An Amazing Year of Golf

What follows is a long, boring narrative. There are no photographs, it has footnotes, and unsurprisingly, it’s all about me. If you choose to read anyway, please accept my apology in advance—sorry.

I promised to write about the golf I’ve played during the 2015 season, but I’ve resisted because it will only be an exercise in arrogance, or false modesty. The fact is I had a pretty amazing season. I won some, exceeding my potential for a significant portion of the season.

Last fall I detailed my commitment to getting better. I had lofty ideas that I’d be able to power through last winter’s hated cold and snow, emerging from the chrysalis in mid-March as a new woman, able to make golf balls travel precisely by force of will—or some such B.S. The facts are the cold paralyzed me yet again. I spent the bulk of winter sitting in front of a computer. When I surfaced I’d gained a few pounds and my fitness level had dropped like an anvil. Despite those issues, in March I packed my golf clubs and camera, and headed south to play golf and photograph sunrises.

The 36 holes I played on my trip got me out of my funk. Upon my return home, I resumed lessons with Melissa and spent many hours at my local driving range trying to make a good swing something I didn’t think about. By mid-April, I was playing semi-regularly, surprising myself with the occasional good shot among the several I wish I’d hit better.

Leagues

My leagues began at the end of April with mixed results. I’ve played in two separate 18-hole leagues for all the years of my retirement. My Monday morning league was at a course that brings me to my knees. My first round there I actually played pretty well (95, with two birdies), then my game collapsed and I couldn’t break 100. In early June, I quit playing that course. I picked up a Tuesday morning league in July at a course that didn’t stress me out as much.

I played my Thursday morning league at my “home” course. While reasonably good results are my norm, my season there started rough too.

Dropping the Monday league in favor of Tuesday was a good decision. My attitude about my game improved and my Handicap Index1, which hit its peak for the year at 23.9 on June 15, finally started its anticipated decent. I was playing what I considered good golf.

Tournaments

I played some tournaments this year, and I think I did pretty well, although it didn’t start that way. The first was my EWGA2 Chapter Championship, which was held on a Sunday at the end of June in Sellersburg, Indiana. I did not do well—missing every three-foot putt; I had a lot of them. I had hoped my play would springboard me to the National Championship in Palm Desert, California.

The Met

The next day, Monday, the 100th Annual Metropolitan Women’s Amateur Championship began with stroke play3 which would determine seeding for match play4, the real tournament. The Cincinnati Country Club, in the conversation for most exclusive club in the city, (it’s so exclusive only members are allowed to see the Web site) was the venue. A large amount of rain had fallen in the weeks before and during the tournament so carts were never permitted off the paths. That meant a significant amount of walking up and down hills was required. After playing a practice round the previous Friday, the course was not a complete mystery to me. I got around with a fairly respectable 94, which put me in a tie for 24th place, middle of the field. I ended up being the number one seed in my group (flight) of eight going into match play.

My first opponent was Jean from the Four Bridges club. This was my first experience with match play; surprisingly I won convincingly, 5 and 3. The next day I played Kim, also from Four Bridges. I won that match 1-up. I got my comeuppance on Thursday when I played Tracey, another player from Four Bridges; she defeated me soundly, 5 and 3, but that was good enough for second place and a nice trophy. I like trophies. I have so few of them.

Club Championship

My home course Club Championship began in mid-July. The format was three rounds of stroke play, with the two best rounds of the three used to determine the winner. The best gross score and best net score in each flight were the winners. Due to weather, i.e., more rain, the Championship extended into mid-August before it was decided. I played all three rounds and did pretty well. I ended up with a win for Low Net and tied for fourth place Low Gross. There was no trophy, just bragging rights and a pro shop credit.

Senior Women’s

At the end of August, I played the two-day Metropolitan Senior Women’s tournament that was held at a country club in Northern Kentucky. This was also stroke play, flighted by age—I was in the 65-69 group. I shot 97 on day one, not good. I attribute the day two 89 to having a plan after seeing the course for the first time the previous day. As a result of my relatively high Index I managed to win Low Net for my flight. Again there was no trophy, but I did win a good pro shop credit.

Wrap Up

With tournament season complete, I was back playing in my weekly leagues; reasonably good rounds continued. At the end of July I broke 40 for nine holes for the first time ever, shooting 39 on the back nine in my Tuesday league. In early September I did even better, a 37 (that’s only two over par) on the same nine.

