I played a match with Paul today for our club's "A" flight match play championship. With all due respect to Paul, I had considered myself a better player until last year. Paul has really upped his game. And setting out today I knew that only my very best would suffice if I was going to have a chance to beat him.
Paul won the first hole with a solid par, after a terrific second shot to about ten feet. I had duffed my second shot and, after a pretty good third to about eight feet, missed my par putt. I then won the next three holes to go two up. But Paul fought back and we were all square after nine.
Paul then made a terrific par on ten, our toughest hole, to go one up. We halved eleven when I three-putted from twenty feet after Paul had hit his second shot in the fescue, but was able to hack the ball out and make bogey. Paul then won twelve with a birdie, and easily won thirteen with a par after I yanked my tee shot into the fescue and eventually made a double. Suddenly, after feeling pretty good, I was three down.
It was then that I became really determined to try to make a match out of it. I won fifteen and sixteen and Paul was one up playing seventeen. I hit a perfect drive, while Paul hooked his behind a tree, and I thought, "Game on." However, I pulled my eight iron approach, leaving myself short-sided, about fifteen feet from the pin.
I wasn't happy, but I figured that I had a fair chance of getting it up and down and I figured that Paul was in jail, having to hit a great shot just to hit the green. Paul, meanwhile, must have been feeling the heat, because the momentum had clearly swung in my direction. He took a fair bit of time sizing up his options and finally decided to go for it, having to get the ball up very quickly to clear the tree, and then stop it on the green. Paul hit a tremendous shot to about twenty feet, easily two-putted for par and won the match when I failed to get it up and down.
I wasn't happy to have lost the match, but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Paul forced me to really dig deep and grind just in order to stay in the match and keep things respectable. His second shot on seventeen was nothing short of incredible. I really thought he was in jail, but he dug deep and pulled it off.
I had to run after seventeen because I was late for dinner with my daughter in Kingston, so I didn't have a chance to discuss the match with Paul; though we did briefly discuss his great shot on seventeen. I just hope he enjoyed the match as much as I did. There is nothing like match play; especially if you have a congenial opponent who forces you to really dig deep and play your best. And I had that today in Paul. He was the better man today, and forced me to grind like crazy coming in. It feels really good to have to dig deep and grind it out. That's when you learn what you're capable of.
Thanks for the memories, Paul. It was a terrific match.