Posted in Golf

Blackwolf Run Day 1

The day I have been anticipating for a year finally arrived.  We got to the course early to give us plenty of time to warm up as the range is rather small.  I was playing the River course and starting with no 15 in the shotgun start.  My playing partners are Marc and Jay, both from the Chicago area.  We were the second group on 15 so we watched the first group tee off.  One giant slice, one duffed shot and a one decent swing and they are off.  I think in some ways it helps me see other players struggle on the first tee and it makes me loosen up a bit.  In our turn I swing driver and get one in the fairway.  My approach was left and nestled down in some thick grass.  Unfortunately it took two chips to get on and a one putt later, I bogeyed the first hole.  The next hole was more challenging, a long par 5 with a bunker running down the left of the fairway.  My tee shot ends up in the bunker.  I played a 9 iron out and misjudged how far I hit it.  I ended too far right and have a tree blocking my approach.  I play a wedge to hit down in the fairway, but I gave it too much and it bounced out of the fairway and into the pond protecting the green.  I took a drop at 105 yards and played my 52 degree wedge.  I caught it a little fat and it ended up missing the green and hitting the pond.  Try it again and hit a much better shot.  Two putts and I have a 9.  I followed that up with a nice pitching wedge on a par 3 that I put to about 12′.  I bounced back with a birdie.

After that I had a mix of bogey/doubles until I get to 7.  This was par 4 uphill with a gulch to carry with about a 150 yard shot.  My driver goes hard right into the trees and disappears.  Next try, I hit a low burner than hits the side of the gulch.  Next try, same result.  I switch to a hybrid and I hit it hard left, deeper into the gulch.  Finally, hitting nine on the tee I hit a shot into play. Four penalty strokes off the tee and I end with a 15.

The next hole was even harder, an elevated tee  down to a fairway that runs to the right guarded by a hill that blocks some of the view.  The course provides a forecaddy as it is impossible to see the landing area.  In spite of the blow up on the last hole, I hit a fantastic drive and end with a bogey on the hole. On the next hole, 9, I chip in for my only par of the day.

I have one more memorable hole on no 11.  This was a par 5 the runs in a semicircle with the river guarding the right side.  I hit a nice drive and using my gps I see have about 175 to a bunker across the river and into the fairway.  This would leave me with maybe 130 into the green.  I played my 8 iron figuring this would be plenty of club to clear the river and not end up in the sand.  I hit a slightly fat and splash.  Drop and repeat the same thing.  I change clubs (I can’t remember what my strategy was at this point) and rinse another ball.  I finally get over and score a 12.

At this point I have lost 10 balls on the day and I have two left, with three holes to play.  My goal was to not have to ask to borrow a ball.  I managed to hold on to those 2 and posted a 112.  The day was very discouraging and again I was DFL in my flight.  I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself.  My technique broke down hard on 3 holes.  The rest of the day was decent and if not for the 9 penalty strokes I would have been close to the middle of the pack.


Posted in Golf

Countdown to Blackwolf Run T-1 Whistling Straits

Chad and I landed in Milwaukee and headed north for a round at Whistling Straits.  It was a great day to play, mid 60s, sunny and a light breeze.  We had a bite to eat, warmed up and headed to the range.  The swing felt decent, better than it had in the tournament at Falcon Ridge.

When we head to the first tee, we met the guys we were paired with, both who were playing in tomorrow’s tournament at Blackwolf. The swing does OK on the course.  My driver was more predictable and I hit 8 fairways.  My irons were a bigger problem.  I had only one GIR on the day.  My usual high draw was a weak cut mixed in with a few thin shots.  My saving grace was the putter and I ended with 32 putts and no 3 putts.  I shot a 104 on the day.

It was a great day and good company.


Posted in Golf

Countdown to Blackwolf Run T-6 Falcon Ridge

I drove to the Falcon Ridge tournament knowing my swing wasn’t dependable.  I warmed up on the range and my driver hadn’t changed.  So I took a different approach.  I decide to leave the driver in the bag except for a few holes.

First tee, I hit hybrid as it is a short par 4.  Second tee, 5 wood. In the end I hit the driver 6 times.  None of them were very good, but I managed to not get into trouble.  My 5 wood was dependable and is fine except for long par 4s.

I played decent in the tournament except for a couple of holes.  I played a penalty free round and put up a 94 to come in second.  My short game was pretty good, in spite of missing some putts I normally would make.

I feel the tournament was good for me.  I didn’t have my A game, but I was able to score well enough to stay in competition.

