King of the Lake

Time for a good ole’ disc golf writeup of a tourney (followed by, what else, stats!)

King of the Lake is a fantastic multi-day, multi-course tournament that had existed for many years (it used to be 3 or 4 courses in one day, and has since expanded to 5 courses over 3 days) but went on haitus a few years back. With the blessing of the original TD, it has resurfaced as an A-Tier and part of the Sierra Tahoe series. Needless to say, I was glad to hear it was coming back – it was always one of my favorites, from my first time playing where I came in third (in a much smaller field than this year). Anyway, let’s get to the goods…

Round 1: Bijou

Ahh, Bijou, a course that I usually poop all over because it’s set up as deuce-or-die. This year’s layout wasn’t all in the shorts, but it was still a course you could mow through (the best score ended up being -11 for 27 holes). I started out on admittedly a difficult stretch of holes, beginning in the middle 9 on hole 11. I end up throwing 12 pars to start my round, which isn’t terrible, but isn’t great. I wasn’t leaving myself putts, which was frustrating, but that also meant that I wasn’t in terrible danger at any point. Once the back 9 happened and especially the front 9, I expected to pick up some of those birdies. Well, I sorta did. I finally nabbed a birdie on hole 23, a pretty difficult hole. I also got hole 25. Then we got to hole 1, the start of “birdie row”. Well, the first two baskets were positions I’d never seen before (they changed the holes when they built a second dog-park at the course). I parred the first (after being told the hole was 280′, not the 333′ that it actually was) and bogeyed the second after landing in the dog run for an OB. I managed to birdie holes 3, 8 and 9 to pull me back to -4, which was decent. After a HUGE lucky break on my final drive, I managed to throw the worst upshot of the tournament and miss the 30′ putt to give me a bogey to finish and a -3 total. 8 off the lead, and not the start I wanted, but not abysmal either. It did manage to get rated over 970, which was decent. After one round, I was just below the middle of the pack, but just barely. Plenty of time.

Round 2: Zephyr

Zephyr started a weird trend that continued through most of this tournament – crushing the first half of the course and then struggling to finish. Perhaps it’s that I play 4-5 rounds a month, and here I was playing that many in 3 days. Anyway, I started on hole 4, a VERY tough 3, and had my best drive ever, giving me a putt for a birdie. I ended up parring, and then parring the next 2 holes which was as good as I was going to do, really. Then a bunch of birdie holes came and I got two of them, followed by a par on the only par 4 for the course. So far, so good. Then there’s another mini-gauntlet (holes 11-13 are very difficult 3s) and I birdie hole 12 with a near-ace. So through the toughest stretch of the entire course, I’m -3 coming up to holes that are either fairly easy pars or birdie holes. I had visions of grandeur in my eyes. I proceeded to bogey hole 14, a pretty tough hole, but I did it in spectacular fashion:

– It’s an open hugely uphill hole with really only one tree to miss. And I hit it, and it sent me backwards behind the teepad into a bush. So I had the same hole, only slightly longer and with no runup. I manage to throw an okay shot which landed in another tree. So with no footing, I throw a third shot just to try to give myself a putt, but yank it UP the hill (bad idea). So I’m looking at a 50′ putt with a HUGE dropoff behind the basket. The way I saw it, I had played so well this round, I just KNEW I would make it. And bang it I did, to cheers from my group.

Figuring I had momentum on my side, I drove sloppily on the next hole, which is a hard birdie, but should have been an easy par (I ended up missing a 25′ par putt) and carded a bogey. It’s okay, I thought, there are birdie holes up ahead! Which I miss. All of them. I proceed to par out and end up with a -1, which is still good (rated 989) but it could have been SO much better. With eliminating those two dumb mistakes and even getting one of those last birdie holes, it would have made for a HUGE round. But oh well, I still moved up in the overall standings.

Round 3: Sierra College

I’ve realized the one thing I need more than anything else to be successful at disc golf is a good night’s sleep. I play bad when I’m tired. And the night before rounds 3 and 4, I lay in bed, eyes wide awake, unable to sleep. I don’t know if Tournament Insomnia is a thing, but I’ve had it all year, and it’s really getting old. So I show up to my favorite course very tired and hopped up on a 5 hour energy drink (the first time I’ve even ever tried one).

I begin on hole 4 (holes 4-7 are a very tough stretch of holes) by throwing a PERFECT anny and giving myself a 25′ birdie putt on a hole that is rarely birdied. I miss it. Oh well. I par 5 and move on to 6, a par 4 hole I’ve never even had a putt for birdie. After an okay drive and an AMAZING up shot, I tap in my 10′ birdie and I’m feeling good. After parring 7 (nothing to be ashamed about), I go to “birdie row”, a string of 7 holes that are all ripe for picking. I manage to get only 1 of them (I missed a 20′ putt on one for a 2nd birdie). Either way, being -2 after that large string of holes is boding pretty well, as there are a couple of dinkers later on I could get.

