A ‘Subpar’ Weekend

It was another busy weekend for yours truly as we hit the tail-end of the golf season here in the Niagara Peninsula.

I don’t talk about it here much but I play in a ball hockey league here in St. Catharines throughout the year and we had our second game of the Autumn season on Friday night.

Unfortunately, 6 of our 11 runners weren’t able to make it so we had no substitutes and got ran into the ground by some young kids in a 6-3 loss. A nice workout though!

It was only Cal and I on Saturday at the golf club as Bernie was playing in a scramble tournament later that afternoon, Harris was busy and Gary was away in Florida.

It was a sunny morning but it was truly the first really chilly day of the autumn and windy as hell, with temps around 50 degrees (10 degrees celsius). We teed off the back and things started off well for me, with a nice 15 foot birdie.

However, it wouldn’t last.

I three-putted for bogey on #11, had to make a six-footer to save bogey on #12, doubled #13 when we couldn’t find my tee ball in the rough and doubled #14 after my tee shot on the par three completely buried in the bunker and took me two shots to get out.

I started having dreams about an early breakfast at this point!

Cal righted the ship after a horrible start and was only +2 or something on the 15th tee but he made an ugly number there and was quickly back on the breakfast bandwagon.

I played decently coming in and ended up shooting a 42 on the nine holes but we stuck to our word and called it a morning, heading into the clubhouse for some grub.

I actually played some online poker for about an hour or so, the first time I’ve done so in over four months. I came out even during the session and prepared for my second Sabres game of the year, as they were facing the Washington Capitals that night.

Cal hadn’t seen a game at the HSBC Arena so he accepted the offer for my other ticket, as my wife hasn’t been feeling well lately and couldn’t go. We had some fantastic wings at Irish Times in Buffalo before the game with a few other buddies of mine and it was pretty cool to find out that Thomas Vanek’s family and friends (star winger on the Sabres) were also there for dinner. Cool!

Buffalo won in dominating fashion 7-3 and pelted the Washington net with 53 shots. Offense wasn’t a problem! Great night of hockey and Cal enjoyed the experience I think.

That brings us to this morning and hopefully a full 18 hole round!

We had 8 players out on this day and I was paired with Cal, Jon P and Andy A. I really wasn’t concerned about my lackluster play from the day before – Cal and I had nothing on the line as far as wagers go so we were both pretty disinterested. That wasn’t going to be the case on this day. I told Cal the night before that I was going to pull off another 73 on the day…

I drilled a 4-iron down the left side into the rough, hit on to about 18 feet and knocked the putt home for a birdie to start the day in style.

I made a two-putt par on #2, two-putted from the fringe on #3 and two-putted on #4 to stay at one under for the day.

I hit a nice drive on the long par four 5th just in the right rough but drew a nice flyer lie. My 7-iron from about 165 was right on line and rolled just past the hole, leaving me a slick 8 footer for birdie. It took a little body english but the putt stayed on line long enough to fall as I moved to -2 on the day.

I’d make a routine par on #6 and then hit my first really poor shot of the day on the par 3 7th, drawing a 7-iron into the greenside trap. However, I splashed out to about 2 1/2 feet and made the putt for a nice par save.

Trouble really found me on the par five 8th hole. I drove perfectly down the middle but still had 234 yards into the green. I took out my 3-iron rescue club, which I haven’t been hitting with confidence lately and promptly hit the shot fat, ending up in the creek.

I dropped back to about 65 yards, hit a punch wedge to about 15 feet and MADE IT for an unbelievable par save!

It’s amazing looking back at my great rounds in the past and seeing how often I scramble for par on this particular hole. Very strange…

I didn’t hit a great drive on the ninth, leaving myself over 190 yards into the par 4. However, I hit a great 5-iron second to the middle of the green and made a nice two-putt par to go out in 34 (-2).

I just wanted to stay aggressive as I headed to the back. My drive on #10 was a slight hook into the left rough and I picked the 3-iron rescue again for the 230 yard shot. This time I caught it pretty solid but still ended up in the front greenside bunker. Again, I splashed out beautifully, leaving a straight-in three footer. I’d knock it down to move to -3.

I started getting a bit TOO frisky from here. I had about a 18 foot birdie putt on #11 that I knocked five feet past. I was able to coax home the comebacker to keep the bogey-free round going. Cal was really needling me at this point with his trademark “He’s gooooooood” comments…the bugger!

I’d do the same thing on the par three 12th, hitting my tee shot to 15 feet, putting it 5 feet past and making the par putt. I’m just BEGGING for a routine two-putt at this point!

I’d get it on the par four 13th. I hit a really big drive here and only had a PW second into the green. I hit an indifferent approach to 20 feet and almost curled the putt in, leaving the desired tap-in. Whew! Back on track!

The pin on the par three 14th was really a sucker pin for me, as it was tucked well right, something that doesn’t play well with my draw. However, I was determined to continue firing at pins since my iron play was solid and my 7-iron ended up right of the hole about 9 feet away. I hit a great putt here that caught the hole and horseshoed out and back toward me. CRUEL GAME! Oh well…I had been fortunate on a couple longer putts earlier in the day so I can’t complain.

Still bogeyless on the 15th tee, I get really lucky when my pulled tee shot evades every tree on the left hand side and bounces through into the open.

“There’s Matty the luckbox”, Cal shouts as I give a sheepish grin.

I wasn’t going to mess with the water on the left side so I hit a six-iron layup on the par five and left myself with about 115 yards. However, the ball just slipped into some healthy rough down the right side and I ended up chunking the approach, leaving a tough pitch shot up the slope to a pin cut in the front.

I knew I was in trouble here and my pitch shot flew all the way to the flag and rolled 15 feet past. I didn’t hit a good putt here and was walking almost immediately after hitting it.

My first bogey of the day dropped me to -2. I’ve still never had a bogey-free round.

I finished pretty strongly. Two excellent shots left me with about 80 yards into the par five 16th. I’d hit a mediocre lob wedge long and two-putted from 20 feet for par.

The tough 205 yard par three 17th was next and I hit a nice 5-iron to about 18 feet. I still don’t know if I’ve birdied this bloody hole this year and almost did it here, but my solid putt just stayed out, leaving me with another par.

So I’m two under on the 18th tee and after taking a couple deep breaths, I hit a solid drive just right of the fairway, about 165 yards away from the pin.

I comment to Cal and Jon that even though I’ve ‘been here’ before, I still get a bit nervous on this tee. Under par rounds don’t happen very often for me I guess.

The wind is howling pretty well at this point so I grip down on a 6-iron and punch my approach just right of the green. I hit a crappy little chip shot and had 4 feet left for par and a round of 70 and I knocked it in center cut for my second subpar round of the year and my third-best score in my life!

I hit only six fairways on the day but hit 13 greens in regulation so the iron play was spot on. The 13 greens hit is the high-water mark for me in 2007. I only made one bogey, which ties a career-best.

My handicap also drops to 1.9 after the round, as I creep close to a career-best there as well. The lowest I’ve ever been able to get my factor to was a 1.7 back in 2005.

Now, I sit back and wait for Harry’s inevitable comment about me always playing my best golf at the end of the year when it means nothing. It’s actually kind of true!

I guess it just takes me six months to warm up…that’s what happens when you don’t ever go to the driving range! 😉

Two more weekends of golf left I believe, weather-permitting of course. Our round at Oakmont on October 29th will likely be the last of 2007. Here’s hoping the game and the weather hold up until then!

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