Nervous approach shots into the first two holes left me with two missed greens, but I missed in fairly decent spots and converted a couple of routine up and downs for par. The third hole is a long-ish par 5, but the fairways are firm and the second shot was playing downwind. I went after the green in two from quite a ways away and ripped my hybrid into a greenside bunker. I was short-sided in the bunker, but hit a perfect shot and actually stopped my ball short of the hole but easily tapped in for a birdie. Routine pars at holes 4 and 5 gave way to poor bogey at the par-3 sixth where I mishit a six iron and then misread a five-foot putt to save my par. The putter again let me down at the watery par-5 seventh after I hit two very good shots to leave myself a routine greenside bunker shot for my third. I splashed the bunker shot out just four feet from the hole, but made a very uncommitted stroke and my putt weakly grazed the left lip and missed. That was a bummer, but I did a good job of staying positive, and I hit two great shots at the par-4 eighth to set up a 12 footer for birdie. I made a solid stroke this time, but just didn't quite play enough break and the putt lipped out on the low side. I was still feeling good, though, and I made a solid birdie on the short par-4 ninth after a very aggressive tee shot set up a short wedge shot for my approach. I made the turn at one under par for the day and felt good about things. I striped a tee shot on the difficult par-4 tenth, but terribly misjudged the wind on my second shot and launched a nine iron all the way over the green to a very front hole location. A great up and down saved my par, and I proceeded to make a routine (and slightly disappointing) par on the par-4 eleventh. Three great shots on the long and trouble-laden par-5 twelfth hole set up a great birdie, and I really felt like I had some momentum going at that point. A good par at the tough par-3 thirteenth gave way to probably my best drive of the tournament on the par-4 14th. Facing an uncomfortable wind on the short dogleg left par-4, I striped a nice tight draw right down the middle of the fairway and had just 105 yards to the hole. It was from there that things started to slide in the wrong direction for me. I hit a very solid three-quarter pitching wedge for my approach, but I blocked it pretty badly, and it rolled off the right side of the green and down a severe slope to a difficult chipping area. I made bogey there and then missed the green at the very difficult par-4 fifteenth hole as well and suffered another bogey. A solid par at the par-3 sixteenth sent me to the par-5 17th one shot behind the leader, who was playing in my group. The tee shot at 17 had given me trouble all week, and for one of the only times all week, I hit a very uncommitted golf shot and let my tee shot leak right into an extremely penal fairway bunker for the third consecutive day. I was up against the lip of the bunker, and my only chance to advance the ball significantly towards the hole was to hit a huge slice that came out of the bunker sideways and then curved down the fairway. I pulled off the shot to some extent, but the ball didn't quite slice enough to miss another large fairway bunker farther down the hole. I chunked my next shot out of the bunker, but converted a gritty up and down from some 40 yards short of the green to save my par. My playing competitor, who had taken the lead with my bogeys on 14 and 15, hit two perfect golf shots on the seventeenth and converted a 15-foot putt for his eagle, so he carried a very nice cushion into the 72nd hole, but I was determined to stick to my goal until the very end. I striped a tee shot down the par-4 eighteenth and hit a solid approach shot some twenty feet below the hole. I made a disappointing effort at the putt, but my par gave me a round of even-par 72 and left me in a two-way tie for second place. I was proud of the mindset that I was able to keep for the entire final round, and though I am very disappointed not to have come out on top, I will take way more positive energy from this experience than disappointment.
I was so close that I could taste victory this week. I know that I can do it, and I don't think it will be too long before I break down that barrier and pick up my first win on the Egolf Tour. More importantly, I think this officially marks my "settling-in" to the 2012 golf season because I am starting to think the way I want to on the course and am able to maintain a good mindset and attitude throughout my rounds. I definitely feel like my physical skills are better right now than they have ever been, so if I can continue to perform better and better mentally, I know that my results will continue to improve. I am very excited to see where this year takes me because I think I can accomplish great things.
I don't have to wait long to get back to competition. I'm heading to Greensboro, NC, for two events next week. On Monday/Tuesday, I will play a two-day event on the Carolinas Pro Golf Tour at a great course called Bryan Park before going to one of my favorite Egolf venues, Forest Oaks Country Club, for a 54-hole event on that circuit Wednesday-Friday. It should be a great week, and I am excited to get myself back in contention and to keep improving.
Thank you for all of your support and encouragement this week! It was a pretty exciting experience, but I think that even better stuff is coming. Keep it here for all the news!