It’s fun when you do something multiple times, in different ways each time, and always seem end up with the same result. That’s the Newton Hill Open for me. Last weekend was the fourth annual for that event and my third consecutive year playing it.
Two years ago, I shot 55-49-25 for a total of 129 and second place. Last year, I shot 54-50-25 for a total of 129 and third place. I felt pretty sure I had the right number in mind to put myself in contention, then it was just a matter of doing it.
The first round started off solidly enough with a string of three straight birdies on holes 6, 7, and 8 then a few pars to follow. It wasn’t until hole 14 that things went a little bit sideways after an errant drive led to a bogey 4. On the long downhill hole 15, a fortuitous tree hit dropped my drive about 35 feet away and I hit the putt for a birdie. A less fortuitous tree hit left my drive short on 16, and I shorted my par putt for another 4. From there, birdies came on 18, 1, and 3 to finish with a 52 (-6), which was just good enough to make the lead card for round 2.
Round 2 began well enough with a drop-in birdie on hole 1. Then the putting woes kicked in for a stretch. I don’t want to call them the “yips” because I’ve had the yips and this wasn’t them. It probably is better described as ‘lazy” putting but I wasn’t being lazy. Every putt I missed either hit the front rim or was a little bit to the weak side and didn’t catch enough chains to stick. They all needed just a little more oomph.
On the fortunate side, all of these missed putts were for birdie so it ultimately meant the difference between a good round and a great round. I did bogey hole 5 due to a poor drive but it wasn’t until hole 8 that I carded another birdie thanks to a parked drive. Another drop-in birdie on the par-4 hole 9 allowed me to finish the front nine in decent position.
I started the back nine off with a big birdie on hole 10. The feature of this hole is the fairway that slopes down severely from left to right, with the basket set on that same slope making a very fast and treacherous green. My drive was pin high but uphill of the basket by about 25 feet. I threw a bit of caution to the wind and went for the putt despite the risk of a much longer return putt if I missed and went down the hill. My thinking was that given the way I’d missed everything short to that point in the round, the worst that would happen is I’d front-rim it and hopefully have a drop-in for par. Having the lower target paid off with a made putt.
After another low miss on hole 11, I birdied the par-4 hole 12. Three more pars led to hole 16 and the turning point of my day. I knew I was starting to fatigue from the heat and the hill and all the low putts, so I “disced up” for the last uphill drive of the round. It was a wise decision because the drive came out low (shocking, I know) and clipped a low bush in front of the tee. It didn’t take much out of it but just enough that it cut the dogleg corner short. It had enough steam and luck to sneak through and find the green. I made the putt…the only birdie putt of any length other than hole 10 all round.
Another birdie (drop-in variety) on hole 17 and a low miss on my birdie attempt on 18 gave me another 52 for the round and a 104 for the day. 104 was good enough to make the final safari 6 the previous two years and it was just good enough to make it again, this time as part of a massive tie for 4th place (top 4 plus ties made the final).
Whatever was ailing my putting game during the second round disappeared during the safari round. Whether it was a second wind countering fatigue or just a stroke of luck that I avoided low/short putting for six holes, I don’t know. I hit three straight putts from outside the circle and another tough line around a tree en route to a 24 for the round. Good enough to break free of the tie for fourth as well as pass one of the players ahead of me to finish in third place for the second year in a row.
52-52-24 for a total of 128…one throw better than each of the previous two years. I’ll just chalk that up to the changes made to the safari layout rather than deign to think I actually might have improved at all. 🙂
The day wasn’t quite over yet though, as there were no aces on the day so everyone got to participate in a CTP throw-off for the pot. I’m not a big fan of these in general, but at least for this one, it was a real hole (18) rather than a random tee/target at an awkward distance or angle. The pot was to be split evenly three ways, much to my chagrin as I nearly hit the ace and ended up with the closest drive to the pin.
Just my luck as I’ve had the closest shot in two of these ace throw-off contests in my career, both times the pot was split evenly rather than the closest player getting the biggest share (or the whole pot). Oh well, at least the throw was caught on video (posted on my Twitter).
This week is my favorite weekend of the year: Yetter weekend. Hopefully I can keep the momentum and my current cashing streak going and have some fun as well.