Yetter-nother good weekend

Last weekend was, as usual, one of the best tournament weekends on my disc golf calendar, the Eric C Yetter Champions Cup in Newtown PA. This was my eighth time playing the tournament in the last nine years, and only an injury kept it from being nine in a row.

Since 2006, the Yetter and the DDGC have had a relationship in which we trade paid entries to our events and award them primarily to our MPO and FPO champions.  We go down to play and help out with the event there, and they come up to play and help out at the DDGC. The events benefit from the cross-promotion, but even better are the friendships that have grown out of the repeated visits.

But I think even without the connection between the events and the friends I have down there, this is a tourney I wouldn’t ever miss if I can help it because of the course.  What for a long time was a tough, challenging, and primarily wooded 27-hole course to which they added 9 monstrous and long temp holes in adjoining fields is now a tough, challenging, and primarily wooded 36-hole course.  35 of the 36 holes have three pin locations (A, B, and C) with the 36th featuring one pin but three distinct tees (A, B, and C).  On many holes there are also long and short tee pads.

The A placements are the shortest with many a deuce opportunity in the 150-250 foot range.  The B placements are much more challenging, adding some true pro par-4 options.  The C placements are the longest and feature some unique and sometimes frustratingly challenging holes…true two and three shot holes outnumber the relatively simple par-3s by a wide margin.  During most of the year, the baskets are rotated through each position, so rarely do you get to play a round that is all one letter.  It’s typically a good mix of As and Bs with some C positions used on occasion.

For the Yetter though, all of the baskets are put into the C-positions and the longest tees available are used.  That is the course at its toughest, meanest, and most challenging.  And to me, it’s also the course at its most fun.  It really puts the golf in disc golf like few other disc golf courses in the world. I could go on and on about the course itself, and maybe I will in a future posting.  But for now, back to the weekend…

I headed down Thursday.  It’s about a 7-7.5 hour drive if traffic is cooperative, and I knew I wanted to see the new holes before having to play them on Saturday.  So rather than drive all day Friday then have to rush through the holes in the evening, I took my time driving down and was then able to take my time checking out the new holes all day on Friday.  I played them through once in the morning with a guide, then played guide myself in the afternoon with another out-of-town traveler.  I added a quick walk-through of the front half of the course (1-18), skipping around a bit and just enjoying the park.  I finished the day feeling ready to go for the morning.

For this event, the day starts early because the courses are long and grueling and no one wants to feel rushed to beat daylight at the end of the day, so it’s the rare situation of arriving at the course when it’s still somewhat dark outside.  To me, it just adds to the feeling of grandeur for the event, since in my experience, it’s only ever  been really big events like this that have necessitated getting to the course before or right at sun-up.

Round 1, playing holes 1-18, began on the par-5 hole 13.  Over the years, the course has gone through lots of changes and as a result, re-numbering.  This one is best described to folks who know the course but are fuzzy with the numbering as the one in the tree.  As in, the basket is slightly elevated and planted in the middle of a tree with multiple trunks.  And you find this placement after traversing a winding 600+ foot fairway and then taking a hard right turn to the green.  Not exactly the perfect hole to start with, but if you’re looking for an “easy” starting hole, there aren’t many to find on this course.  I had a bad tee shot that forced a pitch out shot from the woods, but a good third shot enabled me to get the par.

The pars continued on holes 14-17 before I carded my first birdie, a 3 on hole 18. Right back to pars on holes 1, 2, and 3.  Then I followed back to back bogeys on holes 4 and 5 with back to back birdies on holes 6 and 7.

That brought us to hole 8, a dastardly concoction of a hole.  The length of it plays along Neshaminy Creek, so anything that kicks to the right side of the fairway is in danger of getting wet (and lost in the water).  The tee shot is straight for the first 250 or so feet before it bends a touch to the right and drops about 30 feet.  At the point where it drops, you can take the route to the right side which is narrow but goes straight toward the pin or the route to the left which completely takes the water out of the equation but is a much more circuitous route to the green.  The straight route is probably 220ish, the left route probably plays 260ish to get to the same landing spot.  That landing spot puts you within 30 feet or so of the basket, only you’re also 20-25 feet below the basket.  Here’s a view from below (taken last year)…

Hole 8 at Tyler State Park, looking up at the C-pin. Had to snap this picture as it remains the closest I've been to the basket in two throws (my first time playing it, of course).
Hole 8 at Tyler State Park, looking up at the C-pin. Had to snap this picture as it remains the closest I’ve been to the basket in two throws (my first time playing it, of course).

