Bruce and I finally had a chance to play the final match of the Osprey Links Stroke Match Play Championship. After 4 previous matches, we both were ready to see who would be considered the Osprey Links Club Champion. We have played head to head before and it was a slug fest down to the last hole. I was confident that our match would follow the same format and hopefully the outcome would be different.
We were ready to play and the early weather predictions made us wonder if we were going to get the whole round in and remain dry. As it turned out, it was a bit breezy, cool, and sometimes sunny. The temperature was comfortable and overall it turned out to be perfect day for a round of golf. We played at a smooth 3.5 hour pace and the only thing holding us back was ourselves.
Bruce is a long ball hitter with a delicate touch around the green. He hits the ball straight and keeps it in play 97% of the time. His game has no weak areas and I had to be on my game just to compete during this 18 hole match.
The round started off fantastic for me…..sort of. I made three birdies in six holes; my best start of the year. Well, that is except for the two bogies I made in the first six holes. After six holes, I was only one up! Bruce hit back as hard as I was giving and he did not even bat an eye at my quick start.
Bruce stayed steady and when he happen to miss hit a shot, he responded with a solid recovery shot that either won the hole or halved. In my case, my approach shots were the best of the year. In the front nine, I was putting for birdie 7 times; Bruce was putting for birdie six times. After the front nine, we were tied. It makes since I shot a even par 36 and Bruce a one over par 37.
The back nine was a bit more challenging; at least after the first hole. I pulled my ball short and left off the tee, hit a shot to 150 yard marker and hit a seven iron to 25 feet from the pin. Bruce hit a solid tee shot to the top of the hill, a great 5 wood to 20 yards short of the green, then a chip to 28 feet from the pin. He putted first and was left with a tap in par. I took a look and hit a great putt into the hole for birdie! I was one up with eight holes to go. My elation was short lived as Bruce immediately responded with a par on the par 3 eleventh hole to tie the match.
Of the next five holes, we tied four and the one that Bruce one I tried a high risk hook shot through a gap in the trees that went straight and hence I lost the 14th hole. Fortunately for Bruce, he was starting to heat up his ball rarely left the middle of the fairway. He kept hitting solid shot after solid shot. It was tough to keep up.
Being down one stepping up to the 17th. I hit my best approach shot of the day to within 8 feet of the hole that set me up to tie the match as we headed to the 18th tee box. As I figured, the match was another slug fest. I was having so much fun I was hoping the match would go to extra holes!
As per normal, Bruce hit a great drive except we were shocked that it hit the top of the tallest tree and rebounded into the fairway. We both thought that we was way up the fairway, but for some reason it was not. Having a 130 yard uphill left, Bruce played smart and hit to the middle of the green. His ball stopped behind a large swell that left him with a tough putt. I on the other hand, hit my ball into the woods, chipped up and hit (what I thought) an outstanding approach shot.
As it turned out I was chipping for par and almost sunk it. It was Bruce’s turn to close out the match by making two solid putts. His first putt was long by about four feet. Don’t let the distance fool you, it was a great lag putt! Standing over his putt, he never wavered from his routine. He smoothly made his putt to win the match!
This is the second time Bruce beat me on the 18th hole to win a match play round. I have to say that I am disappointed and not disappointed. Our final scores were Bruce 74 and Jim 75; I lost this fun match to a great player and gentlemen. I want to congratulate Bruce on winning the stroke match play championship. It was fantastic fun and I hope that I have the opportunity for a rematch…..soon!
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!