Posted in Golf

Countdown to Blackwolf Run T-7

Since last season one weekend has been circled on my calendar and that is my return to Blackwolf Run.  I have played the GCAT major tournament there for the past two years and my performance has been a disappointment.  I love the courses and they are tough tracks.  The problem has been my swing.  I played those tournaments at a time that my swing didn’t feel right and it showed in my score.  One year I was battling the shanks.  One year my driver was a mystery.

I vowed last year that I would be prepared for the 2016 Blackwolf Run major and I would beat my previous scores. Considering my previous scores, I’m not setting the bar too high.  My benchmark is below 95 in both rounds, which is very attainable.  My handicap ballooned to a 21 last season and I have dropped it by a stroke so far this spring. If I can play anywhere near my index, I should be able to beat 95 in both rounds.

I’m not concerned about how I fare in my flight.  This year there are 24 players in the flight including last year’s winner and a guy who just won another major in Fla last month. My sole focus  is on my game.

With this focus in my mind, I have been preparing for this tournament.  I have spent extra time with my instructor, working on my swing.  I had a session last weekend and it was great.  He tweaked my driver swing and I was hitting beautiful straight drives.  On the Monday after the lesson, I took it to my home course, Heritage Park.  Driver was very good, though not as good as in the lesson. I nearly broke my personal best on that course, having a putt for a 79 lip out on 18.  Still, I was happy to get an 80 and my game seemed solid.

Cut to Thursday and I head to the range to keep working on the driver swing.  Everything that worked in the lesson and my round at Heritage was gone.  My drivers were pushes with plenty of distance or weak snap hooks with no distance.  I focused on the changes my instructor gave me, but it didn’t matter. Maybe one drive  out of five would be acceptable.

I spend some time in my garage doing practice swings, paying attention to my balance and tempo.  My swing feels great, but when I take it to the range on Saturday the result is still bad.  The next day I have a tournament at Falcon Ridge, a course where it pays to be able to control your driver.  I can’t say my confidence is high.

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2015 Golf Year in Review

I skipped this review last year so I am two years behind.  There wasn’t much to say about 2014.  I did play Nationals, but also had some injury issues.

This year I decided to make a change.  I started the year early thanks to a mild winter.  Unfortunately my instructor didn’t seem to have any time. The previous year I had a lot of trouble scheduling lessons.  After trying again to schedule a lesson and finding it would be a month, I looked for a new instructor.  I tried a couple before I found a good one who fit my learning style.  It took a while for the changes to show in the results.  I started the tournament season slowly. By June my confidence in my swing was improving. While my scores weren’t as low as I wanted, they were good enough to win my flight four times from June to August. Part of this is due to the competition.  If you look at the indexes in my flight, no one was really playing to their potential. My winning scores were low 90s and one 88. In past years mid 80s were necessary to win my flight.

The biggest improvement to my swing was the iron play.  I have always struggled getting GIR.  For the year I averaged 4.2, but for the second half of the season I improved to 5.5. And in the first three tournaments of the 2016 season I averaged 5.7. Another improvement was my wedge play. I sued to avoid anything under 75 yards as it was a partial swing. My pitch shots are vastly better, to the point where I don’t worry about the approach shot distance.  If I miss the green, I should have an easy chip. I saw an increase in my distances too. Every club went up 10 yards. When this started it was tough for me to judge as it wasn’t consistent. And there were times when the distance was completely unexpected. I had an approach shot at Blackwolf Run that was into the wind and 125 yards to the middle of the green. I hit my PW and cleared the green. The GameGolf said I hit it 148 yards.

Goals from 2015

  1. Win my flight: I came in second but it was close.
  2. 32 putts/round: I came back on this one, up to 35. It was getting better during the second half where it was 34.
  3. 9 GIR/round: I improved a lot here in the 2nd half when I was up to 5.5/
  4. 10 Fairways/round: I am getting closer to matching this, up to 8 in the 2nd half
  5. < 2 penalties/round: This one was a struggle. Even in good rounds I had trouble avoiding penalties.  I was at 2.1 for the year.
  6. Tour Index of 16: This was a fail as my index went up to 20.
  7. Tour scoring average below 90: I got close with 90.4 in the second half.
  8. Hole in one: Still waiting
  9. Golf Travel: I played in KS, MO, IA, WI, AR, and NM this year.

Favorite Courses

  1. Whistling Straits
  2. Black Mesa
  3. Shoal Creek

New Courses to Me

Whistling Straits, Black Mesa, Turkey Creek, Belle Vista-Highlands, Ole Hawthorne

Best Round

Tournament at Shoal Creek.

Best Shot

This was tough to pick. I had more birdies this year than in the previous 5 season combined.  None of them really stick out.

Most Disappointing Round

Blackwolf Run was a disappointment. Swing never felt good, ended up DFL.

