No better way to jump back into the tournament season after a month off to run the DDGC than to embark on a three day, two tournament, two state, 700 mile round trip sojourn around the northeast. I started the weekend at the J-Park Jammer B-tier in Ravena, NY on Saturday and finished with the David Stidham Memorial C-tier in Charlton, MA on Sunday. Lots of driving, lots of golf, lots of weather, lots of sore muscles.
Joralemon Park is one of the most beautiful settings for a disc golf course I’ve seen in person. It features a little bit of everything…some open fields, lightly wooded areas, heavily wooded areas, gigantic boulders and elevation changes. I played there once before just passing through on the way home from a visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. I remembered two things about it…the incredible terrain and the ace I snagged on hole 25. Ever since that visit, I’ve been anxious to go back and play it in a competitive setting.
Finally, after four years of conflicting schedules, the opportunity presented itself and I signed myself up. The day couldn’t have been better with perfect weather to go with the great course conditions. Unfortunately my play didn’t quite keep up with all the other good things.
The big struggle of the day was getting into the circle for birdie chances. This tournament featured that great little touch of painting out the 10-meter circle so stat-keeping got a bit easier. Of the 18 holes played in the first round, I only got myself into the circle for a birdie chance four times, converting three of them. In the second round, off the 27 holes played, I was 4 for 5 on birdie chances in the circle. Good conversion rate, just not nearly enough opportunities to be competitive.
I lost count of the number of times I found myself 6 inches to 10 feet outside the circle for my birdie chances, but it seemed to be a frequent occurrence and I only managed to throw in one birdie from outside the circle all day (made a couple par saves from there too). The only holes I played consistently well in both rounds (birdies both times) were #4 and #25.
Hole four is a 460 foot par 4 that tees into a rather open field for the first 350 feet or so before turning 90 degrees to the left into the woods to a basket perched on a 12-15 foot high glacier-carved boulder. Despite the low ceiling at the tee, I was able to get two good rollers into the field and around the corner into perfect position to approach and land on the boulder near the basket.
Hole 25 is the hole I aced (#13) on my first visit. It’s a narrow 300 foot, low ceiling tunnel shot finishing slightly left. It doesn’t appear to set up well for a lefty, particularly one without a solid forehand, but I was able to sneak a hyzer-flipped Stag under the low branches each time and gently glide to the basket for deuce. Not many holes I’ve played multiple times and can boast a sub-2 (1.67) scoring average on. 🙂
At the end of the day, the lack of birdie opportunities gave way to lack of par opportunities as I limped to the finish. Downside, of course, is that I was near the bottom of the standings and won nothing, but the minor bright side? Early departure to make the 2.5 hour drive to MA so I could crash at a decent hour in order to get up early the next morning to take on the monster that is the Buffumville Lake DGC.
Woke up Sunday to pouring rain, so the drive to Buffumville was a bit of an adventure. Saw a car skid out on the wet road and slam a guard rail, and had another car pass me going the wrong way on the interstate. Fortunately, I got through unharmed (and hopefully no one was seriously injured) and I managed to get to the course without further incident despite the rain getting heavier.
I arrived relatively early as usual, but didn’t bother to venture out on the course just to get soaked. I also figured after 45 holes the day before, it wouldn’t take me long to get loose so I could get by with a few tosses and putts before the two-minute warning. I wasn’t alone in that strategy. This is what “warm-up” looked like for most of us…
Luckily for the tournament, the heaviest rain passed by before round 1 got started, so for the most part the morning was wet but not miserably so. It mostly alternated between hard rain, mist, and nothing and the wind swirled a bit (the old headwind no matter which direction you face kind of wind).
Early on, I paid for the no-warm-up choice. Threw a perfect drive on the first hole (18) for a drop-in birdie, then sawed off the drive on the next hole and ended up OB. On the third hole of the round, I thought I hit my line just right, only to watch my disc dip just a bit sooner than expected and not quite get back in-bounds (3 feet short). So a birdie two followed by back to back bogey fives wasn’t the ideal way to start my day. I steadied the ship from there, parring everything I needed to par and birdieing the holes that I needed to birdie.
