One!!! (Part Two)

The second and final leg of the quarterfinal round of the Niagara Cup versus LochNess Links took place on Sunday afternoon at St. Catharines.

Again, we had a slight 3 point lead going into the final day so it was a good thing we had the home course advantage.

Or so I thought…

I once again drew Brian E as my opponent in a planned move – Brian told me after our round on Saturday that he wanted another shot at me so I went to Cam, our assistant pro, who was the decision maker for our home matches to see if he would accommodate us.

“No problem”, was the answer so we were set to do battle once again. Brian is a great guy to play with so I had no problem matching up against him, even though the revenge factor might work against me.

I was once again sharing a cart with Bernie, who now drew Stephen B as his opponent for this day – his former employer’s son! Bernie picked this matchup himself after consulting with Cam so the four of us headed to the tee under ominous skies around 12:30pm Sunday afternoon.

I hit a beauty down the middle to start and Brian pulled his iron way left on our short par four opener. He hit a great shot around the trees to about 20 feet and I then hit a pathetic PW to about 35 feet with the pin cut front left.

I’d three whack for bogey and concede Brian’s three foot par putt in disgust, something that confused Bernie a bit but I had my reasons.

So I’m immediately one down again and all of a sudden, the storm siren goes off.

We head back to the clubhouse and within 15 minutes, the most WICKED storm I’ve ever seen in St. Catharines touches down on the golf course. We were just outside the clubhouse as lightning was rattling the clubhouse and the ground was literally SHAKING from the impact.

Weather sometimes is an amazing thing.

For almost an hour and a half, the rain comes down in sheets, the temperatures drop drastically and the golf course just starts to flood over. When it finally stops, the pro heads out to check out the course.

“Course is closed”, he says.

Meanwhile, three guys on our team have left the club, guessing it would be a washout and we’d be rescheduled. However, there were no good days upcoming that we could replay the event.

We had a problem.

We quickly found out that while St. Catharines got killed by the storm, neighboring cities got off with barely a drop of rain. In fact, our opponent’s course just 15 minutes up the highway had nary a drop! However, their tee sheet was filled for the day so we couldn’t play there.

Within minutes, Cam assembled all the remaining players and said that Legends on the Niagara could accommodate us within a half an hour.

We’re going on the road!

We called up the three guys who left and said get your butts back to Niagara Falls…we’re getting this in today! I’d get a reset on my match too so we were starting all square, a nice little reprieve.

We teed off on the Battlefield Course at Legends, a 6862 yard par 72 track (73.3/130) designed by Doug Carrick with a ton of water and lots of target bunkering. It’s not one of my favourite courses in the world, lets put it that way.

But at least we got to play.

Shockingly enough, I would end up having one of the more notable rounds of my life.

HOLE ONE (Par 5): I drive way right into the fescue to start then layup to about 150 yards. I hit a nice 9-iron to 15 feet and two putt for par to match Brian. Match All Square
HOLE TWO (Par 4): My tee shot heads for the left portion of the double fairway and I’m left with an awkward lie, with my feet in the fairway bunker but the ball in the second cut. I hit a laser 6-iron to 20 feet and make a two-putt par. Brian gets up and down, making a five footer to halve. Match All Square
HOLE THREE (Par 3): My 6-iron tee shot drifts just right of the green and settles in a chipping area just off the surface. Brian hits on and two putts for par while my chip ends up five agonizing feet short. I make it. Match All Square
HOLE FOUR (Par 4): I again drive way right into the fescue and my lie is not great. I muscle a PW short of the green and can’t get up and down. Brian, who is just hitting perfect shot after perfect shot after being a bit off yesterday, makes a routine two putt par to take his first lead since the first hole yesterday. Brian 1up
HOLE FIVE (Par 4): Short par four here and Brian hits driver long but right of the fairway. I contemplate hitting 4-iron but decide to stick with my balky driver and hit a weak one up the left side. I still have a LW in and hit a good one to about 12 feet. Brian also hits on and we both two putt, with me lipping out. Brian 1up

So I’m one over on the round, not playing particularly great while Brian is just hitting greens and two putting everything. He’s going to be tough to beat today, I can tell.

