Tourney 54

Better late than never, I suppose.  That applies to both the tournament this past weekend and this post as well.

Tourney 54 was originally scheduled for the end of March but due to the unreal amount of snow and bitter cold that plagued New England through February and March, it was decided that the tourney would be postponed until Memorial Day weekend to improve conditions and ensure that we all finished the entire tournament.

This event has always been a race against sunset to complete all three rounds at three different courses during a time of year when daylight is at a premium.  Add in having to slog through a foot of snow and slush all day and the effort to finish is futile.  Postponement was wise.

Mother Nature certainly tried to make us feel at home though, with near freezing overnight temps (in May!) ensuring everyone would have to bundle up for the 6:30 check-in and 7:30am tee off for round 1.  It might have felt like early spring, but West Thompson Dam definitely looked summery when we began.

West Thompson Lake at 7am, just before Tourney 54 began.
West Thompson Lake at 7am, just before Tourney 54 began.

My day didn’t start out all that great.  Managed to get through the first hole with a routine 3.  But on the second hole, a bit of disaster struck when a breeze pushed my drive a bit higher and a bit wider than intended, causing it to clip a branch and dive directly into a small pond OB.

Now the penalty isn’t what hurt so much as the fact that the disc looked like it came in right near the edge of the water but it was so murky that we couldn’t see anything.  I played on and took my bogey 4, but now I was without my most reliable stable distance driver (TP Sword) with a few windy holes in front of me where I’d love to have used it and I was as far from my car and a back-up disc as I could be.  Oh well.

Can’t say my round was bad just because of that, but it didn’t help.  I missed a few key birdie chances that the Sword wouldn’t have come out of the bag for anyway.  Ended up with a disappointing 58.  My goal was simple for the first round…stay in the top half of the field, signified by starting somewhere on the front nine for round 2.  My starting hole was 14.

Round two at Buffumville Lake went much better despite more heavy wind wreaking havoc with everyone.  I hit a couple rough patches early, including following up a smart safe lay-up short of the pond on hole 17 with an approach that skipped into the adjacent road OB and resulted in a 5.  I went OB again on my tee shot on hole 1, but made a very good “drive” from the drop zone to save my four on the 600 foot hole.

From there, I got rolling.  A birdie 3 on hole 2.  Birdie 2s on holes 6 and 8.  Then the shot of the day (dripping with sarcasm because it was sheer luck) on the tee of hole 9.  The hole requires a carry of about 325 feet over OB to reach a sliver of land that steadily gets wider as it gets further from the tee.  Even if you clear the OB carry, the OB continues on either side of that wedge of in-bounds land so skipping out is always a possibility even for a seemingly good shot.  My throw wasn’t all that good.  It turned over and kept turning into the OB riprap rocks.  Then it hit and bounced down the slope a bit where it hit again, caught some wind and glided about 100 feet or so on to the fairway safely in-bounds.  Through no real effort of my own, I had myself my best drive ever on the hole.

It got even better when we got to the basket.  My approach had been stalled by the wind and left about 30 feet short.  I set up with every intention of not messing around with the wind and laying up to take my drop-in par 4.  Then, just as I was ready to throw, the wind died completely so I said “the hell with it”, went for it, and made the putt for my first ever birdie 3 on the infamous hole 9 at Buff.

I finished out the round with a couple more birdies, one more bogey and a fairly typical (for me) 57.   I wasn’t ecstatic nor disappointed with my score, but it turned out a bunch of folks got their butts kicked by the wind (only five scores were better than mine) and I made a monster move on the leaderboard, jumping from T40 to T20 and…a front nine (7!) starting hole for round 3 at Maple Hill.  Bonus being I got to play the round with my teammate Sam Henderson.

My strategy for the White course at Maple Hill is pretty simple: get my threes and don’t mess anything up.  There aren’t a ton of deuce opportunities for me there, but there are a bunch of holes where three is straight-forward and as long as I keep my drive in the middle and make my putt, I shouldn’t get into any trouble.  Not really the kind of course I feel like I can make a move on.  More like I have to hold steady and hope others fall down.

My round can best be described as treading water for a while until I ran out of energy and sank into the depths.  Except for one ugly 5, I was getting my threes through the first 8 holes or so.  Lots of boring drives up the middle, approaches to get close and putting out.  Then the things started to get rocky.  Took a 4 on 14.  Managed a deuce on 17.  Reasonably acceptable 4 on 18.  Then I started to sink.  Shorter than desired drives on 3 and 4, followed by missed putts for three.  Deuced hole 5 then shorted the drive and two putted for another four to finish the round on 6.  And one throw out of the money overall.

