The Road to Scratch Update: Peaks and Valleys

To make a long story short, my handicap index has gone down from 6.5 to 4.9 which is a decent net gain for early in the season. I’m excited about that. The long story, of course, involves a lot of peaks and valleys.

Just like life, golf doesn’t always go how you envision it. There are no shortcuts and there is no replacement for hard work. The important thing is to never lose sight of where you’re headed, no matter where you find yourself along the way.

My latest posts were filled with highlights and match play victories. This post is more of a mixed bag and a real representation of what the ups and downs of golf are like. For the purpose of this post I’ll focus on one peak and one valley.

I recently shot my personal best at the Calgary Golf and Country club, a 74. Even en route to a course personal best it was filled with ups and downs.

For as well as I struck the ball that day, I scored that poorly. After a decent front 9 I missed an easy 3 feet for par on 10 and then I even missed a 2 footer on the 11th hole for birdie by being careless and mentally giving myself the putt before tapping it in. Beth and I had decided to finish ALL our putts when it’s just the two of us (to practice for competition), so there were no gimmies. A good lesson learned that every shot requires focus.

On the 12th, a long par 5, I was fuming and probably hit it 350 yards and had 5 iron for my second shot from the middle of the fairway. Still fuming, I pull hooked it OB. Then saved bogey.

By the time I was walking up to the 17th tee I had slipped to 5 over par and I couldn’t shake the “what could have been” feeling from a great ball striking round which I got as little out of as possible. I was able to re-focus and remind myself I still had a decent round going and was swinging great. I managed to come in strong with birdie on 17 and par on 18 to still post a personal best.

After the round I texted Beth’s Dad, Gary, to tell him I posted a personal best. He congratulated me and reminded me that golf is a journey filled with peaks and valleys and to enjoy it when it feels easy. He couldn’t have been more right.

Coming off some great ball striking I really looked forward to the one day qualifier for the Alberta Amateur. I felt if I kept up what I was doing I would have a great chance to get in.

The qualifier was at a course called Sirocco. Possibly one of the least forgiving courses I’ve ever played with hazards on both sides of almost every hole. I was confident, however, to keep the ball in play.

The day came and I woke up nervous, but in an excited and ready to get at it way. I had a fantastic warm up, I literally did not miss a shot. Everything felt on the money.

I got to the first tee and naturally I was nervous but still confident. We started on the 15th hole (it was a shotgun), which is one of the toughest holes on the course, a 440 yard par 4 with hazards lurking on both sides. I striped a 3 wood to start and hit an 8 iron to 15 feet and nearly made birdie after a good roll. Great start. Confidence enhanced.

Striped another 3 wood on the next par 4 and hit a 9 iron pin high to 15 feet again. A good putt an inch short. Par-par start that easily could have been birdie-birdie. Still felt great.

I left my approach on the next hole, a long par 5, in a very tough spot on the wrong tier of the green and 3 putted for bogey. No big deal, everyone is going to make bogeys on that course. Still feeling great.

The next hole, the 18th, is one of the most visually intimidating tee shots on the course to me. You have to land it on a tier with a creek short, long, left and right. I striped another 3 wood to the fairway. Solid wedge to the middle of the green exactly where I was aiming and an easy par. +1 thru 4 very difficult holes was in good shape. One of my playing partners, a member at the course, was +7 after finding several of the lurking hazards on those holes.

I hit two good shots to the 1st hole but had a difficult downhill 2 putt from 25 feet and 3 putted for bogey after my 4 footer for par lipped out. On 3, a sharp dogleg right, I had the confidence to turn over a 3 wood with a hazard right and had only 70 yards to the green from the fairway. A bit of a greedy approach left me just long and into the rough, short sided. I made another bogey.

I didn’t do anything terrible the next few holes, in fact I continued to hit a lot of good shots but managed to keep making bogeys. Meanwhile the pace of play came to a halt. At times there were 3 groups stacked on a tee box waiting. I have no idea how that happens. It ended up being nearly a 6 hour round. That was a first!

My patience and my attitude deteriorated quickly. I know I sound like an old man, but I started to stiffen up and get really frustrated with what was going on. Instead of keeping my goals in sight (of qualifying) and staying focused on golf, I let myself focus on how ludicrous I thought the pace of play was and how nothing was being done about it.

I let something I couldn’t control get to me, I lost my patience and my swing and continued to stack up bogeys, doubles, and even a triple. Even with a birdie mixed in there I tallied a total of 92 after nothing but a positive and confident start and a golf swing I felt I could rely on.

Now that the smoke has cleared, I take nothing but positives from the experience.

I learned a great lesson. Just like in life, there are a lot of things you cannot control. You can only control how you react to them.

I played my best golf that day and felt the most focused when I was also the most nervous, during the opening stretch of difficult holes.

I also think that any experience in competition is good experience and if you look at it in the right light will help you in the future. I pretty much shot the worst possible score I could have ever dreamed up, and I’m okay. Nothing terrible happened. I still have all my limbs. Tomorrow is a new day and always will be.

So there you have it. The peaks and the valleys of golf. Even the peaks and valleys within the peaks and valleys. Oh, golf. What a journey. You have to learn to enjoy the ride, because you never get there.

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