My biggest loss turned into my biggest Victory
19 March 2018 10:42 am
My biggest loss turned into my biggest Victory
From my experience of being a Professional I would say most golfers worry too much about losing. This article I’m sharing with you is an experience I had when I was 20 years old, playing in the welsh team championships for my Home club and practically my home, Penrhos.
The welsh team championship is a scratch event with a squad of 6 players, 5 playing. Regional qualifying is first and if all goes well, you qualify to the final.
The final is at 1 venue with 32 teams taking part, this particular year was at Northrop Hall GC in North Wales.
The practice day went well with all 6 players on our team playing well and our caddies didn’t get too drunk. Our team was Miller, Daf, Aled, Martin, Rhydian and myself. Huw was our team captain and what a great captain he was.
That evening the team was announced. 6 players and only 5 can play and I was the unfortunate one. It hurt, but was probably the right decision and I was there for the boys. Although disappointed, I put on a brave face and caddied for my best mate Daf, who was a + 1 golfer. We went out first and we destroyed this poor bugger he played; Daf was on fire, smashing him 7 and 5. As soon as the game was over we ran back to see how the others were getting on; good news everyone was up and we had a convincing 4 1/2 - 1/2 win against our local rivals Glyn Hyr GC.
Celebrations, high fives, smiles all around as we sang our little song ‘ la la la, la la la, Penrhos golf club superstars’. Absolutely buzzing, straight to the bar for a drink for me and the caddies!!!
The players however looked at the board and in less than an hour we were playing against Creigau Gc; a very strong team with a couple of Welsh internationals in their squad. It was going to be tough but we were up for the battle.
There is something special at Penrhos golf club; I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but their was a bond with that team, that felt like nothing else.
Same order, same team for the afternoon. Huw wasn’t going to play me after the morning performance.
Daf started his match poorly; 2 down after 3 and was getting frustrated. He won’t mind me saying this but it was his downfall, if things didn’t go right you knew about it.
A funny story from a few months prior was that Daf got some advice from somewhere to help him deal with his anger management issues!! The advice was to put 3 of the thickest elastic bands on one of his wrists and when he got angry to give them a pluck!!! Well, myself and Steff were playing with him and we didn’t know this was Dafs new on course strategy. So during a monthly medal; on the second hole Daf hooks his second shot a good 50 yards left into the gorse. Steff and I looked over expecting the club throw or the shout “Load of F*****g B******s
Instead he went for his wrist and started pinging away at this elastic band; “Ping Ping Ping”; on it went for 30 seconds. By this time myself and Steff where on the floor with laughter, it’s one of the funniest moments of my life.
Anyway, Creigau in the last 16, Daf was 2 Down after 3, head went down but stayed in the game and was 2 down at the turn. We hadn’t talked much after that 9 as Daf’s head was in the shed looking for elastic bands... but we chatted to the 10th tee and I said to Daf you have this guy, he’s average your good. Daf agreed. So I said prove it then. Needless to say he was fantastic on the back 9 with 5 birdies and 2 and 1 win. Big high fives and bear hugs but we were unsure how the others where getting on. We left his clubs and ran back to 15, Aled had lost, so had Martin. Miller was 2 up with two to play so we knew that was in the bag. It was down to Rhidian who was all square with 3 to play.
We all gathered around the 16th green so he knew his game must be important; he asked Huw what’s going on, he replied it’s down to you. His reply was a big laugh, he spat on his hands rubbed them together and shouted out ‘bring it on’ followed by another big laugh!
Rhidian played steady as ever with 3 solid pars and the young welsh international crumbled with a couple of wayward drives.
We won - last eight of the welsh team champs. Get the beers in Huw!!!! And he did.
We were all knackered so steak and chips in the pub and a early night.
However there was a twist.....
Miller and Huw took me to one side and said Miller can’t play tomorrow, I have to pick my daughter up from the airport in the morning, so you are playing tomorrow!!
