Sunday, July 31, 2016

Charlotte Area Golfweek Amateur Tour Major Tournament Review - 7/30/16 & 7/31/16 - Player's Championship (Multiple Courses)

Scorecard and Game Golf Links Below

So close... yet so far.  That was the quick, single sentence summary of this past weekend.  The Charlotte Area Golfweek Amateur Tour held their 3rd major of the season, the Player's Championship, during the final weekend of July at 2 of the courses we've had a chance to play on earlier in the year.

First up on Saturday was Cowan's Ford Country Club in Stanley, NC.  This is in the top 5 of my favorite courses that we play and every time we go there, I like it more and more.  The layout is challenging, yet fair... and it reminds me of the courses I played for years in New Jersey.

The final round, played on Sunday, was at Carolina Lakes Golf Club in Indian Land, SC.  Of all the courses we play throughout the season, this is one of the closest to my house, which makes for a nice, short drive to the course.  I find this to be a more difficult track because of the need to lay up from the tee on certain holes, but... it's still a nice course that provides a very good test.

As with the other major reviews, I won't do a hole-by-hole breakdown.  Instead, I'll list some highlights and some lowlights along with a bit of commentary mixed in here and there.  Those are below for you to peruse at your leisure.

Round 1 - Cowan's Ford Country Club

Day 1644565554445245476464387

Round 2 - Carolina Lakes Golf Club

Day 2565365375455436573654489

I had been looking forward to this weekend for awhile now.  A group of us had decided that on Saturday evening, after the first round, we'd all head out to dinner with our wives and girlfriends, so... on top of the golf, I was looking forward to an enjoyable evening as well.  Friday night, I found it tough to sleep.  I had been playing pretty well in recent events and I felt like, if I could post a good round on Saturday, I'd have a pretty decent shot at possibly taking home the trophy.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, WAY earlier than I intended to, I got myself ready, packed up the truck and headed out.  I arrived about 2 hours early to the course so I'd have plenty of time to warm up.  Unfortunately, they had closed down the short game area as the green was struggling, so... I was relegated to hitting some balls and then putting.  I spent about 30 minutes in the clubhouse joking with some friends and then, about 15 minutes before our tee time, I headed back out to loosen up again.  Finally... it was time to go, so we loaded up and headed out.

Round 1 Highlights

- Right off the bat, I had a highlight and then a pair of lowlights.  The highlight was my opening tee shot, which I murdered right down the middle.  Game Golf measured it at 287 yards, but I'm pretty sure it was over 300 yards as I believe it was tagged in the wrong spot on the tee.  Either way, it was a hammered drive and it was a nice way to start out my round.  Now... see the lowlights for details on how that hole ended up.

- On the 18th hole (my 4th hole), I hit a very good tee shot with my 4 iron then hit another great 4 iron up into the fairway.  Unfortunately, I hit a poor approach as I caught it a little heavy.  This put me in a bunker about 40 yards away.  I hit what I thought was a really good shot from the trap, but it ended up in the trap at the back of the green.  This left me short-sided to a hole on a green that was running away from me.  I played a nearly perfect shot from there to less than 2 feet and saved a bogey.  One of my playing competitors called it a 'professional' sand shot, which felt pretty good to hear.

- After a sketchy tee shot on the 4th hole, I hit a weak little wedge that faded on me and ended up on the edge of a greenside bunker.  I didn't have much of a shot, but I managed to hit a decent shot right at the pin.  It caught the stick on the fly about 3/4 of the way up and that knocked it down and to the left.  This left me just off the green.  If I didn't hit that pin, I probably would have been 30 yards away over the green.  I managed to save a bogey from that position.  So, a little bit of a lucky 'highlight' there for me.

- Following a stretch of poorly played holes, I finally got things together on #9 by making a par with a nearly perfectly played hole.  The drive was perfect.  The approach was played very well and then I made a good two-putt from 32 feet for par.  This really set the tone for the remaining 5 holes of my round after that as I played #9 through #14 in par - bogey - birdie - par - bogey - par.

