A couple months ago I saw an ad for the Golf Channel Amateur Tour. I did some research and thought it would be something fun to try. Beating my regular playing partners gets old, you know? The price isn’t too bad considering all the work that goes into these events, and I will definitely sign up for more in the future. I’ve had fun in all three events so far.
I started with a T6 at the Corta Bella Invitational, where I lost to, among others, former Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz. That was interesting, but he’s a cool guy and it’ll be fun to get another round in with him. The I finished third at the Trilogy Power Ranch tournament, despite playing in a wrist brace. It wasn’t even my wrist’s fault. One four-putt and one bad chip were all that kept me out of first. Golf gets a lot tougher, but so much more rewarding, in a tournament setting where every shot must be holed out (so long, gimmies) and the rules followed to the letter. Out of bounds gets a lot scarier knowing you could be hitting 3, or even 5, off the tee.
Then last week, May 31, was the Grayhawk Open, on the Raptor Course. I had never played either course there. Luckily, the tour secured discount rates for the week to anyone who wanted a practice round beforehand. I took them up on the offer and headed up the day before at 3pm. It was a disaster. The temperature when I teed off was 107 degrees. This was the first extreme heat of the year, and that mild May that Arizona was blessed with did not have me ready for triple digits. I couldn’t keep a ball in play, hooking, slicing and topping drives. I don’t think I’ve topped a drive in like 5 years. I started the day with 10 golf balls in the bag and was flying around the empty course until the 8th hole. I skipped some foursomes until I found another opening, but kept losing balls and ran out after the par-3 16th.
That was the taste I had in my mouth heading into the early morning start of the tournament. I’m in the Hogan flight, comprised of 8.0 to 11.9 indexes. I figured some of the 11 guys entered today would have trouble like I did with this target-golf course and lose some balls. I came fully loaded with a new box of Bridgestones and no expectations. I nearly snapped my opening drive into a creek. I opened with a bogey and two others in my group made birdie. I kept playing like I was scared of the course, mostly because I was. It had tortured me less than 24 hours earlier. But I ended up never losing a ball, miraculously. I made some shaky four-foot putts and made solid chips. I made 11 bogeys and 7 pars en route to a 41-42-83. I easily won my group, the rest of whom littered their scorecard with quadruple bogeys, multiple lost tee shots and even a 7-putt. They had their ups, with par streaks, birdies and other solid shots. But many more downs, which is all I wanted to avoid. And by the time I got out of the bathroom, washing the sunscreen off my face, I was being congratulated on the win. It was awesome, I’ve never won a golf trophy before; I tend to only win beer league hockey championships, which are pretty satisfying as well. I beat a guy who went 35-49-84. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde.
I get to go right back to Grayhawk this weekend (June 6-7) for a two day “major” tournament. There’s over 30 people in my flight this time. I’ve never played the Talon course. It’s gonna be a lot tougher. I won’t win playing scared of the course this time. But who knows, maybe I can go on a run. Either way, it’s pretty sweet to leave that trophy happily displayed on a shelf until Bauer knocks it over.