The rain broke early this morning, and Nito the caddy calls me on his way to the course. Convinces me que se vale la pena, it's worth going out there.
So I get there and the course is in good shape, and very few golfers. Nito and I go off alone.
Hole #1: For some reason I'm a little bit nervous today. I also feel like I'm going to play well, so I take the nerves as a good sign. I yank my first drive a bit, but hit it well, so I'm long but in the right rough, about 80 yards out. I hit a 90% sand wedge. It's right at the flag, but because of the rough there's not much spin on it, and it hits and rolls about 15 feet past. It's a slippery and fast putt, but I'm able to get it near the hole and make the two footer for par.
The swing with the wedge felt really good; loose, smooth and easy, and the shot went straight at the flag. It felt like I could do it all day long. So as we approach the the number two tee, with my driver in hand I say to Nito "If this club cooperates, today is the day." And he grabs the putter and says "No, If this club cooperates, today is the day!"
#2, the long par four: I hit a solid drive right down the middle. I'm about 140 out. The flag looks like it might be slightly towards the front, so we vacillate between a 9 and an 8. We settle on the 8. I hit a good shot towards the middle of the green, but then we realize the flag is not just a little, but rather all the way up front, so I'm on the green, but a full club long. I'm able to lag the 30 footer up to about two and a half feet, and make that for par.
#3, par five dogleg right: I hit a good drive down the middle, but what wind there is is against, so I still have a ways to go to get to the turn. I hit a four iron solidly, but with an unintentional draw. It happens sometimes with my long irons, so I'd aimed far enough left to guard against it that the ball curled around the turn nicely. The flag is on the far right, so I have a little tree trouble, but an 80% sand wedge goes right over it, and right over the flag, hitting and sticking seven feet past. I roll it in for birdie.
#4, par four, water on the left. I don't quite get all of the drive, but it's in the fairway and on the right hand side, which is good because the flag is tucked in the extreme left corner, guarded by those trees. So the right side is the place to be to get an angle. I hit a pitching wedge right at the flag, but it's a little long and hits and sticks in the fringe, about 12 feet past the hole. The putt has a big bend in it, and it's fast, so I just try to cozy it up. With its last turn the ball dies at the hole and drops in the side door, for an unexpected but pleasing birdie.
#5, par three over the water. The way it's set up today Nito says it's playing about 120. He hands me a pitching wedge and asks how far I hit it. "125," I say, and he says "Si, OK, plays 125." Hmmm. So I hit right over the flag, and it goes 125, but sure enough the flag is indeed 120 away, so I'm on the back of the green, well long. The hole is on the crest of the hill, and I don't hit the putt hard enough and leave it well short. Now I power the next one past the hole. Then I miss the comebacker! Man oh man. Four-putt Double bogey, and those two birdies go up in smoke. Shoot.
#6, par four dogleg right. I crack my drive to the turn. The flag today is placed perilously close to the water on the right, and you know how the green just feeds everything that way anyway, so I employ some o' that course management stuff and hit a cautious lob wedge pin-high, but ten feet left. The putt is VERY fast, and a has fair bit of break. Too aggressive and it could go off the green and into the water! So I gently baby it up to a foot away, and tap in for par.
#7, par three over the water. Pin all the way in the back, and some wind against, so we go with the 6 iron. Too much club, and I also get another unintended draw. So I'm over the back and right. Tough chip up over the slope, and I leave it short. The next chip one-hops off the flag stick and lands next to the hole for a tap-in bogey.
#8, par five dog leg left. I hit a good drive, but in the left rough, so I've got those two big pine trees to deal with. I avoid those, but catch the branch of one of the small trees instead, and the ball ricochets over the huge water hazard on the left, and lands on the far left bank, just in-bounds. They've dug out the hazard so that now it's a 15 foot deep lake. So I walk all the way around it and through the mud to get to my ball, which happens to have a great big blob of of that mud stuck right on it. I'm 140 out, but because of a small tree the only line towards the green is over the next water hazard and the trees guarding the left side of the green, and with that mud ball I don't think I can make the shot. So I hit it out to at a right angle to the green, across the fairway to the hill on the other side. I'm 70 yards out lying three, but I stick a lob wedge one foot from the hole for a tap-in par. Whew!
#9 the par four over water. I hit a mediocre 3 iron off the tee, and am left with a long approach to the green. The flag is again tucked in the left corner, and from my position it's too dangerous to go at it. Anything less than perfect and it's in the water. So I take a five iron and aim for the middle of the green. Apparently today was "hook the long irons day," as I get yet another unintentional draw. So I'm just over the back of the green, and way on the opposite side from the hole. I don't get up and down, so I make bogey for a two-over 38 on the front.
#10, the par five with the creek. I hit a long drive, up on the hill on the left. That hill usually feeds the ball back to the fairway, but with the wet conditions the ball stays up on the slope. Earlier in the year, when there was a strong helping wind on this hole I could sometimes hit driver, 9 iron. With the rainy season the conditions have reversed, and now there tends to be a wind against here. So instead of 9 iron, I'm hitting 3 wood! I strike it well, and the ball flies over the tree on the right and fades back to the slope above the greenside bunker. I chip up to about 8 feet, but roll the birdie try by. Par.
#11. Par four. I hit a good drive to 100, then a decent wedge to about 15 feet. Somehow I manage to three putt! Bogey.
#12. Long par four. OB and sand left, water right. I hit a good drive to the valley, then a five iron. It of course draws to the right, so I'm pin high but off the green. The hole is again on the crest of the hill, and I can't chip close, and then the par putt lips the cup and stops one inch directly behind the hole. Bogey.
#13. Par four with the tiered green. Water left, wide open on the right. I hit my drive way right to the other fairway. We're not sure of the distance, but decide on an eight iron. The flag is on the upper shelf, way left. Tough pins today. With a slightly uphill lie I hit a towering shot right at the flag, and it's hanging in the air for forever, and we're sweating out the distance, until it finally plops down on the crest of the ridge that runs through the green. It sits there for a moment, thinking it over, before it finally gives up and rolls back down to the lower tier. Bummer. Very tough putt from down there, and I'm not up to the challenge. Another three-putt bogey.
#14. Par four. I crack my drive down the middle, then hit a 9 iron to about 10 feet. I smooth it in for birdie.
#15. Long par three. I hit five iron pin high, but it's a long iron, so naturally I'm off the green to the right. I get up and down for par.
#16. Short par four. Wind against, so it plays a little longer than usual. I hit a good drive, then a pitching wedge at the flag. It hits and sticks 8 feet past. My birdie try just slides by. Par.
#17. Short par three. I hit 90% pitching wedge, but pull it a little, so I'm on the green pin high but 20 feet right. Hole is once again on the crest of the hill. I three putt. Bogey.
#18. Long par five. OB left, water right. Dogleg right. I hit a good but not great drive just past the tree. I crack a three wood to within 40 yards of the green. The flag is all the way in the back, so I hit a full lob wedge, but it's not quite enough to get all the way there, and I'm about 12 feet short. My birdie try just breaks off at the end for a tap-in par.
So, a 38-39 77. And as usual, Nito was right. It was the putter.