I played my first event of the 2023 season on January 23rd! The North Texas PGA Players Tour has offered a series of 9 events around the Dallas, TX, area to kick things off for amateurs, PGA golf professionals, and professional players in the new year. Each event is capped around 85 players for the 36 hole stroke play (no-cut) format. Entry to each tournament is $575, and the fields so far have been full of great players.
I teed it up in the 4th event of the series held at Stonebriar Country Club (on the Fazio course) in Frisco, Texas. The event was originally scheduled for the 23rd and 24th playing 18 holes each day. Prior to the event, the forecast for the 24th was already looking rough, so players were told after completing their first round on day 1 we would continue play to complete as much of round 2 as we could during the first day. Most of the field was able to complete all 36 holes in one day, but there were 3 or 4 groups who completed their second round the next morning.
Conditions for play on the first day were fairly cold temperatures but no wind and the course was in great shape. Over-seed through the fairways and fast greens. The course is a par 72 reaching a few yards over 7000 from the tournament tees.
After the holidays, I had two really good weeks of practice leading up to this tournament. Morgan and I were scheduled to move down to Dallas with the camper and set up at an RV park that would make it convenient to play in several of these tournaments. Unfortunately, our truck was having some issues, so two days before we were planning to leave town, we dropped it off at a diesel repair shop. We imagined (from previous experience) it would be a quick fix and we would be on the road as scheduled, but the problems are worse than we thought. The long story with this truck goes back to the last stretch of the 2022 season when we broke down for a short time in Louisiana. We got it running again and things seemed fine, but at the turn of the year we started having issues again. It was obvious now that the truck needed to remain in the shop and we had to adjust schedule. Morgan stayed with the camper and I borrowed a ride from family to go down, stay with some friends, and play in the tournament. A different plan of events, but I was thankful to still have the chance to play.
My performance started off steady. I made par on the first 7 holes with relatively stress free golf. Stuck it close on 8 to make a birdie but this birdie did not bring the momentum shift I was hoping for. On the 9th hole, my group was told we were playing too slow. We couldn’t see the group behind us or in front of us, so it seemed we were in a good pocket and based on the time, I wouldn’t have through we were slow (played the first round in 4 hours and 5 minutes), but the officials were giving us a warning and we needed to pick up the pace. Now that we were on the clock, we had officials following our group for the next 6 holes updating us hole by hole if we were making up ground or at risk of being stroked. It would be an understatement to say this didn’t effect my play. Within the six hole stretch, I made 3 pars, 2 bogeys, and a double. I was rushing every aspect of my routine and process to make up ground and get off the clock. My performance suffered.
Once we were off the clock, I was able to relax and find my steady rhythm once again. I finished off the first round at 4 over par shooting 76. A disappointing number to put on the board, but we went straight from the 18th green to the number 1 tee to begin our second round and getting frustrated was only a waste of energy.
My second round started much like the first. Middle of the fairway, middle of the green, stress free pars. I took an unlucky bounce into the high lip of a bunker and walked away with a double on the front nine, but it was ultimately erased later in the round after coming up short on my “par 5 in 2” attempt and chipping in for eagle. I found myself in the middle of the fairway on my last hole of the event at 1 under par for the second round. The wind had picked up a little throughout the day and as I gathered my thoughts for the last approach shot, I started to analyze my score..maybe I could make birdie. The shot was relatively level. 167 yards, pin was tucked back left on the higher tier. Wind slightly in. Temperatures dropping late in the day. I chose to hit a 6 iron. Playing a knockdown “wind flighted” cut shot just like I had all day. Bread and butter. All I needed to do was hit the center and close out the round. As I made the swing, my conscious mind weighed in heavily and I tweaked my hands to close the face just a little more through impact hoping to get that penetrating flight right down the flagstick to make birdie. But that wasn’t the shot I committed to or setup for. The ball started directly at the flag and drew left of it. Hitting the left edge of the green and bouncing 27 yards down the hill to the left. Suddenly I was in a difficult position to save par. I hit a great full swing flop up to the raised green carrying only about 22 yards. With no green to work with from this angle, the ball landed on the collar firmly and rolled about 20 ft past the hole into the center of the green. I rolled my putt on the high side and tapped in for bogey to shoot a second round score of even par 72.
Lessons learned. Whether I think the officials could have handled the slow play situation a little differently doesn’t matter. I let them get it in my head and my performance quickly went down hill. In an effort to close out the round well, I tried to force a birdie on the last. Analyzing my score mid swing on the last hole of a tournament is so ridiculous as I sit here writing about my experience, its almost embarrassing to admit to myself. Nothing should be strong enough to penetrate the walls of my mental game and the unconscious commitment to my process.
My rounds of 76 72 (4 over par) put me in a tie for 33rd. There are certainly some good things to take away form my first event of the year. I hit a lot of great shots and held steady momentum for good stretches of golf. My stats included over 70% of fairways and greens for the event. I had a blast and I can’t wait to tee it up again, but it would be a disservice to myself if I am not willing to reflect and learn from the mistakes that were made so that I can correct my efforts and get back on track to play my best golf.
I am hoping to play at least a couple more of these NTPGA Players Tour events, but that may depend on the state of our truck and our ability to travel within the next few weeks. In any case, its time to get back to work!