Monday, 11 July 2011

Captain's Day - Never At The Races

It was Captain's Day at Royal Ascot on Saturday and the membership turned out in force to support the 2011 incumbent Malcolm Dargue. For the most part the weather behaved and it was very warm with only a few rogue showers to put a dampener on proceedings. These were pretty sporadic and short and did little to spoil the day. It was an individual event and split in to AM and PM fields and was a shotgun start for both.

I was off the 15th which isn't a bad starting hole. A short par five of 478 yards it has a generous fairway for the opening shot. It meant finishing on the 14th green which is adjacent to the 18th tee box and meant a civilised walk back down the 18th at the end rather than some route march across country.

I had been hitting the ball well of late and even in the warm up was striking it surprisingly well and so there was a cautious hint of optimism in the air. I was first up in the group and as the hooter sounded I got ready to propel my ball down the fairway straight and true. In truth I hit it very well but just pulled it a touch into the semi rough. Given the fact that it was only the second shot of the day, the lie wasn't great and there was danger straight in front for the mis-hit, my choice of the hybrid was pretty foolish. A simple mid iron over the rough and bushes would only have left 130 yards in and a simple shot. Naturally I had to take the machismo option trying to get it as far down as possible. Once I hit it heavy and the clubhead closed on impact, short and left into the clag was inevitable. That I found it at all was a miracle given the depth of grass, but given that I got it back into play was an even bigger one. I hit the green and two putted for a dropped shot on what should have been a cast iron two pointer.

Things steadied until I reached my fourth hole, the 18th. A pushed shot right and another chance to play a percentage shot which would have taken going for the green in regulation out of the equation but would have left an easy approach and a chance to get it close and one putt for par. Another chance spurned with greater consequences. I hit a horror right which hit timber and rocketed out of bounds. By the time I'd got within reach of the green I needed to get down from left of the green to rescue a solitary point. With my short game there was more chance of the News of the World scandal disappearing anytime soon. As we prepared to start the proper front nine I was already three shots over handicap. Not a good start.

Malcom Dargue and his wife Kay (2011 Royal Ascot Ladies Captain)
I rallied and parred the 1st and 2nd and should have made it a hat-trick at the 3rd but managed to three putt from twenty feet. A poor drive at the next cost a shot but when I hit my gap wedge to within a foot at the 503 yard par 5 5th a birdie seemed a certainty. Like a fool, smug with my skillful approach, I paid no care or attention to the putt and managed to miss it with surprising ease. Although the par and three points helped that extra point and the fillip it would have given me may have made a difference. I managed to hit the green on the 6th and was in the running for the nearest the pin prize. Then the wheels started to come off. I found the fairway at the next but a little to the left and had the large oak that guards that side of the hole in the way. I recently posted a hackers guide to the 7th hole and said that the sensible play in such circumstance was the lay up over or around the tree and then a pitch on.

For the third time in a handful of holes I took the kamikaze route. With a 4 iron in hand I took aim at the right hand bunker with the aim of drawing it back, landing it short and letting it release. It definitely moved right to left in the air except the draw was a hook and I found the out of bounds (a protected environmental area). I managed to make a 6 to rescue a point but it was a real show stopper. However with the wheels off, the axle was grinding on the road by the next. I missed the green at the par 3 by at least ten yards to the right. From a decent lie I hit a rubbish chip and dumped it into a bunker. I made a passing resemblance to a bunker shot and just got it out. I need to chip in for a point. That'll be another no score then. I made a nett par at the 9th and so for the proper front nine I was level with my handicap having played it in 18 points but how much better could it have been. How much better should it have been. All the damage of the early holes would have been repaired.

The equation was simple. I needed to play the remaining five holes on the back nine in one over gross to finish on 36 points or level par. I started well parring the 10th with ease following a good drive and a solid 8 iron to twelve feet. However I missed the green at the par 3 11th when I pulled my 4 iron tee shot and could only chip and two putt. Par golf home required and the hardest hole on the card, according to the stroke index at least to come. In truth I never gave myself a chance from the moment I tried to hit the tee shot too hard and carved it right. I could only chip back towards the fairway. It stuck in the rough and I could only move it some fifty yards further forward with my third. I hit a wedge onto the green and single putted for a five (nett par) but it wasn't enough. Another dropped shot followed at the 13th when I missed the green right. My last tee shot of the day was well struck but started too far right to draw back enough and I was blocked out by the trees that guard the right hand side of the 14th fairway. To prove I'd learned nothing I opted to go with the hybrid again desperate to make the green and give myself a birdie putt. The end result was two duffed shots, on the green for four, two putts and signing for a closing six and a solitary point.

In the end my 33 points was good enough for the buffer zone and so no damage to the handicap and 54th out of 141 entries was slightly flattering. Of course, my tee shot at the 6th was inevitably beaten so there wasn't even a consolation prize for nearest the pin.

It was however a thoroughly decent day and my playing partners Ken, Steve and Ray made the bad shots seem easier to swallow. Steve Downey in particular had his chances to post a challenging score but like me found novel ways of turning promising situations into nightmares and his 35 point tally was always going to be a few shy of claiming a prize. Thanks to Malcolm for his hard work in organising a great day and to his wife, the other lady members who helped with scorecards and refreshments, the catering team for a good bit of tucker afterwards and Angie and crew behind the bar for getting the drinks out so promptly when we all arrived en masse.

In the end though it was arguably a golden opportunity missed. The course management was solely to blame and although there were some wayward shots towards the end they were a result of pushing too hard. I spoke about attending a seminar on "How to focus the golf mind" but sadly illness prevented me from going. Clearly I needed their words of wisdom and hope it'll get repeated. My very good friend Mike Stannard cleaned up in the midweek medal albeit off the yellow tees but shot his lowest ever score. He said he played with more freedom and attacked more. It seems however as though I need to reign myself in. At the very least I need to know when is a green light situation to go for a shot and what represents a red light scenario where prudence pays dividends.

If I'd done that on my opening hole it would have set a different tone. There is no coincidence in the fact that getting away to a fast start in my match versus Oxford City really set the tempo and pace of the swing and despite a mid round dip I was able to play a below handicap back nine as well. Even in the recent stableford, I managed to make mistake after mistake on the front nine and yet came back under a full sail without any signs of a mental or physical mistake.

At the end of the day whilst it was an enjoyable round and the handicap wasn't affected, it would have been nice in such a big, big field to have given myself a proper run at it. In the end though I was never at the races from the start and ultimately gave myself too much to do. There has to be some middle ground between a string of poor holes and a run of par golf. If I can limit the damage and capitalise on the quality I may finally understand the meaning of the word consistency. As for now I'll have to rely on the dictionary to explain it to me. It'll come bloggers. This dog is due another day.

1 comment:

  1. "....and so there was a cautious hint of optimism in the air."

    Kiss Death Of - rearrange....!