Yesterday I played my semi final match in the President’s cup. My second experience in matchplay and I was facing the reigning club champion. It was a handicapped match though so form on the day was to be the decider.
It was a really tough match. It took until the 4th hole to break the deadlock as I made a steady par to go 1 up. He grabbed that back straight away to halve things again on the 5th. Squared the 6th and then I messed up 7 pretty badly to go 1 down. Then I parred the 8th as he pulled his drive into the thickest bush on the course to square it back up again. Another half up the 9th and we make the turn all square. I think I made more long putts on this 9 holes than I had in any round of my life. We were both playing strong golf. It was tense. It was enormous fun.
No change on the 10th and then I grabbed another win on 11 to go 1 up. Then on 12, 13, 14 and 15 we both wrestled each other hard without anything to separate us. 4 halved holes in a row to see me still 1 up as we headed to the 16th tee.
I hit a draw. That is, the ball moves a bit from right to left as it flies through the air. 16 makes this difficult though as there are a lot trees overhanging the green on the right. So I was forced to attempt a fade – a left to right movement. Armed only with a bit of emailed advice from my Golf Coach I made the shot, hit the green and made the putt.
I was now up dormie 2 and feeling pretty pumped.
But my opponent is club champion for a reason. He made a birdie on 17 with ease and I cocked it up badly in trying to match him. Now only 1 up on the last hole. We both get up to the green neck and neck but I have the edge as I am about 12 feet from the hole and he is 30 away.
He made the putt!!
I still have a chance though. If I make mine we halve the hole and I win the match. It looked great. It caught the hole.
It didn’t drop!!
We head back to the start again. This match will be played until there is a winner.
Down the first and he sprays his drive a looooong way right. It takes us a while to find it it’s so far off and he has no real shot at the green. I’m down the right tree line but still have a shot. He somehow manages to get his second shot to the fringe with equal parts luck and skill as he skunges a shot through a bunker and spat down the hill to the green. I put my second onto the front edge of the green. He makes the up and down for par. I 2 putt and we’re off to the 20th hole.
We both drive strongly but I am slightly shorter (as I was all day), so I play first into the green. My 9 iron flies straight over the pin, but I’m a bit long and end up just over the back of the green. Not a good place to be as everything slopes away sharply from here and stopping the ball near the hole will be tough. My opponent is smarter and goes shorter. He is just short of the green. I couldn’t stop my next shot coming down the hill and ran my chip about 14 feet past the hole. He chips up well to 4 feet. I give the putt a good surge but it just runs past the left edge. He sinks his putt and the match is over.
It sucks to have lost. I was rather deflated for the rest of the day and I guess that is as much the expenditure of a lot of mental energy. Having slept on it though I am feeling pretty proud of my efforts over the last 3 weeks. I’ve played solid and consistent golf. I’ve had my first crack at real matchplay and acquitted myself fairly well. I took the club champion to the 20th hole and got a lot of pats on the back in the clubhouse afterwards.
So while it may be a pretty minor thing in the golfing pantheon, a mid level trophy in a small, country golf club, it has a lot of meaning for those of us involved. It’s a story that was already being embellished over a few beers over the afternoon and will be passed around for a long time in that little circle. I hope I get some more chances in the future to create even more ‘epic’ stories. This one was a blast.