Monday, December 12, 2005

SCGA TOCC: I love competing

Last Monday, December 5, I played in the SCGA Tournament of Club Champions (TOCC), Vice President flight. When I won my own club championship to qualify to go, I had mixed feelings. Of course I was thrilled to have won, and I was at once excited and nervous to go as my club’s representative. The fact that I am the only woman on the club also entered into my mind. When I found out there would only be three women in the TOCC of almost 100 contestants, again I was conflicted. I love a challenge, but the pressure was on. Fortunately, I seem to perform better under pressure.


At first, I thought I would be happy to just “represent” and come in somewhere in the middle of the pack. Then I thought it would be okay as long as I didn’t embarrass myself and my club. That meant my expectations had dropped to the point of being satisfied with not coming in last. As the day grew closer, my expectations rose as they always do. By the time the tournament date arrived, I wanted and intended to win it all. (Although I think underneath I was preparing myself emotionally to be disappointed, just in case. Yes, I am neurotic.)

Preparing like the amateur I am

The week before the tournament, I was at the range every day and my performance there actually threatened to undermine my confidence. I took solace in the fact that the daily swing would at least help keep me in the groove. Plus, I don’t think the results were as bad as they seemed. It’s so hard to tell at the range. Like when I’m on the course and I see my shot go left of my target, it’s usually not as left as I think. But on the range, sometimes you don’t get the opportunity to really know where it wound up in relation to anything.

The Southern California Golf Association (SCGA) is our regional official golf entity like the USGA is national. They organized the tournament so that it was split up into three flights: Championship (2.5 index or less to compete in a gross event), President (2.6 – 8.9 index to compete in a net event) and Vice President (9.0 – 24.4 index to compete in a net event). Each flight played at a different private country club and had its own set of winners and awards. I played in the Vice President flight, of course, which was held at the El Camino Country Club. They allowed players onto the course to play practice rounds for a nominal fee for 10 days before the event. In my efforts to prepare, I took advantage of that opportunity.

Now, this club is about three hours drive from where I live, but only a half hour past my parents’ house. So, while we were down there for Thanksgiving, Greg and I went and played a practice round the day after Thanksgiving. The player information sheet I read said all play would be from the white tees, so of course I played from the whites in my practice round. We started kind of late and only made it through 15 holes before it got dark. I did lousy, but not as lousy as it felt. (I find that every time I play, I expect to do as well or better than the last and if I don’t I’m disappointed. I have to rein in those thoughts to keep the self-flagellation to a minimum.)

Fortunately, I had another reservation to play a practice round the day before the tournament. By that time, I had been told the women would be playing from the green (forward) tees and they just didn’t have it on the player info sheet because they weren’t expecting women in the tournament. So this time, I played the green tees in my practice round. And, for only the second time in my golf “career,” I broke 90. I shot a solid 89 on a course with a rating of 74.7, slope 132. Sweet. I thought if I could manage a repeat performance, or anywhere close, I’d have a good chance of finishing strong in the tournament. I took notes of trouble spots, prime targets, green slopes and tricky pin placements (they had marked the greens with a red spot where the pins would be the following day) but the real benefit of the practice round for me is not walking into a totally foreign environment. Familiarity is key to my comfort level. Greg played that round with me and celebrated afterward but he returned to work on Monday and did not join me at the tournament to be my “caddie.”

The Situation

Before I won my own club championship, my index was 24.6 (to play in the TOCC, the maximum allowed index is 24.4). At the time of my club championship, I had it down to 22.7, so I was in there. That was in October. My November index was down to an even 19, and my December index is now 18.8. So I didn’t know which index they were going to use to calculate my course handicap at the TOCC. It turned out that their policy was to use the lowest out of the preceding few months, which was 19.

In my post about my club championship round, where I knew all the players, I mentioned that my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. For some reason, that wasn’t the case at this tournament. I was actually more relaxed at the competition round than the practice round. I felt good. Confident. Eager. Surrounded by unfamiliar competitors, I was strangely at ease. Maybe it was because I figured that in this crowd, someone would have to shoot a record round in order to win and all I could do was my best. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that, unlike my club’s format of match play, this was stroke play and I would have no way of measuring my standing except against my own foursome. Speaking of that foursome, they were a nice group. One of the other women in the tournament was in it, who had a slightly higher index (maybe low 20’s) and I think the two men both had slightly lower indexes than mine. She had her husband there who was helping her out with some caddie-type advice, which was allowed, and he was the gallery for the rest of us. All in all, I think it was a pretty well arranged group. Kudos to the SCGA for that. My cart partner had only one arm and he had one of the smoothest swings I’ve ever seen. He mentioned that he had some trouble keeping a grip on the club in the rough, especially irons, so he had to use woods in those situations. There were some less than great holes, but we all played pretty well overall and really had a fun time.

The Round

It was a shotgun start and our foursome began on the 3rd hole. There is a giant eucalyptus tree protecting the fairway, especially from the angle of the green tees. I hit the snot out of the ball right up the right middle, directly into the branches, which brought my ball straight down. That cost me a lot of yardage, but it stayed in the fairway and it was a great feeling swing and hit to start the round. Steady as she goes, I wasn’t playing as well as the day before but I was playing steady and avoiding disasters. My driver was working - I had a couple of pop-ups that lost distance, but overall I was hitting pretty straight. All my clubs were working pretty well, in fact. On one hole, I got a chance to execute my 4-iron punch shot I had spent a lot of time on at the range in the previous days. While I’d rather not be in that situation in the first place, the recovery was long, low and pretty. On another hole, I got to use my left handed 6-iron to avoid a falling-over-backward-in-the-bunker stance to chip onto the green. As for putting, I made a couple three-putts but a couple really nice ones as well.

The Hounds

Maybe someday I’ll refer to them and appreciate them as “rules officials” but right now, they’re merely “hounds.” After the ninth hole (our 6th), we were greeted by a hound who informed us that we were a whole hole behind a group that was also a hole behind and that we were now being timed. The first to hit every shot had to hit within 50 seconds, followed by everyone else who had to hit within 40. Now, the group behind us wasn’t breathing down our necks. They were actually a shot or so behind us as well. They must have been warning everyone. However, I don’t think they hounded everyone the way they did us. I don’t think there were that many officials to go around. I don’t know if it’s because there were two women in our group or one guy with only one arm and they assumed we were the trouble because of that or maybe they just found us more interesting to watch because of that. It sure didn’t seem like we were playing slow and we certainly weren’t holding anyone up. Anyway, it obviously added unwelcome pressure and intimidation. They didn’t watch us from a distance, either. They were right up close and personal, almost literally breathing down our necks. They should have given us a couple more strokes for handicapping us that way. :)

To be continued... (it's so long already!)

Next post.

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