There’s plenty of positive and negative to take out of the day.  It felt good to get another sub-60 round at Buffumville.  After the re-design, it used to eat me up.  My first four tournament rounds on the new layout were 62 or worse.  Since last year’s Tourney 54 (65), I’ve managed four straight tourney rounds of 58 or better…coincidentally or not, all have come since the switch to Westside, Latitude 64 and Dynamic.

On the other hand, there’s nothing at all positive about my lowest score coming on the toughest of the three courses.  I struggled at West Thompson to get myself enough scoring chances on the easiest holes.  I couldn’t hold it together for the last five holes at Maple Hill.  My putting all day was up and down.  Make a 30 footer, miss a 15 footer.  No surprise I found myself exactly in the middle of the pack, which, in the spirit of finding more positives, is still an improvement over last year at this event.

One other positive completely unrelated to how I played is that by finishing just out of the money, I was able to cut out early and get to my parents’ house in time to eat dinner with my nieces before they went to bed.  Quality time with them is always nice.

I’m taking the next three weekends off from competing so I can focus my energies entirely on running the 15th annual Dragan Disc Golf Classic.  It’s been full for almost two months, which definitely makes my job as TD easier.  Half the player pack items are in already, the other half are on their way.  Trophies are in.  All that’s really left is the final push to get the course into peak condition.  So I’ll be on the mower, wielding the trimmer, and replacing OB flags for the next few days.

Next tournament I will be playing is the J-Park Jammer B-tier in New York on June 20.  Followed the next day with a return to Buffumville for the David Stiddem Memorial C-tier.  That should be a long weekend (particularly with a 27-hole round at J-Park).  Can’t wait.


Coggs all good

Sometimes, you just click.  Whether it’s with a person, a place, an activity, whatever.  No matter what you are doing or how you are feeling, when given the opportunity, you just click.  That’s the way it seems to go with me and Coggshall Park.

Last year, I played my first two tournaments on the course, and I won my first two tournaments on the course.  So naturally, when the first of two PDGA events for this year popped up on the schedule, I signed myself up.

Can’t say I felt particularly sharp or comfortable with my game leading  up to the tournament.  I played a couple rounds the day before, one at home and one at Coggs, and neither was anything notable.  My putting was off, I was missing my lines by a little bit here and there.  Basically, if I played like that when it counted, I’d be in for a long day.

But, like I say, something just clicked on tournament morning.  Even the not so good shots found their way to good enough spots to recover from (or in one case, kicked out of the shule and on to the green).  First round featured one badly missed putt, one ugly drive (paired with two ugly attempts at recovery in order to find the fairway), and some otherwise steady and unspectacular play.  Missed a couple easy deuce chances but picked up a couple deuces on unexpected holes to balance things out.  Finished with a 51, good for second place at halftime.

That’s where the real fun of the day began.  Lead card with Gage Benson on top with a 49, me at 51, then Gary Cyr and Joe Yaskis at 53.  Gage is a good young player playing his first year in the Open division.  Unfortunately, it showed for him on his first lead card.  Nerves seemed to have gotten the better of him as he started with a 5, then a 4, and then added a couple more of each to quickly fall out of contention (though he came back strong in the second half of the round to hang on to the last cash spot).

Gary, Joe, and I go back years.  Always been rather equally matched and extremely competitive, thus it’s a rare tournament that we’re all playing in which I don’t get to play at least one round with one or both of them.  While Gary hung close for a while, this day turned into the Josh and Joe Show.

Joe came out of the gates hot with a pair of deuces to my threes, so after two holes, he and I were tied.  From there, it was a bit of back and forth.  I birdied four to take the lead.  He birdied eight to tie it again.  He bogeyed nine to give the lead back to me, only to tie it back up with a birdie on ten.  We both birdied 11, 12, and 13.  Joe hit a monster putt on 14 to save his three and preserve the tie.  I took the lead back with a birdie on hole 15.  We both birdied 16.  Joe carded a birdie 3 on hole 17 to tie things back up headed into the final hole.

With that birdie, Joe had the box on hole 18 and put his drive short and right of the pin, about 40 feet out.  I went next and pured a Pure down the middle.  It was on the right line but I quickly realized I’d over thrown it and my only chance was the disc hitting the basket.  It didn’t so I ended up about 35 feet long in some thorns and scrub brush.  Joe laid up his second shot, leaving me to putt for the win.

