My initial intent was to post the results of the US Open Local Qualifier yesterday, but it’s taken me some time to get over the SHOCK of what happened to me yesterday. First off the course, Bayonet in Seaside California was hit with some extremely difficult conditions with wind gusts up to 35mph and rain squalls that came in sideways.
Typically I wouldn’t go into such detail about a round of golf, but then again this is the OPEN qualifier, and coming off the dramatic playoff win in the Northern California Four Ball Championship, my hopes were high. Although my body was a bit tired after 5 rounds of competitive golf in 6 days, I still felt confident going into this qualifier.
On the tee the group was told there were 90 players vying for 6 spots in the sectional qualifier. My initial qualifying score prediction was 72, but with weather conditions so tough clearly the number was going to be higher. This qualifier had about 2/3 pro golfers and 1/3 amateurs in the field.
My 1st hole of the day was the downhill, downwind par five 10th hole. After lacing a drive down the middle I was left with 190 yards to the front of the green, after a slightly pushed 6 iron I was able to chip close and secure a birdie for a good start. After a solid par on the 11th hole, I was faced with a second shot on #12 that started my journey of indecision and errors. Since Bayonet has been completely redone the green complexes are undulated and tricky, and on #12 the shot called for something right not left. A shot hit left of the pin left a very difficult 2 putt, while a shot to the right of the pin gave you a much easier uphill chip shot. So after two shots I thought were perfect actually left me a very difficult 2 putt, which I was unsuccessful at and 3 putted for an ugly bogey 5. In a qualifier like this you cannot afford to waste shots. The 13th hole is one of the toughest at Bayonet, and it requires a very accurate tee shot to thread the two bunkers. I was able to launch a big drive down the right side that resulted in a 135 shot to the pin. Although I was coming out of a shallow divot, I was able to hit a wedge to a foot for a very satisfying birdie to get back to -1 for the day. After another solid par on the tough par three 14th hole, I again was faced with a difficult 2 putt on both the 15th and 16th holes after solid shots into both these short par four holes. These challenging pins were placed in VERY difficult locations with rock hard green surfaces, making shot placement ever important. After again leaving my first putt short on 15 resulting in another 3 putt for bogey, on the 16th I ripped the putt 10 feet by for bogey to go to 1 over par. 17 a 225 yard par 3 was straight into a headwind blowing 25-30mph, after a shot dead at the pin that came up short I was faced with a chip shot that I needed to get close to stop the bogey barrage. After a chip to 8 feet I was able to roll this one in to hold me at +1 for the day. 18 was playing into a strong cross wind, so I took dead aim over the left bunker and busted a low screamer that cleared the bunker and rolled to the bottom of the hill leaving me 200 yards to the front of this par 5 hole. It would be huge to shoot even par 36 on this opening side if I could make a 4 on this great par 5 hole. Unfortunately AGAIN I was unable to properly gauge the wind and my 4 iron shot blew right of the green, after a poor chip to 10 feet I missed the birdie putt and walked off feeling like I really left 3 or 4 shots on the opening 9. But I was hitting my shots and playing well in tough conditions so the front 9 (my back nine as I tee upon #10 to start) I felt the front nine would perhaps be a little easier than the back played.
After a perfect tee shot on #1 again I had a chance to hit the green in two shots with a rescue club this time. I hit a beautiful high fade to the front 3rd of the green with a back right pin up over a ridge. AGAIN I left this 30 foot putt 10 feet short, but this time I refused to miss this putt, and as the wind and rain raged around me I made a positive stroke with my trusty side saddle putter and drained this ever important to put to get back to even par.
