First in a series of daily first-person stories from the 36th Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.
By TONY LEODORA
The 36th World Amateur Handicap Championship gets underway tomorrow in Myrtle Beach. It is safe to say that I have played in at least half of them – and have entered with a wide variety of expectations.
This year the expectations are the lowest ever … for a number of reasons. Foremost is the fact that I have played the least amount of golf over the last two years of any of the last 30 years. It’s a horrible thing when work gets in the way of golf.
At least, over those two years my golf game has been consistent – consistently bad. I come into this tournament with the highest handicap I have had in 30 years … a 9.6 index.
Despite those factors, a successful tournament can be achieved with proper preparation. That is another reason for low expectations.
After very little golf this year – and virtually no competitive golf – the pre-World Am preparation hinged on a recent trip to Florida. For one week, I planned to play and practice every day. That’s where Mother Nature stepped in.
The rainiest summer ever in Southwest Florida resulted in not a single swing of a golf club during that planned week of preparation. The golf courses were closed and so were the driving ranges.
That left me with no other course of action than to resort to an old college strategy – cramming. Just as I used to cram for exams at the end of the semester, doing all of the studying and reading I should have done all semester, I began cramming for the World Am.
Beginning last Sunday, I began making a daily trip to the range. Hitting a minimum of 100 balls, practicing a bit of chipping and working on my putting was the daily regimen until I got to Myrtle Beach on Thursday.
Thursday night there was some short game practice at Grand Dunes. Friday was a vigorous range session at Barefoot Resort’s Dye Course. The goal all week was to find a repetitive swing … or at least reduce the 20 or 30 different swings during each session down to a workable handful.
By Saturday, I was ready to bring my golf game out of triage and onto the course. The selected laboratory was Man O’ War Golf Course. It is a beautiful and challenging layout, designed by noted architect Dan Maples and opened in 1995.
It was chosen because, with water coming into play on 16 of 18 holes, it would simulate some of the pressure of tournament play … even though it was a friendly round of golf among friends.
Those “friends” – Mike Jamison, Jim Davis and Scott Matthews – provided a wonderful mixture of comfort and ribbing throughout the round.
Mike Jamison is a golf industry veteran and president of the Jamison Golf Group, based in Lake Mary, Florida. He is also executive director of the International Network of Golf. He always plays, then mans the ING booth at night.
Jim Davis is a Philadelphia area businessman, who has played in a number World Ams over the years. It might be safe to say that nobody enjoys the week at the World Am more than “Jimmy D.”
Scott Matthews hails from the Central Jersey area and has become a World Am regular in recent years. This year he comes on the heels of a number of lessons and swing changes … which leaves him trying to adjust his game in time for serious competition.
Unfortunately for me, the slight progress of the week of cramming fell apart on the golf course. Unfortunately for them, they had to watch it.
And, as fate would have it, as soon as there was a glimmer of hope … it was dashed by Mother Nature again. After a horrible front nine, there were a few solid hits on the back nine … as the rain clouds rolled in. Then, on the tough 14th hole, I hit two of my best shots of the day and made a ho-hum two-putt par.
That was followed by a solid tee shot on the par3 15th that found the middle of the green. At that time, a number of thunder claps and black clouds chased us from the course … just before the downpour.
I’m starting to suspect a conspiracy against me.
One more day of practice on Sunday … then the battle begins. My only hope is not to become a total casualty.