I was forced to straddle due to foliage around my lie. I let the disc go and for a half-second, I thought I’d done it.  My putter hit the S-hook just below the yellow band, fell straight down to the rim of the basket, then fell to the ground.  So close.  We both dropped in our putts for three and turned in our scores of 48 for Joe (new course record) and 50 for me (my second best round on the course).

After a 45 minute wait for the rest of the tournament to finish up, we walked up to hole 18 with the leaders from MA1 who were also tied.  Joe drove first and got a monster skip that left him about 35 feet to the right of the basket.  I followed him by taking all of the drama out of the proceedings and hitting the first tree in front of the tee.  I had it in the back of my mind my drive here to finish the second round and how (for some strange and inexplicable reason) I didn’t want to repeat the over throw.  I think I tried to get too fancy and just yanked the shot.  My recovery shot fought through a few branches to give me a 35ish footer to try to keep the pressure on but I missed.  That allowed Joe to lay up and drop in for the win.

Despite not winning, it was a great day.  That kind of intense, back and forth, every shot counts kind of round is the most fun kind to play.  Win or lose, I feel great after a round or tournament like that just for being part of it.  That I fell short to someone I have a great deal of respect for makes it even better.

On top of that, the course was great.  It’s still relatively young and many of the tees are still natural, but the progress being made is really evident.  It’s fast becoming one of my favorite places to play, and not just because of the success I find there.

Taking the week off for tournaments, sort of.  Just running a Birdie Bash at Enman Field on Saturday.  No playing.  Probably a good thing since I’m starting to come down with a bit of a head cold.  Want to be in good shape for the  next tournament, Tourney 54.  Of course I was saying that two months ago too.  Don’t think weather will postpone it this time.


EMC X: Taming Lady Pye

It might not officially have been left-handers’ day, but it might as well have been at the Eastern Massachusetts Championships at Pye Brook Park last Sunday.  The course has long had a reputation as a “lefty course”, not disproved in any way by the fact that a left-handed thrower has won three of the last four and four of the last six EMCs.  So it should come as no surprise that this lefty (and former EMC champ) was in attendance for the big 10th anniversary extravaganza.

If the lefty rep didn’t seem solid before, the 10th edition of the EMC cemented that reputation as not only did the defending champ (a lefty) win his second straight and fourth title overall, but seven of the eleven cash spots in the Open division were taken by lefties and there was yet another lefty in 12th place, one throw from the cash.  Oh  yeah, the FPO winner was a lefty too.

The course and the park itself is situated on an old landfill site, so it plays up, down, and around a big hill.  The course goes clock-wise around that hill, so on many of its slope-side basket placements, the lefty backhand (or righty sidearm) hyzer approach is most beneficial. Regardless of handedness or approach angles, though, rollaways are a common occurrence.  As is the wind, being at one of the highest points in the area.

As for me and how I played, the story of the day was an inability to get inside the putting circle consistently.  Plenty of open, reachable holes but more often than I would have preferred, I found myself putting for deuce from 30-40 feet away because I was either short, left, or long by that amount.

One of the great things (amongst many of the wonderful touches that the staff puts into the course and event) about the event is the painted 10-meter circles around all of the baskets.  And having those circles made it painfully clear how often I was not in the circle when I wanted to be.

The stat-head in me enjoys being able to know exactly how many putts I made or missed within 30 feet.  I counted four misses inside the circle in the first round, counteracted by two makes from outside the circle.  In round 2, it was four more misses inside the circle but only one made from outside.  So to me, that’s a net total of five strokes I arguably cost myself just in putting.

On the plus side, outside of those misses and some early shakiness (three bogeys in the first seven holes), I played relatively mistake-free.  At least, mistake free in the sense that I took no high scores and didn’t gack deuce opportunities into fours and higher like I did last week.  Could I have better?  Of course.  But I can’t really kick myself (hard) for a drive that landed a foot outside the circle because it wasn’t 10 feet closer to the basket.

And I had two great groups to play in, meeting new folks from outside the area as well as getting to spend time with old friends.  Competing is fun and winning is fun, but it’s the social aspect of the tournament that makes it worth the time.

In the end, my scores came out about where I would expect average rounds to be, and it was good enough for a tie for 6th (behind four lefties and a lone righty). Big thanks to Stew, Phil and the whole VSVN crew for the course and the tournament.  Definitely one I try hard not to miss.

Next week, back to another course and event I’ve won in the past, the Coggshall Spring Fog.