- The highlight of the entire weekend came from me on #11.  After hitting a solid hybrid that faded off to the right and kicked off the slope to the right of the green, I was left short-sided and about 6 feet below the level of the hole.  Luckily, the ball was sitting up in the rough a little and that allowed me to feel confident in playing a flop shot.  I opened the face of my lob wedge and took a pretty big swing, popping the ball straight up in the air and on line with the flag.  The ball landed about 3 feet in front of the hole, hopped up and hit the flag stick (second one I hit in that round) and rode the pin down into the hole for a birdie!

    Round 1 Lowlights

    - So, after my opening drive, I was left with about 211 yards to the hole.  There is a hazard that crosses directly in front of the green, but I figured that as long as I hit it solidly, I'd be able to get there with a hybrid.  Unfortunately, I pushed it WAY right.  So far right, in fact, that it hit the trees and got a fortuitous kick back into play.  The ball landed in the rough shy of the hazard.  From there, I took a VERY poor swing and the ball dropped directly into the hazard.  After a drop, I put the ball on the green, but after a great drive... I settled for a double bogey to open the tournament.  

    - Things didn't get much better on the next hole (#16) as I pushed another drive to the right.  It hit a tree and dropped down but left me blocked out from going for the green.  I still tried to hit a punched 6 iron, but I topped it.  I got to the green with my 3rd shot, but absolutely blasted my first putt WAY beyond the hole.  This led to a three-putt and a second consecutive double bogey to start.

    - On holes 5, 6 and 7, I ended up with back-to-back-to-back three-putts.  My putting just kind of 'left' me on those holes after hitting 5 and 6 in regulation and getting on #7 from the greenside bunker.  The putts were from 31 feet on #5, 22 feet on #6 and 48 feet on #7.  At that point, I was truthfully getting a little aggravated with myself and needed to figure out what I was doing wrong.

      Round 1 Recap

      After beginning with back-to-back double bogeys, I did a good job playing the remaining 16 holes in +11.  If it weren't for a few issues with putting in the middle portion of my round, I probably would have been able to post a REALLY solid round.  Still, as it stood... I finished with a good score of 87 which put me in a tie for 2nd place and only 1 stroke behind the leader.

      Although I was very happy to have posted such a good score... I knew there was still work to be done and it was going to come at a course where I had historically not played very well.

      My wife and I went out that night with a handful of other couples from the club and had a really great evening.  By the time we got home, it was about midnight.  I was really hoping that I'd fall asleep easily, but I kind of figured that I would struggle to sleep.  I was correct.  Trying to sleep while thinking of what I needed to do in the round the next day proved to be extremely difficult and I got about 4 hours of sleep total before I woke up the next morning.  

      Round 1 Stats

      • Score - 87
      • Penalty Strokes - 1
      • Putts - 36
      • Fairways - 6 of 14
      • Greens in Regulation - 6 of 18
      • Up and Downs - 2 of 9
      • Sand Saves - 0 of 4

      Typically, I come into the second day of the 2 day majors with no shot.  I had played in 7 of them previously, and in each case, I was at least 6 strokes behind the leader to start the second round.  It was a totally different kind of feeling being within 1 of the leader and, while I kept myself loose and had fun during my warm-up session that morning... there was still pressure.  I had a bunch of people wishing me luck and telling me to bring it home, which felt good and gave me a confidence boost.  Still... arriving 2.5 hours early was probably not the greatest idea I ever had.

      At just before 1pm... we headed out and were ready to go.

      Round 2 Highlights

      - After a poor start (bogey - bogey - triple), I came to a hole I do not get along with very well.  It's a par 3 over a marshy pond with a huge bunker in front.  After watching all 3 of my playing competitors end up in that bunker, I hit a really nice 7 iron to about 12 feet.  I just missed the birdie putt, letting it die off to the low side of the hole, but it left me a tap-in par while the leader (at that point) made a triple bogey.

