Lifetime On The Course: Tournament Golf

August 23, 2013

It was said by the great Ben Hogan that “there’s golf, and then there’s tournament golf.” Amateur and pro alike have experienced the phenomenon. You can play any course on earth and, given the day, shoot within a few shots of your handicap. Play it 10 times and you might have one bad round, maybe 7 or 8 shots over your handicap. You’ll also have a few good ones, maybe 2 shots better than your handicap.

But play it in a tournament, and the world ends. Stuff happens that NEVER happens on a golf course. You see problems on the course that you’ve never noticed before. Fairways that were once wide and inviting now feel narrow and impossible to strike. You try to play a fade and it turns into a slice. You hit a provisional, try to hit the same shot, and it hooks.

Basically, Ben Hogan was right.

I played this week in the USGA’s United States Mid-Amateur qualifying tournament. Although my handicap still reads 1.2, I’m probably not better than about a 4 handicap on any given day. Still, I wanted to play even though I didn’t think I’d have much chance of competing. +1 was the final qualifying score.

I shot……87.

As a 1.2 handicap, this is an abysmal score.

Not only that, I really wasn’t that upset with it!

The first part of it is that I hadn’t played golf in awhile. This was my first round in over a month, so the rust was definitely there. I hit 6 GIR on the day and made two birdies, which is not bad. But the poor swings came out in odd spots, and the chipping just was nonexistent.

But a few things about my round got me thinking, which is the source of this post. During my round at the Mid-Am, a player declared a ball lost, taking the penalty, only to find it again later on the day….twice. On the first, we looked for 5 minutes then found the ball while walking to the provisional; the second time, the ball was STUCK IN A TREE and actually fell out of the tree when we came back around playing the adjacent hole. Neither of these happened to me.

It also got me thinking about my personal record in tournament golf, which is….not so good. In fact, it’s quite bad. But what is odd is the way that it’s bad.

You see, I’m a great starter, can be a good player in the middle, but am a lowsy finisher.

Over the course of the last 3 years (2011-2013), I have played in 17 amateur-level competitions. Taking the first hole from each tournament, I am -3 over 17 “first” holes–and that includes a triple-bogey. However, over each round, I’m an AVERAGE of +12.6, and a collective +214. Here are the tournaments (please bear with the formatting, as WordPress doesn’t handle it well).


Date------||Hole1||Score||Result|| Course || Tournament
05/09/2011 || -1 || +12 || DNQ || Dunwoody CC || US Open Qual
06/06/2011 || +3 || +05 || Qual || The Frog || Atlanta Open Qual
06/13/2011 || +1 || +21 || DNQ || Atlanta National || Georgia Am Qual
07/11/2011 || EE || +04 || DNQ || Cartersville CC || Georgia Open Qual
07/19/2011 || -1 || +10 || DNQ || Capital City Crabapple || US Am Qual
08/29/2011 || EE || +15 || DNQ || Brickyard at Riverside || US Mid Am Qual
10/06/2011 || EE || +13 || DNQ || Rivermont || Atlanta Am
04/09/2012 || EE || +29 || DNQ || Berkeley Hills CC || Georgia Mid Am Qual
06/11/2012 || EE || +08 || DNQ || Mystery Valley || US Am Pub Links Qual
06/11/2012 || EE || +07 || DNQ || Mystery Valley || US Am Pub Links Qual
07/24/2012 || -1 || +11 || DNQ || Piedmont Driving Club || US Am qual
08/06/2012 || EE || +08 || DNQ || St. Ives CC || US Mid Am Qual
10/04/2012 || EE || +18 || DNQ || Rivermont || Atlanta Am
04/08/2013 || EE || +08 || Qual || Berkeley Hills CC || Georgia Mid Am Qual
05/13/2013 || -2 || +17 || DNQ || Marietta Coutnry Club || US Open Qual
05/17/2013 || -1 || +13 || Championship || Savannah Golf Club || Georgia Mid Am
08/21/2013 || -1 || +15 || DNQ || La Costa Resort || US Mid Am Qual

ARE YOU SEEING THIS PF FANS? Amazingly, what was perhaps my best round (+5) started with a 4-PUTT triple bogey, but led to 5 birdies and a qualification for a local PGA event.

What is it about tournament golf? Take the first hole and put it together. Over 17 holes I’ve managed to shoot a good enough score to put myself in contention in basically any tournament at -3. But it breaks down.

I think part of this is the riddle of golf that we all need to understand and figure out. The challenge of competitive golf is that it gives a player a new facet to a game with so many great angles as it is. For those who have mastered or nearly mastered the game, tournament play is a new challenge to excite.

As you can see, I’m still learning how to be truly competitive, but I am loving the challenge. If anyone out there wants to help me understand it, please, go ahead in the comments below.

One Response to “Lifetime On The Course: Tournament Golf”

  1. Thomas Says:

    Nice post. Pressure is a funny thing – you can be so great when it doesn’t mean anything in particular or you feel comfortable with your partners for the day…suddenly when you’re in competition the game falls apart. I think because golf demands such precision to strike and aim a ball well, nervousness has a huge impact on our muscles and reflexes. I guess the only thing to do is to learn from competition pressure and keep going forward 🙂

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