And a view from above, taken this year, in which you can see the straight approach from the first landing zone.

Hole 8 at Tyler State Park. C-pin position on a high bluff a long way from the tee not at all visible in the background.
Hole 8 at Tyler State Park. C-pin position on a high bluff a long way from the tee not at all visible in the background.

I gacked a 15 footer for par with a view like the photo above.  Strange how fearlessly I threw in a longer putt with a similar drop just a hole before.  I birdied the next hole to balance things back out, then finished the round with three straight pars and a final score of 70, 2 under course par.

Even though I was only one throw off my goal score of 69, I still didn’t feel like I played all that well overall.  Couple good holes, couple not so good, but the rest seemed pretty blah.  I played with one of the better players in the field and also the course designer, Joe Mela, who shot a 69 and also didn’t seem all that enthused with the score.  So I figured I was in the top half of the field at worst and hoping for being on the second card in the next round.  This is what I found when the scoreport was revealed for round two…

Scoreport before round 2 of the 2015 Yetter. Didn't think I played that well in the first.
Scoreport before round 2 of the 2015 Yetter. Didn’t think I played that well in the first.

What do you know, lead card for the second round.  Second time I can claim that at this event.  Oddly enough, the first time was also a first round in which I played with Mela and had a solid but unspectacular (seemingly) round that turned out to be better than it felt.  And that time also meant a second round with Joe and a “big name” touring player (then Avery Jenkins, now Jeremy Koling).  It was shaping up to be an interesting afternoon.

I had one goal for that round outside of trying to shoot a solid score and its a goal I like to achieve any time I find myself paired with a disc golf “celebrity”.  Of course, it’s something I like to do in every round but they take on added significance in rounds with such stellar competition.  That goal was to “win the box” for at least one hole.

Mission accomplished for that quite early in the round.  Two holes in, I carded a birdie two on hole 21 and leapt to the front of the line.  Didn’t last long when I bogeyed hole 22.  But another birdie on hole 25 put me back on the tee first for hole 26.

Bit of disaster struck on that hole though.  My tee shot came out of my hand a little early, clipped a tree and dove into the rough on the left.  At first, we weren’t sure I made the mandatory on the hole, but once we found my disc, we realized there was no way I got to where I was without making the mando first.  Too bad, in retrospect, because going to the drop zone with a penalty might have saved me a throw or two.  I found myself in a big hole created by a large fallen tree.  So I had an awkward side-hill lie and I was backed up against the roots of the fallen tree giving me very little room for a backswing.  It took me two throws, what were essentially putts, to get myself back out to the fairway, then two more throws to get to the green.  I putted in from 20 feet for a triple-bogey seven.

I followed that by gumming up my second shot following a perfect drive on 27 and taking a par 4.  Then I bogeyed 28 and parred 29 before being again the only birdie in the group on hole 30 and taking the box.  Hole 31 is a long par 5 in which the first throw is uphill at about a 45 degree angle to a landing zone.  I placed my drive well and had a good looking second shot until it clipped a tree late.  From there, I took two bad shots to get to about 30 feet then missed the putt to take a bogey six.

Missed a 25 foot birdie putt on hole 32 then dropped in a birdie 4 on hole 33.  Finished the round with bogeys on holes 34 and 36 to end up at 71, four over par.  Save for a couple holes, I didn’t feel like I played that much worse than the first round, but the score didn’t seem to reflect it. Once again, I’d managed to play worse, both overall and in actual number of throws, on the “easier” of the courses for the day.  It was bad enough to drop me from a tie for 3rd to a tie for 12th going into Sunday’s monster 27-hole round.  The heartening thing was there was only about three throws between 5th place and 16th, so I was not out of contention by any means.

Sun up at Tyler State Park. It was a brisk morning.
Sun up at Tyler State Park. It was a brisk morning.

Sunday morning dawned cooler and windier than Saturday did.  Autumn seemed to have arrived overnight, necessitating warming up and beginning the round with a jacket.  Fortunately, it didn’t stay on for long.

