With steady rain hitting the Bay Area on Sunday, conditions were extremely tough during Sundays round of 16 matches. The play was extremely slow which added to my frustration. Slow play has hurt the game of golf and Sunday was another frustrating experience with a 3 hour front nine and almost 6 hour to play 18 holes.
The 7:00 am tee time just ahead of us took 21 minutes to play the first hole and were immediately warned that they had taken 5 minutes longer than the 16 minutes allotted to play the first hole. Granted it was raining quite hard, but it would seem that a player would take fewer practice swings and would be more decisive than deliberate. My group consisted of a 15 year old playing a 16 year old, and I was playing a fellow Olympian Jack Persons who was the senior in the group of the kids at 18. I can remember adding up their ages and realized that I have lived longer than the three of them combined. But what is very apparent is that this younger generation has become more deliberate and than ever before. My worthy opponent Jack was not the slow one in my group, the two younger players are great players, but very slow and deliberate. They both take 3-5 practice swings prior to hitting a shot, and that’s after a long pre-shot routine. On the greens they spend up to several minutes getting ready to hit their putts.
One might say if I hadn’t lost my match on the 19th hole that I wouldn’t be leading with the slow play frustration that I experienced on Sunday, and I would say fair enough. BUT that would not be the case as I was very disappointed with the long wait between each and every shot while standing in a steady downpour. Each shot was played with a tremendous amount of water on the ground, requiring each shot to be hit very square to travel the anticipated distance.
I played perhaps the best rainy weather round of golf in recent memory. Standing on the 8th tee if someone told me that I would would play the last 11 holes -3 I would have predicted an easy win in my match. That unfortunately was not the case as young Jack Persons was unflappable making clutch putts and chips through the entire match, especially on #18 after I had made a 12 footer for par, Jack was faced with a make or LOSE 8 foot put that he calmly rolled into the hole.
Sunday marked the 5th match in a row that I’ve gone to sudden death. In the Olympic Club Championship (my last match play event) I played three consecutive matches that went overtime. The 18th hole once again caused major havoc for me as again I squarely hit the tree on the far side of Lake Merced. I got quite lucky that my ball didn’t carom backwards into the hazard. From under the tree I had no shot to the green, so I took a rescue club and hit a hook to 62 yards of the pin. From there I hit a satisfactory shot to approx 10 feet where I rolled in an unlikely par that I thought would be enough to win the match. The pressure packed par putt Jack made showed me a lot about his composed and ability to perform under extreme pressure.
The match play bracket below shows who is still left in the event. Qualifying medalist Patrick Grimes also went down in defeat, leaving defending champion George Gandranata as the clear favorite to defend his title. I’m not sure of the ages of the quarter finalists, but I would guess that George is the senior of the group at 25. It’s unfortunate that a great historical championship like the SF City cannot be played in September when weather and course conditions could be more ideal. Evey year we face driving rain and soggy course conditions that I feel don’t do this championship justice. I suppose tradition comes into play here, but why would the tradition of torturous conditions make it right to keep this event in the eye of the storm. Additionally paying green fees of $70 once you’ve made match play is another problem facing the tournament committee. After paying a $150 entry fee, you then potentially could pay another $420 in green fees (6X$70) or a total of $570 to play in a city event at Harding Park. I personally believe that the entry fee should be raised to $200 which would significantly offset this green fee burden placed on these younger players that may not be in a financial position to spend over $500 to play in a golf tournament that the City of San Francisco should support, NOT use as a revenue generator for tee times that would never be used during this rainy Feb/Mar timeframe. In my perfect world the city would be contested over 3 weekends in Sept with one entry fee and no daily green fees. I would love to hear your comments on this topic.