Thursday, July 31, 2014

Does practice make perfect ? No, but it sure helps to have more luck on the course

9 days since my last entry. A long time. But it has been a busy period. Played a couple of round. One at Bobby Jones Golf Complex. A good round considering the conditions on this golf course. I was satisfied with my iron shots and my short game. My driver was OK but not exactly accurate.

I got in some good practice at Sarabay Country Club, my summer base. Mostly working on iron shots up to 175 and on my short game. Really working heavy with my LW. This club was one of my best clubs in my bag once around the green and I want to get back where I had it. A scoring club.

Last Sunday I played at Tatum Ridge Golf Links. Now that was a good round and an interesting round. I know play in the first group. That is a very positive sign. The early groups are usually the better players in the field. So there is a promotion.

Also I get to play with my current coach Jerry Hinton. That gives him the opportunity to watch me and to also help me if necessary. On that last Sunday I really wanted to get my driver in order and see if I can in someway get my new grip to work for me with this club.

First drive was not exactly pretty, but it gave me a good shot to the green, which I was able to get it on and start with a nice par. The second time I used my driver on the par 5 number 3. It was the last time for this round. Again the shaft of my Taylormade R11s broke in half.

I had a very good driver with good distance. But the best part was , that I did not hurt anyone. I had a similar experience with the same driver and shaft at Bradenton Country Club at charity tournament. Good drive, broken club, nobody hurt.

So my plan to work on my drive went out the window on the 3rd hole. My plan was to play with my 3 wood. But since we were in private skins game, my partners offered me to use their drivers. So on 4 I tried an older Taylormade Burner. A disaster. Almost hit the water on the left. Got lucky and saved a bogey on that hole.

Then I tried the Tour Edge Exotic driver Jerry was playing. Looked nice and had a nice shaft to it as well. It was not easy, but this driver I could hit. I was back in the game or at least partly.

From there on I hit some OK drives. I kept myself in play. That is always good. What kept me in play was my short game. On 2 I chipped in with my LW for a birdie. On 6 I chipped in with my LW for a birdie and I hit the pin on 7 yet again. It did not fall in though.

My wedges were great. My putting was good ( the greens were much better than before and rolled nicely) and when I was in trouble I was able to hit great iron shots from all kinds of lies. My 3 wood of the deck was great. Made good contact through out this round.

In the end I shot a 5 over par round. Not too exciting after being under par at first and finishing the front 9 par. On the other hand. I had a penalty on the back and still had to work with this new driver. So it was all a good thing.

The best news I think was that Jerry told me that my shot shape has improved an my contact sounds and looks more solid. Also I gained some distance. Those are all great aspects I must say.

Also very positive was that I could try out this driver on the course and in a match. I liked it . It looked good, felt good and had a nice solid feel to it. The bounce of the club face was much better than with my old driver and the weight was incredibly light. Not sure how much weight this club had, but it was light and felt great.

I started researching the company and the club itself and am pretty impressed. So I decided I will try it out at Golfsmith and then take it from there. Meanwhile I still have a last shaft for the R11s which I will use until I make a decision.

Yesterday and the day before I put in some very productive practice at Sarabay Country Club. Again working on my short game and irons. Yesterday I added 1 hour of putting to it. My shots on the range were almost perfect. Not sure if it was my hard work or the fact that Jessica Korda was practicing right next to me :). Either way, I was very happy and excited that the new grip has such a positive impact on my game.

Over the next few weeks much will happen. This week I will only play a private round on Saturday at my club and on Sunday to the Skins game yet again. But next week we are back in the hunt.

River Wilderness with the FSGA, Waterlefe CC with GC Am Tour and then SF Colliers CC in Naples with the WGAT USA - South Florida Championship. I am so ready and so excited. Never felt better about my swing and my mental game. My physical condition is not as I would like, but I feel good and that is the most important part.

I have a long way to go, but I enjoy it and keep moving towards the goal line. Today is over. Just doing some work around the house and leave business and golf behind for the rest of the evening. That is the only way to keep a fresh mind.

Anybody played Colliers CC in Naples before? How was it? Any suggestions? I am always open.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lake Venice Two Men Championship, general practice, WGAT National Championship and more

I am now working my grip and set up for a few weeks and it looks good. It is a long process to change something so fundamental as the grip. As a matter of fact my coach , Jerry Hinton, told me that it might take 6 months to fully change and be used to it.