      - Unfortunately (as you'll see below), I was in a position where I really could not win with 4 holes left to play.  I was relegated to playing for  what I was hoping was 2nd place at that point.  Heading into the final 4 holes, I was 4 strokes behind the guy in 2nd place.  On the 9th hole, he made an extremely unlikely par while I had to settle for a bogey.  That put him 5 up with 3 hole to go.  On #10, I made a bogey while he made a double, which put me back to 4 down with just 2 to play.  On #11, I made par and he botched the hole from a greenside trap.  This meant that I was just 1 down with 1 final hole to go.  From the final tee (a par 3), I hit a really solid shot to the front of the green, leaving myself about 15 feet.  He hit a shot long and left and ended up on a cart path.  Somehow, he made a miraculous shot from where he was to about 4 feet, meaning I essentially had to make mine.  I was unable to make it and settled for a tap-in par.  He made his 4 footer and he ended up besting me by 1 stroke.

        Round 2 Lowlights

        - Things didn't go well right off the bat.  My opening tee shot was a topped and dribbled up into the rough on a fairly lengthy par 5.  I managed to recover nicely and salvaged only a bogey, but it wasn't the start I needed to instill confidence in myself... that's for sure!

        - After opening up bogey - bogey... I came to a short par 4 with trouble down the right side.  I wanted to be aggressive, but there was no need to be.  I SHOULD have just hit a 4 iron up into the left side of the fairway and then left myself a 7 iron or less into the green.  Instead, I pulled out my driver and blew 2 consecutive tee shots into the pond on the right side.  The first was so far right that it crossed the margin of the hazard almost immediately.  The second was up enough where I could have dropped, but I elected to just take my triple bogey (club maximum) and move on.  This put me at +5 through just 3 holes.

        - On hole #2, which was my 8th hole of the day, I hit a good drive which left me about 103 yards to the flag.  In my head, I was screaming to not pull it into the really deep bunker fronting the green.  Instead, I pushed the club out to the right on the downswing and hit a complete shank.  I thought it was going to get hung up in the rough on the right side, but it hit hard enough that it just skipped out of bounds.  This ultimately led to a double bogey.

        - On the 5th hole, I hit a really quick, really poor snap hook into the trees on the left.  We found my ball, but I had barely any room to advance it.  I did my best to punch it out and managed to get it out into the rough along the left side.  From there, I couldn't go for the green, so I was forced to lay up short of the hazard crossing the fairway.  By the time I holed out, it was another double bogey.  The worst part about this is that it was sandwiched between 4 pars.

        - The killer for the day came on the 8th hole.  I had drawn to within 3 shots of the leader with 5 holes to play and I knew that both the leader and the guy in 2nd place were feeling the pressure.  From the 8th tee, I hit a bit of a pull.  It was absolutely smashed, but a little left.  One of my playing competitors hit a similar shot that was a little further left.  When we got up into the rough along the left side, we found his ball with ease.  Mine, however, was nowhere to be seen.  We spent the 5 minutes allowed searching for it but found nothing.  I was forced to go back to the tee and hit another ball.  I destroyed it and left myself about 45 yards to the hole.  Because I was so angry and distracted about not finding my first ball, I was having an argument with myself in my own head.  I hit a wedge long and very left which put me 47 feet from the hole.  A killer three-putt meant I took a triple bogey and my chances were done.

          Round 2 Recap

          Looking back, the poor decision to hit driver on the 15th hole (my 3rd of the day) was one that will haunt me for awhile.  There was zero need for it at that point and I gave myself an almost impossible hill to climb.  By the time I hit the disappearing tee shot on the 8th hole, I was to a point where I needed to make a birdie to draw myself closer to the leader.  Considering my birdie percentage is ridiculously low (2.5%)... that wasn't a good probability.

          I'll learn from this round, if nothing else.  I'm just hoping that I have another shot in the final major of the season in September.

          Round 2 Stats

          • Score - 89
          • Penalty Strokes - 4
          • Putts - 35
          • Fairways - 5 of 14
          • Greens in Regulation - 6 of 18
          • Up and Downs - 2 of 8
          • Sand Saves - 0 of 2

          Tournament Stats

          • Score - 176
          • Penalty Strokes - 5
          • Putts - 71
          • Fairways - 11 of 28
          • Greens in Regulation - 12 of 36
          • Up and Downs - 4 of 17
          • Sand Saves - 0 of 6

          In the end, I found myself in 4th place as one of the guys in the group ahead of us carded an 85 and leaped me and the other guy.  So, I took home 4th place and a $100 Visa gift card.  While I was happy to have earned a 'money' finish in a major (my 3rd such major finish)... I was disappointed that I ended up 4 strokes behind the winning score.  I look to the 15th hole and the 8th hole as the points where I gave away my shot at winning.  It's helped teach me about what I have to do in the future, but... it still stings a bit.