The 2nd hole (my 11th) was playing as the toughest hole on the course. As we approached the tee a large rain cell hit us bringing sideways rain and huge wind. I asked an official on the tee if we could wait a few minutes and of course he said no play on….I ran out to the tee holding my driver behind my back and quickly hit a perfect tee shot down the left side of this VERY narrow tee shot….fairway is probably only 25 yards wide with trees guarding tightly on both sides. I now had 215 left to a tight right front pin, and 30mph gale wind blowing in my face. I chose my trusty 19 degree rescue club and struck the best shot I’ve hit in years, this shot took off like a bullet and never rose to high to allow the wind to slap it right or left. The ball finally landed on the front of the green and rolled to 5 feet from the pin. I WAS THRILLED and for the first time felt I was in command of my round (how quickly this can change). I had to wait quite a while looking over this slight left to right slider, and must have changed my mind 10 times on the amount of break to play on this putt. I over played the brake and walked off with a very unsatisfying par on this ridiculously tough par 4 hole.
My next major gaffe occurred on the next hole #3 a short uphill par 4 hole that has a bunker 280 yards out in the MIDDLE of the fairway. Knowing this is an 18 hole qualifier there was no need to be overly aggressive here, but without thinking clearly I grabbed driver and hit a beauty right down the middle into the bunker. Although I only had 130 yards to the pin, my lie in the bunker was not great, which caused me to move on the shot and hit the lip ahead of me. After a 70 yard shot into the green and 2 putts I had secured a bogey another short par 4. After two solid pars on 4 and 5 I had 4 hole left and I stood 1 over par on the day. The next hole a downwind par 3 from 225 yards playing 2-3 club shorter, I again without great thought hit a 4 iron over the green into a terrible lye and made a VERY costly bogey. A 5 iron would have given me a par at worse and possibly a chance at a birdie. Now standing at +2 my margin for error was GONE, I needed to finish strong!!
After short missed birdie putts on #7 and #8 I had the tough downwind uphill par 4 9th hole left. WOW what a day of poor decisions! I cannot understand why I didn’t think through these shots better, but for some reason the weather conditions had me asking quick and poor decisions. And here on the last hole #9 the tee shot line I chose ultimately cost me from punching my ticket into the final US Open qualifier in June. So here is what I did, after seeing Jesse hit a drive over the trees on the right, I decided to take the short cut as well….problem is if you don’t clear the trees you are stymied behind the trees. A drive down the middle was a better option and really didn’t leave a longer shot into this very shallow green. SO after my tee shot hit the trees on the right I had a very poor position behind the trees, but again I decided to launch a 9 iron through the tree to get the ball somewhere up my the green. This again was not the shot and it ended me in the left rough with a poor lie and 70 yards to the pin. With the uphill shot, wind, and poor lie the objective was to get the ball on the green allowing me a chance at a par putt and 74 total. Nope..I didn’t hit the flop hard enough and left the ball short on the hill about 40 feet from the hole. I thought I could possibly chip this in for a miraculous par, again bad shot 5 feet short of the hole. NOW I have a 5 footer for 75 which I knew still had a chance, but as my day went I missed the 5 footer and made a whopping double bogey six and missed the playoff by one shot and qualifying without a playoff my two shots. Even after all the mistakes I made all day a par on the last hole would have secured the 5th spot in the sectional qualifier (I’ve played in the sectional 11 times now) and a CHANCE to play in the US OPEN as the oldest amateur to ever qualify for the tournament.
Going from such an extreme euphoria of the playoff victory to the depression of a badly missed opportunity is what makes this game so emotional, thrilling and down right tough. Even the best player perhaps ever (Mr. T Woods) is having a tough time of it. So what will I do today…I’m playing the Preserve in the Carmel Mountains with three good friends that will help erase the memories of yesterday. I will be posting the rest of my Spyglass photos and those of the Preserve. For those of you faithful that have read this far will be treated to some great shots of what many consider to be the 2nd best course in the Monterey/Carmel/Pebble Beach area the #1 course is open for debate but Spyglass Hill would get my vote.
Thanks for sharing my pain and after writing about my day, I feel a sense of relief that I’ve gotten it out of my system and perhaps now I can learn from the experience.
Stay tuned and thanks!
Have a great day