NHGA Women's Match Play Recap
I hope everyone has had a good long weekend and Happy Memorial Day!
I played in the NHGA Women's Match Play Championship at Cocheco Country Club the week of May 17th. In both match play events that I have played in to date, I start off slow on the front nine of the seeding round and then pick up and play pretty well! So after the first round on Monday was complete I was the 6th seed in the Championship flight.
My ball-striking and putting were solid on Monday and the only thing that kept me from scoring better was the fact that my short game let me down. When I got home that afternoon I hit a few short pitches around my yard and got in some swings to get back to hitting good wedge shots.
Tuesday morning I had a match against Deb Clauson and we teed off around 8:00. So I got dropped off at the course around 7:00 and walked out to the range to warm up and got in some more wedge practice. I changed my strategy a little bit for match-play but I knew that I had to go out and make pars and take advantage of my length on the par fives. When I walked back to the putting green I talked to a few of the other women competing and did my typical putting warm-up routine. After that, I went over to the tee to watch the group in front of us tee off and make sure that I was ready and focused for the round.
Deb and I were close for most of the front nine, one of us would go up the other would tie and it would continue like that for a while. I ended up going 2-down through eight holes but then was able to come back winning nine and ten. We tied the par-five eleventh hole and then I lost twelve losing a wedge out into the bunker on the right and not being able to get up and down. Then we headed to our thirteenth hole which was a par five, I pulled a seven wood OB that ended up costing me the hole. After losing balls both right and left on the previous two holes I clubbed down a little bit knowing there was trouble on every side of the green on our par-three fourteenth hole. I ended up coming up short into the bunker and yet again being unable to scramble for par.
I was 3-down headed into our par-five 15th hole, which is not exactly the position you want to leave yourself in. I hit a decent five-wood off the tee and hit a nice six-iron in but came up short on the hill. I was left with a 45-yard pitch playing longer than that due to the hill. I didn't put enough spin on it so it ran to about 15-20 feet. Deb was about 8 feet away in 3 and I knew that I needed to make this putt. I walked it off and read the break from all sides taking my time to make sure I was ready. I lined my triple track lines on my ball up at my target, took a deep breath, and stepped over it. I stroked it and it looked like it wasn't going to get there but on the last rotation it fell into the cup and I let out the biggest sigh of relief. Now either way whether Deb made hers or not we were going to the next hole. Deb ended up making her putt and we went to our 16th hole with me three down.
The next three holes were some of the most stressful but most exciting minutes I can remember playing on a golf course. I kept telling myself each shot is the most important, nothing else mattered. I couldn't go back and change what I had done on previous holes and no future holes would matter if I didn't win this one. I hit a good eight iron that just ran into the edge of the rough above the hole. Deb had missed the green short and was about 9 feet away for par. The short game has never really been my strong suit (but I am working on it and one of my goals for this season is to become better around the greens and be more confident when chipping) but I took my time and was able to put my chip to about three feet and sunk it for par. Deb just missed her par putt and we headed to our 17th hole with her leading two-up.
The seventeenth hole is a pretty straightforward par four with water left. I hit a great five-wood leaving myself about 105 yards into the green. I was able to put my approach to within 15 feet and had a nice two-putt for par. Deb missed the green with her approach shot and was unable to scramble for par. I was one down with one to play.
The walk from the seventeenth green to the eighteenth tee felt like a very long walk, I just focused on taking deep breaths and staying present in the moment. We had to wait a bit on the 18th hole as the group ahead of us was still playing. I contemplated pulling driver but talked myself into playing it safe with an easy five-wood to give myself the best chance at finding the fairway. Deb and I made our way up to our balls pretty quietly and she was away so she hit a nice shot leaving herself about 100 yards into the green. I hit a good nine-iron to leave myself 115 yards in because I had been hitting my pitching wedge well all week and felt comfortable with that number into the large green. My second shot had stopped in the rough just before the cart path but it was sitting up in a good lie. I went back and forth for a few moments debating between taking the drop and risking a more difficult lie or hitting it where it was standing on the cart path. Knowing I needed to at least get this on the green I decided to take advantage of the lucky lie I had gotten and hit it from there. I hit a solid pitching wedge to the left-hand side of the green. Deb missed the green with her third shot and I hit a nice lag putt to about two and a half feet. Deb was unable to make par and I stepped up to get ready to hit my par putt knowing it was to bring the match the extra holes. Despite it being a short putt that I had made a million times I took my time and made sure to relax before I hit it because if I was tense my tendency is to hit it too hard and I didn't want that on a slightly downhill putt. I sunk it in the middle of the cup and we were headed to extra holes.
