This years Crump was played in ideal conditions, fast and firm!!
The weather was warm, actually quite hot on Sunday with temperatures hitting 90+, making the greens very firm. Quality shots where required to hold these perfect green surfaces. Rarely do we get to play a course in this kind of championship conditions.
My journey in the 2017 Crump started on day 1, Thursday with a very interesting round, and quite typical for Pine Valley. If you keep the ball in play off the tee, you can score. Hit an offline tee shot and pay the price. On day one, I hit the ball well off the tee, resulting in 16 hit greens in regulation. Thats the good news, the bad news is on #7 and #11 I missed the fairways and made two 7’s. A double on the 7th hole and a four putt triple on the 11th hole.
Fortunately I offset these 7’s with 5 birdies and shot even par 70. Only the top eight players make the Championship flight in the Senior Flight. With the 8th score being 76, I knew I had a bit of a cushion going into Fridays last stroke round. On Friday I played a solid front nine (which was started on #10) shooting 36 putting me at one over for the qualifier. The front nine is where you can make some higher scores, and I certainly did, starting with a three putt bogey on #1, followed by an ugly double on #2, another double on #4 and #5. I was able to smooth the round out and shot 77 for a 147 total and the number #3 seed.
Unfortunately my playing partner had a mishap on the 16th hole on day 1, made a 10, and ended up in the number 6 seed. That player, Matt Sughrue was runner up in last years US Senior Amateur at Old Watson. Matt absolutely bombs his 3 wood (close to 300 yards) and I knew my match with him Saturday afternoon was going to be a tough match.
Matt and I traded early holes, and on the back nine I made my 4th consecutive birdie on the 12th hole to get a one up advantage. Matt squared the match on the 15th hole with a par. I was able get my focus back and hit quality shots on 16 and 17 to go birdie – birdie to win the match 2-1. My reward was to now play Gene Elliott, perhaps the hottest senior amateur, coming of a victory in the Canadian Senior Am, and a recent 4 time Pine Valley Club Champion.
Gene and I played in the 2000 Crump Cup finals, with that one going my way on the 19th hole. We called this match, the re-match. And it started out not so good for me, with consecutive 3 putts on 1 and 2. I began my birdie bing on the 3rd hole, and continued to make 5 birdies for a thrilling 5&4 win against the strongest player in the Senior field.
So I advanced to the Finals Sunday afternoon against the medalist, John McClure who shot a stellar 141 total. I’ve played John a few times in past Crump Cups, and knew this would be a tight match.
The start of this match was a TRAIN WRECK for me, making double on 1, 2 and 3 getting to a quick 3 down hole. I finally hit some quality shots on the tough 4th hole and made a winning birdie, only to follow it up with another double bogey on the tough 5th hole. At this point I said NO MORE, and gutted out wins on holes 6 and 8 to get to one down heading to the 10th hole. We both made mistakes on #10, which left us both tricky downhill par putts. That hole went my way drawing the match even, and new life.
I always feel very confident on the back nine, and believe those holes are my holes to play my best golf. But again a mistake on 11 cost me the hole, and back to one down. We halved the 12th and on the 13th, made one of the best pars I’ve ever made. I hooked my tee shot down the left hill, and luckily into a bunker. My second shot was thin and headed towards the skinny bunker right of the green. The shot hit a tree and ended up ON the tree stump. I had a slick chip, and not knowing what was under my ball, I played an explosion shot on the fringe and down the hill 15 feet past the hole. John had almost the same par putt as me, barely missed it, and I was able to pour it in for a winning par to tie up the match again.
On the 14th hole I had 164 down hill to a front left pin, I wanted to blast a 9 iron, but was short in the morning match with it. I had adrenaline pumping so I trusted the 9 iron would be enough to get there and it was, leaving me a 30 footer. John 2 putted for par, and watched as I assessed this tricky downhill slider. I hit this putt WAY to hard and knew I would needed some help from the cup, the putt slammed into the middle of the hole and went down for a winning birdie.