Wow what a mix of emotions - Miller was our best player, off +1 and club champion 10 of the last 12 years. His daughter Kelly was a extremely talented golfer and was in college in the states and was coming home the next day.
I felt excited and nervous given the opportunity to play for my club and Friends; Miller said he’d be back in time to caddy for me on the back nine.
It was a nervous breakfast and I didn’t eat too much but the team were in good spirits, ready to take on Mold Gc.
I teed off 4th. Aled went out first and was heavily beaten, Martin lost but Daf and Rhydian played exceptionally well and won their matches.
Miller joined me on the 11th hole and by the time we got to the 17th everyone was there, I went over to Daf for a bear hug, “it’s down to you Ol, it’s 2-2”.
My heart jumped a beat but I felt good, Miller was on the bag, I was playing really well and all square, all to play for.
A solid up and down from greenside for birdie saw another half. All square down the last!
A slightly pushed tee shot followed by a 9 iron short and right in the bunker was to follow. My opponents solid drive and PW to 15ft.
My ball was lying great in the bunker and it was simple shot, but I was definitely aware of my heart beating! I told myself, you practice this shot for hours back home. Just commit to it. And I did, 1ft gimmie, big cheers from the boys. Well done Oli boy!!!!
A two putt from my opponent meant one thing, play off! Extra holes. I’m buzzing, bouncing, smiling but not really sure what’s going on, what to do or look at. The boys are all there giving me encouragement and I bounce even more!
Walking to the next tee Miller pulls me in tight and calms me down.
A perfect tee shot with my trusty big Bertha 4 wood straight down the middle, followed by a 70 yard pitch over water to 10ft - the crowd go wild! Must be 70-80 people watching by now, which feels like 7000!
My opponent misses his tee shot right, misses his approach short and chips on to 5ft.
We walk into the green to applause and I feel good, I’m going to hole this putt and we will win is what’s in my mind, I have no doubt.
I read the putt (the old fashioned way as AimPoint hadn’t yet been invented!) and see it going in, a couple of practice swings and hit. Perfect putt! remember so well how pure it was. But it was a little firm, missed on the high side and went 4ft past! I hear the groans from the crowd, what have I done!
My opponent holes his 5ft putt for par. I have a 4ft putt to half the hole.
This is when I was nervous, the most nervous I have ever felt. Another match had finished nearby and had come over to join in gathering around the green. There must have been 100 people watching but again it felt like a lot more.
This is how nervous I was.
I marked my ball, read the putt, placed my ball down behind the marker and went to grab my marker and I noticed my hand shaking like a leaf. I tried to grab the marker carefully but I couldn’t, oh S**t I thought. So I flicked the marker away as it traveled a couple of feet away. I went and picked it up.
Right, straight putt; you’ve holed this millions of times before Oli, knock it in. And I did straight in the middle.
My putting practice at the time was to hole 100 x 3 1/2 ft putts in a row. If I missed one then start again. I’m sure this practice helped me hole that putt.
The second play off hole, 480 yards par 4 stroke index 1. A pushed drive one again, this definitely is my miss under pressure.
Behind a tree, punch a 5 iron low 40 yards short of the green. Chipped on to 13ft.
My opponent was solid again with two great shots finding the middle of the green. A 2 Putt from 30ft left me with a 13ft putt to half.
Read it well, pictured it really well and hit a great putt, lipped out on the high side, I lost.
I felt devastated, gutted a broken man nearly in tears. The boys came over congratulating me, I didn’t feel like I should be congratulated, I lost, I felt like I’d let the team down. But everyone was in great spirits so proud of the teams achievements.
It took a couple of months for me to realise - but this match and experience evolved me as a player more than any victory ever could.
When I head back home, to Penrhos to catch up myself and Huw often talk about this fabulous moment and Huw always says,
‘Oli that was the day you changed from a boy to a Man!’