Sunday, July 24, 2011

Oakmont Today

There is no better test of golf, period. I'll be playing out at Oakmont this afternoon with Villanova standouts Brett and Brock Bergman. Oakmont is probably my favorite course of all-time, as it requires you to be on top of all facets of your game. Twice I've really had it going out there and played my best golf, and there's no better feeling in golf than to take on Oakmont and come away victorious from the battle. The first was while playing with my friend Jim Usher. I had shot 60 in the Tri-State Amateur at Tom's Run, his course, and he wanted to take me out to play. It was 2 weeks after the US Open was there, so the rough was still pretty nasty. That was the US Open I missed by a shot, which was a shame because I was really playing well and felt I could have competed and made the cut had I been a participant. We went out and played, and I made 8 birdies en route to a 66 out there. Two years later, during the final round of the PA State Open, I was firing on all cylinders out there once again. And except for a double on the par-3 13th, due to hitting a 5-iron too good and over the green, I played extraordinary golf. I fired a 68 in that round. So I'm very excited to test my game out there this afternoon. It will show my progress, or exploit the part of my game that still needs work.

The last eGolf event led to another missed cut. I just didn't translate my great ball-striking in the practice rounds into the tournament rounds. That will happen, I just could have used a couple more days to practice what I was working on. No worries though, I'm on the cusp of some seriously stellar golf... just in time for the State Open out at Moselem Springs in two weeks...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Eventful 6 days

Things didn't go as well as I hoped in Kannapolis. I fired an Even par 71 in the first round and really had a roller coaster type of day. I made 6 birdies, 4 bogies, and a double bogey. But I got off to a really good start in round 2 and was -3 thru 11 holes, and that's when things got weird. I layed up on a difficult par 5, after hitting three iron off the tee. Apparently I did some seriously bad gorilla math and wound up 190 from the green still. Trying to stay on top of the ball and hit a cut, I slid ever further on top of the ball and the ball caught some hossle, flying right and slicing OB... a sudo-shank. Some bogies coming in cost me any chance of making the cut, which fell to -1. The putter was a big part of the problem this week, costing me at least 3 a round.

So now what? I called Dan Kubelik in Hilton Head, a former Treesdale great who's now out at Belfair, and left him a message that I might be headed that way. Then I received a text from my buddy Kenny in Chicago. He was going up to Milwaukee and playing 36 on Saturday and half jokingly said that since I'm now available, after missing the cut, that I should come up and play. Hmmm, a plan started forming in my head. It was about 2:30 on Thursday, and I started making some calls. New plan, fly to Chicago Thursday evening. Friday at 9:15 I'd go to the Bettinardi Studio and get a new putter and look at my stroke and what's going on with it. Drive up to Milwaukee with Kenny and play 36 with our buddy Tony and Brandybrook and Bristlecone Pines. Meet up with Tim Grogan Sunday morning for a quick lesson and then drive down to O'Hare and catch a flight back to Charlotte. My mom booked a flight using points and made it official. So I headed to the airport.

One problem though... I forgot my travel case! So I headed back over to the club at Irish Creek and started asking guys if they had one I could borrow. Surprisingly nobody had one in their car, and now I needed to get headed to the airport, but what to do. Fortunately my mom located a Dick's on the way and I stopped a bought a travel case. So I get to O'Hare and I'm waiting for my clubs at baggage claim, and after a while there's probably 3 people left. So I go to the US Airways area and they tell me my bags not on this flight and they'll be in the next one. Really!? Seriously though? It would work out OK though as they would successfully deliver them to me... at 2:45 in the morning.

My trip to the Bettinardi Studio was extraordinarily helpful. I got more of a mallet looking putter, but it's made with the same material as the one I'm currently using, so it feels exactly the same. But the most helpful thing was seeing my stroke on the V-1 system they newly installed. The guys who was fitting me and myself were able to pick up on a couple things that were just a little off. I wrote down what we found and have something to work on. Also, if you've never been there and are looking for a new putter, it's worth the trip. They make great putters, and the fitting process is really cool. You'll also learn something about your stroke while seeing it on the V-1 system.

My little lesson Sunday morning with Grogan was also pretty helpful. I figured that he might be able to pick up on something that looks different, since he watched me hit it great for 4 years. Within a few swings he already had a pretty good idea. He slightly adjusted me grip and had me trying to take it back lower and more one piece. Gosh did that feel solid!

So I flew back Sunday afternoon and drove down to Aiken, SC. I played a practice round with Peter Malnati yesterday and hit it great. He commented a couple times on some of my drives, saying, "This is the best I've seen you hit it since college." Let's hope so... but I agree! I'm super excited for the tourny this week as I return to Woodside Plantation for the first time since I was about 14 and playing in the Youth Sports Festival.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Return to Irish Creek

I'm returning to the site of my First Stage knockout last fall. It was at The Club at Irish Creek last October that I failed to make it through the First Stage of Q-School, but no hard feelings this time around. The course sets up really well for me, and I've played there over 10 or 15 times coming into this week's eGolf Tour event. I feel strongly about my game right now, as proof of my play in the West Penn Open minus two holes. I am ready and due for a breakout week here and my goal coming in is to just "play golf." Less thinking when I'm out there, more doing. I played a few rounds this weekend at Treesdale and Sewickly and shot under par in each round. On top of that I've had a couple good practice round days, despite the 102 degree heat and humidity that I had to deal with today. The greens at both courses this week are a bit on the slow side, as they're obviously apprehensive of losing the greens due to the heat. Fair enough, just have to hit it even closer then.

