What, did you seriously think you wouldn’t get a recap of this year’s King of the Lake? Like I did in 2017? And 2016? And 2014? And 2011? And 2010? And 2009? And 2008? You get the point. As I pointed out in last year’s recap, I shoot the King very well in even numbered years. Would that continue?
ROUND 1: TAHOE VISTA
I’m going to eschew my normal hole-by-hole recap because, let’s be honest, nobody reads all that crap. My back did not feel great but I was well rested and rearing to go. I start on hole 1 with a great card of people I like playing with. And the course is set up TO SCORE WELL (the hot round would come in at a 48, or -10).
Remember in my pre-tourney blog, I mentioned my putter had gone cold of late? I start off on hole 1 (a must-deuce) and throw it 25′ left. Not ideal, but it’s a tester. And I throw a terrible putt that sneaks in the right corner for a no-chains birdie. I actually really needed that, something to build on and not have a feeling of “oh no, here comes the bad putting again!” Hole 2 I clip some cabbage and leave myself 50′ short. I MAKE that big putt. Okay, hopefully that’s a sign of things to come.
I throw 3 pars and then start to click. I nearly ace hole 6, settling for a drop-in deuce. I birdie the very easy par-4 hole 7, followed by an easy birdie on 8. Hole 9 I throw what I think is a park-job, only to see I’m 20′ short on a pretty sharp uphill lie. No matter, I BANG I…. no, I miss. Just short. That’s something that happened a LOT this weekend – a shot that I really thought I made did not go in.
I birdie 10, 11 (with a sick 50+ putt), and 13. Followed with a par. I get the tough hole 15 (in fact, we had a star frame – all of us birdied – on it!) and a drop-in on 16. Hole 17, I take the cheaty-thumber route and it hits 5′ from the basket! Only I get a lousy role and have a 30+ foot putt, which I just miss low (I also thought I made that one). Par to finish.
That put me at a… would you look at that? 48! Did I forget to mention I was one of the people who threw the hot round? It certainly didn’t feel like it, especially since I missed a short putt and had a really bad break. It CERTAINLY didn’t feel like a 1021-rated round, which it currently is. Scary to know that, with those two breaks and a better 3rd throw on hole 18, I could have thrown a 1050+ rated round.
So that put me in…
FIRST PLACE?!?!?! Really? I was playing against Robert Bainbridge in my division, a 1001-rated golfer who I fully expected to run away with this thing. Okay, so I’m leading after 1 round. Okay.
ROUND 2: BIJOU
I take some more Alleve as my back is really starting to bother me. We start on hole 11 (old guys start on later holes than the young pros). I throw a great drive and have a 25′ death putt. Robert is looking at a likely bogey, so I decide to play safe and not go for it. Robert cans his par and I look like an idiot for not trying to make the putt, especially since my putter was great up until this point. Then I throw a bogey on the difficult hole 12 and miss the stupidly easy hole 13. The bogey on 12 was my first of the tournament.
Ummm, not how I’d draw up the start of round 2.
I take a drop-in par on 14 and then NEARLY ace the 420′ downhill hole 15 (it must have just hyzered in front). Birdie, par, par, par. Ending up even to par after those holes is okay, but definitely not great.
I birdie 1, par 2 and 3. Hole 4 is a new position I’ve never seen, labelled as 400+ feet. I crush my katana on a great line, but it hits a guardian – normally I need ALL of my distance to try to get over 400′, even on a downhill hole. I give an audible show of frustration. But the tree actually stops the disc well and it curls around the basket for an easy birdie. So yeah, that hole is mis-labelled (I’d estimate it at 350′, a little downhill). I have a great par save on hole 5, a near birdie on the tough six (I thought it was in, but it was just high), a good birdie on 7, and a very nearly great putt on 8 (another one I thought was in – it hit top link, off the cage, and out). I hit a long putt on 9 for birdie and finish with a par.
Zephyr is an interesting course. You can shoot well there, but there aren’t many GIMME birdies (like at Vista or the other KotL course, Bijou). You have to earn them, and you have to limit the bleeding. I had one bogey and five birdies. The -4 ended up being more than solid (unofficially 990 rated!) The problem is, Robert did what Robert does: shot a -9, giving him a 4-stroke lead going into the final round.
This is important. I’m in second, only 4 strokes off the lead in my division of 19. One guy is 3 strokes behind me, but I have a 7-stroke cushion over 4th place. I just need a good night’s sleep and there’s an off chance I could win this thing, since Bijou’s a course I can string some good holes together. At the very worst, I am looking at an unprecedented top 3 finish
I go to bed at 9:30. And basically toss and turn the entire night. I did briefly dream, meaning I did briefly sleep, but I’d estimate I got somewhere between 1-2 hours. NO! I never play well when I’m tired!
