While our club is not the most prestigious in Maryland (which is tough with Congressional, Baltimore Country Club, Caves Valley & TPC Avenel in your state), our golfing history is quite rich. As you walk down the main hallway to our grille room, there are three large boards on the wall with the names of our club champions dating back to 1919. Former club champions have played in the Masters, US Open, PGA Championship, and US Amateur, played full-time on the PGA Tour, won the Mid-Atlantic & Maryland Amateurs, the Maryland Open, the Baltimore Amateur, and our team won the state championship in back-to-back years in 2002 & 2003 (beating Congressional & Avenel in the finals).
Our reigning club champion holds the nine-hole record at Pine Valley (29), which counts many Tour players as members and is currently ranked #2, behind only Augusta, on Golf Digest's list of the 100 best courses in America. He played college golf at Wake Forest and, by all accounts, is at most the 4th best player at our club! I could go on and on, but you get the drift. We have had and still have a lot of guys that can really play!
I've stared at the wall in the hallway for 20+ years; looking at the different names, counting the number of times Spencer Overton won (22!), and dreamed of the day when my name would go on that wall.
It was a pipe dream five years ago, but as I started playing & practicing more and my handicap drifted into the mid-single-digits, I have become more optimistic. If I can go from a 12 to a 4 handicap in just a few short years, clearly I can go from a 4 to a +2 handicap, right???
Maybe it doesn't quite work that way, but I was optimistic heading into this past weekend's 36-hole qualifier. The format is as follows:
Last year's champion is exempt and is the #1 seed, while the remaining field (of 40 players this year) compete for 15 spots in the championship flight. Single elimination match play (where #1 plays #16, #2 plays #15, #8 plays #9, etc) follows for the next two weekends, culminating with a 36-hole match play final on Labor Day. At our club, this tournament is a big deal and it's not unusual for 200+ members to watch the final match.
My performance in the "majors" this year has been pretty solid. Although I would say I'm having a disappointing season overall, my play in our big events has been quite good. Maybe I'm just a gamer and it takes a big event to bring out my best! ;-)
My partner and I led the Member-Guest heading into the final day and I shot between 36 & 38 in each of the five 9-hole matches. We ended up losing our lead with a missed short putt on our final hole, but finishing 2nd was a nice accomplishment and winning a lot of side bets helped ease our sorrow!
In July's Medal Play Championship, with the course playing brutally tough, I managed rounds of 76-78. It matched my best 36-hole tournament score, which was 80-74 in the 2008 Medal Play.
In the President's Cup, my partner & I played well, but two 5 handicappers are always going to have a tough time winning this type of event. Despite an even par best ball (gross) and -10 (net), we really never had a chance. High-handicap sandbaggers always cheat their way to the Best Net score and our elite golfers set the Best Gross score at a level that I am still aspiring to.
So with some solid golf under my belt in the first three of our four "majors", I was optimistic heading into this weekend. I played a final practice round after work on Friday: Seven pars, one birdie & one double bogey for 36 (+1).
With my game seemingly falling into place at the right time, all that was left to do was pick out my outfit for Saturday and cruise through the qualifier!
(To Be Continued...)