I'm teeing off at 12:40 tomorrow at Irish Creek and I'll be playing River Run on Thursday.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two Flustrating Holes

I played quite solidly for 34 of the 36 holes in this week's West Penn Open. I didn't hit it as well the final round, but was still hitting it decently well and managed the course well. I was -3 on the day heading into 16, and was -4 overall for the tournament. I blocked a rescue wood into the right rough and misjudged the wind on my second shot, flying my ball into some fescue over the green. Three chips and two putts later, I picked the ball out of the hole for a round-killing, triple bogey, seven. It was a much different 7 from the one the prior day however. The day 1 seven, was mostly due to stupidity and the fact that I was hitting it so unbelievably well that I thought I could hit any shot I wanted. The day two 7 was due to a poor drive, misjudgment, and a couple poor chips. Ultimately, failed execution. It's funny how failed execution can be so much easier to swallow than sheer stupidity. Obviously I was still extremely disappointed, but I didn't play anything wrong, unlike the attempt at hitting the mega-cut on day one.

The really frustrating thing was walking off the 17th green and seeing the scoreboard, which had me in 2nd place at -4, but it didn't have my last two holes factored in. I couldn't believe how many people had backed up, and that I would've been in 2nd had I just made a couple pars. But it was not to be, regardless this tournament was another step in the right direction, as my ball-striking was superior all week long. I finished T-11 and am now gearing up for a two-week eGolf Tour trip. I'm playing at the Club at Irish Creek next week and then headed to Aiken, SC to play at Woodland Plantation. A place I am actually fairly familiar with as I played there a couple times while playing in the Youth Sports Festival that Treesdale used to take part in.

I'm very excited about what these next two weeks will hold. I'm really swinging it well and working on the right things. And feel good about the putter right now as well. Some wedge work is still in order, and that's what this weekend's main focus will be.

Oh, and I know flustrating is not a real word. It's flustered and frustrating combined into one. I felt it more accurately portrayed my emotions, haha.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Oh, So Close!

I had it. Mike Van Sickle was back for the first 11 holes today. I hit it fantastic and was -5 thru 11 today at Nevillewood for the West Penn Open. Then, studpidity struck. I left my drive on number 3 out right and was 3 feet outside the fescue. Totally fine, but a tree blocked any direct path to the green, so I was forced to layup. Right? Right? Im so stupid, No. Out comes the 3-wood, as I'm 245 out and I try to hit a mega-cut from a decent lie in the rough. Very do-able, although high risk. Don't pull it off. The ball comes out low and straight, flying over a bunker and OB. I go on to make a 7 on the hole. Why couldn't I have been born with an angel over my one shoulder telling me, "Layup Mike, it's OK, we'll hit a wedge in close. No worries." No, no, instead I was born with only the little devil who's yelling "Hit it! Come on! We can pull this shot off. It'll be so cool! Don't lay up you wuss... come on, GO FOR IT!" Sigh, and I've gotten so good ignoring him too...

I've still been fighting this darn Mega-Cold I've got and it got to me a bit on the last few holes as well. I felt really fatigued and mentally drained. A couple shots slipped away and I wound up with a -1, 71. Disappointing, since I was playing like I was going to shoot an easy 64, but a step in the right direction. I mean I really had my swing going. Prob the best I hit it since the final round of the 2009 PA Open at Oakmont. Looks like the lead will be at -5 and I will be 4 back. Certainly within striking distance, especially for how I was playing. Just need to get a hot putter tomorrow!

Went to the doctor afterwards and was prescribed a 5-day Z-pack. Hopefully that'll get me to kick this nasty bug.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Not what I was hoping for

Round 3 at the Fuhrer saw much of the same as the first two rounds, as I let some shots slip away, especially on holes 3 and 8. Through 3 rounds I sat at 11 over par, and I was a combined 10 over par on those two holes combined. So that was really a killer, because besides those couple holes I played alright. I just kept hitting poor tee balls and getting into trouble on those two holes. I wound up with a 75 in Round 3. I got home and intended on practicing some putting, as I let some short putts get away from me. Unfortunately, I laid down and absolutely crashed. I slept for about 2 or 3 hours on the couch. Which was exceptionally odd, because I NEVER do that. Anyhow, Doug Stadler, who was caddying for me this last week, and I went that evening to see Super 8 and my throat began to feel a bit sore. I slept absolutely awful that night and realized the next morning that I had a cold coming on.

Round 4 was a bit miserable. The pins were extremely difficult and some wind picked up. Worst of all I was congested and a bit dizzy. Again I couldn't get comfortable over the short putts and missed a few en route to a final round 77 to finish in 13th place. Very disappointing, as I really wanted to play well in Mr. Fuhrer's event.

I then spent Thursday caddying for my dad in US Senior Open qualifying. I really enjoy caddying for my dad, but I was even sicker and it was truly a miserable day for me. My dad got it around alright while not playing his best, and he was only +1 thru about 13 and had a lob wedge in his hand. If we could have managed a birdie there, then we might've come close. However, we had some trouble there and made a bogey, which really deflated the momentum my dad had going. Plus, it was 50+ guys for 1 spot. It took a -2 par 68, and we finished with a 76. However, a pair of Chocolate Malts from Dairy Queen afterwards made us both feel a little better.

I woke up Friday turning a corner and feeling slightly better. I got some really good practice in at Treesdale before I headed to Nevillewood to play a practice round for next week's West Penn Open. I hit it absolutely fantastic out there, and feel my game has begun to turn a corner as well. I'll be doing some circle drills this weekend to work on making putts.

On a sad note, Steve Cottingham has resigned as the Marquette AD. He was an absolutely fantastic individual who did a lot for me, the golf team, and the entire athletic department. He made some fantastic hires, added some sports teams during a time when schools are doing nothing but cutting them, and brought a new excitement to the athletic department. He will be very much missed, and I hope Marquette finds someone of his caliber to fill the void he has left.