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.

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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.

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.

Posted in Golf

Midseason Update

It has been a good year so far. The AmTour season has five weeks left. I’ve played in nine tournaments so far. I opened the season with a really good score on a tough course. Another player had a better rounds, so I came in solo 2nd. I haven’t bettered that finish since then, though I did finish T3 in the most recent event.

I’ve had some struggles this year. My driver has been hit-or-miss. In some tournaments it is great, in others it is unpredictable. In my last tournament at Drumm Farm it was on and I had some great drives. My putting has been improved over previous seasons. My biggest issue has been getting on the greens.

Highlights:

Sycamore Ridge: Earned 3 skins all on the back 9, including no. 16.

Drumm Farm: Best tournament score so far, no penalties. Score was also a new personal best for that course.

Stone Canyon: Shooting a 41 on the front.

I’ve continued my lesson with Julie Roberts and I am seeing progress. This year I have beat my personal best on five different courses. My index hasn’t dropped much, but I haven’t put up so many bad scores.

My plan for the rest of the AmTour season is to keep improving. I need to avoid tension and keep myself focused on fundamentals and keep my swing loose. I want to have results, but I’m not concerned with my place in the tournaments. If I play a good round and finish 5th, I am cool with that.

Posted in Golf

Stone Canyon

The first tournament of the 2012 GC AmTour season here in KC was on April 1 at Stone Canyon Golf Club.  Stone Canyon is a newer course and was designed by Greg Norman.  It is known as one of the tougher courses in KC with very fast greens.  I have played it several times in the past and found it a tough test.  The greens are deceptive.  It may look like is breaks one way, but end up breaking hard in the opposite direction. The greens complexes create deception by the mounding around the green.  I played a practice round a few weeks ago and broke my personal best with a 91.

In the offseason I have been practicing a lot.  We had an unusually mild winter, so I was able to hit the range and play some rounds.  Leading up to the tournament I managed to play 9 rounds before April, which is amazing for Kansas City.  I even got in a lesson a couple of weeks before the tournament.  I developed a habit of getting stuck, which led to fat shots or blocks to the right. My instructor tweaked my posture and that seems to have fixed the issue for now.

My index dropped down to 16 at the end of handicap season so I moved up to the Jones flight (16-20 index). Stone Canyon was my first tournament in the the higher flight. I prepared a lot for this.  I practiced on fast greens knowing how difficult the greens would be. When I hit the range I would play the front 9 in my head and pick targets and distances that I would face on the course. I was nervous in the days leading up.  Playing with better players made me want to prove myself and not embarrass myself either.

On Sunday my tee time was 12:30 and it was very warm and windy.  No. 1 was a short par 4, so I teed off with a hybrid, which I put in the fairway.  Got on the green and two putted for a par.  Bogeyed the next two holes, parred the next two.  I was keeping the ball in the fairway and out of trouble.  My putting wasn’t great, but I wasn’t three putting.  We make the turn and I realize I had a handful of pars and the rest were all bogeys.  In a way that relaxed me.  I didn’t have to worry about embarrassing myself.  I was even competing in the better flight. On the back I ran into a little trouble.  I was in a greenside bunker on 10 that took me two to get out and onto the green.  On 11 I landed past the green, chipped on and took my first three putt. A couple of holes later and the wind has really picked up.  On 13, a long par 5, I was faced with a slice wind.  I aimed my shot down the left side and figured the wind would carry it back to the fairway.  No, the drive was straight as could be.  I still put up a bogey in spite of my first bad drive of the day.  On 14 I lost the ball I had played with the entire round.  I finished the round okay.  When I added up my score I found I had a 41 on the front and a 52 on the back.  My 93 was enough to give me second place in the Jones flight out of 13 players. I couldn’t have been happier with my performance.  My preparation paid off.

Posted in Golf

2011 Golf Year in Review

The 2011 golf season is coming to a close.  The leaves are falling and the courses will be tougher to play. My rounds are winding down, though I will keep practicing. Now is a good time to reflect on my progress towards my goals for 2011.

Goal#1 Break 80. This was my most unrealistic goal of the bunch and I nearly did it. I had one round at Heritage Park of 80, though it was two separate 9 hole rounds. It still counts for handicap purposes. I did break my personal best for 9 holes with a 38 on the front, beating my previous best of 41. That was the best I ever played, finishing with 6 straight pars.

Goal #2 Average 32 putts per round. I fell short of this. Last year I averaged 36 putts/round. This year I got down to 35/round. I still have a lot of work to do on my putting. I had some instruction on this and I feel like my stroke is sound. My trouble is reading the break. I’m really good at burning the edges, not so good at sinking putts.

