Apologies upfront for the lateness of this blog post. While I had pretty much completed it two things got in the way of me finalizing it: 1) the computer on which I wrote it crashing and me being an idiot and not backing it up and 2) life. But here I am having re-written this lengthy post for you and I think it was true to my original thoughts!
It’s over! That’s what I was thinking about 5pm on September 23rd as we finished passing out all of the rewards and taking the final pictures of all the winners. What an exhausting day it was between the stress of playing and the stress of running the tournament but I was happy with how both turned out. The 1st Matterhorn International Pro-Am got a great reception by the players and we had some great play to kick off what will hopefully be a multi-year tournament.
The day began at 6am as I got up, grabbed a bit of coffee and headed over to pick up Mark “The Highlighter” Novicki who asked for a ride the night before. I wasn’t planning on having company on the ride to the course as I generally like to be in my own thoughts in preparation but it was nice to have someone to chat with that early. He was excited and confident about his chances, which turned out to be a good sign considering I didn’t know I was riding with the future champion.
Once at the course things got hectic. Mandy and I went about making sure everything was ready for registration, the printer was working and Autumn and the course was ready. The weather looked absolutely perfect, although it’d get unseasonably hot in the afternoon and I snuck in a few hurried practice shots between registrations. As I was hitting them I knew I should take a bit more warm-up time but I was more concerned with making sure the tournament got off to a great start. We were surprised as we jumped almost ten registrations from the night before leaving us with 19 pros and 15 amateurs. This was excellent except for the fact that we now needed to redo the pairings! We would take the extra work though as it was great to have such a good turnout for our first tournament at Matterhorn and good to see a lot of “unknowns” enter the mix.
At 8:45 we started the players meeting and that kicked off what would be an amazingly punctual day for the tournament. I had all my notes printed out and thought I gave a good welcome speech and rules discussion. It must have been halfway decent since there were very few questions throughout the day in terms of rulings. We decided to split the field and have the amateurs play their first 2 rounds starting from hole 10 and the pros starting from hole 1. So I headed out to kick off the amateur group while Highlighter made sure the pros went off in order. It’s nice to have friends on the “tour” that are also interested in making a great tournament. Mandy had the pleasure of leading the pros out with Justin, and I would be in the last pairing with Highlighter to make sure we were spread out enough to make everything flow. Autumn and her staff would help with pictures and collecting scorecards between the rounds so things were set up to run fairly smoothly.
The morning proved out our preparation as things went great for the tournament. The amateurs would finish their 2 round and then start round 3 from hole 1 after all the pros went out. This turned out to be a great idea as it allowed a good crowd to cheer them on as they all finished up hole 18. Since I had already finished my round, Mandy, Highlighter and I were frantically inputting the scores as the amateurs finished up so we could award prizes quickly. As luck would have it, we also ended up with 2 playoffs for second and fourth place in the amateur division. While I was hoping for a little longer break from “administration” during lunch, it was fun to have the playoffs and everyone seemed excited to follow along. Both of them ended on hole #3 (the Swiss cheese “Holey Moley” hole) as the winners made their deuce putts while the losers missed tough second shots. It was some great drama and I hope that everyone involved in the amateur division comes back in some form next year. The top scores in that division were very close to the top half of the pro pack after 3 rounds.
My personal morning on the course was rougher than I would have liked. After a good practice day on Friday, my first three scores were 43, 43 and 41. While I played the first 8 holes mostly the way I wanted, hole 9 and 10 jumped out to get me in the morning. After taking a 4 on hole 9 in the first round (where a 3 is fairly normal given the difficulty of getting it into the Alpenhorn) I tried to get creative and use a European style ball on hole 10 where it had helped me get an ace before as I needed to get the stroke back. Unfortunately this play would backfire on all 3 morning rounds and I would bogey it three times, dropping strokes where I shouldn’t have. I then made the mistake of trying to chase more aces in the morning, which left me nowhere good and sitting in 8th place, 7 strokes off the lead. On the plus side, my playing partner Highlighter was on fire shooting a 39, 39 and 42, vaulting him into the top spot by 1 stroke over newcomer, 11 year old Jonah Hurley who was a pleasant surprise of the tournament.
Mandy and I wouldn’t have much of a lunch break as we input all of the scores and re-seeded everyone for the 4th round. We also were tracking hole-in-ones as Autumn was going to give out a prize at the end of the tournament for the most aces by any of the players. Liz and Malcolm also showed up during lunch and it didn’t take Mal long to find Highlighter and our other friend Mark and head out onto the course for a round with them during the break. It’s a shame my kid hates minigolf!
