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.
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.