Match Play Weekend: The Highs and Lows

Well, this past weekend was all about “match play.” As I’ve mentioned, I signed up for the GK Cup Match Play tournament on Greenskeeper.org. This was my first year participating, so my expectations weren’t too high because I haven’t really played much competitive golf and match play is a different mindset than normal.

Either way, I knew it would be a fun experience.

I was placed in the South region, containing players primarily from Orange County and San Diego. Once the first-round matches are set, then it’s up to the individual players to get together, find a day/time and pick out a course that works for both of them. My match was against the champion of this event last season (lotrgolfer48), so it was an unfortunate draw for me. We settled on Sunday 3/25 as the day for our match. We had originally picked Redhawk in Temecula, which is an awesome (and tough) course. But then, one of the guys from another South match contacted us with the idea of putting a foursome together. They suggested the Golf Club at Glen Ivy because there was a great 2-for-$64 deal on Underpar.com.

So the plan was set for the official match on Sunday at Glen Ivy (10:48am). In the meantime, the “captain” for the South region had also organized another group outing for Saturday at Arrowood Golf Club in Oceanside. My partner couldn’t play that day, but I figured it would be fun to meet some of the other guys and watch some of the other matches. I also hoped to set up a “practice” match of my own to get in the match play mindset.

As last weekend rolled around, the weather forecast started looking more and more grim. I appeared Saturday would be fine, but Sunday was looking sketchy with rain and thunderstorms in the Corona area. With the threat of rain, the other match decided to postpone, but lotrgolfer48 and I decided to risk it. We were able to make an earlier time (9:44) in the hopes of beating the worst of the weather that afternoon.

But first…

Arrowood Golf Club • Oceanside, CA • 3/24/12

Prior to Saturday, the South captain let me know we had two foursomes set up at Arrowood at 1:00pm. There were going to be two matches and then some singles, so the prospects sounded great for a practice match. Also it was a course I hadn’t played before, so I was looking forward to it.

When I showed up at the course on Saturday, I overheard the starter and pro shop guy talking about how an “eightsome had turned into a twosome.” I checked in at the pro shop and he told me two guys had already checked in and said that everyone else had cancelled. I felt a little confused and left out of the mix, but still no worry because I would just join those two guys in their match.

Since I didn’t know who I was looking for, I hit the practice putting green and waited for the two guys to check in with the starter. They ultimately came out, we introduced ourselves and all was fine. They didn’t really explained how so many people dropped out at the last minute or why they assumed I had dropped out, but no worries. As long as I got to play golf that day, I was happy. Throughout the round, I did feel like a bit of a third wheel at times and tried to stay out of the way of their match as much as I could.

The good news is I ended up playing really well. First time in awhile where it felt like almost all aspects of my game were clicking. Unfortunately, my match wasn’t that day so I worried I was wasting a good effort or filling myself with a false sense of confidence before my match Sunday.

It was my first time playing the course and I enjoyed it overall. For the most part, the course is pretty forgiving, I thought, but you do have to be careful (especially if you play a fade like me) because many of the fairways slope right and into trouble. The finishing 16-18 holes are pretty darn tough, though! 16 is a beast as their signature hole.

The course was in OK shape, still pretty much winter conditions. The fairways were thin and dried out. The rough was pretty nice for the most part. Sand traps seemed decent. Greens were a bit chewed up. Still recovering a bit from recent aeration, so pretty bumpy and slow especially in the afternoon. Tee boxes in nice shape. There weren’t too many people out there, so we played in just about 4 hours. We did run into a log jam of groups the final few holes, but not bad overall.

Some pictures from Arrowood:

The Golf Club at Glen Ivy • Glen Ivy, CA • 3/25/12

(Match Play Day)

With the threat of the weather, there weren’t too many people out there, but we teed off as a twosome around 9:30 and finished about 1:15, so a nice 3:45 round and we finished just before the rain started to come down a bit. We didn’t run into another group until about halfway through the back nine, so it was a great pace, especially for the match play scenario.

This was my first time playing the course and I really enjoyed the layout. Lots of fun elevation changes (especially on the back nine) and a good variety of hole designs. Mix of different lengths, doglegs, etc. The fairways were in pretty rough shape, though. Tee boxes OK. Greens were in really nice shape. Fast and hard to read the breaks. The fairways were mostly horrible. Very patchy and clumpy. Lies either on super thin hardpan or in a clump of taller grass. Looks like they haven’t mowed all week and the overseeding grass is not coming in consistently. Front nine fairways were worse than the back nine. The back ones were a little better conditioned. The rough was pretty lush and consistent, but the fairways were pretty sketchy. Bunkers were also in great shape.

And, of course, there was a match on the line between me and lotrgolfer48…

After playing so well the day before at Arrowood, nothing quite went as well at Glen Ivy. Perhaps it was a bit of nerves in my first ever match with a guy I didn’t know or my game was just off a bit. Or, perhaps he was just really, really good and I didn’t stand a chance against the defending Champ. I did get 13 strokes against him, but I did not take much advantage of them.

The 1st hole is a pretty simple par-5. We both hit nice tee shots (his much longer than mine as expected). Then I went to lay-up on my second shot with my usually dependable hybrid. My ball almost always fades from left to right, but every once in awhile (usually at an inopportune time) I will pull it straight left. Well this was one of those times. It stayed left and ended up rolling into a hazard ditch, costing me my extra stroke right there. He ended up with a par. I got a lousy double bogey. He’s already 1 Up.

