For the 4th time in 35 tournaments, I shot the hot round in my division to lead a tournament after round 1. Unlike the other 3 times, I led the field after round 2 as well! Having never taken the lead home on Saturday night, I find myself in the exciting and nervous position of sleeping on my traditional Sunday fail. (I almost never play as well on Sunday, regardless of my success or lack thereof on Saturday. I suspect it is mostly a fatigue issue.)
This morning was crisp and clear, around 50 degrees, plenty cool enough to need a proper warm up but not cold enough to make me stiff or sore, or numb up the digits. Rounds 1 and 2 were at the new ECU Recreational Complex. A fairly simple course with a lot of long par 3's, it will be a wooded monster in a few years when the trees grow up a bit. Unfortunately, that will also make it have a ton of "tweener" holes, where 2's are scarce but threes are easy, but so it goes. Having played it once a couple of weeks before with Tim and Amie, I figured that for the recreational division a 60 was solid. Anything in the 50s would pick up strokes on the field as a whole, with 56 to 57 being a 900 rated round.
Unfortunately that warmup I was talking about came at the expense of one of my oldest and dearest friends. After I threw some approaches onto the hillside basket near hole 1's teepad, I tossed some drives on hole 5. I pulled the CE Teebird my father gave me for Christmas in 2009 out to the right into the schule and never could find it. I soaked my shoes looking through the bushes and sand for it, but it was nowhere to be found.
Wet and pissed, I saw people breaking up at the player's meeting and made my way over to 16 where I was slated to start the tournament. At least my group is good, I told myself. I was playing with Kenneth (Kenny), who is casual and enjoys the game, always a good time. Also on board were David, Claude, and some crazy dude named John. Note that as a compliment, seeing as "crazy dude" is probably a pretty accurate description of myself. It seemed like an enjoyable bunch, and that's important to me as having some crappy group members can really mess up the fun of playing.
Hole 16 isn't a terrifying hole, but it's an easy way to mess up a start because although it's a simple 300 foot shot with a relatively open fairway, there's a large ditch 30 feet short of the basket that's out of bounds, so in my division most people come up short of that on purpose and take an easy 3. I had already told myself I wasn't letting the disc or wet feet get me down, so I just picked up my Buzzz and said "dammit, I'm putting it down there at the basket." I put the drive about 25 feet right and canned the putt for a 2. Damn skippy. The round wasn't really anything special. My driving was really pretty mediocre, I messed it up on 17, 18, 4, and threw some relatively bad shots on relatively easy holes. I also had some pretty nice drives and my putting was immaculate. Kenny, who has probably played 10 tournament rounds with me, said he'd never seen me putt better. I didn't miss inside 25 feet. Cruising home with 9 pars and 2 birdies in the last 11 holes, I shot a 53 for probably a top ten round of my tournament career and the hot round by 3 strokes, over my old man with a 56 and John with a 57.
When I saw my name on that scoreboard, I was happy as hell. I'm not going to lie, I would have been very disappointed if I had shot such a great round by my standards and gotten beaten anyway. But that's golf. Wings over Greenville was gracious enough to provide buffalo, barbeque, and teriyaki chicken tenders for lunch, so I had about 3 or 4 of those and talked some crap with Rocky Geist, an old friend who was playing advanced grandmasters (age 50 or over) this weekend. I've had more battles with Rocky than anyone else except maybe Jerry Roach, who was unable to make it this weekend.
Round 2... fight! This time I felt a little more competitive, but the lead also made me tentative for a few holes knowing I was right in the thick of it with John and my father Tim licking their chops. I got off to a slow start on hole 17, taking a bogey and then throwing my firebird out into the lake to take another bogey. I put the wheels back on the bus for a single hole, and then proceeded to double bogey hole 2. At this point I was now tied with John and knew that if I didn't do something, I was going to completely blow what I had worked for. My old man was playing like crap too and I recall saying to him at least 5 times early in the round, "Come on, we have to get something going.", "We've gotta get moving to stay in this thing." Fortunately, we both improved our game somewhat and everyone else made some mistakes of their own. When it was all said and done, I had pulled in a 60 along with David who had a 60, the old man and John had a 62, with a gentleman from Greenville I really like named Damani pulling in a 68. Nor what I wanted to shoot, but I couldn't argue with going into Sunday leading by 5 and 6 over my competitors.
This is the best I've ever played relative to my competition for 2 rounds in a row, and regardless of what tomorrow brings, I'm happy with today's play and know that at least I had a blast. The rounds tomorrow will be at West Meadowbrook park, my favorite course in eastern North Carolina, so maybe that will bring me some luck. As a side note, dinner at Golden Corral was pretty awesome.
'Til tomorrow night, I guess I really am a pretty good Rec player.