          Because of a trip to the mountains, I'm going to miss the next tournament... but I will play at least twice (possibly 3 times) between now and the tournament on 8/13.  I'm hoping to continue posting scores in the 80's and picking up points.  Although I've got pretty much no shot at winning the points title for the season, I'll be doing everything I can over the final 4 tournaments of my season.  Still... a 2 week break between this tournament round and the next seems like forever.

          Until then...

          Monday, July 11, 2016

          Charlotte Area Golfweek Amateur Tournament - 7/11/2016 - TPC at River Run (Charlotte, NC)

          Anytime you go almost three weeks without touching a club... it can be a mixed bag.  This was the case with this round as I didn't actually plan on playing until 2 days before the tournament.  I was a late addition, and I had absolutely NO time to practice before getting to the course that morning.  

          It actually turned out okay, and I'm pleasantly surprised by how well I played considering.  This gives me hope heading into the final month of the season that I can actually find my way into the Top 10 by the end of the season and qualify for the Tour Championship at Hilton Head in October.

          Hole #14 - Par 4 - 346 Yards

          I struggled mightily at Kiawah with my driver.  On Saturday, I was completely unable to hit it.  Sunday morning, a buddy of mine realized that my alignment was way off.  Once he fixed me, things got back to working.  Despite being a fairly tight hole here, I knew there was trouble up by the green, so I wanted to get the ball down the fairway so I had a decent shot at getting to the green.  Unfortunately, I tugged my drive left.  It found the hill and the thick rough killed it.  I had zero chance of getting to the green, so I punched into the fairway with a pitching wedge which left me a sand wedge to the green.  My shot came up just short, but I was able to chip on to within a few inches and tap in for a bogey to start.  

          Hole #15 - Par 4 - 378 Yards

          Looking at the yardage book, I was looking at the wrong hole.  It didn't matter because I smothered my drive from the tee and it barely, if at all, got beyond the front tees and sat in the rough.  It was an ugly tee shot.  I hit a good 5 iron from there to about 70 yards from the pin.  I hit a really nice lob wedge from the fairway that flew just over the pin.  I made a mess from there as I took 3 putts from 19 feet to card a double bogey on a hole that was fairly simple.

          Hole #16 - Par 5 - 454 Yards

          The majority of the par 5 holes on this course were very, very reachable.  This was no exception.  I hit a better drive on this hole, but pushed it out right just a bit.  From the rough, I hit a great hybrid that finished 30 yards shy of the green in a perfect spot.  My pitch from there came very close to holing out.  I was left with an extremely simple 2 foot putt for birdie, which I made.

          Hole #17 - Par 3 - 108 Yards

          This was an extremely short, downhill par 3.  It was 113 yards from the tee to the flag, but way downhill.  I hit my approach wedge a little deep on the green and it stuck where it was.  That left me a very tricky putt from up on the ridge.  From 19 feet, I hit a great putt that finished a foot away.  I was able to tap in for a par.

          Hole #18 - Par 5 - 462 Yards

          Another drive I smothered.  Luckily, this one took a good kick and stayed out of the water and out of the bunker on the left side.  I hit a 4 iron into the fairway and left myself about 145 yards to the hole.  From that position, the only place I didn't want to miss was left.  I did exactly that.  I pulled my 8 iron and somehow, it hit in the tiniest patch of rough left of the green and stuck.  If it had hopped forward or left even the slightest bit, I would have been in the water.  I hit a poor chip from there but was able to take only 2 putts from 54 feet and took a bogey.  Through my first 4 holes, I was sitting at +3.

          Hole #1 - Par 4 - 283 Yards

          On the card, this is a very, very short par 4 hole.  It plays uphill, so it's a little longer than the card shows, but... I was hoping for an easy par and possibly a birdie here.  My drive was a little left of the cart path, which left me in the thick rough with about 75 yards to go.  I knew I wasn't going to get my lob wedge onto the green from that rough, so I took 2 clubs up and hit a good shot onto the back of the green.  From 42 feet, I hit a great putt but it didn't drop.  I was left with a simple 2 footer for my par.

