On Saturday, March 27th, I played in my 31st tournament as a professional golfer. The tournament was hosted by the Eagle Pointe Golf Club in Mont Belvieu, Texas and put on by the Legacy Golf Tour. It was another small single-round handicapped tournament in which I played as a 0 handicap (no stokes were added or taken from my total at the end of the round). After a roller-coaster final two holes, I finished the event in 2nd place. I am very happy with my overall performance and the continuous progress I have made in each event this season. Here are the details of the tournament:
The golf course was a par 71 stretching out to 7,100 yards. Pin locations for the tournament round were very difficult on the dry and fast greens after a club member charity event had been played on the course early in the morning. I began the round with a birdie, but after a few loose shots, I was 3 over par through 9 holes. I began to develop some momentum on the back nine making steady pars and pouring in a birdie putt on the 14th hole. After making an up and down to save par on 16, I knew my last good chance for a birdie would be on the par 5 17th.
Hole 17. I smashed a driver downwind over the corner and left myself in the middle of the fairway with only 174 yards remaining to the pin. Unfortunately, the 8 iron I hit got caught up in the wind and pushed to the right of the green, but it left me in a good place to chip from. Using all the green I had available, I chipped the ball into the hole for an eagle and moved down to even par for the round with one hole remaining.
I am always at a large disadvantage when I play in handicap formatted events. When conditions are tough, it levels the playing field for me and gives me more of a chance to win. As I walked up to the 18th tee box, I felt a par on the last hole and a round of 71 would be good enough to win the tournament. 18 is a difficult par 4 dogleg right with water on both sides of the fairway running all the way to the green, so I needed to focus in and hit some real golf shots to close this thing out.
Hole 18. I decided to take a conservative line off the tee with a 5 iron to guarantee myself a place in the fairway. I was nervous with hands shaking as I addressed the ball, but I made a committed swing and perfectly executed the shot I had planned. The ball landed in the fairway on the right side and ran all the way to the left just out of sight. I walked off the tee with great confidence in the shot and knew I could get a ball on the green from there. When I arrived at the ball, I found that it had run all the way through the fairway and into the water hazard. However, most of the ball was out of the water and it looked like a playable shot. I began focusing on the lie and the best plan to advance the ball up to the green with a chance to save par. The shot was 154 yards to the pin, but only 140 to the greenside bunker. My plan was to hit a 7 iron out of the water and into the greenside bunker to make an up and down for par. That is not what happened. I took an aggressive swing at the ball only to advance it about 4 feet in front of me deeper into the water... After dropping, hitting my 4th shot onto the green and two-putting for a double. I signed for a two-over-par 73 and came in 2nd place two shots behind the lead. Although it was frustrating to lose by 2 shots after making a double on the last hole, it was a great learning experience and reminder that every golf shot counts AND has monetary value when you decide to play at the professional level. The winner of this tournament received $1000 and I received $100 for 2nd place. To put that into perspective, my double bogey on the last hole was a $900 mistake! Welcome to pro golf.
Entry for this tournament cost $220. I played a practice round at the course earlier in the week that cost $45 and I decided to put $50 into an extra game on the day betting that I would have the best round of golf in the field without the use of handicaps. The tournament did not require any traveling costs, so total expenses came to $315. 2nd place prize money was only $100 and I received $100 for having the best round between the only two entries into the extra game. So basically the tournament cost me $115 to play.
I am moving on from this event with a lot of motivation and a very positive feeling of progress in my game. I know if I keep putting myself into tournaments and focusing on the right things, my game will continue to improve and I will take advantage of the opportunities I get to play. My next tournament is another small single-round handicapped event this Saturday in Oklahoma! I am very excited to get into another tournament for the 4th week in a row to get my game ready for the bigger events of my season starting in 2 weeks!