Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to Milwaukee and Chicago

My last trip up to Milwaukee definitely proved to be beneficial, and I'll be driving up there tomorrow to do it again. 3 or 4 really good days of practice and playing, with a fun day in Chicago on Saturday when I'll be going to the Jack's Mannequin (my favorite band) concert there. I've been to 5 of their shows and Andrew McMahon, the lead singer, puts on a spectacular performance every time I see them.

Again, I really feel like I've been working on the right things, and the game really seems to be coming together at the right time. My next competitive tournament rounds will be a pair of eGolf tournaments during the last two weeks of September. Until then I will continue to improve my game.

Monday, August 29, 2011

One Shot Short

Today was the Mylan Classic Monday qualifier at Green Oaks in the Pittsburgh area. It's a par 70, 6400 yard course, who's greens consistently run at about 14. The pins today were in some really difficult spots, and scores showed. I played fantastic for 12 holes, and my only hiccups were a pair of 5 foot birdie putts that I didn't make. Both were downhill sliders that can be very touchy when the greens are that fast. I was 4-under and cruising. I hit a pretty good drive on my 13th hole of the day, just off the left edge of the fairway of a 480 yard par 4. When I got up there, my ball proved to be 6 inches out of bounds. I was shocked. The problem is that there is a little creek that sticks out of the treeline about 20 feet. The treeline is OB, and instead of marking the creek as a hazard, they just mark that as OB as well. My ball wasn't anywhere near the treeline, and yet I was out of bounds. Devastating. I'd played solidly up to this point, 4 birdies, no bogies, and I was about to make double after a half-decent drive. I made some good swings coming in, besides my 7-iron on 17, which was awful. It's a 200 yard par-3 and I short sided myself for the first time all day and made bogey. I finished with a 1-under par 69, falling one shot short of a playoff at 68. The frustrating thing is if my ball just stops a foot shorter at 13 I have an easy par and a decent birdie opportunity in front of me, and I'm still on pace for a 4-under 66, while 67 wound up being the low for the day.

Overall a frustrating experience, but a sign of good things to come. I'm playing great and was in total control for almost my entire round today. It's a crime that I won't be playing this week in the Mylan Classic because I know that I would be competitive there. And it would have been an awesome experience to play in front of a hometown crowd, but for the 2nd straight year it is not to be. Anyhow, I'm playing some great golf and had to play a quirky little course that jumped up and got me on one swing. That happens, but I'm really on pace to be playing my A-game by Q-School time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eventful 2 Weeks

The State Open got started out just the way I wanted with a very solid 68 in the first round, which put me in 4th place on a difficult track at Moselem Springs. My course management was very good, I hit it solid, and made most of everything inside 8 feet. Unfortunately, day 2 saw me struggle, as the heavens dished out some water starting on my third hole, and not relenting until about 14. I fought through the rain, but was missing short putts and not quite dialing my distances in. Ultimately I scored very poorly for how I felt I was playing. But that's golf, you have to find a way to score. I finished with a 78, and feel far enough to miss the cut.

I decided a trip to Milwaukee was in order. The plan was to meet up with former MU Coach, Tim Grogan and see what he had to think of my swing. After all, he watched me swing it pretty good for three years. The other thought was to meet up with Mike McDonald, this year's State Amateur Champion in Wisconsin, as we practiced together alot my Senior year, and I would typically ask for some input from him when we practiced. Both decisions proved to be good ones.

I got to downtown Chicago on Wednesday around Noon, and met up with a couple friends for lunch at a place called the Protein Bar. It's basically a Chipotle type of restaurant but with extremely healthy options. I got a Buffalo Chicken wrap, with Vegan Buffalo sauce, organic chicken, and organic quinoa. Look out for these to start opening up outside of Chicago, because the food was good, healthy, and the line was out the door. As I crossed into Wisconsin, I remembered playing at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha. I couldn't remember if they had just gone public or private the last time I was there two years ago, but figured I'd stop by and check. Plus, the last time I played there was for the US Open qualifier and I played with the pro there, Rick Leslie, so at the very least I had a good excuse to stop by and say hello. Driving in, it became pretty apparent that they were probably private. The course looked like it was in spectacular condition. Rick was there and we spent 15 minutes catching up and said I could go out and play if I wanted, that they were pretty much empty today. It was nice to get out of the car and play some golf after being in a car all day. The course was awesome.

