October 13, 2017
My wife greeted me with a quick question when I returned home after the Delaware State Golf Association’s Senior Championship Aug. 15-16.
“How do you think you finished?”
I said, “Well, except for the people who were disqualified or quit, I think I finished last.”
She burst out laughing. So did I. And as it turned out, I was right.
Naturally, there’s a story here.
Two years ago I decided to try to lower my golf handicap as a post-retirement project. With lessons from Rookery North golf pro Kyle Deas and a lot of practice and playing, the effort began to pay off.
By mid-summer 2016, my handicap index dropped down to 12.3 from 18.0 at retirement. That success led me to consider qualifying for the DSGA’s Senior Amateur. I was under no illusion I would finish high up in the standings against a bunch of scratch golfers. I just thought it would be fun.
However, the maximum handicap index for qualification is 12.0, so I missed the 2016 tournament. Qualifying for the 2017 Senior Am became the new goal.
With more lessons from Deas, more practice, and by playing regularly with golf buddies whose handicaps are 10 or lower, this spring I lowered my handicap to 10.5. The DSGA was happy to register me for the tournament, held this year at Odessa National Golf Club.
I had never been there, so I tried three practice rounds in the weeks leading up to the tournament, playing the white tees twice and the blue tees once. Those scores were in the mid-80s, but Odessa is definitely harder than the Rookery’s white-tee layouts.
The DSGA staff apparently agreed with my assessment of my relative playing ability. They put me in the F flight, with a late morning tee time in the first round on Aug. 15.
When I left Rehoboth to drive to Odessa for that opening round, a heavy mist turned into a light rain, and then a much heavier downpour as my round began.
Apparently I am not a mudder. I was too excited, could not relax, and the wet conditions magnified my mistakes. I made a single par on the first 8 holes, and what could have been easy bogeys on other holes turned into double bogeys or worse.
We saw ponding on the sixth green, but the DSGA didn’t suspend play until our group finished the 8th hole. They told us to return the next day for an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start for those who hadn’t finished, and then we would go right back for the second 18.
My first tee shot the next day was on the 170-yard par 3 9th, so I warmed up with the 4-iron I knew I would use. What I didn’t know when we re-started the round was that I would hit a shank. The ball shot into the trees.
The rest of that round stayed just as miserable. After a 20-minute break, we began the second eighteen, and I relaxed a bit. Even so, the two birdies I made were more than offset by still-wretched golf. My scores for the last four holes of the second round were 4-4-4-9.
That finish locked up the last place spot among the 61 golfers who completed the tournament. I also had the dubious distinction of being the only one to post a score above 100 (106). The fact that my 95 in the second round beat two other competitors was not a comfort.
I spoke with some friends about this experience. Rookery assistant pro Chris Osberg and Kings Creek’s Chris Krueger reminded me that there’s golf, and then there’s tournament golf. Others suggested getting right back up on the horse, because repeated exposure to tournament golf should improve your prospects.
There are some other takeaways. With DSGA course set ups using a mix of blue and white tees, I should play from the back tees more often. Playing tournaments as a single player is just not the same as being part of a scramble or other team format. Several books in my golf library contain useful information on handling your body’s reaction to the excitement of competition. I should read them before the tournament, and not after.
Ed Berringer also reminded me that I actually made my goal this year – qualifying for the tournament. My new goal is to play better in the next one.
Local Club Competition Results
The Kings Creek Ladies 9 Hole group played an individual low net game Oct. 4.
Rosemarie Schmidt won first place with Gail Petren in second and Linda Miniscalco in third.
The Kings Creek CC Ladies 18 Hole group played a 3-Club Challenge Oct. 5.
Katie Heintz won the first flight, with Sheree Davis in second and Marilyn Hewitt in third.
Jeannine Doane won the second flight on a match of cards, with Lisa Powell in second. Donna Deely took third on a match of cards.
Yona Zucker won the third flight, with Atom Irwin in second and Arlyce Dubbin in third.