Goals for 2016

  1. Perform better in majors: I’ve played only 4 majors so far and it is time to play to my potential. I will play 2 or 3 this year to give me more opportunity.
  2. 9 GIR/Round: This is attainable
  3. Break 80 in a tournament: There are several courses in 2016 that will provide good opportunities for this: Prairie Highlands, Falcon Lakes and Falcon Ridge.
  4. Get Tour Index to 16: I have a long way to go, but I can do this if the season starts well.
  5. Hole in one: Still hoping.
  6. Keep focus: I had some trouble keeping my focus especially when I had a difficult playing partner. One in particular talked constantly through the round making it impossible to focus.
Posted in Uncategorized

2013 Golf Year in Review

This was an interesting year for me and my game. Back in March I had a lesson with my instructor and we agreed that I needed to work on the mental side of the game. My swing was fine, the problem was it didn’t hold up under pressure. It was the first lesson I had where I didn’t walk away with drills to work on fixing an issue with my swing. My swing wasn’t perfect, but it worked. I’ve noticed this when I was on the range. My swing does what I want for the most part. I would spend an hour hitting balls and not feel a need to tweak my swing.
The trouble was handling the pressure in the tournaments. I’d get to the first tee and my swing would be tight and not feel anything like it did on the range the day before. I’d spend the next 18 trying to get the feel back.  One of the things my instructor gave me was visualization. I would focus on visualizing part of my swing, either the target or the feel, it made handling the pressure easier and easier to maintain focus. The visualization started after a couple bad tournaments.  I had 7 tournaments left on the schedule and I decided to restart my season from that point. I set goals for those tournaments, score less than 90, 32 putts or less, 9 GIR, etc. I’m really proud of how I did these tournaments. I had 7 of 9 rounds at 90 or less, 32 putts or less in 4 rounds and beat my tournament scores at 5 courses. My scoring average in those tournaments was 88 which is 5 strokes better than my season long average.
The highlight of the season came at the final tour event in KC, the tour’s City Championship at Shoal Creek. The first round was good. I had a little trouble off the tee, but my approaches and short game were excellent. I wasn’t making many putts and complained to one of the other players about it. He commented that I shouldn’t complain as I was leaving myself a tap in on every hole. On 10 and 11 I had 40′ and 30′ putts which I put to within 6″, including one that lipped out. I had one of my best shots on 16. Wallace hit his approach first and put his ball to 5′ from about 90 yards. I went next from 70 yards and put my ball inside his about 3′ from the hole. We both converted the birdies on that hole. I played the back nine really well, shooting a 40 for 86 overall, which beat my best tournament score at Shoal by 7 strokes. I was in third, four strokes back from the leader and three behind the guy in second. On Sunday I played with the two leaders. I started with a bogey streak and didn’t feel like I was very sharp. The leaders had some trouble of their own. At the turn I had narrowed the gap but was still behind by a stroke with a 43. I don’t track my own score but as I played the back nine I realized I was playing a great round. I had a string of pars with a birdie mixed in. On 18 I hit my worst shot of the tournament but still got a double, putting up a 38 (+3) on the back for an 81. My previous best tournament score at any course was 86 which I had three times. My 86-81 gave me a one shot victory and my first win in the Jones flight. I was very pleased with how I handled the pressure. Even though I didn’t know what my score was, I was aware of how well I was playing and that I might be in the lead. On the back nine I had 4 GIR and 14 putts. I felt the pressure on the putts for the last three holes. On 16 my first putt of 25′ left me at 6′. A 6′ putt isn’t a gimme but I made the par. On 17 my tee shot went a little long and I chipped to 4′. I had to back away from the putt as the nerves were getting to me. I sunk the putt for an up and down. On 18 after the bad tee shot, the approach going right, I chipped to 6′. Again I felt the pressure, more because the hole wasn’t going well and I could end up spoiling a good round. I sunk the putt for 4 putts in the final three holes. Being able to handle the pressure is something I will take with me to future tournaments.
In my next tournament, the Iowa tour championship at the Tournament Club of Iowa, I had another good tournament. I started the first round well, but ran into trouble on the last few holes of the front 9. At the turn I sat in the cart and tried to clear my mind and get my focus back.  I started a string of pars on the back. One of my playing partners nearly jinxed me after my 4th par in a row by commenting on it. I managed to make a 5th par, but on 15 I put up a double. I followed the double up with three more pars for a 38 (+2) on the back, with 8 pars and 8 GIR. My 87 for the first tied me for 2nd. The second round was tougher. It was much hotter and I struggled with my focus all day.  I did better on the front than I day before, but played poorly on the back, ending with a 94 and a third place finish.