I was exhausted by this point, I had put everything into coming back to win those three holes, and going to an extra hole was something I was proud of myself for making happen. We played the tenth hole again and I hit a good five-wood leaving myself 100 yards in which I was comfortable with. Between the exhaustion and being hungry and sunburnt I let my mind wander a little on the way down the tenth fairway which looking back on it I know I shouldn't have done, I needed to stay focused on the task at hand. I ended up missing my wedge shot just left of the green leaving me with a pretty straightforward chip with lots of green to work with but I didn't execute it the way I know I could have. I left myself a long putt for par which I gave a chance but just left it short. My heart sunk a little bit knowing that I had lost because my opponent was going to two-putt for her par. Deb had played so well all day and I was happy for her!
The walk from the tenth green back across the street to the clubhouse was a long one and my dad ended up calling me on my way back. We had a great conversation and I was able to be disappointed I didn't get the win but still be proud of myself for fighting all the way to the end and never giving in. When I went back through and looked at my scores throughout the day I found out that I was on track to shoot my career-best round!
Back at the clubhouse, I talked to some of the other women who were playing or had played in the event and it was really fun to just be able to enjoy the day and be able to let go of my match for a few minutes and not have to think about what went well or what could go better. I stayed and watched the afternoon matches as well as went back on Wednesday to watch the final match.
Despite losing in the first round of match play this week was an incredible learning opportunity! I played some of the best golf I have ever played and was able to stay in it the whole way, I didn’t give up even though the odds weren’t in my favor when I was three-down. I saw the competitor in me I knew was in there but hadn't been able to find yet this season come out! While watching the other matches I was able to notice the little things that even though I knew some of them being able to watch someone else do them and be able to see it pay off reiterated how crucial these things are. The importance of lining up every putt, working backwards deciding what club to hit to leave yourself with a comfortable number into the green, and just staying focused on the task at hand. I watched as the women ended up in difficult situations but they persisted always giving their all to what was going on. They never let one hole get to them, they moved on to the next hole and just focused on that one.
As were the quarter-final matches the semi-final matches were close with Tara Watt and Deb Clauson going to the seventeenth before Tara closed it out 2&1. Pareena Deva and Melissa Harman went to 19 holes where Pareena closed it out. Wednesday morning for the final match Pareena took on Tara. Tara got to three-up through six holes but Pareena came back a little bit with Tara eventually closing it out 2&1 on seventeen.
I had known Tara since around the time I played in my first NHWGA Amateur Championship, which she ended up winning! Since then she has become a friend but also a role model and so playing in another event she was playing in and being able to watch her was lots of fun! Tara ended up giving me rides home all week, and on those rides, we had some great conversations about how we had played and what we could do better. Having these conversations taught me the importance of reflecting upon your rounds and determining what needs to be worked on or can be improved, while also not changing things in the middle of a tournament. Watching her play also inspired me to keep working hard because I know that I can compete with her and be as good as she is!
A huge congratulations to Tara on her victory! Also congratulations to Suzanne Flynn and Deb Chase on winning the first and second flights, respectively! Congrats to Pareena Deva on her runner-up finish. Great playing to all of the women who teed it up and shoutout to all the women I talked with or sat with at some point throughout the event. All of the women were so supportive and friendly which really made it a welcome environment to compete in and be around. I will remember this week and take these lessons with me for a long time!
~NH Golfer Gal