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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Round 1: Mare Island

This morning dawned chilly and foggy, a typical August morning in the Bay Area.  I scrambled for enough clothes to keep me from shivering and chattering through the front 9 for our 9am tee time, ending up in a long-sleeved tee with arms that extended beyond my fingertips that I borrowed from Wes beneath a regular golf shit, covered with a black fleece vest that could come off as soon as I got warmed up.  And shorts and my black Ecco shoes with the hot pink soles and laces, which I felt certain were the right shoes for this 3-round match play tournament.  And Wes looked like, well, he looked like Wes.  We ate huge bowels of oatmeal and packed lots of snack food and off we went, onto the freeway to join the morning commute.

1st Tee at Mare Island
I've loved playing the Mare Island golf course since the first time Wes took me there although I confess that I was a little cautious about poking around in the rough for my ball.

The course was established in 1892, originally a 9-hole course, and expanded to 18 holes in 2000.  The Old Course is heavily wooded with huge eucalyptus trees and the air always smells lightly mentholated.   Maybe, like sulphur, menthol repels snakes?

Mare Island is the site of a post-Civil War Marine and Navy base that supported the original golf club.  The Old Course is small and short by modern golf course standards, but great fun to play because the course takes full advantage of the rugged Mare Island terrain.

Looking down from the tee box to
the 14th fairway at Mare Island
The New Course, which also rises and drops with the dramatically, has some spectacular panoramic views of the Bay Area, which adds to the fun.  Mare Island is simply a rich visual experience as well as a very pleasant and challenging golf experience.  It was the ideal starting point for our 54 holes of match play.

We got there early and spent a good hour warming up.  I worked on the practice range with my short irons and my hybrids (following Tommy's instruction) and was astonished as the distance I was getting until I remembered that I've been playing golf in air that's almost as thick as molasses and now I'm playing in low humidity, thin air that's not going to drag my balls down in mid-flight.  That could be a good thing, or it could be a bad thing, depending on my club selection.  I tucked that variable in my mental computer and moved to the practice green.

Although the putter I keep at Wes's house and the putter I have at home are both Odyssey blades and are theoretically the same putter, they aren't the same putter.  I had some work to do.  This one is a bit lighter than the one at home, and it doesn't line up quite the same.  I worked with it for half an hour or so trying to get myself calibrated to the equipment, and I thought I'd gotten that under control until we got on the golf course.

The Mare Island practice range prohibits the use of drivers and fairway woods, and for good reason.  Wes and I found a bunch of practice balls lying around the 1st green, which is situated at the bottom of the hill on which the practice range is sited.  So neither of us had warmed up with our big weapons.  We agreed immediately on two new local rules: We could both have 2 shots off the first tee, and we would both have 1 mulligan on each 9.  Then, pushing it, Wes suggested we forego our usual handicapping and just play for strokes.  I drew the line right there.  I want my 10 shots.  I need my ten shots.  So I countered by suggesting that I get a shot for every year I am older than him.  That brought the rule renegotiations to an abrupt stop and we teed off.

For the first 4 or 5 holes we were matching each other shot for shot, then he took a hole, then I did.  I struggled with my putter, but so did Wes.   At the turn we were all square, I thought.  The back 9 gets more difficult for me.

I'm generally the short girl off the tee, and the holes on the New Course are a bit longer.  But I got to enjoy watching Wes send his drives arcing high and long.  Sometimes watching him drive the ball takes my breath away.  In my minds eye I can still see the skinny little 10-year old struggling to hit his drives straight and I take such extraordinary joy in playing golf with the long, lean man who outdrives me again and again.

I made some mistakes on the back 9, using my 7 iron for a couple of approach shots when I didn't need that much club, and ended up with several double bogeys that should have been bogeys.  I missed some par putts, and felt the match slipping away.  But I was only keeping gross scores on the card.  Wes always figures the net for both of us at the end of the 9, so neither of us actually knew where the match stood.

Then I fell apart on the 18th hole.  My drive went right into trees.  I tried one of my famous trick shots between a couple of trees, intending to simultaneously get back in the short grass and advance the ball.  It didn't work.  The ball hit a tree, then bounced behind another tree that totally blocked my forward progress.  So I tried to pop the ball back onto the fairway laterally, but didn't get a solid hit and ended up in some light rough.  Then I hit an unusually flimsy shot with my 3 wood and, laying 5 in the fairway on a par 4, i was still about 60 yards from a very funky green.  Finally, I got on the green on my 6th shot and 2-putted for a totally underwhelming finish.

But as it turned out, I hadn't needed to even play 18.  I won the match by 2 holes, even with that complete breakdown.  And so it goes with march play.  Let's see how tomorrow's round goes.