In 2011 I first learned of the San Francisco City Golf Championship. I was at Harding Park, pictured below, trying to get in an early morning round, but the proshop said it was the finals for "The City". Curious, I stuck around.
The City, as I found out, is an annual match play tournament rich in history. Past winners include Ken Venturi and Julie Inkster. Past participants include Tom Watson and Johnny Miller. Luckily, there's also a hackers (open) division for golfers like me and you. Forgot why I didn't enter the 2012 tournament but had such a great time last year I would play again this year.
The tournament started a few weeks ago with a seeding round at Lincoln Park. Played horrible. Carded an 11 on the par 3 17th. Eleven! But it's only a seeding round. The real fun starts with March Madness style match play.
Round 1 was last Sunday. I would play a 15 year old (man do I feel old). Through 8 I was 2-up. I thought I was going to go 3 up until he drains a 15 footer out of nowhere to keep it close. Then on the next hole he drains a 30 footer to pull within 1. Was a bit of a shock to the system. For 2 hours I felt in control of the match, playing pretty well. Then my opponent drains a 15 and 30 footer. Nothing I could do, as you can't play defense in golf.
First half of back nine was back and forth. He would eventually take a 1-up lead with 4 holes to play. But I still wasn't worried. I really felt I was still in control of the match, even though I was down. But then he drains another 20 footer! Instead of 1 down, 3 to go if we had halved, I was 2 down, 2 to go after his birdie. OK, now I'm worried. I pressed too hard on the 17th and would lost 3 and 1.
That's golf, that's match play. When your opponent gets hot and drains putts, there're helpless.
But the tournament would not end with my round 1 lost. I ran into a golf friend afterward in the parking lot. He won his round 1 so I told him I'd caddied for him in round 2. Now, I know what you're thinking. Why would anyone want to caddy in potential rain for 4-5 hours? For the love of the game! For the love of the game! And for the exercise. I'm not a gym guy. I don't like running/jogging/hiking. Golf is my exercise. I just look at caddying as a way to walk 5-6 miles, breathe clean air. And for the competition. Love the "mano a mano" competition. It's fun to be part of the game.
My friend won his second round yesterday pretty handily, think 4 and 2. I had no doubts. His opponent just wasn't the same caliber. Onto round 3.
Round 3 would be played at Presidio Golf Course. Was expecting really bad weather but after a morning mist it was actually dry. My friend's opponent today was a big, older guy. I was a little worried. You see, these older guys, they might not have a picture perfect swing or length. But they've spent an entire lifetime groving their swings. And typically their short game is top notch.
Sure enough, the guy wasn't very long and didn't have the prettiest of game. But around the greens he was good. And putting, oh man could he putt. He must have lagged 4 putts from 30+ feet to 6 inches. My friend played well enough to take a 1-up lead through 9. But got loose on a couple holes in the back. Next thing you know we're down 2.
Then the guy went for kill. He pulls his drive into some wooden crap while we were looking pretty from 120. But he proceeds to hits his 5/7 wood from 150 (probably playing 170-180 with the hill) to 8 feet. It was one of those, are you serious?!? moments. We though he'd have to punch out, make 5 at best. Instead he's putting for birdie. On the next hole, a short par 3, he hits it to maybe 15-20 feet and proceeds to make the putt. Game over.
As a caddy, I had two regrets. On one of the par 4s I should have pushed my friend to play the 3 wood instead of the hybrid. With the wet fairways (no roll) hybrid off the tee left him too far back to really attack and we'd end up in the bunker. 3-wood would have given us a shorter club in and probably taken the bunkers out of play. On the 1st par 3 on the back nine I should have pushed him to play his patented hybrid bump and run. He opted to putt from closely mowed fairway instead and made a mess. Didn't help that his opponent lagged from 40 feet to 1 foot!
Ultimately, our opponent today was solid on the back nine. Nothing you can do. There's no defense in golf.