This week saw a new tournament and Country for me, as I travelled to The Kingdom of Bahrain. A short hop over the Arabian Gulf brought the 10th King Hamad Trophy, a relatively unheard of competition until recent discovery. With no entrance fee to the tournament and a small field of Pros, what more could you want! The tournament fielded a majority of local amateurs which was great in the aspect that they get to compete side by side touring pros. The Prize fund was upped as the tournament gained popularity, $8,500 to the winner and only the top ten pros get paid. I was licking my chops!
The host course was The Royal Bahrain which used to host the European Tour event a few years ago. The ultimate marmite golf course. You either loved it or hated it, and I loved it! Designed by Montgomery, it had very quirky holes and the greens weren’t to be reckoned with. I had been warned about the greens in the run up to the tournament and boy they were fun to play! The slopes were incredible! Plenty of bowls and collection spots made approach shots fun and you had properly concentrate where you were hitting it. Missing it in the wrong spots on some greens left you with rollercoaster of putts! The max speed they could have these were 10 on the stimp which played very slow, but they couldn’t get them much quicker! A few members said when it first opened it was unplayable and many greens had to be revamped! Ian Poulter tweeted nasty comments about it a few years ago saying “all it needed was windmills and clowns on the greens”
Big thanks to Phil Waine, my former boss, now Director of operations at the club, who looked after me!
Talking about Rollercoasters, my first round could be perfectly described as the “The Big Dipper” at Sunny Blackpool Pleasure Beach. As my first tee shot sailed straight down and through the dogglegged fairway, bouncing over the fence and out of bounds, it was safe to say I didn’t get off to a great start. Double bogey at the first followed by a sloppy bogey at the second. What the ****! I didn’t really hit one bad shot but I was staring an uphill battle from the onset! I came back with 5 birdies on the front to get to -2 at the turn. Then the back 9 decided to throw some curveballs at me. A couple of sloppy decisions and a 3 putt bogey on 12 kickstarted the halt of momentum. Bogey again on 13, frustration began to kick in. The wind was swirling off and around the villas, and my focus on not getting frustrated on the greens shifted onto the wind. An average tee shot on the par 5 14th, left me unsettled. I played my 2nd shot up to 100 yards, a great number for me. Sand wedge in hand I missed the green. Looking back at it, it wasn’t even a bad shot, it was 10ft from the pin but just off the green. I raised my wedge into the air and went for my bag. A moment of hesitation as I remembered my phone was in one of the pockets directly in the firing line. And then BAM, I smacked the bottom of my bag. Instantly I knew what I had done. I got to the green, chipped up and putted to save par. Pulled my driver out of the bag, and just gripped it. Crunchhhhh, as the shaft fibres started to crack, I felt sick. WHAT AN IDIOT!! Right at the top of the grip, the £300 retail diver shaft had snapped, rendering it useless. Thankfully its the end of the season and I don’t need a renewal right away but I had 4 very long and strong holes to finish with! I parred in for a Level par 72 on a day when scoring was good. Lying in 17th place I needed a bit of work to do to climb back up the leaderboard! Morale of the story is one flash moment of anger leads to stupidity! A compound of errors that looking back wasn’t actually worth getting frustrated over, resulted in something I’ll regret for a long time. Lesson Learnt!!
RIP Driver Shaft
Round 2 and your boy is off to a fast start. I couldn’t have played any better, with a few birdie putts missing by. Thanks to Stu Archibald, he had an extra stiff Callaway shaft that was the closest I could find to my former shaft. After leaving an eagle putt in the jaws on 9, I was -3 for the turn. I again left it in the jaws on 10 and 11 for birdie and hit the holes on 12, 13, and 14 also for birdie. Solid pars on the tough stretch 15, 16 and 17 I was a little miffed to be at just -3 for the day but I wasn’t complaining. The 18th had a daunting tee shot, water on the right, bunkers and wasteland on the left. It wasn’t difficult but I was a little flustered by it. It was almost like I was waiting for something bad to happen. I swung my 3 wood hard and let go of the club in the follow through as the ball hooked and kept hooking towards the out of bounds on the left. I eventually found it under a couple of bushes in front of some large boxes and under a palm tree. There was no shot, no chip out for safety, not even a unplayable drop was an option. After being denied relief I just thought **** it, just hit it, go find it and hit it again. I swung hard again and toe shanked it as the bushes grabbed the shaft. It sailed right over the fairway and into the drink. I eventually made double bogey, and not a happy chappy. Similar story to my season. The game is there, its just be a collection of various things that haven’t gone my way at the right time. -1 for the day and tournament and lying in 11th place. Not bad considering…
Round 3 was very similar to round 2. I played ok, didn’t convert many birdie chances as I didn’t really hit it close enough. -2 again at the turn was ok! Another random miraculous double bogey on 11 again just stopped me in the tracks. I hit it so far off the planet I was as shocked as my playing partners, probably part to blame for the shaft I was using, but I hit it out of bounds right not even knowing there was OB over there in the first place didn’t help! Anyway, the story goes, I got up and down off the rocks under a transmitting station from about 50 yards. It turned out to be a good double bogey in the end. Back to level par for the day, frustrating again as the first 5 holes on the back 9 are the scoring holes. I didn’t birdie them once all week! A birdie on 14 to get to -2 tournament, I was looking to turn it on over the closing stretch. Coming back down 18 I didn’t have that nervous feeling I had the previous day, and I bombed a 3 wood down the left side of the fairway. It must have gone 320 yards. As I walked up to it I found it teed up a foot into the bunker. Annoyed but still playable I hit pitching wedge from 140 yards, baring in mind I hit my P wedge, 135 yards. I hit it great, as it sailed right at the flag, over and behind the green into a dead spot. It must have flown 150 yards, couldn’t believe it!! The chip was difficult and I wanted to play a lob shot, but the lie just wasn’t good enough. I fluffed the chip and made bogey. A sour end to week, as I truly hate finishing on a bad note. -1 for the tournament, just not good enough in a not so very strong field, finished me 13th and out of the money. Hugely disappointed result for me as it would have been nice for some spending money heading into christmas but thats golf for you. When you expect to do well, the golfing gods have other plans! A huge congratulations to my pal Luke Joy who closed off the tournament with a fantastic score of -15 to win by 5. It was good to see him finally win as he’s been the bridesmaid too many times this year.
No competitive golf for me now as we close 2017 with lots of lessons learned. Disappointing in a way that I didn’t take myself onto the next level of touring golf as I know full well I am capable of playing on the big boy tour, but in a sense I’m also relieved that I’ve experienced the failures and frustrations of the year. I gained the experience I needed, on a basis from where I can learn how to overcome the challenges next year. The goal for next year is to make less mistakes and keep the doubles off the cards, as I’m comfortably making enough birdies to be in the top 5 every week.
I said when I turned professional that I will never quit as long as I keep improving as a player, and currently I feel like I’m only just getting started…
I hope you all have a great festive period and hope to see or speak to you all at some point over the New Year, with the hope of bigger and better things in 2018!
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I made 14 birdies in The King Hamad Trophy
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