Last week I talked about the growth of the “Greatest Golfer” experience over the last four years. This week, with the tournament underway, I thought it might be interesting to write a piece documenting what a competitor (me) thinks about during a tournament round. Now I know everyone thinks differently during a round, so this is obviously just a first person recap of my round on Friday.
Pre-round warm-up: My tee time Friday morning was at 8:54, so my caddie (good friend Andrew Mangano) and I got there around 8:10. I try to keep my warm-up before a tournament round just that: a warm-up. I started on the range with little chip shots to loosen up and then worked my way through full wedges, to a 7-iron, to a 4-iron and then, finally, to a driver.
I’m not a huge “scientific” guy when it comes to my swing, so that morning I was really just trying to feel some solid contact shots and try to come up with ONE good swing thought for the day. Friday it worked out to be staying balanced with my feet and really feeling my weight get into my right foot. Once I had that thought, I tried not to think about any other swing mechanics.
After 5-10 minutes on the putting green, it was off to the first tee. Andy Santor was there to greet us and pass out scorecards and rule sheets. I met my playing partners, exchanged cards, identified our golf balls and then we were off on No. 1 on Mill Creek North.
The round: If anyone tells you they don’t get at least a little nervous on the first tee of a tournament, they’re lying. For me, I tried to focus on my one swing thought. I pulled 3-wood to play it safe ... and immediately pulled my first shot into the trees left of the fairway.
I normally feel like there are about two to four “key” shots of a round (good or bad). Ideally, I’d like to get off to a “boring” start where I make a few good swings, hit some fairways and greens, make a few pars, and then get into the meat of the round. Today however, I had a “key” shot on the first hole.
Without going into too much detail, I either had to slice a punch cut shot around a tree and go at the green or punch out to the fairway. I chose the more aggressive route, hit a nice shot and ended up saving a par. Mentally, that par felt like a birdie. If that second shot hadn’t gone as planned, the day could have been completely different.
Two through five were basically more of the same. I didn’t see a fairway. Greens were scarce. And by the time I got to the sixth tee, I was sitting at 2 over. Mentally, I was struggling to get comfortable. As I stood at the tee box, I had a little conversation with myself where I concluded that from there on, I was going to pick smart lines but make aggressive swings. I finally hit my first fairway on No. 6.
On No. 7 I had one of the bad “key” shots of the round when I got too aggressive with my second shot into the par 5 and ended up making par where I should have made an easy birdie. But I got it back on No. 9 when I made another scrambling par that felt like birdie. As I made the turn, I was 2 over, but was actually starting to feel a little confidence.
I had better ball striking on the back nine. I had birdie putts on six of the first seven holes on the back. Unfortunately, I missed all six and bogeyed the one hole I had to chip. Mentally, this is where I had to “grind.” I felt like I had left about three to five shots out there by this point. So instead of being a couple under, I was standing on No. 17 at 3 over and starting to “think” about my final score and where I might be in my flight.
Luckily, I was able to block that out and make a few good swings over the last two holes to finish birdie-par and get in the clubhouse with a 2-over 72. I’ll call that finish the fourth “key shot” of this round and the first “key shot” of Saturday’s round. Anytime there’s a tournament with multiple days, I always find it helpful to end the first day on a positive.
So that was my first round. It was mentally challenging with the tough start and the missed opportunities but at the end of the day, I was pleased with the overall score.
By the time you read this today we’ll obviously have a better idea of the leaders in each flight. But for the Pete Mollica open division, I have to give a quick shout out to everyone’s friend, Glenn “Uncle Milty” Milton. Two years in a row we’re all chasing Uncle Milty after the first round.
Finally, if you don’t have plans today, why not come out to The Lake Club and watch the leaders from each flight finish? The weather looks great and the golf should be exciting.
Hopefully we’ll see you there.
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance for Huntington Insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at firstname.lastname@example.org