My season began with a Handicap Index of 23.0. By mid-September I had gotten it down to 19.4, where it remains at this writing. I achieved my goal of getting it into the teens and at my lowest ever. The work I put in has paid off. My leagues are over for the year and the official season ends October 31. I’m playing and practicing less frequently, and courses I am playing these days tend to be unfamiliar so my scores and Index are likely to increase a little. I’d prefer they didn’t. Already I’m looking forward to next season and a serious attempt to get my Index down to 15. To make that happen I’ll need to be more aggressive with physical conditioning and make opportunities to hit balls during the coming winter. Whether I achieve that or not (spoiler alert: I will), golf is still the sport about which I’m most passionate. I’ll do my best, but most of all I’ll have fun.

So there you have it, 1300+ words of self-adoration. As I said at the beginning—sorry.


  1. A Handicap Index, sometimes referred to herein as Index, is a calculated measure of one’s scoring potential based on posted golf scores. It allows players of differing abilities to equitably compete against each other. 

  2. EWGA is the Executive Women’s Golf Association, a national organization to which I’ve belonged since 2007. I’m a member of the Cincinnati, Ohio Chapter. 

  3. Stroke play is a method of scoring where every time a player hits a ball it is counted as a stroke. At the end of a round of golf the total number of strokes, plus any penalties assessed, is the stroke play gross score (note: some of my scores, especially those with three digits, are pretty gross). The net score is achieved by subtracting the course handicap from the gross. 

  4. Match play scoring is by holes won or lost. It is played between two opponents (although there are variations) rather than against the entire field. The match ends when one player has too few holes remaining in which to make up the difference. In the first example above I won when I was five holes ahead with only three holes to play. That score is written “5 and 3.” 

A Competitive Spirit

I’m competitive. No, that’s not quite right. I’m really competitive. I didn’t start out that way.

I’ve participated in athletic activities of one sort or another my entire life. My early years were consumed with baseball, football, and basketball with neighborhood kids. As I got older the sports I chose changed—baseball evolved into softball, football became a spectator sport, and I found basketball less than appealing when not played by just my friends and me at the hoop next door. Early in adulthood I was introduced to golf, and participated sporadically for decades. I played softball well into my fifties.

The Vineyard #5 green

During all that time there was only one constant—I was competing against myself. Whether I won or lost didn’t matter as long as I played the game to the best of my ability that day. About eight years ago I began to take golf very seriously. I joined leagues that offered competitive opportunities. I continued my detached, I’m playing against myself, attitude that kept me from viewing my fellow competitors as anything other than friends with whom I was playing an enjoyable round.

I can’t pinpoint the moment when my competitive juices changed from being very general to having a specific target. I noticed it recently when playing in my club championship with the woman who was leading after the first round. I was determined that my second round score would be better than hers, and since we were in the same group I knew exactly what she was shooting. She had an off-day; I beat her by 8 strokes! Then I was two strokes behind the new leader heading into the final round. We rode in the same cart so I knew exactly what I had to do throughout the round. As it turned out, she played better than I did. I never caught her, and I’m OK with that because she’s my friend.

Competing directly against other golfers adds a dimension to my game. My fear is that I’ll develop a “win at all costs” attitude which will lose friends and make the game less enjoyable. The fact is I like the new balance. But if you see me getting cranky on the course you have my permission to tell me to get over myself.

It’s been a busy golf tournament season. My last of the year, the Metropolitan Senior Women’s Championship, is next week. I’ll post a recap of my Summer tournaments after.

I Deserve This

I left Jen holding down the fort while I went off to practice photography and golf. Time will tell whether either is successful. One thing is certain, I need time away from Cincinnati. I deserve this.

March 16

I’ve never had so much difficulty getting out of my neighborhood. The Ohio River is at its highest level in 18 years, so did I bother to check the news about commute difficulties?

As a result my 650 mile drive to Wilmington, North Carolina took an hour longer than anticipated. Because I listened to an audiobook the miles, and the hours, melted away.

Upon arrival in Wilmington I looked at my first pre-selected hotel; contrary to Google Maps it was further from the beach than I wanted. I opted for my second choice, Shell Island Resort, which was not.

view from my room

March 17

I crawled out of bed early enough to photograph the sun leaping out of the Atlantic Ocean this morning. It was a learning experience. I don’t have a polarizing filter so I had to pay attention to camera settings. The lifeguard stand in the photo below provided foreground.

