I was sitting in 17th place overall through three events, pretty solid considering the fact that I didn’t even tee up at Sawmill in the third event of the year due to being in Colorado and Nebraska at the time.
I shot a very unremarkable 78 (+6) at St. Catharines on Saturday morning in preparation for the event, one of my worst scores in a month but for some reason it was the low score among the ten guys who played that morning in our group under ideal conditions.
That said, I still had a boatload of confidence heading into the event, as my game has been very strong lately and I feel that I’m in a good place both with my swing and my new equipment.
I haven’t played Ussher’s Creek in five years, with my last round there in 2005 at the season opening Men’s Tour event that year. It’s a tough course, with a lot of naturalized areas and many holes that have to contend with the creek that gives the course its name.
I must say off the top that it’s quite sad at what has become of the Legends facility. I know things are tough in our region but it’s quite obvious that the Niagara Parks Commission isn’t spending the money on the facility like they used to and it’s really apparent looking at the conditioning of the golf course.
Keep in mind, I’m not looking for unnaturally green or lush conditions…quite the contrary. However, you can tell that they aren’t maintaining the course the way they used to, with poor green conditions and weeds and flowering all over the fairways and rough. Even the ‘Firing Range’, their state-of-the-art driving range looks like a municipal facility that you’d find in the country somewhere.
Anyway, onto the round.
I drew the last tee time of the day, usually not a good omen on our tour due to excessively slow play in the groups ahead. We didn’t tee off until shortly before 3:00pm and after an opening par on the shortish par four 1st, we had an embarrassing three group wait on the next tee.
Oh boy…would we finish by dark?
I tried not to think about that stuff too much, although the constant five minute waits all day eventually took its toll. I’d go driver/4-iron into the mid-length par five second and two putt for my birdie to get to red figures early.
I’d hit into the fescue left off the 4th hole, pitch out and end up making bogey and also bogey the long and difficult par four 8th but par the rest of the holes on the front side for a solid 37 (+1).
It was a three hour front nine so exhaustion was already setting in when Bernie, one of the co-chairmen of the Tour, came out to tell us that the low score in the clubhouse was 71 (-1), giving us a target to shoot for.
I’d make a very solid up and down for par on the tough 10th then a routine two putt par on the short 11th to set things up for the reachable par five 12th.
It was howling downwind and I hit a drive a bit right of the last fairway bunker. Unbelievably, we couldn’t find my ball and four agonizing minutes later, Adam, one of my playing partners, found my ball way down the cart path just in the rough. It must have bounced and rolled an extra 100 yards, as I only had 170 yards left into the par five.
Thinking birdie or even eagle, I hit a nice 7-iron to about 35 feet then lagged a great putt to two feet.
I was already subconsciously writing a birdie on my scorecard when I put the most heinous stroke on my putt and didn’t even touch the hole.
Ugh. Three-putt par and still +1.
That was a big moment. I’d end up parring the next hole but on the 14th, the last par five, I hit my ball way left of the fescue island in the middle of the fairway and watched in dismay as it hit the cart path and was propelled deep into the junk. I’d take my drop and make a disappointing bogey and also bogey the last two holes, shooting 76 (+4) overall on the day with only the solitary birdie.
I’d finish in a tie for 7th, a decent result to be sure and continue my fine tournament play this year. The result only moved me up one spot in the overall point standings, as I make the small jump to 16th but really, I’m in a pretty good position, as the Tour throws out each player’s worst result just before the last event. So, my zero point result for the event I missed won’t count against me and I’ll lose no points when the standings are reset, allowing me to move up against pretty much everyone on the Tour. I figure if I can play well in the last two events at Whirlpool and LochNess Links, two courses I very much enjoy, I can perhaps finish in the top five overall.
A pretty good goal!
I also got a good laugh when I found out that a rather large picture of me reading a putt on the 10th hole made the front page of the sports section in the local paper.
And I made the putt too, even with the paparazzi following me! Regardless, nice photo for the scrapbook…if I had a scrapbook!
Stay tuned for part two of my Ballyneal post and I plan on having my recap of Sand Hills up sometime before I go away next week as well.