It was interesting to see how things were shaping up for the afternoon. For the most part the names in the top 10 were who I expected with a couple of exceptions. It was also interesting to see that there were very few sub-40 rounds which was something I didn’t expect. While I didn’t think there would be low scores, I figured more of the pros would be in the 38-39 range for their rounds. That would turn around in the 4th round as the 30’s started to drop including a 37 of my own which would tie for the low score of the day. I think with the pressure of having the amateur division going on relieved from my shoulders I was able to focus on just putting and hitting the shots I had worked on. With some folks slipping above me, it was good enough to move me into 4th place.
For the 5th round we did reverse pairings with the last 8 split into two foursomes of the “leaders” and the “chasers”. While the top 3 were running away with those spots (and separated by only 1 stroke as Justin tied Highlighter during round 4 and Jonah was still one off the lead), my 4th spot was in possible peril from some of the chasers, who were all USPMGA pros or regulars at local tournaments. Our final foursome was an interesting group of me, Highlighter, Justin and Jonah. Jonah would certainly get to feel the pressure of a close final round. I was 5 off of Jonah and 6 off the leading scores.
The final round took a turn quick on the second hole as Jonah carded a 5, which meant against my 2 I was now only 2 back from 3rd place. Justin would also take a 3 on that hole, letting Highlighter eek out a quick lead as the round started. Jonah would slip another stroke on hole four but make up for it by acing hole 5, the first of us to make an ace in the round. He would actually get 3 in the final round which was more than the rest of us combined. Hole 9 also saw things make some weird bounces as Highlighter took a 4, Justin took a 3 and both Jonah and I carded 2s. After nine I had managed to catch up by 3 on Jonah and 2 on the leaders as I was only one over for the front. Despite having no aces I was happy with how I was putting and loved the tension of the final round.
The big excitement started on hole 13. While I managed a fairly easy 2 both Highlighter and Justin would miss on their tee shots, leaving them with a tough deuce that they both missed. After watching them card 3s, Jonah casually dropped the ace. With a 3 on hole 11, this mean that Jonah was back within striking distance of the leaders and would put the pressure on further on hole 15. Here he had honors and started the hole with an ace, making it a momentary 3-way tie for first place. Highlighter would match the drama with his own ace as the last person to play the hole and regain a one-stroke lead. Unfortunately the pressure might have gotten to Jonah as he’d go out of bounds on 16 and card a 4, effectively dropping him out of the race for first. Justin and Highlighter would match holes all the way through 18 where Justin missed the tournament tying long deuce putt by mere inches allowing Highlighter to win his first championship. I would shoot the low final round of the foursome with a 39 and with Jonah having issues on hole 17 and 18 as well, it would be enough to move me into a tie for third, which meant my day wasn’t over yet!
Now I am actually a fan of playoffs having done fairly well in them over the years. It’s weird because normally I don’t like everyone watching when I start a round but in a playoff I welcome the gallery. I guess it’s because, win or lose, it will be a fun watch for everyone. In this case though, it was clear I was not going to be the one everyone was pulling for. What do you expect when an 11 year-old newcomer is playing against a USPMGA pro, co-organizer of the tournament and a member of The Putting Penguin? The first hole on the course is the Wilhem Tell hole and allows you to pick going up through a steep ramp, into the apple, and trying to drop it in the cup on the other side, or going around the apple off the wall for a less likely ace and easier two. The apple is the height of risk reward since even going through doesn’t secure you the ace and a lot of time the speed needed to get through puts you way past the hole. I chose to forgo the risk and put a perfect shot around the apple, leaving a couple inch shot for the deuce. I felt confident that we’d be going to the next hole. That was until Jonah drove it through the apple and his ball made a nosedive right into the cup. At the speed it was going I have no idea how it stayed in but it did, it was an ace, everyone cheered and the young man had secured third place.
The day wasn’t over for the young man either as he would be part of the three way tie for the hole-in-one prize, leading to another playoff. This one would be held on hole 15 and would be aces only. After all three missed their first round Jonah was the only one to ace it in the second round, securing that victory. What a day for the youngster! I hope this leads to many more tournaments in the future for him.
Overall I was close in my predictions:
1) The winning score was a 198, which was right between 197 and 203.
2) John just missed making the top 3 by 3 strokes, coming in 5th
3) I made the money!
4) I called 9 aces or below and I was right. The top 3 in the aces competition only had 6 on the day.
With that, I have a little over 12 hours before I start my journey down to Myrtle Beach for the USPMGA Masters tournament. I’ll definitely be dropping a blog or two while there and hopefully not too long after!