on Thursday and went out to Ozaukee CC, site of my course record 61 when playing with Nathan Colson my freshman year. Who was there to greet us, but Mike Bielawski, the new assistant pro out there. Talked to him and caught up for a bit and then went out and played. Grogan and I worked on the range out at Missing Links after that round and filmed some swings. That evening I made it back to Bristlecone Pines for a 4 o'clock tee time with my buddy Tony, who's in the midst of dominating medical school. I was staying with him and his parents, who live out at Bristlecone. We got 9 holes in, and I finally realized that I was about out of swings for the day. Plus I distracted our focus by pointing out there was a B-Dubs (Buffalo Wild Wings) nearby that looked promising, and we were both hungry.

Day 2 took me out to the Bog, a common stomping ground from my MU days. We we go there a couple times a week to play when I was on the team. I got out there early and went through my short game drills. Completed a circle drill, and a ladder drill, and then went over to work on my chipping until Grogan arrived. When he did, I pulled out my laptop to show him my swing from the John Deere Classic that my dad had taken. He immediately noticed a couple differences in setup and takeaway which we went over before we played. We got 12 holes in and went inside for a quick dinner. He brought his camera in and I downloaded some videos from that day into my computer. We split-screened the current swing with the John Deere swing and definitely noticed a few differences. We were on the right track.

Saturday morning I drove down to Chicago for the day. The plan was to go to the beach at 1030AM and watch the Air and Water Show and then go to the White Sox game. However, the weather didn't want to cooperate with those plans. The Air show was postponed until about two due to serious thunderstorms. So we never made it to the beach, but did watch the Air show from a friends 45th story balcony. It was pretty cool to see Tomcats and F-15s buzzing over the city buildings. The White Sox game was exciting as they rallied for a late win over the Rangers. It's a good stadium, but certainly no PNC Park. I stayed the night down there and drove back up to Milwaukee on Sunday morning. I stopped at a Panera's for Breakfast on the way up, and to conduct a Fantasy Football draft that started at 930am. I got back into Milwaukee around 1230 and went for a run along the lakefront, one of my favorite things to do in Milwaukee. I then drove up to Hidden Glen near Grafton and met up with Mike McDonald for some golf. He's always very good with coming up with one simple little tip on how I'm swinging, and his input was extremely helpful. We had a close match, but I squeaked out a 2&1 win, so burgers were on him that night. We stopped at a little mom n pop type place. Kind of a Kopps knockoff, but the burgers were good and so was the ice cream.

Monday morning I met up with Grogan one last time at Brown Deer to take a look at the short game. He watched me hit pitches for 20 minutes and liked the improvements I had made since my college days. I had to cut our time short however, as Dr. Licktieg was able to fit me in for an adjustment at 945. After my chiropractic stop I went out to Tripoli CC for the Marquette Business School Golf Outing. I played with my roommate's mentor, Brad, and two really nice guys from Northern Trust. We had a blast and even wound up winning. I thought for sure I would win something in the raffle, especially after stuffing the Fred Astaire Dance Lesson box with most of my tickets, but unfortunately I came away empty handed. I drove down to Chicago that night so I would not have to deal with rush hour traffic in the morning. And I just got home Tuesday afternoon.

It was an extremely productive and useful trip up there.

Off to Sewickly for some practice and play

Monday, August 8, 2011

Solid Play, State Open today

I finished up the last eGolf event with a pair of solid rounds that saw some good ball-striking, but I didn't score as good as I should have. I fired a 71 and followed it with a 73. The 73 was a bit disappointing considering I was 2-under with 4 to play and shot 1-over. Just made a couple bad swings coming in. But overall, I'm very pleased with how I'm playing, and just in time for the State Open at Moselem Springs!

