abk Golf: Learnings from the Club Championship

Every story has at least two sides. Sometimes three. Sometimes more. There are always the simple facts, and then there are usually the complicated, mental, emotional details that, when examined thoroughly, can provide the why behind the facts. That human element that makes the facts, well, not quite so simple.

Matter-of-factly, I shot a 16 over par two day total of 160 in my first Club Championship at Shell Landing this past weekend. I shot an 11 over par 83 Saturday that included 6 penalty strokes. I shot a 5 over par 77 Sunday, and all 5 strokes were penalty strokes. Over the 36 holes, I made 2 birdies, 23 pars, 5 bogeys, 5 doubles, and one triple. I was +3 on the Par 3s, +8 on the Par 4s, and an astounding (oops, no emotions allowed in this section) +5 on the Par 5s.

To recap quite succinctly, I finished 10 shots out of first place, and I had 11 penalty strokes. I have a fundamental flaw off the tee box that must be fixed.

It was an absolutely gorgeous weekend. Autumn to the max. 75-80 degrees. The wind was blowing 10-15mph, which was certainly a factor. The rough was thick. The greens were rolling. The course was set up for a championship. Based on my amateur opinion, even par was around 75 on this setup. It was a hell of a test. I passed certain aspects and failed others.

As my first real tournament, I thought I might be nervous, but I wasn’t. It felt like New York City Marathon morning, except in a tiny town in southern Mississippi instead of The Greatest City in the World. I had tap in pars on 1 and 2, and settled in quite nicely. On 3, a medium length par 5, I made a triple bogey 8. My tee ball settled under a fairway bunker lip, and it took me what felt like a million strokes to get out. Interestingly, I had written myself some notes the previous night to help me with a situation like this. Relax. Breathe. Don’t throw your clubs in the pond. (Just kidding.) It worked, as I steadied myself and went even par over the next 9 holes. After a nice birdie on 12, I was only + 3, the remnants of The Great Eight on hole 3. I was damn proud, to be honest. On 13 tee, my group had to wait what seemed like forever, and when it was finally time to hit, I popped one up to first base. On this hole, first base just happened to be in the middle of the forest. On 15, I hit a beautiful 58 degree wedge to about three feet for birdie, except it forget to stop rolling until later that evening when it was well off the back of the green. I think I audibly screamed. On 16 I had a 62 yard wedge shot to set up another birdie attempt, but instead, I decided to hit a line drive into the face of a greenside bunker that immediately disappeared. At that moment, I am embarrassed to say, but it is the truth, I quit on myself and finished double, double, double. I turned a 76/77 into an 83 faster than that damn line drive I had just hit. I signed my scorecard immediately after tapping in on 18, and got the hell out of there, mad at everything, but deep down knowing there was only one person to blame.

The message I told myself late Saturday night was this: Play 18 holes or don’t play at all. So I made a note.

Sunday was a shotgun start, and I started on hole number 2. I made a great up and down from the green side bunker to start, and reeled off 8 more boring pars to begin. After two lazy bogeys followed by a nice birdie on 13, I was + 1 through 12 holes. But for some reason, about every 6 holes this weekend, I decided that my ball should leave Planet Earth. So I sent it packing on 14 and then again on 1 to finish with a 5 over, all penalty strokes, 77.

Had I not given up on myself late Saturday, I don’t think I would have won, but I would have been in the general vicinity. That upsets me. What upsets me further is that I have zero confidence in my ability to hit my driver and 3 wood. Some shots look professional grade. Two holes later, it looks like amateur hour.

After piecing the weekend together, my main two emotions are frustration and disappointment. It is amazing how I thought I was so close to something a month ago and now, I sense I’m a million miles away. It’s maddening, and that’s a fact and a feeling.

Have a great week.-Benj

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