Last time you heard from me was after a 72 at Spyglass Hill in the NCGA Masters, since then I’ve shot 82 at Poppy Hills, and had a great chance in Las Cruces New Mexico to qualify for the US Senior Open. First of all congratulations to Jim Knoll for playing another solid round of golf to become the 1st Senior to win the NCGA Masters. Jim was very consistent and solid from start to finish. To sum up my round, I started poorly, finished poorly, and played poorly all day. After going a year and a half in NCGA point events where I finished inside the top ten, this officially ended that streak, and knocked my confidence to pieces.
This is funny game, if your confident and prepared good things will happen, if your unsure and unprepared, at some point during 18 holes will you be exposed. In the US Senior Open qualifier, I got of to a shaky start making a bogey on the 3rd hole a short and easy hole. I followed that up with a birdie on the 4th hole, some good par saves until #8 where I hit driver 8 iron to a par five and made eagle. I turned the front at 2 under par and then birdied #10 to go -3 on the day. The 11th hole is a long downhill par 3 hole with a pin stuck in the right corner. Prudently I aimed my 6 iron at the middle of the green and executed a perfect shot to about 30 feet from the hole. Another player in my group was on a similar line about 50 feet away. I let his putt influence my left to right break which I got all wrong. My arms felt heavy and my good feel and touch with the putter left me as I felt the pressure of the moment get the better of me. After missing a 5 footer for par, I was burning with desire to bounce back and get the lost shot back. The 12th hole was a tight driving hole, but a reachable par 5. After a perfect drive I knocked a 4 iron onto the green leaving me a 40 foot uphill putt for eagle. Again I lost my touch with nerves getting the best of a stroke that usually feels the distance and doesn’t error to the BAD side of the putt. I knocked this one 4 feet long, leaving a downhill slider that I completely gaked low and left.
What that felt like was taking two shots and just throwing them away, thinking I should now be at -4 I was still well in it at -2 with 6 holes to play. The 13th hole is a long par 4 hole where I made a good par after driving my ball in the right fairway bunker, but again hit a poor 1st putt from 25 feet, leaving me with a shaky par putt from 3 feet that I was able to make. The 14th hole is a short and tight hole that I decided to pull driver on, which resulted in a perfect tee shot leaving me 65 yards over the front bunker and 90 yards to the pin. When it’s 100 degrees out, down wind, and up at 2,800 feet elevation the ball goes about one club more than normal. As I took the club back I felt like I needed to throttle off a little and eased into my shot with a 60 degree sand wedge and watched in horror as my ball landed into the top of the lip of the bunker. My bunker play is not what it should be and on this day I would be 0-3 in the bunkers. Walking off with a bogey on this hole hurt, and showed me just how poorly I was prepared to play in a situation like this. Still at -1 I knew that I was still in the hunt knowing that any score under par might get the job done, although 28 of us were playing for 1 spot.
I now needed a strong finish over the last 4 holes to have a shot at my second US Senior Open, the 15th hole is a long par 5 downwind. I killed a drive and had 22 degree rescue left to a fairly wide green, but another quick swing resulted in a wide right shot into the greenside bunker, resulting in a disappointing par. The last three holes are tough ones, and I played them very poorly, especially after hitting excellent drives on 16 and 18, 17 is a par three where I left my shot just short of the green and made bogey, followed by a final bogey on 18 to shoot a very disappointing 73. The qualifying score ended up being 70, a score that I could have easily bettered if I had my usual confidence, patience, and resolve to finish the round strong.
It was a long way to fly for me and Reiner for two days, not to come home with gold ticket into this years Senior Open. I’ll have to be content with one major this year, the British Senior Open at Turnberry. So what do I do now to get some confidence and eliminate the jitters with the putter. I discussed this today with my trusty adviser and teacher Terry Rowles and we discussed getting prepared so that the feel on the putts doesn’t feel like guess work. Playing with Beau Hossler on Monday and Tuesday in the California State Amateur will be interesting after all the global media attention this 17 year old got while contending in the US Open last week.
Try to figure out how I can get back to my earlier form is going to be important as the BIG events are coming up. I have the Cal State Am, NCGA Stroke play, Senior Open, US Am qualifier, NCGA Amateur, US MID AM, etc..
I’ll have up close and personal coverage of what Beau’s game is like, how he carries himself and how he does vs. someone 36 years his senior, so STAY TUNED