Unfortunately, yesterday's practice rounds were washed out due to 2 inches of rain the night before, so nobody was allowed on the tee boxes or greens yesterday. However, myself, Joe Boros, Mike Larkin, Kevin Shields, Jason Schmader, and CG Mercatoris went out together and walked the course. We had a productive day formulating game plans, taking notes, lasering distances, and talking strategy. The course looks to be in good shape, although the fairways were quite wet. It's a pretty tough layout for the most part, and I would be surprised to see more than a couple people take it under par for the week. When the Amateur was here in 2006 only the winner was under, and he wasn't more than 2.

Mike Larkin, Joe B, and myself grabbed dinner together afterward at a cool Italian Restaurant called Florences. As they sat us, I immediately felt like I had been there before, saying, "Umm, guys, does this not exactly look like a Damon's Sports Grill?" And it did. It had the 4 big TV projection screens and volume adjusters on the table to choose what you wanted to listen to. The food was great, and on the way out I read an article on the wall, saying how the restaurant used to be a Damon's (I knew it!), but they decided to keep the sports bar feel to go along with the Italian atmosphere. Interesting. We all really enjoyed it.

I tee off at 1:30 today out at Moselem and I'm about to head there right now to get an hour or two of practice in before I grab some lunch and re-warm up.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Playing Well...

After a solid even par 72 in the first round, which saw a devastating double bogey on my second hole, I came back today with a needed -3 par 68 at Star Fort. I made alot of solid up and downs on my front nine today, and stroked alot of good putts as well. With 8 holes to play I was still Even, and knew that it would most likely take 3 birdies to see the next day. I had a nice up and down on the par 5 11th, which netted me my first birdie on the back nine. On the very next hole, my chip stopped on the lip and lingered for what could have been two in a row, but I settled for a par there. A few holes later I ripped a driver over the corner on the short par 4, 14th. A solid wedge shot from 50 yards to 4 feet found me a second needed birdie. 2-under par with 4 to go. I bombed a drive on the par-5 15th and only had 210 to the pin. I cut a 4-iron perfectly and... too much adrenaline apparently as it one-hopped over the green into a horrendous lie. Gave myself an 8-footer, but it slid past. Three to go, and I still needed one more as I reached the difficult par-3 16th. Did I say difficult? Apparently not... as I ripped a 6-iron to 15 feet, just on the fringe and drilled the putt dead center to move to 3-under. I made it easy on myself on the last two, and had a couple birdie chances, but they both meandered by the hole. In all, 5 birdies and 2 bogies on the day. Solid playing overall, and I really feel good about my game right now. I'm a few more made putts away from putting up a 66 here soon and jumping right back into contention tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In Greenwood, SC

I got down to Greenwood, SC yesterday after an 11-hour drive. But I got in at 5:30 thanks to an early 6:30 start to the day. So when I showed up at Star Fort GC and it was basically empty, I was able to play 2 balls around the course in under 3 hours. I'm hitting it really well, and the putter feels fantastic as well. I really feel like this is going to be a good solid week. Star Fort is the course last year where I came to 18 thinking that I needed to make a birdie to make the cut. I poured a 20-footer into the center of the cup, only to find out the cut was even lower than I thought it would be and got the scissors. So there's a positive going into this week: I played poorly here last year and almost made the cut. Now that I'm playing good, we'll see how well I can do.

I spent some of Saturday
playing miniature golf while competing on the NHMGT (North Hills Mini-Golf Tour). It was started this year by high school friend Pat Colony (pictured with some bumper car trouble to the left) and his brother Chris. 9 Mini-golf courses in the North Hills area of Pittsburgh have been selected, and you have to play them all with other people competing on the Tour by an August 8 cut-off date. The top 8 players will then play in the Tour Championship on August 13. I played with fellow Treesdale phenoms Brett Bergman and Joseph Zinsky (video of some of his cave troubles below). I find that mini-golf is a good way to free yourself up and stop worrying about your stroke. In fact, one of my best putting tournaments ever, The US Bank Championship in Milwaukee, was prepared for by playing mini-golf the Sunday prior to the tournament. And I stroked it superbly for the first round there.

I hit it absolutely fantastically today at Grand Harbor for my practice round. Shot a 68, and made both my playing partners open their wallets after the round. Tomorrow I tee off at 8am. Playing Grand Harbor first... CAN'T WAIT!