Sunday morning rolled around and a round of golf was planned for 10am. I was up a bit earlier and pulled out a book I had started reading ages ago but hadn't picked up in a while. The name of the book is "Fearless" by Max Lucado. I opened it to the chapter I had left off on and I began reading about how the fear of not mattering or not being good enough can sabotage opportunities put in front of us. It was a great reminder on how sometimes we can be our own worst enemy with negative thoughts and second guessing. Have you been there? I think I have a reserved spot.
I fanned my first drive to the right, but since this is a relatively short par-5 for me, I was still in good position. A couple decent shots later and I had a 15ft putt for birdie. (It should be pointed out here that our greens are still in "early season condition". They have recently been top dressed and still have that "plinko" feel to them.) I have been working hard at trying to accelerate through each putt...with mixed success. Thankfully, this putt decided to drop for a birdie!
The 2nd hole, a par-3, can be a nemesis for me...I love yanking the ball to the left, mostly to avoid the 2 bunkers on the right. The wind was a bit into us so I clubbed up one and tried to concentrate on hitting the ball square. It was nice to see my ball end up about 12ft short of the pin! I didn't play enough break on the putt so I settled for a solid par.
I set myself up for a good approach shot into the par-5 3rd hole, but unfortunately I got a little aggressive with my sand wedge and hit it past the hole about 30 feet. With a dry green and downhill slope I tried to hit a decent lag but I blew the putt past the hole about 6 feet. I knew the putt was straight so it was just a matter of being confident with my stroke. It worked!
A decent drive on #4 left me with about 105 yards to the pin. This green is elevated and can be tough to hold, especially with our dry conditions. I decided to hit one less club than I normally do since the wind was with us and since I'm still trying hard to hit down on the ball I thought I could get there. I left myself another 12 footer for birdie! A pulled putt made me settle for par though. Everything clicked with my drive on #5 and I found myself inside the 100 yard marker for my second shot. There is a bunker right in front of the green that I detest, but the green slopes away once you get past it, so hitting the green just past the bunker usually puts you in the best spot to get close to the pin. I decided to hit a punch shot with my wedge. I knew I would have enough club to get over the bunker, and hopefully I could stop the ball by the back pin. My yank to the left was proof I wasn't totally confident with the shot, but I still had about a 20ft putt for birdie. I watched Dan hit his putt about 8 feet by on a similar line to mine and that was all I needed to see to leave my putt about 2 feet short. I'm always happy with a par on this hole.
I was a bit surprised to see my drive in an ideal spot about 80 yards from the pin on #6. As we walked down the fairway I told Dan about the book I had read this morning and I laughed because just as I was walking off the tee box I thought to myself, "so how can not screw up my second shot after hitting this great drive?" Not exactly the positive thought pattern I need here! I hit what I thought was a good shot, but with the sandy greens, no ball I hit was really holding. I ended up going past the pin about 25ft. My putt had good speed, but never had a chance to go in...it drives me mad when I misread a putt I've had dozens of times. Another par and we're off to the 7th hole.
I got a little quick with my swing on the tee and ended up in the right rough, leaving myself about 115 yards to the middle pin. The rough was thick where I was and I decided on a 9 iron...my swing got quick and I ended up chunking it short of the green. I wanted to make sure I gave my chip a chance to go in, and my aggressive pitch went by about 4 ft. I knew if I hit the putt solidly it wouldn't break, but I girled it just a tad...but by some miracle it caught the low edge and dropped in! A grateful par save there.
Number 8 is another par-3 and it's playing into a slight breeze. Dan says, "what will you give me if I put this in?" as he's standing on the tee about 160 yards away. I say $100. I hear the sound of a crisply hit iron and I watch as his ball ends up about 4 feet from the pin! One of the highlight shots of the day! I've got about 115 yards and I decide on my 10 iron. I wanted to hit a slightly lower trajectory shot, but my swing didn't get the message. I pushed it to the right but thankfully it caught the fringe and I could putt it. I don't know why I thought I had to hit it so hard, but I felt a little lump in my throat was I watched my ball zip by the hole about 5 feet. I was still out. This was another putt that would be straight if I could just hit it solidly...phew, I did! Then I got to watch Dan drain his great putt for birdie!