Started the round par, birdie, bogey, before settling into a run of 9 pars in 10 holes with just a bogey in the middle.  then I got into a yo-yo string of birdie-bogey on holes 31-36, managing just one par (hole 34).  After another par on hole 19, the disaster of the day came on hole 1.

The hole is a basic “L” shape fairway.  You throw 280 straight through a wood-lined narrow fairway to an open field, then turn hard right to go another 250 or so downhill to the basket.  The tricks to the hole, other than staying in the middle on the initial drive, is OB long on the tee shot and thus on the left side after you make the turn and also OB past the basket.

My tee shot it first available and kicked right into the weeds.  The only fortunate part was that the throw was bad enough that it didn’t even get to the thicker trees/bushes that lined most of the fairway.  So I had a reasonable window up and over the bushes and out into the field.  I hit the window perfectly, but I over-estimated the distance in my disc selection.  Instead of flying out to the field and turning right to land in the fairway, my shot flew out to the field and penetrated too far into the OB area before it turned right and came up about 3 feet short of getting back in-bounds.  Oh well, I was still in position to get up and down for a five.  Except my approach screamed by the basket and into the OB long.  From there, it was up and down for a triple-bogey seven. Yay.

I finished the round by going par, birdie, par, par, bogey.  Other than the disaster on hole 1, I was even for the round.  Hole 1 took my final score to a 3-over-par 109.  Good for winning my card, not good for moving up in the standings at all.  In fact, I technically dropped one place (as the massive tie for 12th was broken up) to 13th.  Still in the cash though, so that streak remained intact at seven straight events.

The great thing about the 27-hole round on Sunday is that play was wrapped up by around 1:30.  Awards were over by 3:00.  Everything from the event was broken down and put away by 4:00.  And a big group of us were able to go out for a scrumptious dinner and decompression, followed by a good two to three hour “goodbye” in the parking lot.  Those are always the best.

Next up on my schedule is another fun filled event called the Earl Cup, on October 10.  It pits two teams, one captained by yours truly and the other by the sitting NEFA president, in a Ryder Cup style match play event.  My team is defending the Cup this year, hoping to finally successfully retain it in a road match.


We’re Going Streaking

In my last posting, I mentioned that my next event would have two streaks at stake, one of cashing in that event every year I’ve played and one of cashing in my last five events overall.  Well, how about maybe adding another one to the mix: a winning streak.  Or at least the start of one, by Lou Brown’s definition.  Coming off a win at Coggshall, it was a possibility.

The Tournament of the Damned is a four-course, two-day monster of a tournament, the name of which is a clever reference to all four courses being Army Corps of Engineers dam sites.  Aside from the dam connections, all of these courses share similar traits with their mix of open field and wooded fairways, copious OB (water, spillways, roads, and more), and great use of elevation changes.

First up was Tully Lake in Royalston, MA. I typically enjoy playing here.  Good variety of shots ranging from the wide open crush to the hallway narrow gaps in the woods.  The front nine features a string of reachable wooded holes that you feel you messed up badly if you don’t deuce at least half of them (even though none are sure things).  I got through that five hole stretch getting three deuces and missing a 15-footer for a fourth.  Solid start before getting into the tougher stretch of the course.  Carded a par 4 on hole 8 and a birdie 2 on hole 9 before heading into the back of the course.

Hole 1 at Tully Lake in Royalston MA.  Photo courtesy of Brad Ayotte
Hole 1 at Tully Lake in Royalston MA.  Basket is straight ahead, about 35 feet from the edge of the lake. Photo courtesy of Brad Ayotte

Holes 10 and 12 are par-4s that require precise tee and approach throws to navigate the twisty-turny wooded fairways.  Mission accomplished there.  That was the last good part as my trouble began on the long par-3 14th hole.  When my drive was too wide and too straight to hit the turn properly, I had to scramble for a bogey four.  The trouble continued after a poor approach on hole 15 turned into another four.  I reversed the bogey train with a park-job deuce on hole 16.  Then I finished the round off with another bogey on 18 and a total score of 55.

The down side was that the score was bottom card material.  The up side was that it was a small field of Open players (7) and a grand total of four throws separated first from last at the end of the first round.  No one was out of contention as we headed to course #2, Barre Falls Dam in Hubbardston MA.

