Yesterday as we do most Tuesdays, I challenged my fellow P.G.A Professional and best friend to a Matchplay competition. We have a running battle over the past 20 years playing on different golf courses. As usual our match came down to the wire.
Early on he struck the ball better but due to my scrambling skills around the green, I managed to get a lead early of 2 up and shoot 1 under around the front nine at Royal Pines. He continued to play well and stayed in the match. We then confronted the Par 3 14th which was playing around 190m. He put his on the green and I had a 20m chip shot. I unfortunately made a bogey while he clutched up and made par from around 10 feet.
The pressure was starting to build with four holes remaining. On the 16th was where he squared the match as unfortunately I missed a 4 foot putt down the hill. We were now square with two to play. Again he played the next hole really well and I conceded the par. I again had a 4 foot putt to keep the game at square with one hole remaining. This was where I had to clutch up especially after the previous hole.
I focused on alignment and ensuring I took the same amount of time as I would any other time when making those putts. I also learnt from the previous putt and ensured that my backswing length matched my through swing length. I believe it's important to always learn from a previous golf experience and if need be change a certain technical aspect. As long as I didn't change my overall routine, it should improve the result. I fortunately nailed the putt.
The last hole he teed off first and bombed down the middle. It was very impressive! I unfortunately blocked into the bunker. This is where a fantastic mindset has to kick in. First of all I had to determine whether I could go for the green. Unfortunately due to the distance being around 158m and in front of a fairly high lip, this wasnt an option. I then just backed myself and said let's just make sure I get the ball out of the bunker and leave myself under 70 m where I know I can still give myself a chance of salvaging Par.
This is a very important mindset because instead of getting discouraged, I looked forward to the opportunity of scrambling for Par even though my friend was only 120m from the flag for his second shot. I never let it faze me. He then uncharacteristically blocked his wedge just right of the green which surprised me. I then had 70m remining for my shot. I knew this was a perfect 3/4 58 degree wedge shot. I just had to play it smooth and realise it was like any other shot so as to knock get bogged down in feeling pressure. I then stuck it to 10 feet.
My friend then unfortunately had a difficult chip shot and compounded hitting his shot too far which led to a double. Very unfortunate for him as he had played so well all day. Even though I didnt get a chance to make the winning putt as he conceded the hole, the mindset I was able to retain was invaluable in order to keep pressure on him even when it wasn't going my way.
The morale of the day is to learn from your experiences whether good or bad and never let the situation dictate how you feel. Always embrace the challenge!
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