          Hole #2 - Par 5 - 447 Yards

          This hole could have seen the round get away from me.  I hit a bomb of a drive that finished 271 yards away, all uphill.  That left me only about 167 yards to the front flag.  My ball was on a small downslope, which I do not handle well.  The group in front of us was still on the green, and then the second they finished... a member of the grounds crew jumped in front of the green and watered it.  This resulted in me standing over my shot for nearly 10 minutes.  By the time I finally got to play the shot, I made a horrible, ugly swing and I hit the ball extremely fat.  It landed in some thick rough in a little trough about 80 yards short of the green.  My approach wedge caught the bunker.  Then I bladed a shot out of that trap and into another.  I barely escaped that one and then chipped to about 9 feet.  Luckily, I was able to sink that for a double bogey, but... I was reeling after that hole and I wasn't happy about it.

          Hole #3 - Par 4 - 365 Yards

          I hit a great drive from this tee.  The ball had a little bit of draw on it and found the perfect spot in the fairway.  I was left with 130 yards down the hill and hit a 9 iron that finished only 9 feet from the hole.  My putt from there for birdie was a little aggressive and I missed, leaving a 4 footer coming back for par.  I made that and it kept me at +5 through 8 holes.

          Hole #4 - Par 3 - 179 Yards

          Lucky.  This hole kind of balanced out the second hole.  I hit a very poor, very ugly 5 iron from this tee.  It went right and towards the OB stakes over there.  I never saw it come down.  I hit a provisional that also went right, but I saw it land near the tree to the right of the green and I knew it was safe.  When we got up there, I went towards where I saw my initial shot go.  One of my playing competitors found my original ball to the right of the tree.  I was worried it was my provisional, but both were up there.  The ball was sitting up in the rough a bit and my only shot was a high, flopping shot that landed in the shady spot on the green.  I executed it perfectly and left myself a quick, downhill 7 footer for par.  Somehow, I made that for one of the best up & downs I've made in recent memory.  So... for my first 9 holes, I finished up at +5. 

          Hole #5 - Par 4 - 369 Yards

          From this tee, I tugged my tee shot just a bit.  It headed up the left side and I figured it would get a good kick off the hill there and possibly even shoot it into the fairway.  I was way wrong.  The ball hit some tall grass/weeds near a tree and didn't move.  I hit a provisional up the right side just in case.  When we got up to where the initial ball had landed... none of us could find it at all.  I spent the 5 minutes allowed searching and then had to give it up and go to my provisional ball.  My pitching wedge was just right of the green.  From there, I pitched to about 8 feet but could not make that putt for double, so I settled for a triple bogey.  Ouch.

          Hole #6 - Par 5 - 470 Yards

          There was some weather moving in as we got to this tee.  My tee shot was solid, but just off the left side of the fairway.  Because of the lie, I couldn't get to the green, so I punched a 4 iron up the left side.  It landed in the rough, but it was sitting up nicely.  I was left with about 65 yards from there.  My lob wedge found the green, but left me 21 feet from the hole.  My initial putt was way off and left me 9 feet for a par putt.  Luckily, I made that.

          Hole #7 - Par 4 - 340 Yards

          I hit what I thought was a really good drive on this hole, but it carried further than I thought it would.  I just barely stayed in bounds.  I had some tree trouble, but I thought I could get over it.  I hit a very solid approach wedge from where I was.  It clipped just enough of the top of the tree to knock it down.  I hit a very poor pitch from there and then took my 2nd three-putt of the day from 35 feet for a double bogey.

          Hole #8 - Par 3 - 155 Yards

          As we got to this tee, the wind started picking up and the rain started to fall.  There was water left and I wanted to make sure I stayed away from that.  With the wind into our faces, I took an 8 iron and hit a pretty poor shot that went long and right and found the greenside bunker.  At that point, we were called off the course.  I put tees around my ball and we headed in.  We spent about an hour (maybe a little less) in the clubhouse waiting for the storms to move out before we got sent back out to the course.  I had a tough bunker shot with water on the other side of the green, but I executed it nicely and was able to save my par after sinking a 5 footer coming back up the hill.