So far I must say that it feels good. I think I gained some distance with my driver already. Also I believe that my woods of the deck have improved. I am struggling with my 5 iron and at times 6 iron. However , my short irons are in good shape, as they were before. It feels to me as if I make better contact when staying committed to my swing.

In the end I think I just have to keep working on it and try to make sure that I watch my grip before every single shot.

Last weekend the Two men Championship of Venice was on the schedule and I was again in it. This time I had a different and by far better partner. I do not think that I would have entered this tournament if not finding someone who has a positive attitude and a reputation of being a good player.

My practice round I played at Rolling Green Golf Club ( I wrote a review for this course here). The main reason I picked this club was that Jerry plays there every Friday morning and wanted to see me play. Information about Rolling Green you will find in my review.

In regards to the round. My objective was to put the grip to work, watch my set up and see if I can hit longer shots off the tee.

I had a very positive experience there. Although I had many questionable shots, my 3 wood and driver looked pretty good. Pretty straight and of good distance. In the end I was able to get a good eagle on my score card on 18. Not the longest par 5, but long enough to make it a good one. And if you argue that this could be a par 4 ( 480 yards). Fine with me, it still is a birdie. Fact is , I was able to reach the green.

From this one hole I was able to take a lot of confidence with me into the weekend tournament at Lake Venice Golf Club. It was a team event. So our roles were defined pretty well. My objective was to put the ball in the fairway so that Mark could take a good swing at it. He is a long hitter. From there on I worked on getting a safe score in . Saturday was best ball. So I wanted to make sure I play at least par on every hole. That did not work out entirely, but close.

Thing is, that I never really found my rhythm on Saturday. Just could not get the game going as I wanted. Mark played well and so we carried us through the round with an OK finish. Shooting a 75 is not stunning. But it was acceptable considering the circumstances. By that I talk about the fairways and the course in general as well as me not finding my game. The good news was , that I made a lot of very important and good putts.

Sunday was a scramble format. Here we thought that we will catch up with the leaders. Again the plan was that I putt the ball in play and let Mark rip it out there. Second shot put it on each par 5 for eagle putts or in regulation on par 4s for birdie opportunities.

I was in good shape from the get go. Literally only missing 3 fairways. Reached 2 par 5s in two after hitting great drives.  Did not get all par 4s in regulation but most of them. My short game was right on and my putting was very good for at least 12 holes. I had some issues on the front 9 coming in.

Mark did a good job with some very good drives and long approach shots. So we were able to have a great back 9 with 2 under par , but had to take a 1 over par on the front. That was not good enough. But back to my game. I went through my newly developed routine like a clock work and it worked out great.  Some of my drives were perfect. Not only right were I wanted them, but I already gained about 10 to 15 yards. My longest drive on that day was 290 yards +. A great drive. Little right to left and I did it without the usually hard work I have to put in to hit a drive that long.

In all, I am very satisfied with my game over the weekend. Clearly the work with Jerry starts to kick in. We discussed further steps for improvement. A big one will be golf clubs. Different driver, additional hybrid and different wedges. I am not entirely sure when I will or can move on with that, but I am working on it.

Also I will add the Game ( a tracking product to see how you play your round, shot by shot. McDowell seems to have success with that). Last I will take a series of up to 10 more sessions with Jerry Hinton at Tatum Ridge Golf Links.

Last my practice at Sarabay CC needs to increase gradually. This might be a challenge for time and technical reasons, but there will be a way.

I am extremely excited about how I progress and change. It is a long and hard way. But it is a fun way and honestly, I feel like I am supposed to do exactly what I do. No doubt whatsoever that I will make it.

The upcoming weeks are going to be very exciting and very exhausting. This week in full focus on practice until Sunday. Sunday I will play yet another round with Jerry to see if I am on track. This will be the Tatum Ridge Game. A good and big game. Good $ opportunity as well.

Several rounds coming up including 2 tournaments. But the two most interesting I entered today.

The South Florida WGAT Championship at Colliers CC in Naples and the National Championship of the WGAT in Howie in the Hills ( close to Orlando , FL). The second one being the biggest event I play in this year. It is a 3 day stroke play event in which the goal is to win your assigned flight and win a  trip for two to South Africa for the World Final in which to represent the USA.