HOLE SIX (Par 5): Brian hits another big drive, almost hits the green in two then chips to about 9 feet. I hit another poor drive but find the fairway and my hybrid layup is mediocre as well, leaving a 130 yard approach. I hit it right online but it spins back to about 15 feet. I roll that sucker in for birdie and Brian rolls his in right on top of me to halve. Brian 1up
HOLE SEVEN (Par 4): Brian again hits a big drive on this dogleg left around a big pond and I decide to hit the 4-iron. It was a wise move. I stripe one to about 160 yards or so then hit a great 6-iron into the wind over top of the flagstick, about 25 feet away. Brian FINALLY cracks, laying the sod over his wedge approach and coming up well short. He hits on to about 12 feet but it doesn’t matter, as I walk up and stroke my bomb right into the center of the hole for another birdie. Match All Square
HOLE EIGHT (Par 3): I hit a 9-iron into this short par 3 and have about a 25 footer. Brian hits a beauty about 15 feet under the hole. We both two putt for par. Match All Square
HOLE NINE (Par 4): Probably one of the tougher holes in the entire Niagara Region. 446 yards, into the wind and a big dogleg left with a huge holding pond running down the entire left side all the way to the green. I hit my best drive of the day to that point but still have 183 yards into the green. With the wind howling, I pure a 5-iron right over the flag again and have a 15 footer for birdie. Brian hits 4-iron in and has 20 feet left. He runs his putt about two and a half feet by while my birdie putt snuggles up to gimmie range. I contemplate giving him the putt but decide to make him putt out. He doesn’t miss and we halve. Match All Square

We both shoot scintillating one under 35’s on the front and each grab a half point for the front nine halve. Brian hasn’t made a bogey yet and is playing great. What an epic match.

It would only get better!

HOLE TEN (Par 4): I start to find my groove with the big dog and rifle one down the right side, just into the second cut. I hit a fantastic PW from about 145 into about 12 feet and lip out, making par to match Brian. Match All Square
HOLE ELEVEN (Par 5): Short par five and I hit a crappy drive up the left side and I’m forced to layup. Brian hits another big drive and he goes for it, ending up in the greenside trap. My gap wedge approach from 95 yards ends up way short, my first misstep with my irons on the day. I’d misjudge the speed of my first putt and run it 7 feet past then miss the comebacker, making a three putt bogey. Brian would make an easy par. Brian 1up

I was steaming a bit after that one, as I knew I couldn’t make any more mistakes against this guy, especially the way he was playing. But I kept my composure.

HOLE TWELVE (Par 4): Brian hits a bit of a loose drive to the right, his first one of the day but is still able to reach the green with his second shot. He two putts for par. Meanwhile, I hit a great drive and my PW approach is all over the stick, ending up pin high about 7 feet away. It’s an easy putt, right edge, and I can’t pull the trigger, leaving the ball on the lip. HUGE missed opportunity and one Brian would later tell me felt like he dodged a huge bullet. Brian 1up
HOLE THIRTEEN (Par 4): Quirky, short par four and both Brian and I hit irons down the middle. He hits a great shot into about 10 feet while my 9-iron spins back to about 18 feet. I lip out again and figure I might be two down but Brian misses his birdie putt. Brian 1up
HOLE FOURTEEN (Par 3): Brian hits his iron left and long and I see my opening. I hit a 7-iron that never leaves the stick but still ends up 15 feet short of the back pin. Brian hits a fantastic chip that almost goes in and I concede his par putt. It doesn’t matter though, as I finally have a putt I can be aggressive with and I rifle it into the back of the hole for my third birdie of the day to get back into red figures and even the match! Match All Square

So we’re both one under, the match is even and Brian STILL doesn’t have a blemish on his card.

HOLE FIFTEEN (Par 4): Longish par four and I drive perfectly down the middle. Brian picks this time to hit the worst shot I’ve seen from him in two days, a huge push slice that goes over the trees toward the 12th fairway. His back foot noticeably slipped on his through swing on the wet turf so he’s thinking about that as he reloads with a provisional and does the EXACT SAME THING, going even further right.