We both played the 15th hole well making our par 5’s on perhaps the toughest par 5 in the world. You MUST hit 3 quality shots here to have any chance at par or birdie. Sitting one up with three holes to go, I felt quite good. I really like the last three finishing holes. I hit a perfect drive on 16 leaving me an 8 iron to a back left pin that sits on a plateau. John came up short and was left with a 50 footer, and I managed to get my shot pin high, leaving me a tricky 12 foot putt for birdie. John made a nice 2 putt for par. I went with eyes closed on this putt as the pressure was beginning to affect my distance control. With that I left my birdie attempt short, and went to the 17th with a slim one up lead.
On 17 we both hit good tee shots, but John’s second shot had the gallery around the green going wild. This pin was on the right back plateau of the green, a very difficult place to get a shot close. You go long here and your dead. I was very careful with my approach and left in 15 feet pin high left of the hole. John was 4 feet away, and after my missed birdie attempt, he calmly holed this birdie putt to once again square the match.
The 18th hole at Pine Valley is AWESOME!!! You have a generous driving area until you don’t. John’s tee shot found the right rough just short of the right bunkers. With my heart pounding a laced a 3 wood down the right center, leaving me 128 yards to carry the front of the green. The pin was middle right, a friendly pin in most cases.
John was about 30 yards behind me, and carefully assessed his shot. To mt surprise his second shot went low and dead left, heading towards the lake left of the green. It glanced off a tree and pushed it right, not in the lake, but under a grove of trees, but with a shot to the green.
It was my turn now, I knew a par was probably going to be good enough to win this match, and be the 2017 Crump Cup Champion. That of course is not what your suppose to be thinking about. My first immediate thought was is a pitching wedge enough club to carry the front of the green. At first I thought it was enough no problem, but I back off the ball once, which I never do, and asked my caddie also named Randy if he thought I had enough club. He responded, “Randy you’ve got this” so with a little concern about coming up short, I hooded my wedge slightly knowing that the green slopes severely from left to right. And I did just that my wedge went to the left side of the green, landed on the front third of the green, and DID not go right much. I was quite surprised the ball ended in the middle of the green, leaving me a pin high 30 foot putt downhill breaking left to right.
Meanwhile John hit a good chip shot that ended about 20 feet above the hole, leaving him a very difficult downhill slider. This is where I have struggled over the past few years. Under extreme pressure I seem to lose my distance control, and unfortunately this was the case on my first putt that I hit way to hard ending 6 feet past the hole. John’s par attempt rolled by on the high side and 4 feet past the hole.
On my putt from 6 feet uphill right to left, I decided at the last second to go eyes closed to avoid a surge of electricity, and once my eyes opened I watched the putt lip out on the high side, leaving me with a 3 putt bogey, and making an opening for John to stay alive and take this final match to extra holes. John like he did all day with his deadly bullseye putter calmly rolled his uphill putt in for what I am sure was a great relief for him after hitting a second shot that I’m sure he thought ended his chances (As I would have).
The first hole has been both my savior and my demise. And on this day, in this situation it was my demise. I hit a horrible blocked chunked three wood deep into the right woods leaving me no escape. It took me two to get out, and left me with a 20 foot bogey putt that I missed. John won the match with a winning bogey on the 19th hole. John is a great player and a great champion, and if I had to lose to someone I am glad it was to him.
My two favorite events are the Olympic Club Championship (match play) and the Crump Cup. In the past 12 months I had a chance to win both events on the last hole (36th in the Olympic Club finals) and the 18th in the Crump Cup. In both cases I had 30 foot putts that I needed to two putt. I didn’t in either case, and now try to reflect on those poor endings with some positive light.
In the end, I am an amateur, and I love to compete. I do not make a living making or missing putts. I love the game, I love to compete, and hope that one day soon I will make a winning putt on the last hole. The beauty of that is all the mishaps make the winning so special. It is VERY hard to beat the beat senior amateurs in the world. I will continue to try to improve so I can compete at this level.
Back home, and up next this week is the NCGA Senior Stroke play championship at Poppy Hills. No time to feel sorry about what happened at PV, time to refocus on this weeks important event, as I am still leading the point race for NCGA Senior Player of the Year.