Friday: The Ledges Golf Club in York, ME is arguably the toughest scoring course the Goodboys have played over our 23-year history. With the exception of a few holes the fairways are fairly generous and the course is not overly long, but the greens are fast and difficult to read (especially when the pin placements are as diabolical as they were this year!), and keeping it in the short grass off the tee is absolutely essential. This year, everything was made immeasurably tougher by it being the hottest day of the year (100 degrees, 105 heat index) with little or no breeze; like everyone else, I found it hard to maintain my focus as the day went on and everyone and everything became sweaty and saturated.
Taking everyone’s scores against their number the Goodboys shot a whopping 104 strokes over handicap – the low handicappers playing from the blues averaging seven strokes over their number, the high handicappers playing from the whites averaging 9.5 strokes over their number. Me? I not only played just one stroke over my number (shooting a 51 + 52 + 103), but played arguably my best Goodboys Invitational round ever. The scorecard shows only eight fairways hit and 39 putts, but there was a very low number out there if I had played the par 3s as I had been leading up to Goodboys weekend, shooting 8 over par courtesy of a chunked 7-iron on #5 and two ghastly mental mistakes – not playing away from the water on #8 and, incredibly, taking four strokes to get out of a green-side bunker on #14 when I thought I was hitting my sand wedge but realized I had taken my pitching wedge out of the bag by mistake.
It wouldn’t be the first time I made that kind of mistake over the weekend.
Still, as I would over the whole weekend, I stayed confident in my swing and doggedly determined in my focus and approach, playing for bogey one shot at a time so that these kinds of hiccups never piled up one bad shot after another, with stretches where I played at a level I could never have imagined before this year (for example, parring five holes, including three in a row on #s 11-13). I wouldn’t exactly call it a rocking-chair round, but you take a few strokes off those par 3s and two poor choices on the the #1 handicap par 5 18th that resulted in a whopping ten and a mid-90s round was there for the taking. The cold Sam Summer at the clubhouse grille tasted very sweet indeed.
Saturday: The heat and humidity were still there on Saturday, though not quite as intense as on Friday, and a breeze made conditions far better for playing. Wentworth By The Sea C.C. is a quirky layout, with tree-lined holes that criss-cross themselves and long, tight par 5s that give a sense of golf claustrophobia until the trees part and the 14th tee reveals the open peninsula holes that close out the course. By and large, the Goodboys found WWBTS a little more to their liking than The Ledges. While the field shot a combined 96 over their handicaps, that number was helped by four players (two low handicappers, including my partner “Killer” Kowalski, and two high handicappers) who combined for a bloated 62-over all by themselves.
I started out red-hot, with rocking-chair bogeys on the first three holes. After playing #11 by mistake (another bogey following a Mickelson-esque approach shot over trees to a tiny green after a drive OB that my partner should have seen were he playing attention!), I hit one of the longest drives of the weekend over salt marsh on #4, then made a critical mistake by getting greedy with my approach hot that found jungle grass just a foot off the fairway. I could (should) have taken an unplayable lie, but three hacks and a couple of poor chips later I one-putted for a quad bogey eight and my round lost a little of its luster. I recovered enough to shoot 51 on the front, but struggled off the tee on the back – I played out of rough the entire nine – shooting 57 for a combined 108. As they’d be on Sunday at Black Swan, the greens weren’t as fast as at The Ledges, and I never quite made the adjustment needed with my pitching wedge and putter. The 38 putts on Saturday (36 on Sunday) weren’t horrendous, but I left a lot of chips much shorter than I wanted, leading to lots of two-putts when a few one-putts would have really aided the cause.
So how did The Great White Shank fare against the field? Taking into account the four players who uncharacteristically vomited against their number, I’m guessing I played about even with how the Goodboys would have normally shot, but I feel I could have played a lot better. Just as there were a basketful of strokes to be retrieved out there by better decisions off the tee or better chipping and putting, I also knew this was a course the “old” Great White Shank could have easily shot 120 at: the narrow fairways never stopped coming at you, and once the course opened up there were carries over water I would have blanched at just a year ago. Not my best round of the year for sure, but I was proud of the way I kept plugging away and kept my head above water. If my partner had shown up that day (how’s that for throwing someone under the bus!) we might have been right in the thick of things come Sunday. But he didn’t, so we weren’t.
