Oh so close
A mate Andrew called a few weeks ago and asked if I’d join him for a hit in our club fourball event. A fourball is a popular game, with the best score per team counting, it allows you to have a bad hole or two if your partner can chime in at the right time. Some players are experts at this type of match – it seems to suit those that have their ups and downs but can find a consistent partner to steady the ship.
Everything was planned for Saturday, a late hit off was booked to ensure my man could get back from Sydney. Things didn’t get look good when he missed his flight but he managed to get another that would get him to the course just in time.
Come hit off time there was no sign of Andrew. A quick call to his mobile only found his voice mail. I had no other option but to start the match by myself. My plan was to try and stay with my opponents early, then hopefully when Andrew showed up we could play the match out in normal fashion.
Playing a fourball match by yourself is not ideal. There is no room for a bad hole and you can’t rely on a partner to play safe when you feel like pulling out all stops. This type of game can produce some very good scores because of the ability to use one ball as ‘security’ with the second player going for it. If the risk comes off you usually win the hole and if it doesn’t, hopefully the conservative player has manged to halve the hole.
To make matters worse I had to give these guys a total of 28 shots! Not an easy task.
Repeated calls to Andrew’s phone went unanswered. It was starting to look like I was stuck by myself for the day. Luckily for me I was playing well and was hanging in there. I lost the 9th hole to turn one down but I felt I had a chance if I could keep plugging away.
I birdied the 10th and 12th holes to halve those holes (tough game sometimes 😉 ) and when I won the 15th hole I had managed to get the match back to square. Things started looking great when I birdied the 16th hole to take the lead for the first time. If I could snag one more birdie I thought I could pull off a big win.
The 17th hole was decisive. After a long drive and with both players in trouble I knew a par would put me in the box seat. My thinking was that at the very least I would take a lead to the 18th tee and maybe even win the match if they couldn’t recover. I decided to play a little conservatively. I opted to hit the middle of the green instead of aiming at a little pocket where the pin was tucked.
I thought I played the perfect shot, out to the left of the hole leaving a long, but fairly easy, two putt. To my surprise the ball didn’t stop on the hard green. It continued rolling into a back bunker. Now this was not an easy shot. Earlier in the day I had misplayed two other bunker shots so I didn’t feel that confident. I then made a huge error! I played safe. And this is probably the worst thing a golfer can do!
Instead of going through my usual process of automatic golf (a method that had served me well throughout the day!) I changed. I think it is a form of choking and I was (and still am) disappointed at myself. I tried to play that bunker shot correctly while at the same time making sure I didn’t leave the ball in the bunker and got it onto the green somewhere. My mind was racing, I felt my body tighten and the bunker shot was horrible. It came out fat (I half flinched and jabbed at the ball) with little spin. It ran way past the hole. When I missed the par putt I had lost a hole I shouldn’t have.
If I had approached that bunker shot the correct way, let go and played subconsciously, I know I would have hit a better shot. I may have still made a bogey but I wouldn’t have been so disappointed at myself. Playing safe seems like the right thing to do, but it almot always leads to failure.
My opponents both parred the 18th hole with a shot. When I couldn’t make a birdie the match was over. I had played well but felt I had let myself down with just one shot on the 17th. That one mistake left a sour taste in my mouth. I pride myself on playing every shot automatically. I look forward to the pressure shots and I love stepping up to the ball without any thought of conscious control. After years of playing this way I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. I also realise that I’m not there yet – that I still need to keep working at it. This is what makes the game so challenging and also so much fun.
I finally got hold of Andrew on Sunday morning. His second flight was delayed and his phone went flat. A good excuse I suppose and I learned a valuable lesson – one I hope will keep allowing me to improve further…