Friday, August 21, 2009

FORE! (ninety "fore" to be exact...)

T&D on 17
(photos courtesy of Lori H)

Wow what a fun and tiring day! There are very few times I will be OK with shooting in the 90s and there are even fewer times I would devote a blog post to shooting in the 90s but this will be one of them since I was playing such an amazing course with a friend to celebrate his birthday.

I got to the course a little late because I didn't really anticipate some of the traffic that I was going to run into on the way. Once I was there I went through a quick warm up and before I knew it, it was time to get started. After a "random" tee throw I was elected to tee off first. As if pressure wasn't enough on the first tee, add that pressure to teeing off on #1 at the stadium course. Unlike the last time we played the stadium course this time we used a caddie (one for the group) which was a really cool experience. On some holes he would walk ahead and see where our shots were landing, find them etc. Once we were in play he would give us (very) accurate yardages to the hole, and once we managed to limp to the green he would read putts for us. This is a great service offered and helps pace of play while making the whole experience a lot more fun. On to the golf!

On hole #1 I managed to keep it together and hit a really solid drive and then hit the green with my approach and made a two putt par. That was definitely the start I had in mind but knew that there were 17 very challenging holes ahead. I had three goals for the day: 1. have fun 2. break 90 and 3. make par on 16, 17, and 18. The course was in pretty good shape but they had recently verticut the fairways so there were some lines and sand in the fairways and on the greens but it really wasn't that much of a factor. The course is still beautiful and even with a little bit of sand it's still the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course.

After my par on the first hole I kind of settled in and the course definitely began to take it's toll when I started getting bogeys on almost every hole. This really isn't that bad of a thing out there for someone like me who doesn't play that regularly and definitely not on such a hard course. We did have a few interactions with wildlife while on the front 9 with 2 different families of (hopefully non rabid) raccoons who would come out and kind of slowly walk up to you or your cart and look for food or other things. Of course they got in my cart and my new iphone was in there so I became pretty concerned. The caddie eased the tension by telling me they only eat blackberries - lol - awful.

raccoons 2

raccoons @ TPC

Made a really good 2 putt par on the 9th hole after hitting a decent approach shot to a REALLY narrow green and survived the front 9 with a 44 - still on track to possibly break 90.

Tee shot

The back 9 didn't start off as well as the front and I hit a terrible drive into the water just off the tee and all of a sudden I was tapping in for a triple bogey. Ugh - this definitely put one of my goals in jeopardy but I managed to get it back together and make a few pars. Unfortunately the heat and fatigue became a factor for the whole group and the difficulty of the course paired with the heat started to catch up with us and our scores definitely reflected this.

Once we got to the home stretch I was definitely feeling the heat, literally since it was 90+ degrees and figuratively since I had 3 of the tougher holes on the course staring me in the face. Of course I previously set out a goal to finish even on the last 3 holes. Although it seemed pretty lofty I knew it wasn't outside of my ability even as tired as I was. Hole 16 went just as I had planned it - drive down the fairway, short iron to lay up, wedge to the green and a solid two putt. Definitely a welcome change from the last time I played 16 (hit 2 great shots then ended up in the water and limped away with a triple). It's funny, on the stadium course, if you don't play it often, all you notice once you get to the middle of the fairway on 16 is the 17th hole. It's all you can look at. It's a bunch of elements wrapped into one, a beautiful scene and visually intimidating. I may have been going about my business on 16 and managing that hole well but all I could think about and look at was 17. It's that powerful. In a sense it's kind of unfortunate because when you play this course and talk to others about it, the most prevalent question that comes up in conversation is "what did you get on 17?" I think that 17, in all of it's power takes away from the overall challenging design and beauty of the rest of the stadium course. The high scores and horror stories from tour events each year don't only come from 17, they come from the overall challenging design of an amazing course. 17 is just the cherry on top that has the potential to make or break your round.

Once you get to the tee on 17, the visual intimidation definitely increases since all you can see at that point is the green and water everywhere. We decided to tee off from all the way back since that is where they play it in the golf tournament and we wanted to get the full experience. We let Dave tee off first to add a little more pressure and he deserved to have the honors on #17 since this was his party. The caddie gave us the yardage to the pin: 145 and the wind was slightly helping right to left. The pin was in the very back corner probably no more than 10 steps from the back of the green. Dave stepped up and hit an amazing pressure filled shot and his ball hit and stayed on the back left portion of the green - once we got to the green we realized he was on the back fringe, but it was dry and set him up pretty well to make a run at par. Now it was my turn.

17 tee shot

I was actually way more relaxed than I was the last time I took on this hole and made a really good swing. The ball looked great in the air and was tracking and for a few split seconds gave me a flashback to my one and only hole in one during a tournament as a junior golfer - the shot looked that good. Then it happened, what every golfer, pro & amateur alike dreads when playing 17, the ball disappeared behind the green and I knew it was in the water. UGH! Last time I played the hole I did not hit a good shot on 17 so it wasn't a disappointment when I saw the splash. This time I felt like and it looked like I had hit a really great shot and when it disappeared behind the green it was heartbreaking. I was definitely getting the full experience this time around. Looking back on it I did make a yardage mistake. Our caddie gave us a yardage to the pin instead of to the center of the green and I imagine I was getting caught up in the experience and just didn't pay attention but I clubbed thinking that yardage was to the center and not to the pin. So the club I hit was going to ideally hit the ball 5 yards farther than the yardage given. If I would have heard the yardage correctly or paid attention, I would have taken one less club and I imagine the result would have been different. Oh well. After the rest of the group teed off and a few pictures were taken it was off to the drop area to take another shot at the 17th hole.

Group on 17

Once we got to the drop area I was given the yardage and honestly the shot from the drop area is almost as intimidating as the initial shot, just shorter, but this takes even more touch to hit the right shot. Unfortunately I was still a little amped up and flew the green again - that makes 2 balls in the water. After dropping another ball I hit a decent shot to the left of the pin and was walking across the bridge with a 15 footer for triple. Ugh. Dave made 2 putts and left with his par! I couldn't have been happier for him during his birthday celebration, even during my own golfing agony on the hole. I hit a great putt and really thought I was going to at least leave happy with a made putt but it just wasn't meant to be and it lipped out leaving me a tap in for 7. Looks like 2 of my 3 goals went out the window on one hole. Crazy thing is, I was still having a great time on a beautiful course so goal #1 was still intact.

I had to forget about everything that happened on 17 and move on to 18 so I could enjoy the last hole of the day. 18 is a pretty visually intimidating hole as well with water running along the entire left side of the hole with the clubhouse in the background behind the green. I was still pretty fired up and hit a huge drive that started over the middle of the fairway and was drawing toward the left side of the fairway and was LONG - probably 300+ yards. I'm loving my new driver! I hit a pretty decent approach shot, just over the pin again and was about 20 feet past the hole on a pretty large ridge. I had my work cut out for me for a two putt with at least a 3 foot left to right break. Hit a great putt and left myself no more than 2 feet for par - made it and that was the end of my day. I was tired but had a great time and was oh so close to achieving one of my goals of parring the last 3 holes but hey, 2 out of 3 isn't all that bad. All in all I had a great day and the course was beautiful. I am already looking forward to my next shot at playing the stadium course

1 comment:

Doug said...

I def. read ahead trying to find out what happened on 17! Clearly you're far better at this golf game than I am...