One man's journey through the SOGT
Welcome to my journal.
It occurs to me that many expeditions to the great unknown are accompanied by a log. I will keep one for my first venture in the Southern Oregon Golf Tournament.
But first, a cautionary note: Journals often end abruptly because, well, the author ends abruptly. That isn't likely to happen on a golf course. Granted, there are mysterious disappearances, but almost all of them are golf balls.
So here we go:
(Almost a year ago)
Yes, the first day after the 2003 tournament. My wife and I have long enjoyed watching other people play, and I've often threatened to try it myself. Those plans always dissolved quickly, so here I am, almost 51 weeks early, handing over my &
This might be my only first in the 2004 SOGT.
A footnote here: My wife, Cathy, did play one year, 2000. It was her only competitive tournament. Ever. She won crystal. That's what they say here: Did you get crystal? OK, someone else called their prize a pickle dish, and Cathy's was used to sip grape coolers from, but, really, it's fine crystal.
Cathy was runner-up in the second flight. This, I am almost certain, will come back to haunt me sometime this week.
Anyway, I'm in.
Weeks leading to SOGT
It's the 75th anniversary of the tournament, and this, of course, is cause for celebration. It also is cause for much work because it warrants a special section, which happens to coincide with the annual football special section, which, most importantly, means there isn't time to practice golf. I played a little more than a week before the Southern Oregon in the Stewart Meadows club tournament.
And, as if this wasn't a good sign, it was match play, like the SOGT, and I lost in the first round. In my defense, I had a ruthless foe, my buddy Vern, who wouldn't give any putts outside 8 feet and who got my mind off beating him like a throw rug with congenial chatter and an attaboy cheer on the rare occasions it was warranted.
I've heard match play is a different animal. Now I know. Now I'm ready.
OK, I think I'm ready.
I can't believe how much I've thought about this day. I love my golf, sure, but this tournament seems to have an all-consuming mystique. And today is only the practice round.
A funny thing happened on the first hole. You'll know what I'm talking about if you've ever had a golf dream where you're stuck in one place and falling farther and farther behind. You know, you dream you can't find your clubs or can't find your way to the first tee as your group is hitting and leaving? No? Hmmm.
Well, this is what I thought about as I looked for my second shot of the day in the rough left of the first fairway. For those scoring at home, a topped 5-wood got me there.
One of my partners, my buddy Larry, found it in a place where I'd come perilously close to tripping over it five times. Trouble aborted. Well, not really. Double-bogey 7.
My plan for the day was to use this practice round for just that, practice. Fairway woods off the tee. Choke down on a longer club when between them. I even tried to chip over the fringe from one part of the No. 5 green to get to the hole. Double-bogey 6.
But my plan actually was working. I got work with a variety of clubs.
This did not amuse my companions, each of whom had me for six holes in two-man betting games. I was their money pit but ended up hurting mostly myself. The big loser, I paid out three, count 'em, three quarters at round's end.
I did make an invaluable and strategic discovery that nearly overwhelmed me with self-satisfaction.
Golf, you must understand, is a game of misses, and I had more misses than a beauty pageant. Eventually, however, I would determine on which side it was best to exit the fairway ' out of bounds on one side versus only a tree line the height, depth and density of a Redwood forest on the other.
Club selection was easy: push my driver well right and watch it fade faster than a stenciled tattoo, or pull my 3-wood like it was taffy and I the confectioner.
Invaluable, this practice round.
A quick story.
Several years ago, we didn't run all the qualifying scores, and little did I realize the uproar it would cause. One guy called and read me the riot act, challenged my manhood, looked forward to meeting me in a dark alley.
And he's a friend.
We didn't make that mistake the next year. Got 'em all in. Even my friend's score, which resembled a record-high temperature. He was among the leading qualifiers, if you read from back to front. I called my buddy Watti in the morning to make sure he got his paper.
This subject is timely because this is qualifying day.
Now, is there anything more mind numbing than listening to someone recount every hole in a round of golf? I think so, too, so either brace yourself or turn to the comics.
This will be much less painful for you than it was for me and my buddies, Ralph and Chris, my playing partners.
The front nine on the outside course was OK. Got in a couple of sand traps and a couple of tree lines but shot a respectable 42.
(Another footnote: I tee off on No. 9 and, walking off, hear someone in the group behind us talking. It's something like, played my best ever in the city championships and the paper gets my name wrong. He knows I'm within earshot and says it good-naturedly. I can do nothing about it now other than congratulate him on his fine play. We called him Chad. His name is Al. Simple mistake.)
