One of my favorite forms of competitive golf is match play, whether it’s a $2 Nassau on the side with my buddies or an organized event. The only thing that stands between you and the cash, or you and the next round is the opponent staring you in eye. It doesn’t matter if someone is heating up in the group ahead of you and piling up birdies, you only have to beat your opponent that day.
As I mentioned a couple posts ago I signed up for three match play events at the country club that run throughout the season. Each round has a deadline and you have to arrange to play that round with your opponent before the deadline. It’s a great way to meet new people at the club, have some fun, and put yourself into a competitive setting with a bit of pressure. The only way to get better under pressure is to play under pressure.
I’ve played round 1 in two of the three events now.
Beth and I kicked off our alternate shot this past Sunday. We had to spot our opponents one shot and we were off to the races. Both teams got off to a shaky start and believe it or not, they won the first hole with a double.
We shook it off pretty quickly though with pars on the next two holes and were back to even. We seesawed back and forth over the next few holes but by the 10th hole we were 2 up.
We then proceeded to give away the 12th hole after my lay up on the par 5 strayed a bit left and Beth had to take an unplayable from the base of a tree, and also lost the 13th hole. The rollercoaster of match play. For a moment I was down on myself and thought I had let the match slip away as we had given them momentum. Then I figured, screw momentum.
Beth piped her drive on 14 and I followed that up with a great 7 iron approach pin high to about 15 feet. Beth hit a good putt and locked up our par to go 1 up again. We continued our good play and parred the next 2 holes to get a 2 up lead with 2 to go.
It was my tee shot on 17 and I told myself there is absolutely no way this match is going to the last hole. I hit an 8 iron just passed pin high to 10 feet. Beth rolled it in for the birdie to finish the match in style with a 3&1 victory. Great lessons learned. We overcame a bad start and overcame blowing our lead on the back 9. Those things happen. You just have to keep grinding.
Last night I teed up round 1 of the singles match play. I was spotting my opponent 5 strokes and got off to a poor start on the first hole and went 1 down right away. My experience in the alternate shot calmed me a lot and I reminded myself that a lot can happen over 18 holes.
I hit a great shot on the par 3 2nd to about 15 feet and my opponent missed the green short on the fringe. When he hit a poor putt and was still outside my birdie putt I figured it was a great opportunity to get back to square right away. Then he rolls his par putt in and mine lips out for birdie and I’m still one down heading to the 3rd, which is a stroke hole for him.
On the 3rd I saved par from the wrong fairway and managed to escape the stroke hole unscathed to his bogey.
I felt there were two pivotal moments during this match, the first coming at the par 3 8th hole. For 7 holes I was either tied or down a hole and then hit a great 6 iron right at the flag which was conceded for birdie to go 1 up. My opponent was down for the first time in the match and I immediately noticed his body language change. He then proceeded to hit his approach on the 9th thin and into the water and I put a wedge to the middle of the green for a 2 up lead at the turn.
I won the 10th with par as well to go 3 up and then made a couple of mistakes on 11 and 12 and I was one up heading to 13, a par 5 that was also a stroke hole for my opponent. His spring was back in his step again.
He hit his drive down the middle and I lost mine in the left trees. He lays up to about 140 yards away and I manage to hack mine down to about 155 yards away in the rough. I figure at this point I need to make birdie. I hit 8 iron to the middle of the green and my opponent finds the green side bunker. From there he makes double, I make par and I win the stroke hole.
He was once again deflated and his body language and comments indicated to me that he had all but given up being 2 down without any stroke holes left. My pars on 14 and 15 leave me at 3 up with 3 to play.
Then on 16, a lapse in concentration almost gave him hope. I hit 4 iron to the fairway and hit my approach to the left fringe, pin high. My opponent hit the fairway as well and missed his approach in the front green side bunker. I then made a huge mental error, I let myself think the match was over. He hit a mediocre bunker shot to 20 feet and in my relaxed state of thinking we were done I left my 30 footer 10 feet short with significant break.
He made his par putt from 20 feet. Now I’m suddenly looking at this putt from 10 feet that will break at least a foot to prevent the match from going to 17. Needless to say I quickly got back into grind mode and managed to put it dead center in the cup to solidify the 3&2 victory. Another lesson learned.
Up next is a Ryder Cup style event called the Willie Park Cup this weekend with the low 24 handicaps from the country club. I’m really looking forward to that!
Then next week Gary and I get our best ball match play event kicked off!
Gotta love match play! Some might say it’s madness.