Newlands Cup Semi-Final

This Labour Day weekend has to rank as one of the most enjoyable long weekends of my life.

After the big round of 68, Jacky and I ended up going for a two hour hike through the Short Hills, a provincial park here in the St. Catharines area. We followed that up with a fantastic dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant Mai Vi. Jacky had a dinner-sized bowl of Shrimp and Mushroom Wanton soup while I had the soup as an appetizer and the Crispy Roasted Chicken dinner with rice and curry as my entree. Oooh was it good! Then it was off to see Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in The Wedding Crashers. I’m finding it hard to give a rousing endorsement to this very popular film. I DID have fun watching it but found that the movie suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Does it want to be a raunchy, R-Rated comedy like ‘Old School’ or does it want to be a sentimental romantic comedy? I don’t really know but it tries hard to be both with very mixed results. Wilson and Vaughn aren’t to blame – they’re both very good in the flick and Rachel McAdams is a sweetheart as well. I think the director is to blame here – too much schmaltzy ‘chick flick’ stuff and not enough focus on the fun elements of crashing weddings. Plus, Christopher Walken, an extremely gifted actor with fantastic comic timing (for example, that now-famous ‘Cowbell’ skit on Saturday Night Live) is woefully misused in this film. So, a less than enthusiastic **1/2 stars (out of four) for the Wedding Crashers.

Sunday I got to sleep in a bit which is quite a rare event. I was up at 9am and met up with Harris, his friends Preston and Darnell along with my buddy Toast for some breakfast at the golf club around 10:45am. Darnell took off to Harris’ place after while the rest of us headed to the new Grand Niagara Golf Resort in Niagara Falls to play a little golf. The Rees Jones designed course is situated right next to the Welland River and will soon be joined by a private Greg Norman-designed course, scheduled for completion in 2007. My three fellow competitors were hell-bent on playing the back tee deck which measured over 7400 yards. I thought it would be a bit much but I was outvoted, so the back tees it was. We set up a little two-man best ball competition to determine who would buy dinner that night. Harris and Preston teamed up against Toast and myself. I boomed my first drive right down the centre on the 443 yard par four opener and we were off. Quite the golf course I’ll tell you. I ended up missing a six footer for par on the first hole and then my tee shot on the par 3 second just went over the green. I make the walk to see where I ended up and find that there is a huge collection area beyond the green that sits about 20 feet below the putting surface. Of course my ball is there so I have almost a full-swing lob shot to a pin tucked about five feet on the green. Hit it perfectly and still ended up 20 feet away. Bogey again. I was +3 through four holes but settled down nicely and played pretty well the rest of the nine, parring all the rest of the holes for a great 39. I was able to carry Toast and I to a five shot lead through the front in the best ball match. However, I ran out of breaks at the 13th hole when my drive ended up in a terrible lie just outside a fairway bunker and hacked around for a double. I made three more doubles coming in and ended up with a 45 on the back nine. I certainly wasn’t happy that I followed my 68 with such a high score but I wasn’t upset: the combination of lackluster play, 7500 yards and no course knowledge were major contributors to the ugly number. Thankfully, Toast carried ME on the back and we were able to obliterate Harris and Preston in our match, giving us a free dinner at Happy Jack’s in Fort Erie, a great Chinese food restaurant. They didn’t cheap out either, ordering a virtual feast that was truly fit for a king. Mussels, shrimp, calamari, scallops, Shanghai noodles, Happy Jack’s rice, sweet and sour pork, lamb…oh my…the food just kept coming and coming. Highly recommended!

I ended the night by heading over to my buddy Rick’s place. Rick is an old university roommate of mine and is now living in Niagara Falls with his wife Lea and their daughter Ella. I chatted with Rick and Lea until about 10:30pm or so…a great end to a great day.