I’ve got a lot of history with Barre Falls.  It was installed on the day I graduated from college, so exactly two days before I moved to the area full time.  Perfect timing for me as it became my home course and I was responsible for organizing the first league as well as the first few tournaments held there.  I moved away about eleven years ago so it’s been a long time since I have played it regularly, but it still feels like home even if, thanks to some re-designs, very few of the holes have their original look and feel.  It features a bunch of big open booming holes and just as many shorter, tighter woods holes.

My round started on hole 2, one of the few short but not so tight holes.  Didn’t get the deuce I wanted to start with, but three is okay there. Then it was into the long booming stretch of the course with only one hole under 400 feet from hole 3 through hole 9.  And it was on that sub-400 footer that I carded my only birdie on the front nine.  I scored pars on everything else.

On the back nine, I picked up a good birdie two on hole 10, a tight, slightly uphill shot with a tough turn to the left.  I followed that up by failing to deuce what is one of the shortest, easiest holes on the course (fortunately, the whole Open division struggled with that one).  Another birdie two on hole 12 was followed by a string of pars until hole 17.  My roller drive went OB about 40 feet short of the basket, so I had to layup and take my bogey there.  I followed that with a birdie-3 on hole 18 and a par on hole 1, for a final score of 55 (again).  This elevated me into a three-way tie for second place, four throws behind the leader at the end of day one.

The bonus of this tournament being on a holiday weekend, being relatively small in terms of players (i.e. fast rounds), and on courses not far from where my parents live, I got to jet out after round two to spend some quality time with my family, including my adorable nieces (2 and 4 years old).  It was good not only to be done in time to have dinner with them, but the early riser 4-year-old was up and saw me off on both mornings with a hug for luck.

That hug luck paid off almost immediately on Sunday morning as my first throw of the day on hole 1 at Buffumville Lake came out way flatter and turned left way more than I intended.  It hit high on the OB rip-rap rocks and caromed all the way back down into the middle of the fairway in-bounds.  From there, I threw a much better shot to get on the green and convert the birdie-3.  Hole 2 was another birdie-3 to get myself into solo second place.

Hole 3 required another bit of luck for my drive to skip the last 10 feet or so out of the OB rip-rap rocks back in-bounds en route to a par 3.  After that, I tried to avoid having to rely on luck so much.  Park job birdies on holes 4 and 6, along with a par 4 on the always treacherous hole 9 allowed me to start creeping up on the leader.  A deuce on 12 moved me into a tie for the lead, a deuce on 13 got me into the lead, but a scrambling par on hole 14 dropped me back into a tie.

I played hole 15 to perfection (for me) for a three that put me back in the lead by one.  I tried to botch the lead away on hole 16 with a 3-putt bogey 4, but my closest competitor did the exact same thing so nothing was lost. I finished up with threes on the last two holes to card my best Buffumville score to date, 54, and take a three throw lead into the final round.

I’d like to say I felt comfortable and confident heading into the last round with a lead, but I was as nervous as I can remember being in a long time.  West Thompson Lake is one of those places where I can’t seem to have just an average round.  I either score well or I have a relatively bad round…nothing in the middle (see my result from the West Thompson Open in July…first round leader to last cash).  While I was up by 3 on second place, there was a three-way tie for third only 4 throws back.  Even last (7th) place was only 8 throws out and he is a player capable of putting a low score on the board very easily.  I felt like I couldn’t count anyone out.

Adding to all that is the fact that hole 1 gives me nightmares.  It’s such a short hole and it bends left to right so it appears to be very lefty-friendly.  But it’s not, at least not for this lefty.  I rarely ever play it well, and starting a round there rarely lends itself to a good time for me.  All I can do is try to hit the first gap and just hope the disc finds its way around the trees and as far up the fairway as it can.  When it does, I’m always pleasantly surprised.  Warming up, I parked the drive (always a bad sign).

Right on cue, I hit the first tree and barely made it halfway up the short fairway. It was in the middle, though, so it was an easy lay up to about 15 feet for what should have been a routine gimme putt.  Crisis averted.  Nightmare hole survived.  On with the round.  Nope, missed it.  Nearly air-balled it right.  I was fortunate than no one deuced the hole and I only lost one stroke to the group.

