As if visiting the PGA Championship wasn't enough golf, the closing round Sunday also mirrored the time spot for my second ever Ryder Cup. Last year, in my first Ryder Cup, I was disappointed. Not only did my team lose (I think), but I failed to score a point. I remember playing against Gary F one on one and I remember vividly, new member, Joe Gauck and I played alternate shot together in what we thought was a shoe in. We struggled. So this year, I was on a mission. I was excited to play and I was ready to show that I can score a point (or at least a half, right?).
The first 9 hole was a scramble on the Prairie. For those of you who don't know - the Ryder Cup at North Branch consists of three 9 hole matches. Scramble, Alternate Shot, and Individual. For the scramble, I was paired with Dayne Lecher to take on Angela (Gauck) Belter and good ole Rookie. We were at a mismatch, but Dayne is really good. First tee jitters? Absolutely. I was looking forward to this for so long. We took a 1up lead after the first when both Rookie and Ang shanked wedges. Dayne looked to be on point with his game. That changed off the next two tees and he missed a putt on 2 that would have put us 2up. A miracle scramble on 3 kept us even, but even wasn't good enough to beat two of the best. On the par 3 fifth hole, I took my new approach (clubbing up, because I'm not as good as I think). I stuck it pretty close (close enough to win closest to the pin and a cool $32). The only downfall is we missed the putt and Rookie hit a long one to even up the match. Then the wheels came off. We lost the next 2 holes and ended up losing 2 and 1. The last hole didn't need to be played, but it's a short par 3 and we thought we'd throw in a buck for closest to the pin. I'm certainly the worst golfer in the group, but it's one shot, right? STUCK IT. Again! Add $3 more to the winnings.
Okay, I lost the first match - but now it was time for alternate shot. This year, I was paired with Dave Meyer - one week shy of turning 60 and getting to play from a much shorter tee. We debated which holes we would tee off on (one tees off on odd, one tees off on even). I chose odd (which would be the 2 very difficult par 3s on the Meadow). My first tee shot (again, a little nervous), was hit well and bounced RIGHT BEHIND A TREE. Now, the first rule of Alternate Shot is you don't apologize because you never know what shot your partner will stick you with. But, here I was, apologizing after one shot. We pitched out and I hit a decent chip. Dave really hit a long putt and we won hole number 1. What a relief. The 2nd hole - the long par 5 and 59 year old Dave was teeing off. He wasn't a long hitter so his tee shot landed just across the creek. I was ready to blast my second shot until someone teed off in my backswing and I duffed it badly. Dave understood (I think). We ended up winning the hole as the team we played against had to take an unplayable. We lost the 3rd after I screwed up the tee shot and we were 1UP after 3. On the fourth...it all came together. I chipped in for Par and the other group missed their putt. We were 2up through 4. The next one was the first par 3. It was at 162 yards over a creek to a green that's impossible to hit. I took out my 5 iron, which I usually struggle with. But I wanted to make sure I was across. My partner said "just get across the creek." Got it. I swung - absolute beauty! A little deep...okay, very deep. But across. We took another one as their drive landed in the creek. Then the par 5. We scrambled around and we both had close par putts. They missed theirs and it was all down to me to end the match. I hit it and we won 4 and 3. Domination.
The last of the three was the individual. I was paired against Mike S. I know Mike will never read this, so I'll be candid. I thought I could win. I had actually beat him in score before and he was on the team I just beat in alternate shot. I was confident.
Hole 1: I hit a decent shot but it wound up leaning against a tree (this will come back later). I swung and hit it...under another tree. Then into the water. Basically conceded. 1DN through 1.
The 2nd was a par 3 - closest to the pin. I hit a pretty good shot, a bit long and it just stuck. I was closest to the pin! (I was also in the first group off). But the downfall? It was on the side of a hill and my next putt was awful and Mike hit his. 2DN through 2. Not a great start, man. It started sprinkling as we hard thunder in the background.
I hit a great drive on the 3rd (a par 5 on the Bridge). My 2nd shot was not great; however, Mike hit his 2nd shot straight sideways and out of bounds. I ended up winning the hole. 1DN through 3. The comeback was on. It was raining lightly now.
The par 3 fourth hole was set up nicely. Another closest to the pin. Could I get a sweep? Nope. Left it short. Mike was on the far side of the green but certainly not an easy putt. I got up to chip, raining now, and duffed my chip. I putt the next one and it went about 4 feet past the hole. I have a 4 foot putt for bogey. Mike putts his all the way across the green and off about 5 feet (horrible green). He chips on, putts, and misses. He gets a 5. All I have to do is tap the ball close to the hole and get a 5 and get away with a tie. It's pouring now. I tap my putt. Literally tap it. It goes 5 feet past the hole. I miss the comeback. 2DN through 4 and soaking wet. We have a rain delay. The rain lightens and we headed back out a half hour later.
I hit a perfect drive on 5 to set myself up nicely. The rain; however, made my game a little challenging. I duffed my second shot, catching straight mud, and hitting it in the water. I lost the hole. 3DN with 4 to play. Not good. I had to make a move and I had to do it NOW.
On the 6th hole, I hit a great drive, but it took a HORRIBLE bounce. I was devastated. The good news - I did find it. It was on nothing but rocks. I took the club I was least afraid to hurt (my 7 wood) and I tried to punch it through a window. Mike was scrambling also. I punched it out decent and had an okay next shot. There was a chance. I finally hit a good putt and got away with a bogey. Mike missed his bogey putt. Score! 2DN with 3 to play. I still had a lot of work to do.
Drive on the 7th - pretty damn good. Mike hit his into the trees on the left and had to take a lost ball. I won the hole. 1DN with 2 to play.
A tough par three 8th awaited as I clubbed down, afraid to go long. I left it short and right but it held up. Mike was short in the fairway and chunked his chip. I chipped on and hit my putt for par. AS with 1 to play.
I joked to Mike we should play one more because it had been a crazy round. The 9th. I teed off and hit a beauty - the pressure was immense and you're hitting through a tight group of trees. Mike got up and hit and immediately was frustrated as it went right - the only place with out of bounds. He teed up a provisional and it hit the trees you have to escape but bounced out down below. He was frustrated and wanted to concede the match right there. We went to see where his first one went. It was out of bounds...by 4 inches. I told Mike to play it and he said out of bounds is out of bounds. Extremely honorable of him. He hit a nice next shot and was in position to play the hole out nicely. Now for my ball. It was a great drive. Where did it go? It was headed right towards that....tree. Leaning up against a tree, again. I had zero shot without breaking something. I debated the backwards club thing but I had never done that in my life (authors note: I should practice this). I grabbed the only club I didn't care if I broke...again. 7 wood. I tried to hit it and it went about 2 feet. I was still very much under the tree with a restricted swing. I've done this before and completely missed the ball. I was a wreck. I got a club on it and it took off across the fairway. I was at least making progress. The next shot was decent and it stayed up on the fringe. I had a putt that I had to get close. I stroked it good (yup) and left a 6 incher for bogey. Mike conceded and the comeback was complete! It was a crazy round. I honestly didn't shoot great (probably a 48 or so) but it's match play. This is what it's all about.
I headed back into the clubhouse with 2 full points. Crazy stat of the day. There was a result in 15 straight holes that I played and 18 of 19. I played 23 holes that mattered and there was a result on 19 of them. That's a weird match play stat for you.
All in all - the day was just as fun as I had imagined. I not only scored, but got 2 points and my team won (another $20 to the winnings). The blue team succeeded this year and the best part - Joey only scored 1 point for the losing red team. Yes. Yes, indeed. Until next year, Ryder Cup. It was fun.