Goal #3 Lower index to 16.0. I got very close with this one. I started the year at 19.8 and I finished the year with a 16.2. Back in April/May I put up some terrible scores and my index went up to over 21. I am pleased to lower it by 5 strokes since then, mostly thanks to my instructor.

Goal #4 Play with more consistency. This one is a fail for me. I seem to have less consistency overall. Within a round I could real off par after par and pepper with triple bogeys and penalty shots. I had some great scores and I’d follow it up with a spectacularly bad scores. The best example of this is the Major at TPC Deere Run. It was a two day tournament back in April. I played a practice round on Friday and played a great round, shooting a 93. I played the same ball until I rinsed my approach on 18. The year before the winner had shot s 94-95, so I was pumped up about my chances. The next day I was terrible and shot 25 strokes worse, a 118, one of my worst scores in years. I recovered a little the next day with a 108, still 15 strokes worse than the practice round. I did manage to finish 7th in my flight out of 12. My consistency has improved since I found my instructor, but I have a long way to go. I can attribute some of this losing focus. It isn’t the case where I have too many swing thoughts, but not having any. My mind blanks and I forget to pay attention to the fundamentals. Doing that is an easy way to get a bad shot that ends up with a penalty stroke. My penalty strokes were up for this year in spite of lowering my index and my scoring average. If I can eliminate the penalties, my index would drop considerably. On the range I am a much better player than last year. I go through range sessions where I can’t hit a bad shot. It would seem my problems are more mental than technical. I’ll be spending some time with Bob Rotella in the offseason.

Now that my index is 16.2 I can move up a flight in the Golf Channel Am Tour. I’ve looked at how my scores compared to the Jones flight. I had tournaments where I would have been 1st, 2nd and 4th, the rest towards the back of the pack if not dead last. The Tour also uses a tournament index to flight players. This index is tougher, best 7 scores of last 9 tournaments, so this will be worse than your official index unless you are really consistent. Mine is over 21, so technically I could stay in the Snead flight. The Jones flight on the KC Tour is very competitive, usually with 7-10 players, whereas the Sneads usually have 4-5. I am going to move up to the Jones. I realize I won’t be as competitive, but in a way that is a good thing. It would mean less pressure for me, less expectations. I had high expectations for this season based on the success I had in my first season and I think that hurt my performance.

Goals for 2012

1. Break 80. This will happen and if I had to guess it will be at Heritage Park. This is a course that suits my game and I have some good scores here.

2. Average 8 GIR/round. I am at 4 GIR/round now. I don’t know if I can reach 8, but this is an area of needed improvement and will dramatically help my scores.

3. Average 32 putts/round. Maybe I should get a belly putter…

4. Lower index to 12.0. I think this is possible if I can get more GIR and eliminate penalties.

5. Reduce penalties. I average 3.3/round now which is worse than last year. Ultimately I would like to get it to 0, but below 2 would be more attainable.

6. Shoot more in the 80’s than 90’s, never in the 100’s.

7. Spend less money on golf. This has nothing to do with my game, but I realize I have an issue with my golf spending. I will play in less tournaments. I played in 17 in 2011, in 5 states. I will limit myself to 6-8 tournaments in 2012. I have Mondays off, so I will play then when it is cheaper. I don’t need more clubs, clothes or shoes, no matter how much I enjoy them.

Highlights of the year.

Best Round: This is tough to choose as there are several that stand out. Shooting a 93 in my practice round at TPC Deere Run was pretty good. In my AZ trip my 90 at Grayhawk’s Raptor course was pretty good too. My tournament round at Tiffany Greens was pretty good as I hit all but one fairway.  Probably the best was my tournament win at the Legacy in Norwalk, IA. This is a course I’ve played many times. I’ve always enjoyed it but never played it very well, only breaking 100 once. I played the front a little ragged with too many doubles and posted a 50 leaving me a stroke behind the leader. I started the back much better, going +2 for the first 6 holes. I caught and passed the leader for the win. Apart from the win, I had a great time as my playing partners were a blast, Chad, Paul and Heath.

Best shot: This one is easier. It was a practice round at Prairie Highlands on 17, a short par 4. I was playing with Chad and he hit a perfect drive, leaving him about 25 yards short of the green. I played conservatively and hit a hybrid off the tee. My second shot was fat and I was still behind Chad’s ball, about 30 yards from the green. The pin was in the front so there wasn’t a lot of room for a pitch. I opened up my 60 degree and tried to land it on the front of the green. I hit the pitch soft and landed it close to my target and it rolled in for a birdie. I ended up winning the hole as Chad chipped on and two putted for a par.

