This has been a very interesting year for golf weather in 2011. We’ve seen some of the nicest weather ever recorded in January, followed by some of the worst weather in Feb and March. This past Sat was on the extreme side of what we’ve seen lately with cold conditions, rain, mixed with gusting winds up to 40mph. In short, the course was unplayable to say the least.
This is no knock on the great shape Stevenson Ranch was in, but with greens running 11-13 on the stimp, the high winds made arbitrarily moving balls on the greens quite frustrating. Playing with my friend Andrew Biggadike, on the par 5 sixth hole as he attempted his 5 foot par putt his ball moved as he started his backstroke, resulting in a one shot penalty. The course is tough enough, but with balls being blown all over on the greens made the course unfit for play.
After playing 11 holes, my group caught up to Dom’s group (The tournament chairman) only to watch his entire group hit rescue clubs to a par three hole measuring 145 yards. After they each missed the green short, I said to Dom “I think it’s time you call this a day and get the players off the course” after consulting with the other tournament official Mr. Johnny they made the right decision and pulled the players from the course. Everyone counted their front nine holes, which were the highest nine holes scores I’ve ever witnessed. In the Mid-Am/Masters flight there were only 3 scores below 40 (+4) with Steve Wilson shooting an amazing even par 36 to lead the pack by two shots. Steve is a longtime friend from my High School days in the east bay when we both played at Boundry Oaks. Steve is one of the nicest guys in amateur golf and I was thrilled to see him shoot such a great nine holes in impossible conditions.
I asked Steve how he shot 36 with winds howling at 35-50mph, and he simply replied my body moved with the wind while putting…I made everything!! I enjoyed playing with Steve on Sunday and despite his physical ailments he is one hell of a competitor and a fine gentleman. We also had a young buck in the final group, Taylor Hobin of Antioch, another nice younger lad and recent grad from USF. Taylor made a strong surge in the final round birding holes 2-4 to get out of the gate -3 after 4 holes, matched by yours truly by birdies on #10, 12 and 13. We started on the back nine making the treacherous holes 15-18 our holes 6-9 which made them a little less stressful than finishing on these holes where one bad swing can be tournament ending.
After Taylor and I shot 33 (-3) on the back we turned to the front to the par 5 number one hole a par 5 reachable in two for the longer hitters. As mentioned in the amateurgolf.com article I had stopped at the snack shop for a quick sandwich, putting me late to arrive at the 1st tee. Still with Mayonnaise on my hand I took a mighty swipe at a drive that went sailing dead right and out of bounds. In one swing the hard work of the back nine was flushed and I was starting over back down by three shots to Taylor who was cruising at -3 and even for the day. But like I did on #1 Taylor’s trouble hit him on the tough second hole at Stevenson Ranch that has a penal bunker on the right side of the fairway that he caught off the tee. Making a double bogey six put him 1 shot ahead with 7 holes to go with the late round drama just beginning. At this time Taylor was one up over me and two up over Steve Wilson. After a perfect drive and approach shot to 4 feet on #3 Taylor again bounced back with a birdie 3 to go up again by 2. That lead was short lived as on the tough over the water par three 4th hole playing 174 yards, Taylor hit a poor shot short and in the water resulting in another double bogey. Now things were heating up as Steve, Taylor and I were all within one shot of each other with some good holes left to play.
This is the final category of golf pressure that I describe as playing in an important event with a few holes to go either in the lead or close to the lead on the final round. THIS IS THE MAX PRESSURE SITUATION that everyone talks about like with what happened to Steve Marino at Bay Hill on Sunday when he had a three shot lead with 5 holes to go, was cruising until he went bogey, double bogey on 16 and 17.
What happens in this situation is your heart starts to pump blood quicker, resulting in shortness of breath and everything becomes quicker and less in control. Very few players have excelled under these circumstances, but certainly Tiger Woods comes to mind as one of the best ever at excelling under the most extreme pressure situations.
By no means am I saying that I have conquered the nervousness of late tournament stress, but I’ve been there over a hundred times over 25 years to the point where I somewhat know what it will do to my reactions and adrenaline, and speed in which everything happens, especially your decision making process. Wining is really really hard, especially when it means a lot to you (Like winning Palmer’s event did to the PGA Pros) Well winning the California Mid Am meant a lot to me, thus increasing the pressure and making each shot critical down the stretch. Some times it works out and some times it doesn’t, but on this day I was able to stay focused and make crucial birdies at #6 and on the tough par three #7 playing 215 yards with a back left pin. That was followed up by a 6 foot par saver at #8 (17th hole of the day) and a solid par at 18 to finally win an event I had been runner up 5 times.
Not everyone is going to have the luxury of having been there before enough to know what to expect. My advice to any golfer in a late round pressure match is too SLOW down the swing and take a very deliberate back swing ensuring a full turn and release. What usually happens under pressure is a quicker takeaway resulting in a incomplete back-swing resulting in an errant shot. Same with the putting stroke which will get quicker and shorter with pressure. Easier said than done, I get it, but if you take the time to properly practice and emulate these conditions as much as possible, the better off you’ll be when it’s GAME ON TIME!!!
Final results below courtesy of Amateurgolf.com
Stay tuned for the goals of the next 90 days……