Winthrop is Golden

This morning I finally got to see the course for myself, and this afternoon I finally got to play it. And it wasn’t until playing it myself that I was able to fully appreciate it. This course really is the result of some great course design.

Winthrop Gold is known to be long and exacting, with its “10,000 feet of OB.” But after playing all 18 holes, I’m happy to say that a player who can barely throw 350 feet could break par here. Can break par here.

I’m not saying it’s easy, no, no-o-o-o-o-o. Even though the terrain is mostly manicured grassy, many of the holes have just enough slope to complicate shot choices. OB lines don’t just run more or less parallel to the left and right of the hole. Often, they are used to define a hole, transforming a wide-open area into a vicious, narrow, 90 degree dogleg right (hole 10). And don’t even get me started on the the bunkr! However, this course is quite fair.

Using myself as a good yardmark to prove (or disprove) the bold assertion above (about weenie-arms being able to break par at Winthrop Gold) I’d have to say that only holes 5 ( a 1000-foot par 5 with a large stretch of water to cross at the end of the hole) and 13 (the famous ‘888‘ hole) are tough to par mostly because of length. On the rest of the holes, if you can throw a 250-foot upshot close enough to get up-and-down – and if you have the discipline to throw to spots rather than follow the instinct to huck it as hard as possible on a 900-foot hole – you can break par. I’m telling you, you can.

Now, all that being said, practice is different than tournament play and it’s always easier said than done when it comes to doing the logical thing in golf. But still, it’s a great course and great tournament that requires precision shots, consistent putting AND 500-foot drive potential to win, yet requires only the first two to break par and finish in the cash.

Like a polite – but devestating – right cross

Finally, after 11 years of speculation, stories, pictures, and video, I got to see the Winthrop Gold course for myself. And as is usually the case, the reality didn’t match up perfectly with my preconceived notions. Pretty close, but not exactly. Here are a couple things that surprised me a little:

  • Based on the online caddy book (course map), I expected more of the holes to be ‘wooded’. In reality, almost the entire course is nice, mowed grass, and most of the trees you need to play through have high canopies that make it so you’re just dealing with the trunks.
  • On the other side of the coin, the OB on most of the holes increases the degree of difficulty much more than I thought it would. In some spots, my feeble arm forces me to advance my disc 200 feet or less (when I need much more) to ensure I don’t stray across an OB line.

By way of analogy, I can compare Winthrop Gold to a heavyweight boxer that uncharacteristically doesn’t look, sound, or act imposing. So you go into the fight thinking you’ve got a shot, that maybe you won’t get as seriously mauled as your opponent’s 52-0 record with 45 knockouts would indicate. Then the bell rings and you get hit with that first devastating – but polite – right cross. That’s the first impression I got from Winthrop Gold. Now, the question is, will this insight help me at all?

USDGC- Be careful what you wish for

Since it debuted 11 years ago, playing in the USDGC has been first a wish, then a dream, then a goal, and finally an obsession of mine.

For the first few years, I wasn’t even cashing in Masters Cups and Faultlines regularly, and my scores were usually 20 strokes off what I’d need to qualify for USDGC. So it was kind of a ‘maybe someday’ kind of thing. Then I began to figure things out on the course, and eventually I’d make getting one of those five qualifier spots in the Masters Cup one of my objectives. By the time my player rating peaked at 999 (arg!), I had missed qualifying by either one spot or one stroke (or both) three years in a row. So last year, as my age hit 42 and my distance seemed to diminish a bit, I decided to bite the bullet and find another way to get in. I served as an assistant tournament director for the Masters Cup this year, and Daviar graciously gave me his spot.

Be careful what you wish for.

Tee off in Rock Hill, South Carolina is now nine days away, and my throwing arm is not just sore and feeble, like usual. It’s got something seriously wrong with it, and I don’t know what it is because I won’t see a doctor until after I return (because he/she might tell me not to play, and obsessed people always play).

So now I’m committed to playing this course that is long, exacting and, according to all the stories, potentially demoralizing- without my ‘A’ game. And everything being relative, my ‘A’ game in the USDGC is realistically a ‘B-minus’ game at best. But I do have a plan, and if I can pull it off I might even make the cut or even beat more than half the field. Hey, a guy can dream!

I’m going to try to post some entries in the coming week, but they’ll most likely be about things other than me and my game (we’ve heard that before, you say).

Wish me luck. Or better yet, wish me endorphins.

Masters Cup 2009: after 56 holes

First of all, we’re down to the last 28 holes. One more round, and so far no aspect of the tourney has been a disappointment. The weather continues to warm (if anything it’s been too warm), with wind a non-factor today. The course – despite the gorgeous conditions – isn’t giving up outrageously low scores (less than 20 percent of the Open division is under par). And the final round features a top group of Greg Barsby, Nate Doss, Nikko Locastro, and Ken Climo, all either -12 or -11. Within striking distance are Josh Anton, Kyle Crabtree, Stevie Rico, John Child, and Dave Feldberg.

I’t be great to see Nate Finally win on the course where he grew up, but more than anything I’m looking forward to a close finish no matter who wins. Now on to what really matters. Me! : )
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I’m at +6, tied for 8th in the Masters division (35 players), 12 strokes outta the lead.

I can play better, but with only three birdies and nine single bogeys I’m at least sticking to the gameplan and not giving strokes away. Not too many, anyway. What’s hurt me more than anything else is not birdying the three shorts holes on the course (8a, 17, and 21) except for one on 21. But all in all, considering the game I’ve showed up with Friday and Today, +6 ain’t too bad. I’ve hit every putt inside 30 feet except one, so now all I have to do is get a few of those looks for birdie rather than par! Now it’s time for a hot tub, another beer, sleep . . . then 28 more holes.

Masters Cup 2009:

The pro Masters Cup starts tomorrow, and I feel like I have two persona’s this year. While I’ve played in the event for many, many years, this is the first year I’ve been involved in running it in a major way. After all this time, and finally seeing what’s involved in pulling off a major tournament like the Masters Cup, I felt guilty.

For those that don’t know, some serious volunteer hours get put in to pull off an event that spans two 3-day weekends and includes more than 300 players. Unlike other courses, we get no assistance from the city or county when it comes to course maintenance, so all those lumpy hillsides that get mowed and weed-whacked are mowed and weed-whacked by volunteer disc golfers! Add to that the coordination with sponsors and the PDGA, communication to players, assembly of the players packs . . . . . I could go on and on, but you get the picture. People like Daviar, Stan Pratt, Marty Hapner, Katie Beckett, the guys at DGA . . . they deserve tons of credit.

Anyway, it makes this year feel different than years past. But it’s Thursday night, and my volunteer work should be done now. From now until my last putt on Sunday, I’m just another competitor. And like all the past years, I have a strategy to get my best game to show up for three straight 4.5 hour rounds on three straight days. Here it is, in a nutshell:

  1. As always, focus on nothing but what it takes to execute the next shot. All the other stuff – the score, the magintude of the event, what the other guys are doing – only detracts from the shot at hand.
  2. Stick to my gameplan of settling for par on most holes, picking up birdies where they present themselves. No matter how things start, or what unforseen disasters occur, I’ll stick to the plan. Last year I was cold for three straight rounds, and by sticking to the plan I still cashed.
  3. Treat my old bones with care. Ice the arm right after the round, soak in the hot tub Friday and Saturday nights, limit the alcohol, and get enough sleep.

We’ll see how it goes, but the key is #1 above. I play my best when I’m totally absorbed in the moment, in the shot. I need to play disc golf in a vaccuum.