It’s not an overly long walk to the next tee, but it’s a walk nonetheless, and I needed it.  My mind was in overdrive, and not in a good way.  I had to stop to remind myself that I was still in the lead, there was plenty of golf left, plenty of holes I know I can play well in front of me, and one badly missed putt didn’t mean I lost the ability to putt all together.  Hole 2 is only 220 feet and downhill, very easy to overshoot by 15 feet and be left with an obstructed putt, so the tee shot can be touchy.  I was tentative and ended up short of the basket, but on line and about 25 feet away.  Still trying to pull my brain out of dark places, I reminded myself I’ve been making these putts all weekend, so why stop now?  I drained it for the deuce.  Dam broken, on with the rest of the round right?  On hole 3 and 4, I got into the circle and made the deuce putts there as well.  Now things were really rolling.  Perhaps the sun was going to shine through the storm clouds.

My drive on hole 5 was a bit high and caught so foliage that dropped it about 50 feet short.  I didn’t have a clean line at the basket so I decided to aim to the right of the basket and lay up.  Play smart, not dumb.  The object was to hit short and slide up under the basket.  I hit about 20 feet short and stopped cold because instead of hitting the flat, I hit a tree root.  Not a big deal, I’m in the circle, I can make this.  Only I didn’t.  I splashed out right just like I did on hole 1.  Yikes, maybe I’m in for a roller coaster, hard to find a three kind of round after all.  Nerves and dark clouds started to return, just in time for a back-up on hole 6 and some more internal pep talks.

Finally managed an odd number with a three on hole 6 and another on hole 7.  Then we got to tee 8. Eschewing all the fancy approaches I always seem to try on this hole (rollers, sweeping anhyzers, etc), I just went straight up the gut and gave myself a 12 footer for deuce.  Simple.  A lone par on hole 9 meant I had a five throw lead with just nine to play.  But that nine included the monster hole 10.  At the West Thompson Open in July, I carded a par 4 and an OB riddled 6.  It can definitely be a round breaking hole.

Hole 10 at West Thompson Lake. Basket is way up at the top of the hill, just left of the rocks, which are OB. - Photo courtesy of Brad Ayotte
Hole 10 at West Thompson Lake. Basket is way up at the top of the hill, just left of the rocks, which are OB. – Photo courtesy of Brad Ayotte

I went with my old stand-by on this tee, the backhand roller.  If I don’t get it over enough, I roll into the OB rocks.  If I get over it too much, it rolls too far left into the woods.  But if I get it right, it rolls through the bottleneck gap, past the trees, and most importantly, finishes left and away from the OB.  It’s probably an even split in terms of outcome…1/3 left, 1/3 right, 1/3 perfect.  But 2/3 of the time it means no OB and par is achievable.

I got the perfect result this time.  Right through the bottleneck, flirting with the rocks a bit before finishing left, away from the OB.  It was easily the longest roller I’ve thrown on the hole, close to 400 feet away from the tee.  Suddenly, I found myself in an unfamiliar position on the hole…close enough that I could risk throwing an anhyzer shot over the OB and actually get to the green before it had time to slow and fade back into the rocks.  So I went for it.  It flattened out beautifully, hitting just short of the pin and skidding into the pole.  The ricochet left a 15-footer for my first birdie-3 ever on the hole.  Now I was up six with eight to play.

At that point, I mentally shifted into cruise mode…safe, safe, safe.  Don’t go for anything, don’t screw anything up.  That meant threes down the line from holes 11-17, one of which was a birdie on the par-4 hole 15. I decided to ruin what was a perfect back nine of 3s by hitting a 20 foot putt on 18 for deuce and a final score of 51.  Total score of 215 and an 8-throw win.

So there’s a long winded post to tell the story of a long weekend of golf and how I was able to notch my second consecutive singles win.  I’m not all that confident I’ll be able to stretch the streak to three wins though, but I intend to give it my best shot.  My next tournament is the Eric C Yetter Champions Cup A-tier in Newtown PA.  Bit stiffer competition there so an actual win will be a heck of an accomplishment.  Finishing in the money at this one is a win in my book, which would still extend a streak as my cash streak now stands at six straight events.  Can’t wait, as the Yetter is one of my favorite tourneys of the year.