Sunday, 18 March 2012

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

Well despite the apocalyptic forecasts by the BBC, the Jack Jarrett Trophy was played at Royal Ascot in nothing more than one fifteen minute heavy shower, a few further drizzly showers and some blustery wind. None of this incessant rain they were insisting as late as Friday night was heading our way for our Saturday morning tee time. For those interested, (  I went for option A and carried.

I had been hitting it well at the range on Friday evening and was reasonably happy with my form going into the competition except for the short game which I knew was still lacking the input and hard graft required. Still nothing I could do about it at this late stage of proceedings. The Jack Jarrett is a pairs event played off three quarter handicaps and is a stableford format with both scores counting. The three quarter mark meant I was playing off 10 and Mike Stannard my regular cohort was cut for the day to 8. Still, with him being a real "Steady Eddie" and me bringing a working swing to the party I was in bullish mood.

My "Steady Eddie" had what can only be described as a troubled start and after a horror tee shot and duffed second never looked like troubling the scorecard. However my opening tee shot wasn't a thing of beauty, definitely not the way I'm trying to swing the club, but it produced a low flying hooky thing that found the left side of the green and I would convert for par and minimise the damage. In fact I started like a bullet and followed that par with ones at the second, third and fifth. I did drop a shot at the fourth courtesy of an under hit wedge. Mike had found his game and we were starting to cook and were under our handicaps.

Sadly the sixth hole came along and spoiled my party. I can't play this hole and to be honest it would save a lot of angst if I didn't bother teeing it up and just walked straight to the green and attended the flag for everyone else. I ventured right for a change, only just clearing the tree line and the out of bounds although I didn't deserve to finish slap bang in the middle of an old unrepaired divot. With a bunker to play over and a severe downslope on the green, there was nowhere to land the ball and get it close. In the end, a combination of the lie and trying to be too cute saw me duff it into the sand, fail to escape first time and run out of shots to score on the hole before the putter was needed.

The eighth was another par three disaster. A poor execution off the tee shot saw me in another bunker and again I failed to escape first time. I left myself a fifteen foot putt to try and salvage a point and although it grazed the hole it was another blow out. These aren't hard holes and the eighth is stroke index 18 and so ranked the easiest on the course. Our problems were compounded on the ninth when Mike went left with his drive and his second found the ditch that crosses the hole some 130 yards from the green and with a penalty drop he couldn't score. We were out in 30 points combined and so were 6 points down on handicap and time to get busy.

Playing off a reduced handicap I didn't get a shot at the tenth and so my solid par was only good for a regulatory two points. However, as per the front nine, I started the second half on fire and also made a par at the eleventh and twelfth and so cut into the deficit as I got shots here and so made nett birdie.

By the time Mike and I stood on the fifteenth tee we had amassed 52 points. Given the conditions we thought 70 would be the target and so needed to play solidly and hope one of us could make a par on a stroke hole to get the extra points needed. We both hit good drives on the fifteenth, Mike in particular. I laid up but Mike pulled the three wood from the bag. It was right on the cusp of his distance and to be honest in hindsight it wasn't the percentage shot. He didn't execute either and I think he went after it to squeeze a extra few yards. In the end he succeeded in topping it into a ditch and blew any chance of scoring on the hole. The fact that I hit the green in regulation and then three putted was perhaps academic.

In the end, between us we limped home with 57 points in total and amassed a paltry five points between us over the closing four holes. I failed to score on the third par three of the day when I duffed my chip having missed the green right and couldn't get up and down from the bunker I'd put the ball into. Talk about coming home in the proverbial ambulance!

In the end our score was good enough for 17th place overall. Sixtey eight points won and so if we'd just managed to get two points per head over the last four holes we'd have been right in the mix and would have been strong contenders on count-back. Still, I can't complain and having amassed 31 points including three no score holes off a much lower handicap figure than normal showed that the game is coming. Nor can I moan about my partner having a rare off day. He has done much in our partnership in matches and competitions to get us in contention or keep the match alive. We are exactly that, a partnership, and so we win or lose together. No blame.

I didn't actually hit the ball fantastically well but managed to find a tempo and swing that never really put the ball in trouble. The three holes that I didn't score on were down to bad short game technique but that is a well discussed issue and is a work in progress. In competitive play I have to be honest and say the ball striking isn't the be all and end all and for me it is purely about getting it round. I'd love to combine a good scoring round with one that replicates the way I've been hitting in practise but sometimes you don't always get what you deserve.

In the end, it'll go down in the near miss column. I know my partner had tweaked his swing with Alistair White the Royal Ascot club pro during the week and he had admitted he was struggling to feel confident in the changes as we played. However on the plus side you could clearly see that there was definite improvement and so if he gets a chance to groove it at the range he'll come back a better player and that can only bode well for the summer and our partnership. My short game, like the flowers and trees is starting to show tiny buds of growth and so I hope that the work I'm about to dedicate to chipping and bunker play will flower into something that I can use and trust and utilise to get my own handicap down.

Not quite the result we hoped for but the weather was better than expected. there was some good golf at times and things are starting to take shape. Plenty to look on the bright side of life about.

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