Except I bogey 13, a tricky hole which is sorta poke-and-hope. I hit the first tree, and despite a very good up (which hit a tree I couldn’t see or else I’d have been under the basket), I bogey. Then I miss a 40′ putt for birdie on the next one, and have to settle for par on the par 4 15th hole after a DUMB upshot. I figure if I can par out 16-18, and maybe get one or two of the last three birdies, I’d have a great round. WHY DO I THINK LIKE THAT!? STOP THINKING BIG PICTURE, dink. Of course I bogey 17-18 (bad drive on the former, bad up on the latter), and I miss the super easy hole 1. At least I managed to birdie the par 4 hole 3 to finish at an even, a wholly underwhelming round. It ended up as a 960 rated round, my worst in the tourney. It dropped me from the cash-line, but not by much.

Round 4: Truckee Regional

I have a love/hate relationship with this course. I hate it, but I love that I tend to shoot it very well in tournaments. And sure enough, that trend continued. The whole course is a birdie-fest, though in the medium layout where it was, it wasn’t all simple. Plus there was a swirling wind (good for me!) I start on hole 5, having dropped to the 5th card. I get past it (I have never birdied it) and get to the first of several birdie rows. I end up going 2 3 2 2 2 (I missed a 25′ putt on hole 7, the easiest hole on the course, and one I rarely birdie). I have a putt on the difficult 11, but miss it. On hole 13, the hardest hole on the course, I have a great drive but hit a tree and get a TERRIBLE placement leaving me an extremely difficult up. I end up missing the hole for a tough-luck bogey. I resolve not to let this be the start of another bad second half (it was the 10th hole of the round after all) and after a couple of pars, I manage to turkey out on holes 16-18. On hole 1, I have bad luck but pick up a great up shot to give myself the 18′ tapin for par. BUT I MISS IT! Grrr. I manage to birdie 2 and have a terrific save for a par on hole 3 after a terrible drive. On the tricky hole 4, I leave myself a 25′ putt to finish with a birdie, but miss that one just a few inches high. This leaves me at a -6, which I felt was solid, but could have been a -8 with just two more putts at the end. Oh well, as of now, it still just crept into 1000-rated territory (other people tend to get in their heads about Truckee and/or the wind, so there were many problems out there). And that put me 1 stroke in the cash with one more round to play.

Round 5: Tahoe Vista

Man, this is my Jeckyl/Hyde course. I rarely shoot an average round there – it’s either crush or be crushed for me there. So I wanted that strong start to really put the pressure on my group. Since we did a trickle start, it means everyone started on hole one, so that meant I had to face my nemesis, hole #3, a little later than I would have otherwise (I ended up on 3rd card and would have started on hole three in a traditional round).

I miss holes 1 and 2 for birdie, which is a shame because they’re both pretty gettable. Then, we wait for ~40 mins because of an obscene backup. There were 4 groups already waiting on the hole. After all that wait, I step up to Evil Hole 3 and FINALLY put the disc exactly how I want it, not hitting either of the early guardians. Only I hit a tree in the fairway that I can’t see off the tee. Bad luck there. How do I respond? With the 2nd worst upshot of the tournament, putting me 50′ away for a par. I miss by an inch or two and bogey my nemesis. YET AGAIN. I move on and miss hole 4 (a bit of bad luck there too, as the drive could have been good but just nicked a branch). And then to describe what happens next, it needs its own paragraph:

– Hole 5 is par 4, but one of the easier par 4s out there. It’s long and usually windy, and there is some OB (a soccer field), but really if your first drive is straight and in the open, you’re left with a 200-250′ upshot with no danger unless you go long. Well, I turn my drive over and land further right than I wanted. I am in the sand pits. In terms of distance, it’s not a big deal, I am 300′ away, not 200-250. But I have no run-up being in the sand and I am in a ditch to boot. I try a miracle forehand and go long, but thankfully it hits a tree and I imagine I probably have a 40-50′ shot, perhaps even a putt. Nope. I discover that I rolled down the hill, so I’m 60 away with NO SHOT WHATSOEVER. I mean, not even really an upshot at that point because of this massive pine in my face. All I have is a wide flick shot to get me my par save. Unfortunately, I choose that moment to TEST MY POWER and flick it over 100′ into the field. So now, in a round where every stroke is precious and I’ve already given up a few to my competition, I am staring at a 50′ putt with a death cliff immediately behind the basket. I think to myself “I can’t give up a single stroke” and I proceed to BANG the death putt. Par saved and even though I lost a stroke to everyone on my card, I still feel like it was a victory.