Favorite Course I Played in 2011:

1. Troon North: Pinnacle

2. Grayhawk: Raptor

3. TPC Deere Run

4. The Legacy, Norwalk, IA

5. We-Ko-Pa: Saguaro (would have been higher if it had been in better shape)

New Courses to Me in 2011:

Staley Farms, Bear Creek Vally, Redfield CC, We-Ko-Pa: Saguaro, Eagle Mountain, Grayhawk: Raptor, Blue River

Plan for 2012:

Practice: I improved my practice routine this year. I found a practice facility I liked at Ironhorse in Leawood, KS. It has a good range, self-service balls, and a good short game area with bunkers and a chipping green. The practice green is very fast so that is good experience for me.

I practice with a purpose. I start with one or two things to work on during the session. Maybe my hybrids are hooking, so I would work on setup and then try to fade my hybrid. I’d also work on what I did in my previous sessions to help reinforce it. I need to keep working on my short game. Putting and chipping involve so much feel that repetition will only help.

 

Posted in Golf

KC City Championship

The GC Am Tour season came to a close in Kansas City with the final tournament, the KC City Championship ay Shoal Creek Golf Club. Last season the City Championship was held at Shoal Creek and I came in second in my flight. I struggled with the very fast greens but played well enough to be in contention. My buddy Chad won the flight last season with a great first round and a second round where he didn’t blow up.  I really like the layout of Shoal Creek and thought I could do well as long as I avoid penalties.

The first round was ragged. The greens had been aerated and were unpredictable. The short putts seemed to take strange breaks after the many bumps on the green. My putting was a little better than my playing partners. I had 35 putts on the day which was better than I thought I did. My problem was penalty strokes. First tee I hooked the ball into a hazard. I fought the hooks off the tee all day long and there is enough trouble left that it hurt my score. I ended up with a 97 for the day, good enough to tie for first. We all struggled. The co-leader, Mike, had 43 putts. I felt good about my chances in the second round. If I could prevent the penalties I would put up a good score.

The second round was the first tee time of the day at 7:08am. We arrived in darkness and hit balls on the range as the sun was rising. On the range my swing felt wrong. It wasn’t smooth, it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t straight. I tried to focus on the fundamentals, setup, grip and alignment and take easy swings. It started to feel better and I headed to the first tee. My tee shot was a good one, down the middle. That was the good shot I hit for several holes. I had three penalties in the first four holes, giving Mike a comfortable lead. Even with the penalties I was recovering pretty well. Problem was I’d get a bogey or a double when the other guys were getting pars. I ended up with a 51 for the front. I started figuring out my driver on the back and played much better, shooting a 44. My buddy Chad had a great round and nearly took 2nd place from me, ending up 2 strokes behind, gaining 5 on me from the first day.

So I finished second in my third straight tournament. For the season I had three wins, five seconds, and four thirds out of 17 tournaments. Last season I had three wins in 10 events. I am a little disappointed with my results. I feel like my play was more erratic this year. I had more penalties this season. If you take away the penalty holes I was playing very well. Granted, I have been working with a new instructor on some swing changes and it takes a while to see results on the course. I am definitely playing better than I was in May. I’m seeing more results on the range than on the course, which is typical. Now I have 6-7 months to work on grooving the changes and making them permanent.

One of the things I need work on is my mental game. I used to be more stoic on the course. If I hit a bad shot I’d beat myself up on the inside. I am more demonstrable now, for both the good and bad shots. I try not to let my passion affect my partners and not let it bleed over into the next shot. On Sunday I think I did better with that. With the early penalties I still kept from putting up a big number (8 or higher), which would have been typical for me. Even though I was pissed at myself, I played out the holes well. It is hard to keep in mind that one bad hole doesn’t ruin a round, yet every stroke is important and every miss hurts you.

The question for next season is which flight? My index will be a 18.4 at the next revision. My flight cutoff is 20, so I do qualify to start the season in the next flight up. The GC Am Tour uses a tournament index to handle flighting in season. My tournament index is still at a 23, so if I did move up, I wouldn’t be in contention. I am not planning on playing as many tournaments, so maybe 2012 would be a good time to dip my toe into the waters. The next flight up, the Jones, plays the same tees, so that isn’t a deterent. And in some of my wins in the past two years my score was good enough to win the Jones flight too. So do I make the leap (assuming I can maintain or better my index for the rest of the index season) or stay in the Sneads until I can earn a promotion by lowering my tournament index. The Jones flight is much bigger, usually with 8-10 golfers, so there are payouts for 2nd and 3rd. I could see finishing in the money on a couple of tournaments. I won’t have to decide until next year when I renew my membership. I’ll need to consider how I have done in the offseason. I hope this winter will allow time on the range and maybe even the course.

I have to say I feel a little down with the end of the tournament season. I don’t have something in the immediate future to work on/obsess about. I won’t have the schedule for next year until January. I’m already counting the days to the first event.