The mechanical change I had this season was for chipping and putting. My instructor got me to change to chipping with an 8 iron. At first I had trouble judging the speed of 8 iron chips, but with practice it became natural.  Now it is a nice weapon for getting up and down.
The bigger change was to my putting routine. Previously I’d spend a lot of time lining up my putts with intermediate targets. I never seemed to improve my putting with this technique, so my instructor scrapped it. Now I visualize what the putt will do, stand over the ball with my eyes on the target line, aim the putter then take my stance. This is more feel based and relies on my ability to visualize the break. The results have been good. In my first tournament with the new technique I had 29 putts. Both days at Shoal Creek I had 32 putts and only one three putt for the two days. I have so much more confidence with my short game now.
I also found that I was hitting my irons off the toe.  I used some impact tape and I was consistently on the toe. I changed my address and started hitting it on the sweet spot.  The biggest benefit was an additional 10-15 yards.  I’ve never been the kind of golfer seeking more distance, except with the driver.  Finding the additional distance made a big difference to my game. I’m taking one less club on most shots and that gives me more confidence.  Hitting a 6 instead of a 5 or a choked down 4 is a lot surer shot.  I’m also seeing more spin on the greens.
I believe my course management is improved. When I look at the scorecard I check the distances and think about what will be a comfortable distance for my shot into the green. Then I figure out how to get there. If the fairway is generous, I’ll leave myself 70 yards, if not, I’ll go back to a pitching wedge or 9 iron distance. I was talking with another player before a tournament and he was worried about the course. When he looked at the layout he only saw the trouble, trees on the right, water on the left, bunkers in front of every green. I was surprised by this as I never think that much about the trouble. It may change my club off the tee so I have a higher percentage shot and the best chance to get a green in reg. I have been able to focus on the swing and the target and not get distracted by the other things.
2013 Goals
1. Win my flight. I managed to win my flight, though only because the guy who looked like he would win was promoted to the next flight.
2. 32 putts/round. Close, down to 33 putts this year.
3. 9 GIR/round. I started at 5, ended with 6.
4. 10 fairways/round. I averaged 8.5/round, so I am getting better.
5. < 2 penalties/round. I was just over 2/round so there was improvement. This was a bigger issue before.
6. Tour index of 16. I made progress going from 19.8 to 17.3 and I am headed in the right direction.
7. Tour scoring average below 90. I didn’t make this one, down to 93.7, a stroke better than last season.
8. Hole in one. Still waiting.  I did win closest to the hole in two tournaments.
Favorite courses:
1. Shoal Creek — can’t wait to play again
2. Sand Creek Station
3. Coldwater Links
4. The Preserve at Rathbun Lake
New courses to me:
Stonebridge Meadows, Coldwater Links, Sand Creek Station, Tomahawk Ridge, Cardinal Hill, Lakewood Oaks
Best round:
See tournament at Shoal Creek
Best shot:
Shoal Creek no. 16 (see above).  Also in the first round at TCI on 18 I had a challenging shot. The 18th hole is a tough one with a pond running up the left and bunkers/tall grass on the right. I had 172 yards to the pin.  I hit a 6 iron and it flew perfect, right at the flag. It left me a 12’ uphill putt.
Most disappointing round:
The tournament at Prairie Highlands. This is a course I’ve always played well. Not this day, trouble off the tee, couldn’t putt and 5 penalties.
Goals for 2014:
1. Earn promotion to the Sarazen flight. This might be the toughest. I need to lower my tour index to below 16.0. I have been playing to my handicap in tournaments lately so this will take overall improvement. This isn’t a case a where I have some bad scores weighing down my index.  I need to lower my tour index by 1.4 strokes, which is doable.
2. Tour scoring average below 87. If I want the promotion, I will need this too.
3. 9 GIR/round. This will improve my scoring.
4. Break 80 in a tournament. I got close this year. It is only a matter of time.  I will put up a good front and back and beat this. I can see this happening at Prairie Highlands or Shoal Creek.
5. Play in the Nationals. I’ve never played in the National Championships, even though I have qualified multiple times. Sawgrass here I come.
6. Have some golf travel. I didn’t travel this year at all. Next year will include trips to AZ, a couple of majors and maybe CO or NM.

Posted in Golf

2012 Golf Year in Review

I made some good progress in 2012, but ultimately didn’t find success.

Goal #1 Break 80  This was successful and I managed to do it twice. The first was at Minor Park and I followed it up a couple of weeks later at Shoal Creek.  The funny thing about both rounds was that I wasn’t hitting great shots, just not making bad ones.