I missed the extremely easy hole 6, and then we got our second wait of the tournament, this one even longer. There were 5 cards in line before us when we arrived. When we finally tee, I had a drop-in par on the very difficult par 4 hole 7, and then we approached the “birdie row” of this course. How did I respond? By more boring parring. So far, this round is everything I feared it would be – I was Jeckyling the course. Finally, hole 12, which is a pretty easy deuce hole, I ran my disc RIGHT by, nearly an ace, but instead finding myself with a 40′ putt with a hill sloping away behind it. Not a death-putt, per se, but certainly one I could three-putt if I run it too hard and miss. I ended up hit that one (making me 3-3 on the weekend in must-hit deathputts). Okay, that’s a confidence booster. The end of the course is pretty difficult, but there are a few birds to be had and nothing else incredibly difficult. I parred the next (JUST missing a sick birdie putt), and then had a 20′ putt for par on the very difficult hole 14. WHICH I MISSED!

So now I think I’ve played myself out of the cash. I am at a +1 with 4 holes left, and only two of those are really in my wheelhouse in terms of birdies. My mental game is shot, and my elbow is tender from that much golf. I step up to the lefty-friendly hole 15 with nothing to lose and I throw it 20′ away. I make the putt with the 4 groups waiting on hole 18 looking on. One down, three to go.

Hole 16 is a pretty easy birdie for me now that I’ve figured out how to play it. I execute my hyzer shot and put myself 12′ away for birdie. I caned that one too. Now I’m back to even. I still don’t think it’s good enough for cash, but certainly better than it had been two holes before.

Hole 17 is the signature hole of the course, for which you either play a putter or midrange straight down a huge downhill sloped fairway, or cheat and throw a thumber over everything. I would love to say I pured a midrange, but no, I cheated with my thumber and put myself 18′ away for birdie. After nearly missing it (the high putt goes in), I’ve gotten a turkey to put myself into respectability. Possibly cash, but I’m not sure. During the next 40 minute wait we have on the final tee, I talk to my buddy on the next card and ask if anyone’s killing it (trying to find out how to play the final hole, a massively tricky 1000+ foot par 5). He thinks my “respectable” for the round should put me “safely” in the cash as nobody is really doing anything on his card. So that changes my strategy. I was originally going to try to 4 the hole which I’d never done, but instead I opt to play a “safe” drive, not going for distance, but just making sure I’m out of the gap which could be a round-killer. Mission accomplished. My second shot, however, changes everything. It’s perfect. I mean, it’s the single best throw I could have had on the hole. It puts me within striking distance of the basket (maybe 350′ away) and with a good gap. I smell blood now. I choose the wrong disc and put myself right in line but 30′ short. AND I BANG the putt, giving myself a 4 stroke swing on my last four holes to card a -3 (which ended up being quite good). I did lose ground to one person while beating the one I was tied with, so it was almost a wash.

Had I not gotten my last 4 holes, I wouldn’t have cashed. It turned out I didn’t need the birdie on hole 18, a 5 would have still given me 15th place, but I’m glad I got it.

Either way, there were a few things to take away from this tournament. I have never driven so well with my katana in my life. Every time I threw it, I got a great hyzer-flip out of it. It was so consistent and I was really happy with that. My putting in general was probably about even, missing a few too many <30 foot putts, but making a few long ones when I absolutely needed to. And I had a handful of either really long or really tricky putts that were only inches away, so while the score didn’t show it, I was definitely on my game. My ups were somewhere between ordinary and above average. Also, I found I can overcome poor sleep, but it takes all my concentration to do so. And I cashed. For the third straight A-Tier I’ve done. Woo!

Which brings me to my last nerdy stat. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about how I seem to do better the higher the Tier of tournaments, but to make that point I felt like I had sorta pick dates that would facilitate my hypothesis (I ended up including my amateur tournaments). Now I feel like trying it again, but picking from a time where I feel like I actually deserved to be playing pro. So we’re going to start with the beginning of 2008, when my rating would more or less stay above 960 until present. It was also coincidentally when I moved west, so it was a fresh start for a number of reasons. In that time, here are my stats:

NTs and Majors: 3 events, 0 cashes – 0% cash

A Tiers: 6 events, 3 cashes – 50% cash

B Tiers: 21 events, 9 cashes – 43% cash

C Tiers: 19 events, 7 cashes – 37% cash

Okay, so I’m not nuts. With the exception of NTs and majors, which I don’t expect to cash at, I do seem to step my game up in bigger tournaments. Some of it might be that bigger tournaments pay deeper, but it might just be that one-day events aren’t my cup of tea. Either way, interesting findings.

Now go rest your eyes.

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