The 9th hole is all dictated by the drive. I watched Dan hit a solid drive but it looked like it got close to a grouping of thick pines on the left side of the fairway about 80 yards from the green. I know that spot well, but trying to hit the ball a little right could leave me behind a large stand of trees blocking the green. I thought I was set up to go left center, but I watched my drive sail right for the same trees Dan was by. My only hope was that I made it past them.
We walked up and I found my ball free of the trees but not the greatest lie in the rough. Dan was in and had to take a drop. Whenever I'm unsure of how I want to hit a shot I usually end up pulling to the left. Today was no different. I hit the green, but it released and rolled up the slope and onto the fringe. My putt starts out flat but then went down a slope about 20 feet, breaking right. I never had the right line and I ended up going past the hole about 6 feet.
For the first time in 8 holes I took a moment to think, I'm 1-under par right now! I wanted to make this putt in the worst way. I decided that I needed to hit right edge firm...I'm not sure if I did, but my heart just sank when I saw my ball roll around the left side of the cup and end up behind the hole. Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled that I was even after 9-holes, but this was definitely an opportunity missed.
Time to make the turn. I was getting into the walking groove and feeling a little less tired than I was a few holes before. The back side is the tougher of the 2 for me so honestly, I was just hoping to give myself chances for par.
Dan and I both hit great drives on #10 and again I found myself closer to the green than I usually am. I hit a solid wedge and left myself a 10 footer for birdie. Dan got under his just a bit and ended up on the front edge. I watched as he hits his putt and just like a magnet his ball finds the bottom of the cup for another great birdie! Watching it gave me confidence to hit my own putt, but I never had it on line and I settled for par.
The 11th hole is a solid 3-wood drive to a flat just before a creek for me. I got a nice kick an ended up in a perfect spot. I thought I hit a great shot from about 105 yards but once we got up to the green I could see I was about 25 feet short. Solid lag and another par. The 12th hole gave me another green in regulation, but my putt was just awful...I know this putt doesn't break but I played for it anyway. Maddening...but another par.
The 13th hole is a long par-4 up a hill. I'm happy if I can get my drive to the 150 yard marker! A late swing resulted in a pushed drive, but I still had about 150 to a middle pin. The wind wasn't helping so I took out my 22 degree hybrid and tried to run it up on the green somewhere. It hit just short of the green and I could see it rolling towards the pin. All I was hoping was that I didn't go too far past.
As we got closer to the green I could see my ball by the hole...but sometimes it can be deceivingly close if you have a bad angle, so I just kept my fingers crossed that it was as close as it first looked...it was!! One inch from going in! A birdie on this hole is a rare treat for me, and being under par again was a shot in the arm.
The 14th hole is a downhill par-5 that I consider my second easiest hole on the course. I need to be a little careful on my drive...there is a fairway bunker on the left, and if I get late with my swing the right side rolls away and woods can come into play. I wasn't sure I could fly the bunker today so I hit towards the center of the fairway and I ended up on the right side. As we walked to our drives I was not excited to see the pin in the back right near the pond. I knew then it made sense to lay up on the left side to allow for a chip up the slope. I left myself about 60 yards from the green but I obviously didn't take the back pin position into consideration enough because my approach shot came up 35 feet short.
I could see that this putt was a double breaker, so I took some time to find a good aiming point. Concentrating so hard on my line made me forget completely about the fact that this putt was also uphill and I left myself a 5 footer for par. My worst putting stroke of the day and my ball never even looked at the hole. A bogey on one of my easiest holes and just like that I'm back to even going into my Amen corner.