The tournament will be on the 25,26 and 27 of September. However we play on 2 courses and I need to play 2 practice rounds, one on each, before I get there. I want to have the best shot at a win. A win there would be huge.

It would give us a trip for 2 to South Africa 4 weeks after the qualification, around October 25 or so. All and I mean all expenses are paid for including flight, drinks, food, hotel and so on. Best, I would represent the USA and be part of a great team over there, battling teams from all over the World. How exciting that would be. After all I am a US Citizen and that would  be the topping on the cake.

Now that the green fees are paid we will work on hotel nights for the trip. If things go even more well my entire family will be part of this event and travel with me. That would be even better and a double motivator. On top it would actually our first golf trip as I always pictured it.

But one thing at a time.

Anybody out there played on the WGAT before? Maybe even qualified? This is my first year playing on this tour. Would love to hear from players who were part of it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Innisbrook Resort in Tampa - The Copperhead Course and how my new learned grip works out

It has been a while now since I took my lesson from Jerry Hinton and am I working in implementing what I learned. At first it seemed odd and I never really felt comfortable when setting up. However, things get better by the day. The more I practice on the range and around the green and the more my mind is getting used to the new set up position , the more comfortable I get. Jerry said it will take me 6 months to have it all done. That is a long time and considering that I am playing all the time in all kinds of events, that is too long for me.

But I have to be patient. And patience I have plenty. I would not try to play competitive golf if I would not be patience. So I am working on it and try to play with the grip in tournaments and skins games.

Last weekend there was one of the events I waited to play in for a few years. The Golf Channel Tour Independence Day Open at the Innisbrook Resort in Tampa on the Copperhead Course. The very same course where the ValSpar Tampa Open is played. I have been there many times, watching the PGA Tour coming through and walking with my favorite players like Daly, Els and so on.

It was always fun to be at the Hooters Tent on 17 and see the guys coming through the Snake Pit.

But this weekend was my turn and I was excited to play. We made it a 4th of July outing. Christiane and I booked a hotel close to the resort and arrived around lunch time. Had a good lunch at the Wing House and then hopped over for the practice round.

The goal for this round was to learn more about the course. How it feels off the tee, how the greens are, where the landing areas are and all that. Also to take some photos and to enjoy the course.

The most important thing I am working on is getting the ball off the tee and into the fairway and with good distance. I can hit fairways all day long but would be way back.

On that day my drives were all good. The entire practice round I only missed a few fairways and when I hit them my balls were of OK length, giving me a chance to hit greens in regulation and set myself up for birdie putts.

I navigated the course pretty well. Keeping the ball in play, not getting in to much trouble and taking advantage of my short game. The greens were pretty slow. But no wonder. This course is mainly used for this big event and the rest of the year there is only few players who make it around this track.

After the practice round I felt pretty good. As a matter of fact I was confident that I can shoot a low round there and get myself in the ranks to make some $.

We did not do much after the round. Just checked out the club house to see where those famous fellow players would have their drinks and food. Nice place and nice atmosphere.

But I did rest for the rest of the day. I wanted to make sure that I am in the best physical and mental condition I could be. After all we took the hotel just for that reason. To rest and to prepare for the tournament.

My tee time was 7 38 am. Not a time I am too excited about. But we can not pick it, so it is what it is. Was up at 5 30 am after a good night sleep. Short breakfast and over to the course. It was extremely humid. So humid that walking  my bag to the cart was enough to be totally wet.

I had about 15 minutes to warm up on the range. Not enough really. But because of the early tee time we just did not make it earlier. On the range I usually have a good warm up program. Beginning with some chipping and pitching and then go from PW to driver in a certain line up.

This time I cut it short. Did some pitching on the range, went from PW to 5 iron and after a couple hybrids to driver. No time to putt. But I figured the greens would be the same as the day before.

Christiane was riding with me, so I did not have to prepare all the food and other things I usually do, which gave me some more time. We were a threesome, which I like. Just makes it a little more fluent.

My first tee shot was perfect. Long, straight, center of fairway. A good start. I remembered this tee shot for the next 17 holes. It was the only one of its kind on that day. Imagine.

