Competitive golf will test every aspect of your mettle, patience and psyche. Yesterdays stunning finish to the 56th annual Northern California Senior Amateur at Poppy Hills fit exactly into the theme of my past 4 events. I’ve held the lead in each, while surrendering each event in various different ways on the 17th and or 18th holes.
When your in the heat of battle, your pulse is up, your heart rate is up, your trying to stay calm and smooth, its very very difficult. Yesterday I held a 2 shot lead with 5 holes to go, on the 14th hole, Tony Padilla made a mistake that left him over the 14th green at Poppy Hills facing a bogey or double bogey. He heroically smashed in a 35 foot par putt from off the green to keep my lead at 2 after I missed a short birdie putt.
My mistake in this finish were the bogies I made on 15 and 16 holes, opening the door for Tony’s fantastic finish. On the 17th hole we both hit great tee shots on this VERY narrow par 4 hole. Tony was about 30 yards behind me, so I didn’t see his 2nd shot. I hit a solid shot myself to 10 feet below the hole and as I approached the green saw a ball 2 feet from the hole. Gary Vanier playing in our group did not walk to this ball, and at that moment I know I need to make my birdie putt to remain one ahead going to the 18th hole.
My birdie putt on 17 looked in, until it lipped out on the low side, bringing Tony and I even at -1 for the tournament heading to the 54th and last hole. The 18th hole at Poppy Hills (The old 9th hole as the 9’s have been reversed) is reachable easily in 2 as the tee was up. There was a strong wind in our face, and Tony hit an amazing tee shot over the right bunker with a draw leaving him 225 to the front of the green. My drive was not ideal, as I ended up in the left fairway bunker, and layed up with an 8 iron. Tony hit a decent shot onto the very front of the green, leaving him 70-80 feet from the pin. My second shot from 100 yards landed 2 inches short of flying into the hole, and pulled back to 7 feet for birdie.
What happened next I have never experienced before in my golfing career. Tony from 70 feet, downhill with many breaks in both directions, calmed rolled this monster putt into the cup, and sealed the victory, he belted out a very loud scream of joy, which I thought was appropriate for such an amazing putt. I gave him knuckles and was not surprised that he made the putt. Call it destiny, or whatever you want, but for some reason I felt he was going to do something amazing to capture the title, and he did. Like the NCGA article stated, I really like each of the guys that have leaped over me in the past four events. I tip my cap to them, and always keep an eye looking forward.
My BIG decision now is, do I fly to Atlanta and play in the USGA Mid Amateur, or do I stay at home and play in the Olympic Club Championship and the NCGA Mid Am four ball. Many think I am CRAZY for even considering NOT playing in a National Amateur event, but the truth is the guys that are 25 years old hit the ball longer and straighter than me, and walking 36 holes 3 days in a row is VERY challenging. SO the question is, do you play in the events you think you can win…? Or do you go and play in the National Championship and try to take down as many young guns as you can?
Either way I’ll have photos of whichever event I finally decide to play in, if you have an opinion I’d love to hear from you. I love this game, I love to compete, and I love the people associated in the great game of golf.