Sunrise!

After sunrise I hurried to Wilmington’s Echo Farms Country Club, where I played my first golf since the beginning of November 2014. Although the outcome wasn’t great I’m not displeased with the way I played — I applied some of the golf lessons I’ve taken this Winter.

Following golf I drove to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I’m staying at the Springmaid Beach Resort for only one reason, the pier.

Springmaid Pier

What’s on top interests me far less than what’s underneath.

Pilings and Waves

I think waves crashing into symmetrical piers is compelling.

Under the Pier

I was pretty happy shooting underneath until I noticed some surfers. This is all so new and interesting to me. I’ve never photographed an ocean, a pier, or a surfer.

Sunset Surfer Shooting the Pier

I had a pretty good idea Springmaid was not going to be accommodations that suited me, I came here to photograph the pier.

More golf tomorrow.

March 18

Myrtle Beach sunrise was a disappointment when compared to Wrightsville Beach the previous morning.

Myrtle Beach Sunrise

Myrtle Beach’s redeeming features included photographs of the pier and most importantly, playing golf with my friend Kay, and her friends Carol and Carolyn at Arrowhead Country Club. I played poorly, 49-55, but we had a great time. In addition to the horrible shots I hit there were also some that met my expectations. I’ll definitely go back to play golf with my friends.

Following golf I took a leisurely 2 hour drive down the coast to Charleston, South Carolina, where even the Old Town tourist areas are classy. Antebellum buildings, cobblestone streets, and great food are just some of the attractions. I stayed at the Andrew Pinckney Inn, which was in a wonderfully charming, restored older building. I arrived early enough to do a photo walk around Charleston’s Old Town. Regrettably I picked the wrong restaurant. I had deep-fried soft-shelled crab. The rock-hard crust was all I could taste. I wish I’d chosen better.

CHS French Quarter

Rain is a big part of tomorrow’s forecast in the Southeast. The same holds the following day. I’ll find somewhere to hit golf balls then base my activities on what feels right. I expect I will sleep in either Hilton Head or Savannah tomorrow night.

Stay tuned. More to come.

March 19

Indeed, rain was falling when I awoke this morning. It was also windy and cold. I went to the hotel rooftop terrace, the fourth floor, where I could see all the way out to the port (Charleston is a short city).

CHS sunrise

With no prospect of golf I loaded up the car for the two hour drive to Savannah, Georgia. As expected, it was raining here too. I had a reservation at a hotel that was built in 1790, but on my arrival I had to wait three hours to check-in. I spent the time eating lunch and wandering around town.

Savannah’s image is tied to moss-covered trees. As soon as I arrived I started seeing them.

SAV - mosstree

Of course, my best “mossy-tree” was photo bombed by a sign.

The hotel has plumbing and electricity, as well as wi-fi. What it doesn’t have is an elevator so I walk up four flights of rickety, narrow stairs to get to my room. My bed is a four-poster and the hotel is, reportedly, haunted. I’m enchanted.

I have a 10:00 am tee time tomorrow. After that I may begin my trek home. I’ll probably make it a two day journey. Once again, stay tuned.

March 20

By a stroke of good fortune I avoided whatever hauntings took place overnight. The rain ended, but in its place was a dense fog. Undaunted, I made my way to the Bacon Park Golf Course. For those in the know, it’s a Donald Ross course built in the 1920s and is similar to one of his courses I play regularly in Cincinnati. The resemblance is unmistakeable.

As I was alone I played a very quick nine holes, then jumped back into the car, this time headed north. I’ve thrown in the towel; I’m on my way home. It was with no small amount of longing that I gazed at the last Hilton Head Island exit off I-95. Maybe next time. I’m breaking up my drive home with an overnight stay in a characterless hotel in Asheville, North Carolina.

March 21

I was on my way out of Asheville with a full tank of gas just after 8:00 am. What should have been about a five-hour drive took close to seven because of two inexplicable bumper-to-bumper backups.

I extricated myself from the vehicle in my driveway at 3:00 pm, completing my 1,690 mile journey. Not long ago Apple Maps received criticism. I’m here to say I got where I needed to go, flawlessly.

