Posted by: randyhaaggolf | August 14, 2013

CHOKING, HOW DO YOU HANDLE THE PRESSURE- NCGA AMATEUR

I needed a day to cool off a bit before writing about what happened yesterday in the NCGA Amateur at Spyglass Hill. This is a match play event where 150 players play two rounds at Spyglass Hill to qualify for 32 match play spots starting today. After my first round of 76 I was not in great shape, needing a par round of 72 or better to qualify for match play. The course is playing fairly easy, with little wind, soft greens and many of the tees moved up.

After the first round the 32nd score was at 74, so 148 looked like the number. I started my round off the 1st hole and ripped a drive down the hill, leaving 240 yards to the green, typically I would have the 3 metal out and it would be bombs away, but this time I backed off the shot and decided to lay up with a 7 iron and wedge into this tight pin. This “new” restraint resulted in an opening birdie, and a good start on a day when 72 or lower will be required. A sloppy bogey followed on number 2, and then several solid two putt pars, until I was able to again hit the par 5 7th hole in 2 and two putt for another birdie to get back to one under. An ugly three putt on #9 ended the front side with a solid 36 even par.

The back nine started off very well with birdies at 10 and 11, again followed by a three putt bogey on number 12. I finished off the last par five with a birdie to get back to 2 under on the day on #14, followed by a par on #15. So now I am -2 on the day, and probably two shots below the cut line. The last hole that could produce an ugly score was the tough 16th hole, today being played from one tee up, making the tee shot a little tricky with the end of the fairway only 250 yards out. The shot required a high cut, which is usually right up my wheel house. This time however I hit a high draw, and found myself in the trees straight through the fairway. I assessed my options, from a somewhat poor lie, and without really thinking it through took a 5 iron at the hazard on the right and attempted to hit a big hook back to the green…WRONG DECISION…..here I am playing in a qualifier where a double bogey kills me, and a bogey keeps me in the hunt and in good shape with a birdie hole coming up on #17. I hit the shot in the hazard, made double bogey and eliminated my cushion. It gets worse!

On 17 after a perfect tee shot, I had 100 yards to a middle pin, I have a 54 degree sand wedge that is perfect for this uphill shot into the wind. I unfortunately quick hit the shot, didn’t accelerate through the shot and missed it short right on the green, and watched it pull down the hill and off the green. The chip shot left, is one that I fear most, the one where I need to hit a chip and run shot, a shot I am not comfortable with. Instead I tried to flop it, which didn’t work out, resulting in another ugly bogey. Now +1 on the day, a par or birdie on 18 was necessary to have any chance. After a poor drive in the left trees, I got lucky with my second shot which ricochet off a tree in front of me and onto the green. I two putted from long distance and waited to see that I would be in a 6 player playoff for two spots. I deserved my fate, I stayed patient all day until the 16th hole, which I will think about for a long, long time. Unfortunately this story has a very bad ending, and today I am having to deal with this colossal melt down.

All six player tee off on #10 with decent drives, I striped a drive down the middle with draw, and watched it chase down and around the trees on the left. This is a tough driving hole, and I was in great position to again make a birdie. When I arrived at my ball, I noticed it was one foot in the rough and in a hole. I was less than pleased with this misfortune. I then watched four shots miss the green three long and one right, and now thought just get this on the green and I have a decent chance. From 120 yards from the pin I hit a hard 54 degree gap wedge, that found the front of the green, leaving me a 40 foot putt. The last player to hit to the green hit it about 20 feet away. After watching 4 poor chips, I played my putt with eyes closed, which I had been doing about half the time during the round. I left the putt about 2.5 feet short, a straight in putt. Much to my amazement the other four guys outside of me ALL missed their par putts, so now I had a very short putt to make match play and make amends for the mess I had made earlier. Over this put my heart was pounding and I was very shaky and unstable. I decided to complete this putt with my eyes closed so I would not anticipate the hit. OMG…after I felt a good stroke I looked up in time to watch this put dip into the left side of the cup and do a 180 out of the left side of the hole while rolling very slowly. I was told the putt jumped up in the air six inches off the putter blade that resulted in the missed putt. Then the last player missed his 2 footer to complete the 6 player bogey sweep on the hole. I was sick, dejected, and feeling that this was going to be an extremely painful and unhappy ending. We went to the 9th hole, I hit a poor drive left, hit a 7 iron in the front bunker and three putted for a 6, sending me straight to the car and onto the road for the long and tough drive home.

writing this blog used to be fun for me when I was having great success in my game and the tournaments. But since 2011 this has been a painful and depressing sequence of blunders time and time again. I hit the ball certainly well enough to make match play easily. My putting has been the major decline under pressure, and I am not sure what to do about it. I cannot continue to hit some putts with my eyes open and some with them closed. I am SO disappointed that at age 54 this could have been my last NCGA Amateur as the NCGA Senior Amateur is at the same time and a choice needs to be made which to enter. How time has flown, and now heading towards Senior Amateur golf, I am very conflicted as to which side I want to compete on.

CHOKING is not fun, but its a big part of this game. How do you get it under control? after all the experience I’ve had, I still find myself making fast and poor decisions under pressure. I need to slow things down and think about all the options and pick ones that fit the circumstances. My punishment for this blunder on the 16th hole is that I am writing this article instead of playing my favorite course in the world. I hope somehow I can keep writing about things that will make you want to read these posts, and not just a bunch of gibberish trash, about my short comings on the links. I hope to provide some good insight into how I will face the challenge of either getting better, and back to form, or considering taking an extended break from the game. The putter needs to work to compete, and right now that is the club that is hurting me the most.

Up next is the US Mid Amateur qualifier on Aug 26th at the tricky San Jose CC, where a good putting round is a must!!!

I plan to post some more articles about how I will prepare for this upcoming qualifier, exercise, training, practice, and lots of Thai massages!!

Stay tuned


Responses

  1. Love your blog, Randy! Keep ’em coming!

    I played in the Cal Mid-Am this year at Stevinson and briefly met you. Hope you’re well.

    David Ober

    • Hi David,

      I really appreciate your comment, and I remember meeting you!!

      Lets play the Olympic Club Sometime!!!

      All the best
      Randy Haag

  2. Randy:
    First, let me say how much I enjoy your blog and how I hope you will continue with it. Like you, I am 54 years old. I have also putted side-saddle
    for 22 years(I’m a 3 handicap). I have experienced a number of “dry spells” over this timespan putting sidesaddle, usually caused by my right hand becoming too “active” in the stroke. I tend to putt best immobilizing
    the right hand as much as possible and putting with my right arm. Try
    gripping your putter with your right palm facing the hole as much as possible-the grip of your putter will rest between your right thumb and index finger. It likely will feel kinda strange at first put you will notice it is quite difficult to pull or push the ball gripping it this way. I’ve found the more
    you can immobilize the nerves of your right hand the more consistent you
    will strike the ball.
    Another quick tip: try putting off the fringe of the green using a pure
    croquet stroke. The rules of golf only prohibit straddling the line while on
    the putting surface…you may putt croquet-style if you are off the green. Even if you choose not try this in a regulation round, it is good practice as
    it really forces you to strike the ball in the center of your clubface. You will
    receive instant feedback if you hit the ball off-center!

    • David,
      Thank you so much for this excellent information, I really appreciate it!!
      I will try your suggestions and hope to right the ship!!
      I hope we get a chance to meet one day!!!
      Thank you!!
      Randy


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