I am the new B-flight champion of the Treehouse Golf Club. Up until the last six holes, it felt like the worst round I’d played in months. Even though I had a few decent holes in the beginning of the round, from #5 to #12, I had one par, one bogey, three triples, two quadruples and one +5 (fo shizzle my fizzle?)! Yikes! Luckily, it was match play. Before you roll your eyes and “pshaw” away my win or think I didn’t deserve it (I almost felt I didn’t), let me describe it further. Even though I took an 11 and two 9s in the round, those were just three holes. In stroke play, that would be a disaster, but I knew I still had a good chance to win if I could concentrate and focus.
Diagnosing the problem - adjust what you can control
I was one down after 12, went back to square on 13, stayed even on 14, then went one up, two up, three up in decisive fashion to win 3 and 1. If I hadn’t had such a strong finish and would have just squeaked by, I would have been ashamed to win. However, I put together some solid golf holes at the end after I guess I finally convinced myself I had to relax and play my game. I had been gripping my club so tightly I was actually hooking the ball, which I don’t normally do. I was tense and my swing felt awkward and I couldn’t seem to overcome my mental obstacles. I really wanted to win and I was psyching myself out and worrying about things I couldn’t control, like the fact that my opponent plays the course we were on every week in his men’s club. The handicap system doesn’t make adjustments for those kinds of advantages. Also, his handicap used to be just on the B-flight side of the cusp, and is currently solidly in the A-flight category. I guess you have to play out the competition in the flight where you began. I had to play the white tees with him but my course handicap was adjusted accordingly. Plus, I’m a relatively long hitter for a woman and he’s a relatively short hitter for a man but has a great short game. They do say that the handicap system is the great equalizer. We both ended up netting a 74. I knew if I played like I know I can play I could beat him. He was definitely a tough customer! After the disastrous middle of the round, I easily could have completely unraveled, but – did I mention – I really wanted to win! Throughout the round, even the embarassing holes, I kept a positive attitude and never became grumpy, which is always a struggle for me. I get so upset with myself when I do badly even on one hole, but it's especially important in match play to leave bad holes behind. There's definite difference between a positive attitude and a carefree one. If I get too happy-go-lucky, which can happen when trying too hard to let go of the bad stuff, my game can suffer just as much as if I get down on myself. Kind of the same way that a little bit of anger management on the tee can result in a great drive but letting the anger fester and boil can ruin not only your round but those of the players in your foursome. Sure, the game requires skill, but I think it's mostly mental. I think playing it is also helping my general life skills. Practicing at the range can help build muscle memory and otherwise enhance my swing skills. Playing recreational or friendly competition rounds does that plus helps advance my situational golf skills and knowledge, and lets me develop and hone my mental game. Playing competitive tournament rounds lets me do all of the above with a serious emphasis on the mental side while testing my mettle.
Fight to the finish
I took some deep breaths and made some solid shots, getting my confidence back and turning the momentum in my favor. He never made it easy on me, either; we were really battling there towards the end. Two holes in a row, we tied with pars but I won them because I got a stroke on each. I’m not ashamed, but the win wasn’t as satisfying as my past wins because I didn’t play as strong of a round. In fact, according to my calculator, I played 2 over my handicap target which in stroke play probably shouldn’t be a tournament winning round. I guess that’s the beauty of match play. Ultimately, I made it happen when I had to.
After the round was over, I knew I hadn’t completely relaxed out there because I felt myself literally breathe a sigh of relief back at the clubhouse and I could feel my body release the tension. Today, a lot of muscles I don’t usually pay attention to feel fatigued, probably from that tension. And this was just for B-flight championship (best of the worst?) in a rinky-dink club in a rinky-dink town. Well, gotta start getting competitive golf experience somewhere, right?
In three weeks, I go up against the A-flight champion for the overall club championship. I posted some really good scores this month, so I expect my handicap to be lower and I know the slope rating will be lower, so I’ll probably end up getting fewer strokes from this guy than my B-flight opponent! And his tournament play has been so strong – he’s among the low net leaders for sure. I guess I’ll just have to bring my A game for the A-flight guy. And who knows… win or lose, next season I just might be in the A-flight with him.