Also, I had to take a pain pill because I was so tired. Even though I felt relaxed, I didn’t sleep. Worse yet, when I woke up, my back was ON FIRE, and not in an EN FUEGO way. But hey, at least not in the literal way either.
FINAL ROUND: BIJOU
This is a monster 30-hole layout and it’s set up medium. Which still means PLENTY of birdie opportunities. I straggle in, dead tired and hoping the adrenaline of competing on top card (and a 5-hour energy drink) help me finish strong. Lots of stretching and we’re off, starting on hole 9.
Now my goal is to keep top 3, especially knowing the back issues, the lack of sleep issues, and the personal issues I’m trying very hard to ignore during the round. In the first dozen holes or so, I definitely lose strokes to Tony (who was only 3 behind me at the start) and Nate (who was 7 behind but closing). I’m about even with Robert for the round (and still 4 back for the tourney). Serge, who unfortunately had a rough round, became a non-issue early. In that span I did hit 4 birdies in a row (12, 12a, 12b, and 13) but still lost ground to Nate and Tony.
Then I proceed to play pretty okay golf. At around the halfway point, I realize Robert still has me by about 4, and I’m probably tied with Tony or close to it. But I’m hanging in there. And I willed myself to overcome my fatigue and my back. If I don’t win this, I want it to be because I was too aggressive, not because I was too careful.
The middle of the round I throw a few more birdies and am starting to gain ground on Robert, with Tony also hanging around. Nate falls back because of some bad lack. By the time we hit hole 27, I think it’s pretty close to a 3-way tie. I am the only one to birdie hole 27 (on a SICK crush that did see a little bit of luck come my way). Best yet, my putter was BACK. During the round I missed 4 or 5 putts from 40-60′, but ALL of them were barely misses, most of which I thought I made when they left my hand. I stopped missing altogether from inside the 33′ circle.
At this point, I’m playing VERY well, so I stop looking just to get top 3 (which is all but guaranteed) and try to actually win this thing, Bainbridge or no Bainbridge. He birdies hole 1, but I’m the only one to hit hole 2. Hole 3 is a star frame (all birdies). Holes 4 and 5 are both par-frames. Hole 6 I throw a very good drive but SLIGHTLY low – I hit the LAST sagebrush (1′ higher on my throw and I’m probably very close to parked – instead I have a 60′ putt). I don’t know exactly where we all stand in terms of total score, but I know it’s close. I figure I have to make the putt. WHICH I DO. Putter EN FUEGO (the good kind).
Robert and Tony also birdie (Tony’s putt was only a few inches closer than mine). Hole 7 I start out with a PARK JOB (less than 3′ from basket). But so does Tony. Robert throws it wide, he’ll have a 30′ par putt. Long story short, that’s another star frame.
So our last hole is hole 8. I know me, Robert, and Tony are all within a stroke or two, but I’m not sure exactly where. Hole 8 is a very easy hyzer hole (at least easy to put yourself in the circle and in no danger of going out-of-bounds – it’s a little trickier to park it). I SHOULD have looked at the scorecard, but I was playing so aggressively and well that I figured I needed a birdie no matter what, so I go for the tighter park-job. And I hit an early tree, leaving myself a 60′. Robert puts his drive within 25′, Tony within 15.
Okay, now I gotta look at the scorecard, see if I should run the 60′ putt (with OB behind the basket – probably not in play, but it could be if I skipped off the top of the basket). Turns out I was tied with Robert going into the hole, and 2 ahead of Tony overall. So now the whole tourney comes down to this putt. I need to make it to force a push (I assume Robert will make his 25′ putt, as he rarely missed from there).
I run it, but alas, come up just short. Robert hits his for the win. Tony hits his for 3rd place, one stroke behind me.
So, another even year, another good showing. No, not good. This was the best tournament of my life, by far. I threw 27 birdies, 38 pars, and one bogey. My drives were great, my scrambles, the few I had at any rate, were top notch, and I rarely had any trouble. My putting was well above average, although it wasn’t quite as lights-out as Robert would have you believe. It was a weapon, though, and not a liability.
I missed being KING of my division by 1 stroke. In fact, if I was still playing Open, I would have also tied for 2nd there (being only 2 strokes behind the best score of the entire tournament). Of course, that means I would have made more prize money had I played Open. D’oh!
I honestly can’t complain. I averaged a 1005-rating for the three rounds (I think I’ve only ever averaged a touch above 980 for an entire tournament once). My up shots were easy. My putts were reliable. And more importantly, I had fun. I had no expectations going in given my current life situation; I just wanted to have fun. Shooting lights out helps, but I did just enjoy myself.
This also bought me some more tournaments. I was considering hanging up the discs for the year, but this extra spending cash bought me some peace of mind. I’ll be back at Bijou in 3 weeks. Hopefully my back will have healed up by then.