Sunday: By the time Sunday came around, the race for the Spielberg Memorial Trophy was on and the Goodboys by and large settled into their respective games at Black Swan Country Club. I remember playing this track as Georgetown Country Club fifteen years ago, but it later went under and the new owners spent gazillions to transform the course into something completely unrecognizable, with lots of target golf and forced carries on the front side (the original back) before easing off on the difficulty and length to allow for better scoring on the back. I would barely hold it together on the front before putting the pedal to the metal on the back for a nine-hole performance that made all the work, time, and effort I’ve put in this year worthwhile.
The 56 I carded on the front was pure perseverance, as off the tee I was really spraying the ball and my short game was equally inconsistent. It was after my second shot on #8, however, that my round began turning around when I realized I hadn’t been setting up square just before I took the club back. I ended up triple bogeying #s 8 and 9, but by the time we reached the tenth tee my confidence had returned and I started hitting my shots – especially my driver – with authority. On #11 I hit the fairway flush, then challenged a carry over water to a small green with a 5-iron and missed the green long by just two yards. On #12, I parred a tight little par 3 before making my only mistake on the back – misreading the scorecard and thinking that the par 5 13th had a carry over water in front of the green when there wasn’t (where’s a caddy when you need one?) and butchering it for a triple-bogey 8. After that, I really went en fuego.
Fourteen was an uphill par 4 being used for our long-drive hole of the day. I pulverized a drive leaving me just under 100 yards, then hit my best wedge of the weekend to six feet before putting in for a birdie 3. Only sloppy putting prevented me from bogeying #15, then on #16 I crushed my third drive in a row on way to an easy bogey five. I parred the par 3 seventeenth with an approach just short of the green followed by a tidy chip and one-putt. Which left one final hole: the par 5 eighteenth.
#18 at Black Swan is a sharp dogleg right that in old times I would have been happy just to knock it out there, but to our right there was an opening through the trees that enabled you cut the dogleg if you so dared.
I don’t know exactly where my ball landed (my partner wasn’t paying attention) but the drive I hit was pulverized, easily the longest, most perfect drive I’ve hit all year. Actually, it was too perfect because we never found it, figuring that after splitting the uprights it must have carried through both the eighteenth and the adjoining tenth fairway. Heck, for all I know it’s still testing Earth’s gravity – it was hit that good and that long. Another ballsy 5-iron left me just off the green right before I got aggressive with a chip (finally!) but caught it too good and it rolled past the pin down to a low collection area. Three putts later, I’ve tapped in for a double-bogey seven and a back nine of 46, my best nine-hole performance in a Goodboys Invitational event and the best of our foursome – something that had never happened before.
My 56 + 46 = 102 (two over my 100 handicap) compared very favorably against the rest of the Goodboys field, which averaged 7.5 strokes over their respective numbers for Sunday’s final round. Over the weekend, I tied “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis for lowest weekend total against one’s handicap, both of us shooting +11 against our numbers over three days and three tough courses. After so many years of being at or near the bottom of the field at the end of the weekend, this was especially gratifying for me. I’m not sure how it will all turn out when everyone’s scores are tallied I’m guessing I’ll be the only Goodboy whose handicap actually went down after Goodboys Invitational weekend. It didn’t go down by much, dropping a fraction from 27.0 to 26.7, but it went down.
Driving home following the awards ceremony and the farewell beers and festivities I felt I had accomplished what I had set out to do 4 1/2 months ago – put on a good showing at Goodboys Invitational weekend. While I didn’t break 100 during any of the rounds as I had hoped to do, 90s were out there each day, and I not just played well but better against the field and our respective numbers than any other Goodboy but one. While I struggled from time to time as anyone over three rounds of golf would do, I stuck to my plan, was able to identify the problem and make the necessary corrections fairly quickly, and by and large maintained my single-shot focus throughout the weekend.
Over the past 4 1/2 months there were times when I wondered if all the time and effort I was putting in would be worth it in the end, and I’d be lying if I occasionally doubted that it would. But it did, and it was.
Some final thoughts in a future post.