I had a 7:30am tee time on Monday to play my semi-final match in the Newlands Cup. My opponent, Dave M, was an 11 handicap so I’d be giving him eight shots on the day. Toast joined me as well and another semi-regular also named Dave rounded out the foursome. The match got off to a very strange start: the morning sun was BLINDING off the first tee and Dave hit a wicked duckhook that we lost sight of. We looked for five minutes but couldn’t find his ball. For whatever reason, he wouldn’t concede the hole and ended up re-teeing. I hit my second shot on the front fringe, leaving a twenty footer for birdie while Dave struggled to reach the green in five shots. When he didn’t concede my FOUR INCH PUTT for par (when he was in with a 7!) I figured I was in for a grind. Using that as motivation, I ended up taking a 5up lead through the first seven holes, making par on every one. I was just playing smart, solid golf while Dave was all over the golf course and couldn’t even take advantage of his stroke holes. He finally came through on the eighth, hitting his second shot to about 6 feet on the par five hole. I was in the greenside bunker in two and almost holed the shot for eagle, instead settling for a tap-in birdie. Dave was able to ram home his eagle putt to get back to within four holes. Any momentum he had was lost on the ninth, a stroke hole for him. He walked up and hit a huge slice right onto the driving range. He ended up making a seven while I made a two putt par to retake the 5up lead and end my front nine in 35 shots (-1 par).

He birdied the 10th to take the hole and we both parred 11. However, on the par three 12th, he snapped his tee shot into the hazard and made six while I made another routine two-putt par to go to 5up with only six to play. I was FEELING IT again, by the way. Hitting greens in regulation, knocking down key five footers, driving the ball beautifully. On the tough 13th, I hit an 8-iron approach to seven feet but somehow just missed the birdie putt. Dave made a great 4 himself and won the hole with the stroke I had to give him. Down four holes now with five to play, Dave hit his tee shot on the par three 14th just short of the green while I hit my seven iron right at the flag and ended up six feet away. Dave made a poor chip to about 10 feet and missed his par putt, while I ended up having my ball horseshoe out of the hole on my birdie effort. The tap-in par was good enough to win the hole and end the match at 5&4, my most one-sided Newlands match of the year. I shook hands with Dave and we moved on to the 15th hole.

“God, have you even made a bogey today?”, he asked. “Not yet”, I replied. The closest I’ve come to a bogey free round obviously was Saturday’s round of 68 where I only made the one three-putt bogey. Plus, I was still one under par at this point and still had a chance to record my third career under par performance. I hit an okay drive and a fantastic 2-iron second shot to get within ten yards of the green. My pitch ended up about 10 feet away and I was able to sneak in the birdie putt to get to 2-under. On 16, I hit a perfect 3-iron rescue club off the tee and laid up to 80 yards on my second shot. My lob wedge third was an indifferent shot that ended up about 20 feet away but I was able to just get the ball to the front of the cup…and have it fall in for back-to-back birdies and go to 3-under on the day!

Wow…where is this game coming from?

Still bogey-free, I reach the long par three 17th and hit a perfect four-iron to about 20 feet pin high left. Thinking ’68’ again, I get a bit frisky with my birdie putt and knock it five feet by the hole. I then badly pull my par putt and miss, ruining my flawless round. Ah damn…

I end up missing another short putt on 18 and bogey again to finish the round at 71, one under par. Funny how a 68 two days previous makes me DISAPPOINTED in a 71!

Either way, I had one sub-par round in my entire life prior to Saturday and then chalk up two over the course of three days. As Toast said to me, I’m not really doing anything particularly special out there; I’m just hitting it straight all the time, eliminating mistakes and making some putts. I once again hit 14 out of 18 greens in regulation and hit 7 of 13 fairways. I had a less than inspiring 31 putts so it just shows that I could have been EVEN BETTER than 71.

I’m going to have to reconsider my plans of leaving competitive golf if this keeps up…

Later in the afternoon, I joined some friends in Niagara-on-the-Lake for ice cream and then went to baseball for our semi-final playoff game. Just topping off the unbelievable weekend athletically, I hit a three run home run, my FIRST EVER HOMER, in a 13-2 destruction of our opponents. Unfortunately, I have a business convention next week and won’t be able to attend the final. Jacky joined me and my teammates at Somebuddy’s, a local restaurant, to celebrate the victory.

What a great weekend!

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