The month started with a BANG, in the highly competitive Olympic Club two man championship, which we finished right before San Francisco, and California once again shut everything down.
I had a bit of a dilemma when the tournament was announced to be held on December 4th and 5th (Friday and Saturday) as I had planned to play in two tournaments starting on the 6th, and needed to fly to Florida on the 5th at 1:40. I knew that we would not be finished with the last round until after noon, making it impossible to catch my flight if I played.
Since I have played and won the event prior with my good friend and great player Kory Storer, I wanted to play and thought about options. Then my regular best ball partner super-star and two time NCGA Player of the year Jason Anthony, asked me also to play in the OC best ball. I knew that if I let the two of them pair up (which was their plan if I didn’t play) I would never get either of them back as they would never lose.
So of course I agreed to play, not fully disclosing to Kory that at about 12:20 on the 5th I would be racing off the course and to SFO nearby to hopefully make my flight.
The quick summary of the event, Kory and I busted out of the gates with a flurry of birdies (mostly Kory) and shot -5 on the front nine of the Ocean course. But the came Jason and his partner the very talented and past SF city champion Stephen Sparolini. With an ending bogey they shot -6 on the day with us one shot back at -5.
On Saturday I informed Kory that I would be bolting at 12:20, and with a 9:00 tee time and the pace of play rather slow, was easily going to leave him alone to play at least 4 or even maybe 5 holes. My hope was that we would be either 4 shots up, or 4 shots down leaving my early departure a moot point.
We got off to a CRAZY start with my birdie on 1, Kory’s birdie on 2, my par on 3, Kory’s birdie on 4. After nine holes we had gone from one down to three up. But with a tough nine holes to go on the Olympic Club’s famed Lake course home of 5 US Opens no lead was big enough. Kory then birdied 10 and I chipped in on 11 for a 5 up advantage. We made our lone bogey on 13 to drop back to 4 up. It was late and at 12:15 decided to hit my shot onto 15, which I did to ten feet away, I raced up to the green and quickly hit my putt, which lipped out. I left with Kory having a 30 footer and a free run at it.
I didn’t find out any results until I got through security at SFO, I had a text from Kory saying “I birdied #15” and assumed that our 5 shot lead was enough and later found out that it was. It was a nice W against a tough team of Anthony/Sparolini whom surprisingly played very poorly on Saturday on the Lake course. Kory played amazing golf for a guy about to experience the birth of his first child and basically a once a week golfer.
Competing at the Olympic Club is about as good as it gets, and prepares me for golf just about anywhere in the world.
I will go through my two events in Florida very quickly, as it was not a good experience. My first event was the Society of Seniors Championship at The Forest CC in Fort Myers. The course was one of those Florida courses with 100 fairway bunkers, water and OB on each side of every hole. And every tee shot you hit has fear and trepidation if you are not 100% confident with your long game.
I thought my long game was in good stead, but after 7 days in a row of golf, my back is usually barking (way less now that I take Optimend) but still looking at these somewhat tight driving areas made it stressful and actually not much fun. On day 1 I slung it all over the place, combined with my typical putting mystery on every putt, I finished with a very disappointing 77 while in the wind and rain a 68 was recorded and other under par rounds.
On day two, perhaps even more challenging with 20-30 mph winds I was able to carve out a 71 moving me back up in the pack, but still well away from the leaders at -2. I was 4 over after 2 rounds and had a lot of ground to make up. A few early bogeys had me counting down the holes, knowing I would never have to play them again. A terrible thing to say and to think while golfing. I had a great group of playing partners that both were playing well, and I just tried to stay out of there way. Another ugly 78 and a T8 will most certainly again drop my WAGR world ranking even further.
I started the year as the 8th ranked senior in the world, and after these finishes in senior events of T14, 3rd, a win the the Florida Azalea, semi finals in the SF City, 6th in the State Am, 4th in So Cal senior am. I’ve dropped to 35th. Normally I wouldn’t really care but I’ve been told that the top 25 on the WAGR list will receive an exemption into the USGA Senior Amateur, which I may not be able to qualify for as I will be in the UK during all the qualifiers playing in the Senior Open and British Amateur at Royal Dornoch.
Just got an email today from the R&A changing the venue and dates for the Senior Amateur to July 6-9th at Ganton, which hosted the event about 5 years ago, and was perhaps the hardest course I’ve ever played. For the 4th time I will be changing my flight and hotel reservations at a significant cost. Who ever said amateur golf was cheap.
Back to the Florida swing, the second tournament was to be held at the old TPC Eagle Trace, unfortunately TPC has abandoned this course, and its now run by the ownership. I must admit in my 1 hour 45 minute practice round I was not impressed and certainly not with the condition of the course. I hate calling any course a DOG TRACK, as its an insult to all the dogs in the world.
I read all the tournament information and headed off to my 9:36 round 1 tee time. I was paired with one guy from Australia, that was nervous as hell, and another guy from Mississippi that was out all night at the local casino and was still drunk. I was very pleased with this featured pairing:(
The started went over some rules about lift clean and place in the tightly mowed areas, and off we went . The first thing the guy from Miss did was pick his ball up in the rough, clean it and place it back. I yelled over, “hey Steve, its only lift clean and place in the fairway” so off to a great start already. I was the only one to par the hole and off to #2 where we played the back tee marker at 415 yards. I was curious because the score card said 388, but they put the tees where they want and not always where the yardage on the cart indicates.
Again on #2 I was the lone par, and this continued through six holes. On the par five 5th hole my playing partners hit a total of 6 balls in the water and made a 9 and 10 on the hole. At this point we realized that we may have played the wrong tees on #2 and #3, I did not know there was a Mid Master division (45-54 yrs old) and obviously they would play from the back tees. I knew about the Super Senior flight and tees, but I never saw anything about this Mid Master group of players.
After the 6th hole we ran into an official and we told her perhaps we played from the wrong tees on two holes without rectifying it. She said she would contact the tournament director whom for some reason was not on property for the first two rounds. Once reaching the sixth green, and again my playing partners not making a single par in the first 6 holes we were informed that the group was disqualified. I hoped in my cart and happily left this course and this poorly run event called the Dixie Amateur. I will never return to this event, and recommend to my friends that they do not as well.
Happily I bolted Coral Springs, as the night before checking into the Hampton Inn I noticed a horrific smell in my assigned room, much to my horror I found a bag of baby poop under the kitchenette sing, and almost threw up. Coral Springs in now just a bad memory, that has been replaced by a great one here in Key West.
On my drive down to Miami, I called my dad in Houston and asked if he and his wife would hop on a plane and fly to Miami and join me. 4 hours later I scooped them from the Miami airport and have been in Key West ever since, with the cubs tightly stored in their travel bag.
So instead of golfing I went fishing in Florida, and above is the evidence. We ate this tasty fish for two days, it was amazing. Not sure what I enjoy more, catching a huge fish or making a birdie, perhaps I love them both.
We are off heading home where I will share with you my plans and how to reduce your score by 2-3 shots per round through exercise, yoga, meditation and better instruction.