The 2nd hole was a different story. We both hit good drives. We both landed our approach shots on the green. We both two-putted for par, but I had a stroke on this hole, so I win. All Square.

The 3rd hole was a killer. I got up-and-down from off the green for a par, but he made a 40-foot birdie putt and we ended up halving the hole. Still All Square.

The 4th hole was a disaster for me. I pulled my approach and ended up next to a tree trunk with an awful stance. Lucky to even make contact with the ball. I ended up with another double bogey. He got his par to go back 1 Up.

The 5th hole was a par-3 and a non-stroke hole for me. We both missed the green with our tee shots, but both made great up-and-downs for our pars. We halved the hole. He remains 1 Up.

On the 6th hole, I made a couple nice recoveries from trouble to scratch out a bogey. He got an easy par. We halved the hole and he’s still only 1 Up. My game has been all over the place to this point, so I am pretty happy it is still so close.

The 7th hole was the one that broke my spirit. In my mind, this hole was the one that most impacted the match because it sent me on a downward spiral that carried into the next few holes. The hole is an uphill par-5. We both hit perfect tee shots. I hit a decent lay-up shot for my second. He went for the green and sprayed his ball off to the right. When he hit it, it appeared to go into a hazard. I was getting a stroke on this hole and was feeling really good at this point. I hit my third shot and ended up just short of the green. Still feeling good.

As we drove up toward where his ball was headed, we noticed a small little opening just past the hazard ditch. Miraculously he ended up in that one little section, clear of trouble. This bummed me out a bit, but things were still in my favor. He didn’t have a very good lie and he had a tough pitch shot over a big bunker with very little green to work with. He hit it short and into the bunker! My next shot was no picnic either, but not as hard as I ended up making it. I hit it a little soft and ended up on the front fringe. The pin was in the front, though, so still not a bad position underneath the hole.

Lotrgolfer48 hit his bunker shot and flew it well past the hole. He was still out so he putted first and ran that putt about 4-5 feet past. So at this point, he’s lying 5 and I am lying 4. And I still get a STROKE on this hole. Piece of cake…or so I thought. I hit my putt from the fringe and the ball came flying out like it was on fire and rolled 5-6 feet past the hole, leaving me with an awkward downhill put for my bogey. Well, I missed that putt to take a horribly disappointing double bogey. He made his putt (clutch shot!) to salvage a bogey. With my stroke, we still halved the hole, but I really blew that opportunity for an easy hole win and I firmly believe that’s where I lost the match. He’s still only 1 Up, though.

The 8th hole was a bit of the same thing. I hit the green in regulation. He made his par, but I three-putted. This was a non-stroke hole, so I ended up losing and giving away another easy one. He’s now 2 Up and I am losing my focus.

The 9th hole was more of the same. I topped my tee shot on this par-3. He hit his shot just off the green, but in an awkward place well above the hole. I had a relatively easy second shot, but pulled my wedge and into a greenside bunker. I hit a decent bunker shot about 5-feet below the hole. He chipped his ball well past the hole. He missed his next putt, but so did I. So I got another double bogey to his bogey. Again we halved the hole, but I felt like I lost after blowing three straight opportunities. He’s still 2 Up.

The 10th hole is a pretty simple par-5, but it was a non-stroke hole for me. We both parred it, so nothing gained for me. He’s still 2-Up.

The 11th hole more or less sealed my fate. It’s a short par-4 with water to the left of the green. It was also a non-stroke hole for me. We both hit good tee shots into the fairway. He hit his approach shot first and went a little long and right of the green. I was feeling a bit desperate at this time to try and win a hole, so I took an aggressive line at the pin (back left, frighteningly close to the water). I hit the ball pretty well, but it came out hot. It hit the green and kept bouncing. It ended up rolling all the way through the green and down into the water. He gets up and down for his par. I take a double bogey. Easy win for him. He’s now 3-Up and I’m running out of time.

The 12th hole was a stroke hole. I hit my approach shot into a greenside bunker. He hit his on the green, but well away from the hole. I scrambled to pull out a bogey. He pulled out the dagger and made his long putt for a birdie and another hole win. He’s 4-Up and now it’s only a matter of time before this match is officially over unless I can pull out a miracle!

We halved the 13th and 14th holes (both stroke holes) and now he’s dormie (4-UP with 4 holes to play). The 15th hole is a non-stroke hole and a pretty short par-4. We both hit good drives. His approach was a little short of the green and I hit mine in the middle of the green. Unfortunately, the pin was closer to the back of the green and up on a different level making my putt a tough one to read. He made a great chip and put himself within a few feet of the hole, so my only hope was to make my putt. Well, I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t even come close. I ended up with a three-putt bogey and he pulled out his par. He wins the match 5 & 3. Game over.

The only consolation was that it made the final three holes a bit more relaxing once the match was completed. We got to the signature 18th hole at Glen Ivy (which features a dramatic 250-foot drop from the tee boxes to the fairway). I hit one of my best drives of the day. I then hit a nice approach shot and then made a 15-foot putt for my birdie. It was way too little and way too late, but it was a nice way to finish the round.

Fortunately, I lost to a really nice guy and I’ll be rooting for him to repeat as Champion so I can at least say I lost to the best and simply got caught in the way of a match play juggernaut. It was fun either way, even though I did not play my best when it counted most. Oh well. I’ll still be signing up for the next season!

Some pictures from Glen Ivy:

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