          Hole #9 - Par 4 - 392 Yards

          The most difficult hole on the course, according to the handicap listing.  I absolutely obliterated my tee shot here.  It was almost a perfect drive.  The trajectory was perfect and the ball finished in the fairway up the right side 282 yards from where it started.  I had about 130 yards to go.  There was water left and short, so I wanted to make sure I was a little right.  My 9 iron was hammered and landed at the back of the green.  That left me a 72 foot putt.  I lagged it up nicely to about 5 feet and was able to sink that for a par on the #1 handicap hole.

          ** NOTE - I ended up playing the front side with a triple and 2 doubles.  Still, I finished in 43 (+7).  I knew, at that point, that I was very much in it.  We were using live scoring on our phones, so... with 4 holes to play... I had a very realistic shot at making it into the money spots (top 4).  I just needed to play solid golf and not make any huge mistakes.

          Hole #10 - Par 4 - 346 Yards

          All the trouble on this hole was left.  Of course, I got up and hit a high, drawing tee shot.  It carried over the tree on the left and settled into some thick rough.  There was a creek short and left, so I wanted to hit something out to the right.  My 6 iron from only 145 was heavy and the ball settled in the rough again.  I hit a good sand wedge just off the right side of the green that settled into a sprinkler head.  I dropped onto the fringe and my putt from there nipped the lip, but didn't drop.  I made the 4 footer coming back for a bogey that COULD have been much worse.

          Hole #11 - Par 4 - 376 Yards

          I didn't look at my yardage book on this hole and it resulted in what I thought was a great tee shot actually running into the fairway bunker up the right side.  I hit a pretty good 9 iron from that position just to the right of the green.  My chip from there settled to 6 feet.  I thought I had a good shot at making my par, but I missed that and tapped in for a bogey.

          Hole #12 - Par 3 - 141 Yards

          Another downhill par 3 hole.  It was playing about 142, but was downhill a bit.  I couldn't get my 9 iron there, so I choked down on an 8 iron and hit a great shot.  It went a little deep, though, and left me another tough putt from up on a ridge 40 feet away.  I didn't hit a great putt, but it got to within 5 feet and I was able to make my par from there.

          Hole #13 - Par 4 - 414 Yards

          Standing on this tee, being my last hole, knowing I was in contention... I just wanted to hit a good shot.  I actually hit a really good shot, but it rolled off the right side of the fairway into a bit of a hanging lie in the rough.  I had about 130 yards, slightly up the hill from the rough.  There was sand trouble short, so I decided to hit an 8 iron and if it went a little long, it was safer than short.  It finished up on the back fringe.  I putted from there, but the ball ran away from the cup and left me 9 feet.  Despite a really good putt from there, it didn't drop and I tapped in for a bogey to finish up my round.

          ** NOTE - Despite using the live scoring, some groups weren't keeping up with it.  This made for some worry as we headed in.  I knew I was in a good position, I just didn't know where a few people stood.  As it turned out, my 85 (+13) was good enough for 2nd place.  The winner posted a really good 81 (+9).  This bumped him out of C Flight and into B Flight due to his handicap being below the 14.0 threshold for C Flight.  For 2nd place, I earned a $125 Edwin Watts gift card and 275 points in the standings which bumped me up to 3rd place.
          There are 6 tournaments remaining on our schedule for the season.  I will be playing in 5 of them.  I should have more than enough points to qualify for Hilton Head already.  It's now just a matter of where I finish in the standings determining which course I play first while down there in October.  Of course, if I play well enough over the next few tournaments, I could be heading into the final major of the season with an opportunity to win the C Flight points title, which would be a nice bonus... so, I'm going to be focusing heavily on maintaining my game over the next 3 months leading up to the National Championship in October.  

          Until next time!

          Round Stats

            * Score - 85 

            * Course Handicap - 18
            * Net Score - 67
            * Penalty Strokes - 1
            * Putts - 32
            * Fairways - 3 of 14
            * Greens in Regulation - 7 of 18
            * Up and Downs - 2 of 7
            * Sand Saves - 1 of 2