Arguably my hardest hole on the course, the 15th is a dogleg right with a bunker on the right side...right in my landing area. I try to aim for the left rough line and hope that my little cut will bring it back to the middle, but instead my ball starts out in the center and is moving towards the bunker. I yell at my ball to miss the trap and one hop later it skids past and I'm safe. PHEW! I once again find myself with an unfamiliar yardage. A solid 7-iron would be a great play, but I've been hitting it so thin lately I decide on my 30 degree Nike CPR with a ¾ swing. I watch it in the air and it looks great. One hop and it's on the front, right by the pin...but it's still rolling, and rolling, and rolling. I end up in the back half of the green about 40 feet. I'm pretty sure I heard my 7-iron say that I should have given it the chance instead. But a good lag led to a grateful par.
The 16th, a par-3, is a wild card hole mostly because I'm never quite sure what swing is going to show up. For some reason on this tee I will hook my 30-degree hybrid about half of the time so aiming right is the wise choice...this time, though, I hit it straight, and with a decent wind from the east, I ended up right and a little short. I'm happy to report that the chip shot was straightforward and I was able to nuzzle up close for a tap in par.
Onto 17. I cannot tell you how many times my round has been ruined on this hole. Water and trees left, bunkers to the right...they sure make the fairway look small! I watched Dan pull his drive left into the water and I cringed just a little. I almost considered pulling out my 3-wood, but my driver had been so good to me all day that I just had to go with it. I aimed right down the middle and darn it if it didn't go right there! One of my best drives of the day. With about 60 yards to the front I pulled out my sand wedge to hit a low punch shot. I could see it so clearly! It didn't quite translate in my swing and once again I wound up short with about a 50 foot putt. Lag. Lag. Lag. I had to get this thing close! The stroke felt great and as I watched it get closer to the hole I kept waiting for it to break down towards the cup and it never did - I left myself about a 4 foot putt down the slope. Thankfully I channeled a solid stroke and it dropped.
As we walk off the green I tell Dan that my Callaway HX Tour ball is sitting at Even par after 17 holes. Dan says that he knew I was having a great round but he thought it was best to play dumb so he wouldn't make me nervous or get into my head. He also knows it has been a long time goal for me to break par here. I've been in this position a few times and it just wasn't meant to be. And frankly, I wasn't sure today was the day either.
As we walk to the 18th tee, Dan says the best thing..."all it takes is 2 good shots and one putt". He's right. One shot at a time. The tee shot here is not an easy task for me today. We're downwind and I've got some issues. If I play over the right side of the pond in front me I can end up inside 50 yards. If I play safe to the right I could run though the rough if I hit it too solid. I wish I could say I was confident and went left over the pond, but I didn't. I tried to hit it down the center but I blocked it just a tad. It's going right for the trees. I watch it bouncing and it's too hard to tell if I'm short of the woods or not.
I knew I had made the right choice of shots, but a 3-wood here may have been a better option. As I walked towards the tree line I just hoped I at least had a shot to get to the green. To my joyous surprise I was about 5 yards short of the trees and about 70 yards from the front of the green! Hope was alive.
With the pin in the front I knew I needed to hit short of the green and bounce up because my balls were not stopping on the green. It was a solid sand wedge. I knew it. But I had to hit it!
The swing felt good and I looked up to see it going right for the pin. It hit short, like I wanted, and it took a slight hop to the right and it ended up just past the pin about 6 feet.
It was all I could ask for. A chance to break par. After Dan hit a great shot out of the bunker and had a solid putt, it was my turn. I looked at the putt and I knew it was straight. But one of my great weaknesses is trying to find a break that isn't there...sometimes it happens as I'm taking the putter back!
I had to believe in what I saw and now it was just a matter of capturing that putting stroke that has been steadily improving...compact coming back and accelerate through the ball.
I found out that there are no truer words...seeing is believing!!! I watched my ball jump off my putter and I was almost afraid to look...but then I did, and it disappeared into the hole...for a birdie, and my first ever under par round for 18 holes on Lakeview National!
As I thought back over that putt I realized that I wasn't even nervous...I was given an opportunity and not for one second did I think of a negative thought...instead I thought, here's my chance! I have Max Lucado and Dan to thank for that. It was a great day to take a walk on the golf course...and for wishes to come true.
Sunday, May 23, 2010: 36-35=71 (-1)
Filed under: goals, putting, Golf, Cathy Erickson, under par