This round of golf was a classic working round. Meaning, I worked hard for every single shot. I spent plenty of time in the woods, the rough and the traps. Almost every shot pretty much required some imagination. I hit my approach shots from behind trees, out of the rough , of sand banks and pine needles.

It actually was a pleasure to play the par 3s. Since I could go for the green without using my driver.

But I played hole by hole and shot by shot. Evaluating every situation carefully and as good as I could. Choosing a club and a shot shape which I though will help me to score. Christiane helping me as a caddie surely helped along the way. I was so busy with my round that I otherwise would have forgotten to eat and drink.

It is because of my course management abilities and my mental strength that I made this tough round what it was in the end. A round which brought me a second place in my flight and the 5th best round of the tournament. But there were major errors and I actually was leading the tournament by far for a long time.

When I look back here is what I though in the end. My drives were not in the fairway, but mostly playable. I got luck two times being on a cart path and getting relief.  My approach shots where not on target, but I played the % so, that I was somewhere in front of the green or close by.

My pitching and chipping saw better days, but I was able to play shots which gave me an opportunity to score something. Putting was actually good. No doubt that my putting saved me plenty of strokes. On the other hand, I had 3 birdie putts within 6 foot which missed.

The trouble shots from behind trees or other bad lies I mastered well, just as I expected because I do them often and do not mind them at all.

My bunker player was good until 17. I hit great bunker shots, saving par a couple times and never worse than bogey. Only on 17 I had troubles. Coming into this hole I was leading my flight and was on top of all scores. Short par 3 for us . 176 or so. I left it way short and in the front bunker.

This left me a 28 yard bunker shot from a hard and wet trap ( because of the rain storm the night before). I had two shots for this situation. A full bunker shot and a clean pick up pitch. I decided to go for the full shot. Unfortunately I caught the ball clean, hitting it not only out of the trap, over the green but some 20 yards behind it.

I was not too concerned about it. We determined in the practice round that that there is plenty of room behind the green. So I was thinking chipping it on. When I found my ball that changed. I actually almost few the 18th tee box. My was sitting in the deep rough on a downhill slope. I was facing a mount I had to carry and land the ball on the down slope. Not a pretty sight I must say. So My goal: get it on the green, somewhere. I accomplished that by 4 inch or so. So I was not unhappy with the result. From there I have a chance for a long bogey  and surely will close it out in 5.

My putt looked good, but did not stop at all and I left myself a 7 or 8 foot putt for a double bogey. That really got me going. But I took my time and actually made it. At that point I had no idea where I am standing. But I knew that this was costly.

I made a good bogey on 18 after again being in the woods. When I came in to drop of my score card , I thought that I had no chance to be in any paying position for my flight. Disappointing at that point.

But when we looked at the leader board we quickly found out that only one layer in my flight shot a better score and only 3 or 4 more of the entire tournament shot a better score. That was very interesting but made my two double bogeys even worse.

I realized , that when taking away those doubles and rolling the 3 birdie putts, I was about to shoot a great round of golf. Now imagine. I hit 4 greens in regulation and no more than 4 fairways. Yet I was able to actually score an OK round of golf. There is some hope. There is the difference. Being able to make something out of nothing. Coming back after a double and putt for birdie and so on and so on.

So I am 100 % positive, that I am on track with my game. Even with it all taking much longer than I ever thought. Just got to keep going and work hard. Believe in myself and the cause. Time is not on my side at this point and the entire situation we are in is not favorable 100%.

But at the same time we are in a much better position than many others who made it or are trying to make it.

This last weekend was a good experience in many ways. Having Christiane as a caddie with me, playing one of the toughest tracks on the PGA Tour . One the players like a lot. Walking the fairways all those guys do every year. Trying an overnight stay for the first time and liking it and actually winning something by working hard on the course.

I followed up with a good round on Sunday at Tatum Ridge Golf Links There I hit not many more fairways and I missed again some short birdie putts. But I had a good round, was working on my game and made a little $. Comparing a round at Tatum Ridge with a round at Innisbrook is not possible. Different worlds.

Monday was resting day and today I am back on the range. 3 to 4 hours I will work on short game and yet again on my weight shift and set up. I have some time before the next tournament. But I will write before that.

In the end I feel great and have to say, that when I am playing golf and especially in a tournament , I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to do. How can you beat that?