moving and doing things while others were getting ready for their shots. Professional, in focus and with plenty of fun. A good round of golf.

Based on that I am looking forward to Monday. The West Florida Amateur Tour Event at the Ritz Carlton Members Club in Sarasota. One of my favorite tracks where I have a history of winning and playing well. I will go, have fun, enjoy the preserved nature and play the game. That is what I do and I love it :) .
Today is resting and more day with an hour or so warm up practice. Watching golf and crossing my fingers that Miguel will shoot yet another good round. Proving that a 50 year old, cigar smoking, wine drinking and life enjoying golfer still can make it happen :).

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