Final Thoughts

I can’t close this post without summarizing. I headed South to photograph sunrises and play golf.

what I came for

I did both, although clouds and rain prevented them occurring in the quantities I’d hoped.

Any anxiety I may have had as a single, older woman going on the road without a master plan was unfounded — I just needed to pay attention to my surroundings. I arrived in each city without a hotel reservation, yet always ended up where I wanted.

The downside was that even though I was unscripted, the first couple of days were non-stop — get up, photograph sunrise, hurry to play golf, drive to the next city, look for a place to stay, try to find acceptable food, sleep, get up and do it all again. My vacation had turned exhausting.

Even with that, the good outweighs the not-so-good. I expect to do a similar trip again. Next time I’ll chase sunsets.

Requiem for Ravioli

In August 2006 I purchased a previously-owned, red 2002 Toyota RAV4. We nicknamed it “RAVioli.” RAVioli took us on many adventures, exploring local treasures and driving hundreds of miles to see what other places had to offer.

RAVioli took me to golf tournaments and outings in far-flung locations such as Oshkosh, Wisconsin; Blairsville, Pennsylvania; Indianapolis, Indiana; Nashville, Tennessee; and Masillon, Ohio. For over eight years RAVioli carried me safely on my daily commute, fifty miles per day for most of it, in almost any imaginable condition — rain, snow, sleet, and ice; as well as blistering heat and humidity — in wonderful comfort. It carried all my golf equipment, I have a lot, as well as groceries, travel paraphernalia, and most of whatever we could stuff inside, and it did so without complaint.

Among RAVioli’s many traits was its amazing good looks. It turned heads; iceravI know it did. It was always easy to find in a grocery store parking lot; it stood out in a crowd.

But now it’s gone. The alternator quit. When I got the call from my local mechanic I was told that there were some other items that needed attention — a significant oil leak and brakes led the list. The projected total for repairs exceeded the resale value of a 13-year-old car in fair condition. It was time to let RAVioli go and move on to the next vehicle. It was with a heavy heart that I traded in my beloved RAVioli for a pure white 2012 Camry — I have entered the character-free zone.

Yes, the new girl has technology better than I’ve had in a car, but it has no soul. What could I possibly name it — Snowball? iCar? Who knows? I’m confident the Camry will take me anonymously, and in comfort, wherever I choose to go. But that’s no fun.

Golf Lessons

In case I didn’t mention it, I broke a few bones in the last year. First there was a collar bone, then an elbow and a hand. Those messed up my entire summer. If I’d mentioned it, you’d also know the one activity I’m most passionate about is golf. I began the comeback from my injuries in mid-July, knowing I’d just have to live with the results of my endeavors as my recovery progressed.

The other thing you’d know, if you knew me, is that I’m competitive, but not with the friends with whom I play. No, I compete against the evil twins, the course Architect and the Greenskeeper. Those are the villians who have conspired to build then sculpt a golf course with the intent of sucking the life-blood out of my game. Melodrama, anyone?

I rate myself as having a pretty good mental game. I know what I’m capable of and I think a couple of shots ahead on each hole, but my biggest problem has always been my inability to consistently hit a ball that’s standing still. I know; it’s weird.

Despite being of an age where some would expect me to accept a declining skill set, I’ve decided to engage a golf professional who will see the goals I’ve set as valuable and who will view the process as a continuum extending to next spring and beyond rather than a lesson here, a lesson there with no continuity. That professional is Melissa.

Melissa played college golf, then got married and had a family. At some point she realized her dream of playing at the highest level still burned within. So, later in life than most in her profession, she decided to go for her dream. She hasn’t reached the top yet, but she has her Tour card. That’s where it begins. That also shows she has a personal understanding of my less-lofty dream.

With an entire winter, and opportunities to hit balls indoors when the weather doesn’t cooperate, we’re starting from scratch – the setup. I’m motivated enough to follow through. When Spring arrives I expect to be hitting good shots consistently.

I recently read a New York Times article about a research psychologist from Harvard University who has done landmark studies showing that if a chronologically older person is totally immersed in a scenario strongly resembling an earlier time in that person’s life, she will react as the person she was then, exhibiting mental and physical characteristics from a time when she was younger. The research has been replicated with similar results. For me, total immersion anywhere other than my life today is impossible, but there’s nothing saying I can’t mentally project a younger me when I have a golf club in my hands.

If I can do that, along with my new swing, I’ll slay those evil twins!