That was until I got to the first of my two Buff nemeses, hole 9. I wrote about my last encounter with the hole in my Tourney 54 post. That involved a great pair of lucky breaks to card my first ever birdie 3 on the 700 footer. Not so much this time. The headwind blowing at the tee flipped my drive into the OB riprap rocks, then failed to hold the turnover on my approach from the drop zone, resulting in a bogey 5. I recovered from there to par my way through most of the back nine, including the newly lengthened to par-4 status hole 14 (great change, btw).
I arrived at my other Buff nemesis, hole 17, to finish the round. They call it a par 3, but it seems no matter what I do with it, I’m fortunate to come away with a 5. Way back when the course first went in, I had little trouble with the hole, even birdied the original shorter pin on occasion. But the course is now 15-16 years old and the trees have grown up and out and really narrowed the desired flight path. The ideal line is a hyzer-flipped righty backhand S-turn (out to the left swinging way to the right before finishing back to the left). That’s a line difficult for a lefty to emulate without a monster sidearm, which I definitely don’t have.
So my approach to the hole has had to change. Instead of trying to bomb a drive on a nearly impossible line, I’ve taken to dumping a putter short of the water. Still a semi-blind hyzer shot, but relatively simple for me with a Harp. For the first time since adopting the lay-up strategy, I managed to keep my second shot from skipping through the green into the OB road beyond. But the drawback was I left myself short, on the edge of the circle putting directly at the steep drop off to the road. Laying up for a four still felt like a win to me, even if it meant my first round at Buff out of the 50s (60) since the switch to Lat64/Westside/Dynamic.
Not my best score at Buff, but also not my worst score. It put me in the hunt though not quite in the top half of the field. Only five throws separated third from 14th so practically everyone was still in it.
Second round brought more contrast in weather conditions. It began with one last downpour, then about four holes into the round the sun came out and the temperature felt like it spiked up about 15 degrees. Sadly, the humidity didn’t go with the rain, so what dry towels I had left went from wiping wet discs to mopping sweat from my hands and brow.
More relatively steady play to begin the round. One birdie through the first six holes, including a par 4 on hole 9. A bogey on hole 10 brought me back to even. Birdied hole 13 from outside the circle to get back under par, but a 15 footer for par spit back out at me on hole 15 to bring me back to even again. Another safety-laden bogey 4 on hole 17 moved me over par for the first time in the round.
On hole one, maybe I was subconsciously worried about going OB right like I did in the first round, but I yanked my drive left into the OB riprap. My throw from the drop zone skipped hard and left me under a pine about 35 feet out. I pulled a straddle putt out of my b…imagination to make the par save. Threw two perfect shots on the par 4 second hole to birdie it and get myself back to even. On the final hole of the day, I found myself about 15 feet away for birdie on hole 3, and had another putt hit dead center and spit back out off the pole. Even par 58 for the round, two over 118 for the day.
Ended up tied for the first spot out of the cash. Those two spits late in the second ended up costing me the last cash spot. On the plus side, those two spit-outs were the only putts I missed inside the circle all day. Just like Saturday, I was capitalizing on the birdie chances I had, I just wasn’t giving myself enough of them. Considering the course and the challenges it presents me (particularly when it comes to finding birdie chances), I still feel pretty good about the way I played. Baby steps are still steps.
Taking this coming weekend off. It is Maple Hill Open weekend, but I did not have an opportunity to qualify and didn’t bother with the waitlist route since they rank it by rating rather than first-come first-served. I’ll watch it online though, and will be rooting for my Twisted Flyer and Team64 teammates. Next event for me is the Greater Hartford Open at Wickham Park in Connecticut, an A-tier. That’s another course like Buffumville where I’ve got to convert every birdie chance I get because they don’t come easy there.