Golf is suppose to reduce stress and give us all an escape from the crazy world we live in. Usually that’s the case, especially when I drive into the front gate at the beautiful Olympic Club.
But yesterday was perhaps the most stressful and disappointing day of my life, and fortunately I am writing about this today and not yesterday as the title would have been -“I’ve quit competitive golf”
As indicated in my last post I was playing in a major amateur championship in the Los Angeles area, the SCGA Senior Amateur with a very strong field being held at Red Hill CC near Ontario. The course is very tight and tricky with deep rough, so deep that many balls were lost just off the fairway.
I started off day 1 and 2 with solid rounds of 72 and 69 giving me a 4 shot lead heading into the final round. Wednesday evening I didn’t sleep well and woke with very dark circles under my eyes, along with a unrested feeling that worried me. I started off the final round in the lead which I have written about previously. There is casual golf, golf with small wagers, tournament golf when your way out of the lead, golf in a tournament when you are in contention and THEN there is golf when you have a lead you are trying to hold onto.
Why does the mind not allow us (or really me) to not extend the lead, with the confidence that you are playing the best golf in the field and that everyone else is playing for second. I have not won many big events in my career because I let fear, stress and pressure migrate me to the medium, which can be the cut line, or the qualifying score, or the guy in second.
But on this day I decided not to look at the electronic scoring that would have shown me that I had a 5 shot lead with 7 holes to go. Would that put me at ease, or crank up the pressure? On the 12th hole I decided to tee off with my 3 metal and finally found this tight fairway. With 265 to the green I waited till it cleared and then launched a missile just short of the green avoiding the trouble both left and right. My chip shot was very precise and almost went into the hole. While waiting my turn to putt, I tried to look around and not focus on the pressure and importance of the the putt. It was only 2.5 feet from the hole slightly downhill and straight in. With eyes shut I pushed the putt to the right and hit it ONE FOOT past the hole. Now I was reeling from the missed 2.5 foot putt and didn’t know that to expect with the one footer, yes the length of my shoe, a putt you should never ever miss. But on this day I was not in control of my nerves, they felt frayed and I yanked the one footer to the left missing the cup completely.
Because I didn’t know I still had a four shot lead I played with a deflated and defeated. After missing another 3 foot putt on the 13th hole, I totally lost my will to win, and just flared my tee shot into the right woods on the par 5 14th hole. I was up against a tree and tried a stupid shot and hit a tree and had my ball bounce backwards. Instead of just making a bogey I compounded my mistake and eventually missed a 4 footer for bogey and carded a 7. Again at this point I was now 1 shot ahead and still played reckless and 3 putted the par 3 15th hole from 25 feet away, again missing a short par putt.
I had birdie tries on 16 and 17 that were both missed badly, leading to the final hole. A very good uphill par 4 playing about 425 yards long I hit an 8 iron to 10 feet from the hole. Again my very kind playing partner asked if I wanted to know where I stood, leading me to believe that I still had a chance. Up on the hill there was about 30 players and officials watching the last group come in, knowing it matter what we did.
When it was my turn to putt I went with eyes closed, and missed the sweet spot of my putter leaving me 1 foot short of the hole. I marked, waited my turn and then missed the last one footer of the day to ensure that I didn’t win this major championship. I started the day 3 under par, and the winning score ended up being +3 or 6 shots higher than where I stood starting the day.
I’ve blown many tournaments in my career, but never quite like this. I am actually sorry you have to read this story as its not what this BLOG is suppose to be about. But in keeping it real, I need to report the good, the bad, and the super ugly.
I have choices to make- quit competitive golf, keep doing what I’m doing, or make some drastic changes in my life and putting technique. It’s strange how many people have spoken of my side saddle putting as something magical and that I am one of the best putters they have ever seen, and now I am quite positive that my playing partners would say the opposite. I am not looking for pity I am just reporting the facts, and the facts in this instance are very disturbing and ugly. I am quite sure that Craig Davis (The 2019 British Senior Amateur champion) was shocked when he found out he had won the event.
The 400 mile drive home was torture, followed by a sleepless night I now have today to reflect and decide what to do next. I am happy to help others with side saddle options and solutions to their putting, but can nary help myself. I will have to make some drastic changes before its too late for me to win a USGA Senior Amateur, a British Senior Amateur or anything BIG.
So what can you do about a shot nervous system that fails when you need it most. I am going to read some books recommended to me, and look for a different way to putt (new putter, different grip, etc) I did have some Kava Kava in my bag, some Ashwaganda, mood pills, etc I’ve tried the Hypnotist, the sports psychology and of course eyes closed. Now perhaps I need to give up Alcohol, caffeine and eliminate all other stresses in my life.
I LOVE THIS GAME, but the game is all about making your last shot your best shot. If you drive the ball well, hit your irons beautifully and chip like a demon, its all wasted on a missed short putt. There is no hiding from your putter. Off the tee you can always go to a 3 metal, or iron. You can always chip with many different clubs. But with putting there is no hiding, you either hole the putt or not.
One of my mentors has recommended a book written by Hank Haney on this subject. I plan on reading it soon, and I’ll report back.
The California State Senior amateur starts on November 9th at Poppy Hills, I have basically two weeks to get this shit figured out. But for today I am not wallowing in self pity, just gravely disappointed that after winning over 200 amateur events in my life, I wasn’t able to draw on any of that to help me stabilize the leaking ship that sunk like it was hit by a scud missile.
Adding insult to injury I had to listen to the Presidential debate one my drive home, I leave my political views to myself.
STAY TUNED FOR HOW I AM GOING TO FIX THIS PUTTING SLUMP AND GET BACK ON THE HORSE