Day 5: Tourney day
I awoke this morning with a nervousness that apparently could not be quelled by a Steak and Egg burrito garnered from the friendly neighborhood Jack in the Box. In fact, as I watched the sun rise into the clear Carolina sky, could not keep my mind at peace. Turns out, fast food does not spell fast relief of either cause of a twitchy stomach, hunger or nerves. Regardless, I felt proud strolling out of the hotel room with my team Oregon shirt on today, and appreciative of the opportunity to be here.
Craig and I drove to the course about an hour and a half early to get in some practice on a dewey field and extremely convenient practice baskets. It makes such a huge difference when the practice facilities are right by the course, and to make it even more convenient, tireless USDGC volunteers are ferrying folks in golf carts from the practice area to the first tee. One could get used to being treated like this. As the day grew warmer and the wind began to pick up which at Winthrop seems to be just a daily weather pattern, I watched the two cards before our tee time (again felt so privileged to get to play a tourney round with my traveling companion Craig) tee off. From the soon-to-be competitors I felt the nervous energy building like the atomic reactions of a birthing sun.
In each player's reaction was pure disappointment, joy, or embarrassment, as if every round in the tourney was being played within this single throw on Hole One. When the group before us walked down Hole One I felt the gravity well of nervousness wash over me like a strange chill. I have not felt that way since my first year of playing tournaments, and when they announced my name, I stepped up, took a deep breath, and felt my hands shake as I released a forehand Roc...the emotion supernova-ed, and disappeared. A moment later, I had to reconcile that I needed to save par after hitting a tree on the left side. The feeling was gone, and only THGOWG remained. Game on.
For the record, there were many great things about the round today, but one of the feelings that I hope will stick with me forever, was that feeling on the first tee.
Ultra quick synopsis (with highlights and lowlights)
Hole 1: a sweet 75 ft birdie putt by Ben from Wisconsin, pars for the rest
Hole 2: great 4 for Craig after being behind a shed, a hedge, and basically the Rock Hill penitentiary (capped off by the purest upshot)
Hole 3: lots of OBs for the group, but I got lucky hitting an OB pole, and made the 30 footer for birdie. Great Dart upshot for Craig
Hole 4: Craig underwent his toughest hole of the round, but conducted himself like a gentleman, and gamely put together two good shots to finish with a 7, on what could have ballooned into a higher
Hole 5: Threw a shot I have been dreaming about for years (flexing sidearm Xcaliber over the water) and made a nice putt to secure a 4
Hole 6: Sweet lefty sidearm by Tom from Spokane. Another good Dart upshot from Craig.
Hole 7: Made a nice wind adjustment on the tee, and parked this hole. Love putting with my driver.
Hole 8: Tom from spokane hits the Billy tree (which is by the way the first tree off the tee that is in one's way on any hole, named for the exploits of Billy Crump), throws an insanely great anhyzer upshot that takes the spotter what seemed like twenty minutes to call in, and then casually sinks the 100 footer for the all vaunted Billy Tree Birdie.
Hole 9: Tom and I played the same sneaky lefty line around a tree, and then threw the same sneaky overhead shots to inside the circle, and made the same sneaky putts. Felt pretty sneaky posting a
3 down for the front nine with no OB's. Oh did I mention that Craig threw a great Dart upshot on 9 as well (an example of a think-I-can shot gone well!).
Hole 10: Ben makes a great drive, great upshot and great putt for birdie to come back from a tough hole 9. Craig makes a sick Dart upshot. John tries first and last backhand of the day, goes OB.
Hole 11: Ben has first multiple OB of the back nine for the group, John and Tom again play doppleganger and 3 a super difficult hole. Craig's "dogbite" wraith starts its foray into greatness...
Another great Dart upshot leading to tap in.
Hole 12: Dogbite comes out twice, Craig makes a nice par, John's hyzer Xcal goes OB a foot after a mystery headwind shows up after shot in air.
Hole 13: 888...Injustice? incarnate breakdown session.
Tom throws a beautiful thumber that strikes a tree (that is well in bounds) he was aiming at dead center and spins back into the road like a Phil Mickelson sand wedge spins a balotta golf ball off a perfectly manicured green at the Masters. He then proceeds to throw literally the identical shot, hits the same tree, and lands in perfect position.
Craig throws a nice easy hyzer lay up that hits Super Mario Kart turbo patch of grass, and what looked like a shot dying nicely in the middle streaks across the yellow line like a naked drunkard at a football game. Craig throws another similar shot that lands and stops in perfect position.
John throws a sidearm hyzer spike layup that bounces backwards uphill through a wormhole and manages to stay OB. Repeat the same shot, John is in perfect position.
Ben throws a mid range destined for severe curb kissage, and folds over the curb to land safe.
Tom 7, Craig 7, John 7, Ben 10 (Unfortunately Ben met his own destiny with OB later in the hole)
Hole 14; Craig throws a great monster "dogbite" hyzer, best drive of the day. John throws line drive sidearm to 30 ft and makes putt, for one of his best two's of the day.
Hole 15: John throws sidearm roller upshot that gets lucky and makes putt for a good 3. Craig notably throws only bad upshot of the day.
Hole 16: Tom goes OB, and then parks with a sick lefty backhand for good damage control. "Dogbite" gives Craig a sweet look at bird on a difficult long par 3.
Hole 17: The Island of Tragedy and Fortune
John throws a shot that folds over the hay bales for the super lucky, Carolina gods are smiling, jump in the air for glee, break of the day. Makes the 30 ft putt for unlikely birdie on 17.
Craig wisely lays up. Throws a, anyone guessed it, perfect upshot, for an angst-ridden but well deserved 3.
Tom after coming up short the first time, puts it about 30 ft and cans it for another superb damage control 4 after having to jog half mile back to 16's teepad to get a misplaced scorecard.
Ben carded the most calm 15 I have ever been privy to and gave every witness a lesson in grace. Congrats to him for being the gentleman of the day. If there was an award I would fight off a
thousand cage fighters to have the opportunity to present it to him.
Hole 18: John throws another hyzer, that angers the wind, so it blows to flat barely OB. John angered in turn, throws rage-induced, rotator-cuff-separating hammer that gets close to enough to almost save a 5 but settles for a 6. Craig executes two perfect upshots for a masterful 4.
Thanks to my group today, the long round was made short by their friendliness and humor.
Will try to avoid full synopsis tomorrow, but thought I would give a flavour of the roller coaster that is THGOWG.
Craig and I go our separate ways tomorrow, at least as far as cards go, but congratulations to him on his phenomenal play in his first major tourney. Not many folks can say they played their way into Ken Climo's group at the USDGC.