Anyway, the fun began on the back nine. I started spraying the ball like a lawn sprinkler. I was out of bounds more than Andrew Dice Clay.
It started at No. 10. I didn't hit any shots OB, but it wasn't for lack of effort. A brick wall on the left kept my tee shot in play (it almost caromed to the fairway). My 7-wood approach from 200 yards didn't approach anything but OB right until a tree spit it back to the fairway. A young spotter on the hole marveled at my good fortune. I accepted his congratulations, then airmailed the green with a pitching wedge. Triple-bogey 7.
No. 11. Got it right this time. Hit it OB left. Had too much club but didn't change and hit my second tee shot long. Triple-bogey 6.
No. 12. It's a par 5, dogleg right. For my first tee shot, I chose to work a driver along the contour of the hole. Had the hole turned dramatically right and into the adjacent neighborhood, it would have been a successful shot. As it was, it was OB.
They let me hit again. Dead straight 3-wood. Didn't take the break of the fairway. OB again.
They told me to stop. (To aid the pace of play in qualifying, you can't take anything higher than a 7, which was double bogey for me, a fine score under the circumstances.)
My buddy Richie, cognizant of my implosion, offered to write about it and put it in the paper, like I do for (to?) others.
I would have one more blow-up hole but played the last four in — over to right the ship.
Final score, 90.
It made the paper.
It's pairings night.
My buddy Buck thinks a good column would be for me to interview myself about my Southern Oregon experience. He suggests this a couple of times. I tell him I'm not very quotable.
After the out-of-towners and women qualify, we find out who and when we play.
In the it's-a-small-world department, I'm paired in the men's third flight against my buddy Cha ... er, Al Satterfield.
I hope he doesn't hold a grudge.
It's not Al. It's certainly not Chad. It's Mr. Satterfield to me. He didn't hold a grudge. The only thing he held was a commanding lead from start to finish on the outside course, beating me 5 and 4. It wasn't that close. He had me 6-down with eight to go, then helped me out on a couple holes.
I think I discovered why match play is a different animal. It puts pressure on you to execute throughout, but you're never sure when key moments will arise until they're upon you.
For instance, Mr. Satterfield left me an opening on the fifth hole when he missed the green short and right. Two-down, I had a good drive and needed only to put it on the green and two-putt. Knowing it was time to step up, I bladed a gap wedge into the trees behind the green, losing the hole.
Mr. Satterfield was the kind of player you don't want to see: steady, never in much trouble, willing to let the opponent blink first. I, on the other hand, was the kind of opponent you lick your chops over: wildly inconsistent, I blinked so much he probably thought I had a facial tic.
A couple key shots: Mr. Satterfield stuffed his tee shot on the par-3 fourth and made an easy birdie, leaving him even after four holes, making my par useless and putting me 2-down; after winning Nos. 11 and 12 and being in for bogey on No. 13, I was in good shape to cut my deficit to 3-down until Mr. Satterfield halved me with a difficult 10-footer.
Footnote: Mr. Satterfield inadvertently called me Mike, then apologized. I said don't worry, you owe me one.
Next up, in the consolation round, my buddy Ralph, who I've played two rounds with already. He's steady and smooth. He's also probably licking his chops.
I'm exhausted. I thought I had Ralph under control, 3-up with five holes to go.
Ralph, who is nothing if not a fighter, had other ideas.
Both his and my play had improved from the day before, but nothing stood out as a turning point in the match. I had a good first hole and Ralph didn't, giving me the early advantage, then we traded off making decent shots and flubbing a few.
Playing the inside nine twice, Ralph began his comeback on No. 14, which I played horribly and eventually picked up on, leaving me 2-up.
Then Ralph started sinking putts as if he were dropping coins in a wishing well. A tough 12-footer on No. 15 to halve, a bomb from the fringe on No. 16 to win and get to 1-down, and another improbable 20-footer at No. 17 to halve.
I needed only to halve the 18th, but Ralph would have none of it, winning the hole after my tee shot went way right and under a tree, something I was unable to recover from.
On to a playoff hole ' No. — for the third time in the round. We were both just short of the green in two. Ralph's chip trickled pin high to the right about 5 feet out. My Texas wedge ran a foot and a half past the hole.
Ralph's par putt barely missed on the low side, and mine fell for the win.
My first Southern Oregon match victory was draining, to say the least, but satisfying because it came over a game opponent.
Next up, an early Sunday morning match. But since this chronicle will run that day, there's a chance it could, like many journals, end abrup ...
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail