After leading off my last blog post with a discussion of the impact of the cracks between bricks on Harris courses, I’m amused when I look through my scores for the weekend and realize that none of my dropped shots ended up being due to a crack. I still blame the metal cups for a couple of them but ultimately 4+ of shots that I “shouldn’t” have had were due to my own over-confidence, stubbornness, and let’s face it, stupidity. If nothing else, at least that makes for a good story and maybe something I (and you dear readers) can learn from.
With a 10am start, it was nice to be able to sleep in a little bit for a tournament and get to the course around 8:30 versus the usual 7am. With it being October in New England, the air was crisp but not as chilly as they had previously called for, but enough that a sweatshirt was recommended for the morning practice. I traveled over to the course with Highlighter, who was staying at my hotel and we were the first people there besides Justin Pelletier who was running the tournament. The first thing I noticed was how picturesque the course was. The sun was up, the lake in the background looked about as perfect as could be, the colors in the trees were vibrant and the air was clear. I struggle to think of a better view on any tournament course that I have played over the years. The only rival I can think of is the beach view from where I stay down in Myrtle Beach but that’s not the view from the actual course.
From a play perspective we hit the course to get in a quick round or two before the masses got there. Despite some heavy rain the night before, the course was relatively dry and by the time the first round started you’d never know it had rained. We got through the course quick and then I spent some time focusing on a few sections of holes I wanted to hone. I felt ok about the course and Highlight was exuding confidence. That’s one thing I have yet to bring to my competitive game is outward confidence. Even on my favorite courses, where I know I have the best shot of winning, I still hold that back some. I don’t know if it impacts my game but I do admire people who have that outward confidence, especially when they can back it up (and confidence – not cockiness – those are two different things)!
We were to be grouped in threesomes for this tournament, with a re-grouping after the 2nd round. The final four would play last like in many local tournaments so my early goal was to be in that group. For the first set I was in the first half of groups to tee off, playing with Cody and Matt, two locals. Matt was an obvious golfer and Cody was new to the game. Both brought different styles of play to the course. We all started the first hole well with deuces but I immediately dropped a shot on the 2nd and 3rd holes. I think it was just a bit of nerves, in part because I had been called out as a donor/minigolf “pro” during the opening discussion and that always puts the pressure on performing. For both holes I made great tee shots and the second putts were not long, but I skidded them both past the metal rim. I thought I was in real trouble when on hole 4 I left my tee shot up the hill in the “sand trap” behind a rock but I made an amazing touch putt to save the two. That seemed to have righted the ship some for me although it looked like Matt was going to give me a run for my money. I aced 9, one of the more aceable holes on the course, to finish the front 9 with a solid 20, one up on Matt. While the front nine has its challenges, making that turn into hole 10 sets you up for a string of a few holes that test your skills and mentality, and I didn’t do so well this round. I carded 4-3-2-4 before deucing my way home to a 43, and none of those drops were due to cracks. The 4 on hole 13 was a killer. It’s a challenging hole but I loved it and had picked it for our sponsor hole. There’s an “easy” path around the left side which can set you up for a reasonable two. But there is also a challenging putt up a channel between a rock and the bricks on the right that can get an ace. In practice I aced it about 50% of the time, with the rest normally going past the cup. Only rarely did I hit the rock or brick and come back down. Of course in this round, I immediately hit the rock sending it back through the tee box and incurring a stroke penalty. On the re-tee I again went for the channel, skimming the rock and leaving me with a difficult fourth shot, which like on hole 4, I managed to save. Little did I know this would be harbinger of worse things to come.
Like with most US tournaments where you don’t have the live scoring, you have to rely on word of mouth to see how things are going. I heard a couple under-40 rounds, including one from a long time CT putting friend Matt Liles, which was nice to hear, but for the most part I was hanging with everyone else. Matt carded a 42 in that round so he was one up on me.
Knowing I had to make up some ground, I got round two off to a good start with an ace on the first hole, following Matt who did the same. Despite taking a 3 on hole 4 and another on hole 6 due to a long second putt, I was in a better position after 9, siting with a 19 and had gained four strokes on Matt. While I dropped a couple of shots on the back 9, I aced 17 and finished with a 39, one of the ten 40 or below rounds of the tournament. With that score I was right back in the running, one of three people sitting in second place with an 82.
It was enough to put me in the final foursome 4 strokes behind Highlighter. With the way he way playing we all knew this was going to be a tough bridge to get over. He essentially had victory locked up with a 40 or 41 on this course but we all had to try. The other two players in our group were Dan Brochu, a decorated local player, and Sean Boulanger, another local. Dan, who was leading in the ace tally through two rounds, and I got off to a good start both acing hole 1. With Highlighter taking a three on that hole there seemed to be some life in the chase as we cut the lead in half. I crawled my way to within one stroke after 7 holes but then gave it back dropping shots over the next two holes to finish with a 19 along side Highlighter. I was a couple of shots ahead of everyone else, so was feeling comfortable I’d stay in the money but at this point I knew catching Highlighter likely wasn’t in the cards.
However, I knew a place I could make a move was on hole 13. Despite failure in the first round and moderate success in the second round, I was going to go for the ace. The “smart” play would have been to take the safe 2 or 3 using the left-hand shot. It would have kept me ahead of the competitors and likely landed me firmly in second place. But there was personal pride on the line. I knew I could make the putt and I wanted to prove that I had the skills to make it at a clutch time. Even with that spark of confidence there, as I teed up I knew eyes were on me because we had the conversation of how we were all going to attach this hole. I lined it up and…bang, rock back down to the tee. I would not be deterred, even when it was back down at the tee again. I was now sitting 5 and I had it in my head that there was no stroke limit (there was – it was 6). That same sort of craziness from Maine crept into my head as I felt like I had never held a putter before. But I went for it again and again, I messed it up. Not realizing I could card the six, I finally gave up, went around and sank it for 8. Lucky for me the limit would save my position overall. Side note- I’m sure Justin said the stroke limit during the opening meeting and I’m sure I paid attention. It was just at that moment my brain was fairly unable to think of anything aside from embarrassment and frustration. I’m happy that my playing partners were there to support with the right rules, which goes to show that everyone needs to do their part in making sure the tournament runs well for all.
Everything was now in play though as I had fallen back to Dan and Sean and I heard up ahead that Justin Seymour had carded a 40 to bring him back level with where I was currently sitting after 13 holes. Unfortunately for me, Dan would show why he deserved the ace title rattling off 3 in a row from 15 to 17. After hole 13 I played clean, picking up an ace on 15, ending with a 42. Dan jumped ahead of me by 1 to secure second and Highlighter easily won. The kicker is I found myself now tied with Justin for 3rd place. I would have been happy finishing in the top 4 but I wanted the podium and despite all of the times we have played, we haven’t been in a playoff together. After a pen flip, I got to putt first on hole 1. With two aces in a row on this hole, I was feeling good though I thought I put a little too much pace on my shot. Turns out it was just right and I aced it for the third straight time. I would never have guessed hole 1 would be my best hole of the tournament. Justin gave it a good run but it wouldn’t sink and I was in for the bronze. While it wasn’t a win, I was happy with that in a new tournament and it was enough to help me keep my reputation as a solid minigolfer in front of a new crowd.
As for my predictions, I did ok.
- The winning score came in under 122, which is what I took
- I didn’t ace 13. As you just saw, I did the exact opposite, maxing out once
- I did have a sub-40 round with my second round 39
- Ironically there ended up being a playoff for a paying spot and as you saw – I was in it!
- I was close on the lowest round. Highlighter just snuck in that 37 to beat my prediction by a stroke
The sad part about the weekend was that it marked the last tournament I have on my personal calendar for 2020. The next one I know I will be participating in (COVID-19 willing) will be the U.S. Open in May 2021 in Pennsylvania. I hoping something will happen between now and then but we will have to see. I do have a couple mote blog posts for 2020 though as I’m going to look back at league putting (both virtual and in-person) as well as sum up this crazy 2020 year in December. Until then – happy putting!
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