Goal #2 Average 8 GIR/round I started the year at 4 GIR/round and ended at 5 GIR/round. I found the best practice for this was playing par 3 courses. Those helped my approach shots.  In my last tournament of the season I got 9 GIR at Shoal Creek, so I am capable of hitting this. This one stays on the books for 2013.

Goal #3 Average 32 putts/round I started the year at 35 putts/round and finished with 34 putts/round. I need to keep practicing. I feel like I am a better putter than the stats show. The area that gives me trouble is the 6′-12′ putts. I need to make more of those. I am a good lag putter and a good at under 6′, but the rest aren’t so good.

Goal #4 Lower index to 12.0 My index started at 16.1 and stayed mostly the same, ending at 15.3. I’m not keeping this on the books for 2013.  I’m not concerned about my index, but the things that affect my index.

Goal #5 Reduce penalties In 2011 I averaged 3.3/round and I got that down to 2.6 in 2012. I had a couple of tournaments that were penalty free. I need to keep working on this.

Goal #6 Shoot more in the 80’s than the 90’s and never in the 100’s I did fairly well at this one.  My 80’s rounds were nearly equal to my 90’s.  I did have 5 rounds over 100. I need to apply this to my tournament play more than anything.

Goal #7 Spend less money on golf I did well on this. I didn’t feel like I wasted as much as I had been, even though I played about as much I normally do. I believe I bought only 2 pairs of shoes for the year. I did play fewer tournaments than the previous year, but that won’t be the case in 2013.  The schedule is full of courses I want to play.

My regret for the year was not winning any tournaments. I played well in a few tournaments and came in 2nd or 3rd, but someone managed to play better that day. A couple of my main competitors ended up getting promoted to the next flight by the end of the season. I was in the middle of the pack on the Jones flight. My tour index improved but I am still a ways from getting promoted to the Sarazen flight.

Goals for 2013

1. Win my flight  This counts for winning at least one tournament and winning the season.  I am capable of this and I know I will accomplish it.

2. 32 putts/round  See last year

3. 9 GIR/round  See last year

4. < 2 penalties/round  See last year.  This one is a good measure for how I do in a tournament.

5. 10 fairways/round  It is a lot easier getting on the green from the short grass. I know I can do this one.  I’ve had tournaments were I missed only 1 or 2 fairways.  I may not be a long hitter but I can hit it straight.

6. Tour index of 16  I’m not f0cused on lowering it to the point of promotion, but if I meet the other goals, this will happen.

7. Tour scoring average below 90  See goal 6.

8. Hole in one  I never had this on my list because I always figured if you wanted it, it wouldn’t happen.  I’ll admit it, I want one.

Highlights of 2012

Best round  My tournament round at Drumm Farm was the best. I played penalty free, shot my first tournament round in the 80’s and still came in 3rd (beat by 2 guys now in the Sarazen flight). I played steady and didn’t make many mistakes. That was one of the few rounds I felt like I played to my capability. Funny thing is I couldn’t tell you about any one good shot for the entire day.

Best shot  There are a couple though nothing was earth shattering. At the tournament at Sycamore Ridge I had a great drive on 15, a short dogleg right par 4. I went over the trees in the dogleg and ended up about 20 yards short of the green. A short pitch and one putt and I had a birdie and a skin.

Disappointing Round  This is an easy one, the round at the Cove at the Lodge of the Four Seasons, a regional major for the Golf Channel Am Tour. I started this round really well, felt like my swing was predictable. I was playing right with my competitors in my threesome.  On the 7th hole, (no. 16) I couldn’t find the fairway. I had 5 tee shots before I got it in play, and ended with a 14 on the hole.  The sad thing is the hole wasn’t difficult.  And that hole screwed me.  If I had put up a double bogey instead of a 14, I would have finished 3rd in my flight instead of 9th. I really had some nice shots on that course and I was really hoping for another chance this year.  Unfortunately they changed the site again for the major and it is moving to Branson. The 14 will be my worst hole ever in competition. At least I hope it will.

Favorite Courses I played in 2012

1. Firekeeper

2. Harvester

3. Creekmoor

4. The Preserve at Rathbun Lake

New Courses to Me

Fred Arbanas, Firekeeper, Creekmoor, The Preserve at Rathbun Lake, Jester Park, The Deuce at the National, Painted Hills, Sunflower Hills, The Ridge/The Cove at the Lodge of the Four Seasons, Chamberlyne, Eagle Creek, Harvester

Noted to play in 2013

Tomahawk Hills (been meaning to play this for the past few years), Hillcrest, Alvamar, Paradise Pointe

Also I am going to break 90 at Swope Memorial if it kills me.