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.
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.
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.