The amateur participants in the 2011 California State Amateur and the US Open participants in 2012 are in for a real treat at the NEW AND IMPROVED Lake Course at the Olympic Club. The improvements include 18 new green surfaces, several lengthened holes and a completely new and improved 8th hole that has gone from 138 yards to 200yards.
This weekend was the best I’ve seen the course since the Lake course re-opened in May of 2009. Until now the greens have been extremely firm and unreceptive to shots from any distance, combined with very slow putting surfaces. These conditions are typical for several years as the greens mature. This weekend the greens held quite nicely and the greens rolled quicker than I’ve seen them at any time since we re-opened.
Saturday’s qualifying round was perhaps one of the most satisfying rounds of 2010, possibly longer as I played the last 12 holes in -6 to card a 67 and capture medalist honors. The 18 hole qualifying round was to fill the championship field with 16 players. With about 70 low handicappers in the qualifier it took 79 to make the cut into the Championship flight.
Today I played Ed Pira, a player I was unfamiliar with other than he shot 79 in the qualifier and seemed like a really likable guy. After starting the round off with a solid birdie on the 1st hole, my likable opponent made an awesome birdie on the 2nd hole to put us back square. After we parred the next several holes I again took a one up lead after Ed three putted the 5th hole. I returned the favor with a bogey on the 8th hole to again put the match even.
What happened after the 8th hole I will always remember as the most competitive and best golf I’ve ever seen on the Lake course. On the 9th hole after making par Ed hit a great approach to about 8 feet and drained the putt for solid birdie and a one up lead. On ten he made a bogey to put the match back even. After a drive in the right rough, Ed again played a beautiful shot onto the green and halved me with par. The VERY tough 12th hole was also halved with par as Ed hit a shot from the right rough again to 15 feet.
The 13th hole was playing 203 yards, we both hit nice 5 irons shots onto the green. Ed’s the better of the two stopping 10 feet from the pin. After I made par, Ed rolled his putt in for a very nice 2. More fireworks on #14 ( I was now 1 down in the match with 5 holes to play) from the right rough I hit a 7 iron to 10 feet and Ed probably hit wedge to 15 feet. Typically in match play first man in wins the hole does really happen, but in this case I was able to top Ed’s birdie with my on sliding ten footer to stay one down.
The 15th hole was no different as Ed hit a 7 iron dead at the pin that required me to take dead aim as well. But this time I was away with a tricky downhill 12 footer that I was able to roll in dead center. This time though from only 5 feet Ed was unable to convert the putt putting the match ALL EVEN with 3 holes to go. More intense pressure was applied on 16 as we both hit approach shots within 10 feet for birdie on this tough 609 yard par 5. This time Ed putted first and missed his 8 footer while I was able to convert my putt to complete the 3 birdie hat trick to go one up in the match and -3 on the round.
17 was halved with pars after Ed hit driver 3 iron into the neck of the green and was unable to tie the match with an up and in for birdie. The 18th hole wouldn’t be played without an easy ending although it appeared as if I had the match squarely in my grasp. After a striped 3 metal and sand wedge approach to 5 feet, I was in the catbird seat as Ed needed to make a 30 foot putt from the fringe just to have a chance. I knew I had two ways to win, Ed missing his putt or making my 5 footer for birdie. This is when you MUST expect the impossible and true to form Ed rammed in his putt forcing me to sink mine for the win. I must admit that I was quite nervous over this downhill slider as I made the mistake of thinking about having to go sudden death with Ed, when I should have kept my focus solely on the task at hand. After my miss I wasn’t going to number one for sudden death with the momentum I had minutes earlier.
With Ed’s length I was clearly at a disadvantage, and after shooting a 68 it was hard for me to believe I was standing on #1 in a sudden death situation. True to form Ed BOMBED a 320 yard drive around the corner and had only 200 yards left to this par 5 hole. After a solid drive myself I hit a 22 degree rescue short right of the green. Ed a good 30 yards ahead of me riffled a 5 iron to 15 feet from the hole. My putt from off the green raced a good 6 feet by the hole. Now I was in a very tough situation as Ed had two ways to win, his make and my miss. His eagle try just rolled up inches short for a conceited birdie. After a good study of my putt I focused on just relaxing and keeping my body still to produce a solid and true roll. In this situation it is VERY difficult to make a putt like this as your heart rate is elevated and typically you’ll even stop breathing over the putt. I must admit I was thrilled when I saw my putt rolling for the middle of the cup.
Now the momentum switched slightly in my favor as I felt I dodged a lethal bullet on #1 and was able to extend the match. I was quite shocked and surprised when Ed missed his short approach to number 2 left and into the bunker. These are the toughest matches to lose when both players have played such brilliant golf. I was thrilled to see my short par putt find the bottom of the whole and end a match I will never forget.
The course is SPECTACULAR and all those that work so hard on our famed Lake course should be congratulated and thanked!! SO THANK YOU !!!
I’m thrilled to be playing again next weekend at 7:30 on Sat for the quarterfinals, and hopefully followed that afternoon for the semis and a 36 hole final on Sunday.
After a weekend on the Lake where I played 38 holes at 8 under par I’m again looking forward to some great competition next weekend.
TOMORROW I WILL BEGIN SHARING WITH YOU SOME OF THE REASONS WHY I AM PLAYING PERHAPS THE BEST GOLF OF MY LIFE AT AGE 51….STAY TUNED