This was a 2 day tournament for the Mission Inn Club Championship in 1991. I played horribly on day 1 and only returned to play the second day for the fun of it as I was 8 off the lead. The second day was the first day of daylight savings time and luckily I had remembered to adjust my clocks the night before. One of the leaders however had forgotten. He tracked me down to see how I was doing after I made the outward turn and told me I had a real chance to win because yesterday's leaders had all gotten themselves in a lot of trouble on the front nine. He kept me up to date the rest of the way.
The course starts with a 515yd par 5 over a creek to a narrow fairway divided by trees. Water on both sides of the green and numerous green-side bunkers challenge the shot maker going for the green in 2.
The gallery was full, as the starter called my name. But I didn’t hear the starter, my head was in the game, I walked out on the tee, with a driver in my hand. And looked down the fairway, deciding where to land.
I put my ball on a peg on the far right side of the tee. Then I stood in back of the ball to see what my line should be. I pictured the ideal flight of the ball in my mind. The corresponding grip and stance and tempo still to find.
Straight away to right center was the plan, hoping it will roll. I needed to hit it far enough, for my next shot to reach the hole. I took a square stance, with a barely weakened grip, took aim at the pine trees down the middle and then I let it rip.
It was solid and fading as it rose, in keeping with my plan. It swung to the right of the trees, landed hot, and then it ran. When it finally stopped I only had a mid-iron left to the pin, The goal was not to squander my perfect drive, which would be a mortal sin.
The green was guarded by bunkers left and back, with water on the right, The flag was back left, just 6 feet from the edge, wind in my face, but light. A ridge ran across the middle of the green. The upper level I had to reach. The worst thing I could do here, was hit it short or on the beach.
Land soft and limit the spin I thought, as I stared at the flag, With my thinking all done, I pulled a four iron out of the bag. I settled in over the ball, heard leaves rustle overhead in the trees. The wind was freshening up top, I decided to go in with my three.
With an unconscious spin of the club head I settled back into my stance, Square to the hole, ball left center, neutral grip, I was finally ready to dance.
It’s all good, just muscle memory now. Ain’t no time to get queasy, Two slow waggles and I pulled the trigger, low and slow and easy.
I made sure not to get in a hurry, not to get ahead of the swing, I felt the momentum as the club head passed my hands, but no sting. The launch was normal, but the ball rose as the wind, it did increase. It landed on the crest of the ridge. Would it spin back down or would it release?
I stared at the green in rapt anticipation. Be right, be right! I thought. If it released it’s a makable eagle, if not, par could be my plight. I don’t know which is worse, 4 feet for eagle or 3 puts for a par. My ball rolled back down to the front. I was hopeful, but no cigar.
Ok, so 3 putts for par isn’t so bad, but my real goal was a birdie. The green’s stimp was a 10, the slope was a 2. So I pointed the ball at 4:30.
20 feet to the top of the ridge, last 10 feet are flat, and it falls right at the hole, I gave it a good rap, didn’t want to be short, a wee bit long was my goal.
That ball was still running hot when it crested the top of the ridge, with just 10 feet left to go. Did I overcook it by a lot, or only by a smidge? It hit the back of the cup hard, popped straight up and then fell back in! An eagle is an eagle is an eagle and scorecard’s don’t show our chagrin.
This par 3 requires a medium iron to a large, elevated green, bunkered on both sides with water coming into play on the right.
I walked off the first green on a high,
an eagle out of the box is never bad.
but often it’s rewarded with a bogey,
now to be smart so my lead iron clad. Hole number two is 176 from the tips,
that you will pay if you miss is clear.
So, do I protect or continue to attack,
what’s the worst thing I could do here? The pin was tucked tightly into the front left
my goto high soft fade may not be an option.
But the fringe is nasty so the ball has to stick,
a high fade to center stage my best concoction.
I’ll not have benefit of watching my opponents
but if I’m not greedy, a routine par is in sight. I teed up my ball on the right side of the box,
pulled a 5 iron and felt the wind from my right. I aimed to left center with weak grip and stance,
two waggles to stay loose and I drew it away.
I found myself giving it a wee bit extra for I knew
the worst thing to do here was a weak play. I caught it solid and it felt right if the wind held,
but it didn’t and I’d hit it high so it landed soft.
t came down six feet from the back right edge,
and I was relieved for picking the right loft. The green pitched slightly to the front right edge,
so I faced a left breaking put with 30 feet of roll.
I was away so again no help from my friends,
I hit it high and firm enough to die below the hole. Unfortunately my ball crossed a wee bit of fringe
at the top of the arc and it slowed prematurely.
My putt came up short and still above the hole,
a very fast 4 footer that would brake left early. The others putted out so I was the last one to play,
and I aimed one ball outside the hole to the right.
I wasted no time on this gravity fed putt,
but got it started and watched it determine my plight. The damn thing came up short and I tapped in,
my fate was sealed as I walked off the first green.
The eagle’s revenge had it’s way with me again,
I really have to find a way to break this routine.
A 340 yard par 4 over a lake and straight uphill, the landing area is tightened by large fairway bunkers. Take one to two more clubs to cover the uphill distance and reach a blind green that slopes from back to front.
So, to make a long story a lot shorter, after some shenanigans I went out at even par, and walked onto the 18th 1 over.
The tee shot should be just short of the bunkers, but it is blocked on the left by a tree. It’s broad and just tall enough to force a draw, and I’ve only hit this fairway one out of three.
The water is not a factor, because it’s not in the landing zone. But the tree is another story. I can win with a par if it leaves me alone.
My past trouble here guides my decision to pull a five wood and go over the tree. A few yards lost but less chance for error, and right now that’s just what I need.
I aimed at the tree and hit it off the deck, but I hit it thin and into the tree. It fell straight down four feet from the trunk, so the five wood plan only hurt me.
Even a bogey from there would be tough, because I can’t get close to the green. I can’t even manage a full swing, but I might reach the traps if I catch it clean.
I punched an eight and got it to the traps, which left a shot straight uphill of 124. If I get on from here I still have a chance, I chose an 8 hoping to hit the dance floor.
I heard a yell so I felt ok as I walked up the hill, and there it was only six feet above the pin! But it was the fastest six feet on the course, I had to judge the break and the weight to win.
I was last up to putt and got one read that helped, then I walked around it twice to catch my breath. I had barely to touch it and then pray it would fall in to avoid a tie and sudden death.
I followed my routine and assumed my position, then drew it away on three. I don’t remember anything after that, until the gallery signaled victory.