“There’s your opening”, Bernie whispers to me in the cart.

We look for Brian’s balls but can’t find either one of them. We’re about to give up when Brian notices a red stake over by the treeline.

It’s a freaking hazard. What a break for him! He’s allowed a drop within one club-length but the problem is that he has to drop in the fescue. He draws a horrific lie and advances the ball literally about two feet.

He smacks it again and hits the lip of the fairway bunker and falls back in it.

He’s lying four and pretty much out of the hole as long as I don’t do anything foolish.

I don’t.

I smoke yet another iron right at it from 148 yards and I have a 7 footer for another birdie. Brian concedes the hole, as he’s putting for double and I contemplate not even putting but Bernie makes an improbable chip-in from well off the green and says I owe it to the field to try to cut up his skin.

With nothing on the line, I lose focus for a second and miss the putt weakly to the right.

Damn it! I’m a bit peeved at myself for not giving it my full attention, not because of the skin but because I could have gotten it to two under. Regardless, in more important matters, I take my first lead of this epic match. Matt 1up

HOLE SIXTEEN (Par 4): Intimidating hole with water up the right side all the way to the green and I hit a bit of a pull down the left side. Brian drills one down the middle and hits onto about 25 feet and two putts for par. I hit a glorious 6-iron right at it and as the ball is in the air, I can only laugh at how well I’m hitting my irons. The ball almost goes in and rolls about 12 feet past. I walk up and make that sucker for another birdie! Matt 2up
HOLE SEVENTEEN (Par 3): Tough par three and I know that a par here will likely seal the points for the back nine and the match overall. I pick this time to hit my only real poor iron shot of the day but I’m still safe, just off the green left. Brian hits a very poor response, going into the left trap. From there, he skulls his shot well over the green.


He nails his own cart on the fly. Two stroke penalty. Unbelievable.

Now, I was likely winning the match anyway but I felt awful for him there. I just make sure to get the ball onto the green and hit it to about six feet and he concedes my par and the match. Matt Wins 3&1

Probably one of the best matches I’ve been a part of and I’m not really thinking of anything when I hit the 18th tee. I drill one right down the middle on the par five finisher and layup perfectly to about 80 yards.

There’s water right and long here but the pin is very accessible in the front right portion of the green. My wedge looks good but the ball spins back off the green, about 15 feet away on the fringe.

Steve has beaten Bernie in the long game but their back nine match is still up in the air at all square so I have that in mind as I address my birdie putt. I tell myself to make sure I get it to the hole and give it a chance. No matter what, I intend to pick up my par putt to get out of Steve and Bernie’s way.

I line it up and as it’s halfway there, it’s a no doubter.

Right into the center of the cup for my fifth birdie of the day to give me a 69! 3 under par!!!

My lowest score away from St. Catharines and the first round I’ve ever shot under par away from my home course! Big fist pump for that!!!

Brian finishes off with a nice birdie then Bernie steps up and makes a birdie of his own to salvage a point on the back nine for himself and it proves to be a big one, as St. Catharines edges LochNess Links by a solitary point to move on to the semifinals of the Niagara Cup.

We will face the winner of the Rolling Meadows/Sparrow Lakes matchup and still look to be on a course to face Niagara Falls Country Club out of Lewiston, NY, home of the annual Porter Cup competition.

I ended up grabbing only one skin for my birdie on 16 but no matter. This may have been the best ball striking round of my life. I hit 11 greens in a row at one point and almost every iron shot was a laser beam at the stick.

I followed that up with a round of 75 today at St. Catharines from the back tee deck as we celebrated the Canada Day holiday on Tuesday. I just couldn’t get the ball in the hole today but my iron game continues to run very hot.

The biggest news is in the title of the post. After these rounds, my handicap index dropped to a lifetime low of 0.9! I’m down to a freaking one handicap!!! I don’t know if I ever dreamed I’d be this low but I’m now only one subpar round from possibly being a SCRATCH!

Absolutely nuts but a thrilling feeling!

What a fantastic weekend of golf!

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