Saturday, June 16, 2018

Not Getting Byrne(d)

John F. Byrne Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa.
Yards: 2273/2658 - 4931
Par: 33/34 - 67
Rating: 63.9, Slope: 116
Score: 46/44 = 90
Date: June 15, 2018

While the world's best golfers were grinding away Friday during the second round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills on the eastern tip of Long Island, I was grinding away during my own round at John F. Byrne Golf Club in Northeast Philadelphia.

John F. Byrne Scorecard

While Shinnecock is a private wind-swept, links-style course that is ranked among the top 10 in the world, Byrne is a Philadelphia-owned municipal track that sits in a valley, with the Torresdale Creek serpentining throughout. It is more renowned for its elevation changes than its scenic views.

My round got off to an okay start, with a two-putt bogey at the First Hole, followed by a double-bogey at the long Par 3 Second Hole, which requires golfers to hit a very tiny green with their downhill tee shots.

After a routine par at the short Par 4 Third Hole, I faced the short, but devilish Par 4 Fourth Hole. Although the hole only plays 293 yards, your tee shot must carry over the creek and through a narrow opening in the treeline 145 yards off the tee. From there, the fairway slopes severely downhill from left to right. If you make it through the opening to the fairway, you must play your approach shot--often with ball well below your feet--uphill to the tiny green that juts out from the side of the hill. Any approach shot that misses left or right leaves a very difficult chip or pitch.

Opting for a conservative approach off the tee, I hit my 4-wood at the right side, hoping to draw the ball toward the center of the gap. My shot, however, hung to the right just enough and while I didn't hear it hit in the trees of the creek, I was unable locate my ball on either side of the creek. I finally took a drop on the tee-side of the creek, and drawing a poor lie, hit my third shot into the weeds along
Fourth Hole looking back to the tee
the creek bank. Another drop. I hit my fifth shot over the creek up the left side about 50 yards short of the green. With the ball way below my feet as I took my stance, my punch (sixth) shot landed short and bounded right down the hill below the green. My chip up (seventh shot) ran over the green into the rough, but against the hill. With room for much of a backswing, I hacked down on the ball (eighth shot), which squirted across and off the green. I chipped again (ninth shot), this time stopping the ball about six feet from the hole. I sank the putt for a 10!

As I headed to the Fifth Hole, my mind made me think I was playing the world class U.S. Open venue, not a Philly muni course! A 10! On only the fourth hole of the round. But wait, there was still 14 more holes to play and I was not going to let this one hole blow up my round and my score! All week long, I have listened to golf commentators talk about players who are grinders, who don't have flashy styles, but who get the ball in the hole and post good scores. Well, here was my chance to be a grinder! To focus and put up a good score, despite the 10. My immediate goal became keeping my score under 100, shooting in the 90s at minimum, and if possible, getting into the 80s since the last time I played this course in 2016, I shot 86.

The comeback started at the 293 yard Par 4 Fifth Hole. I hit 7-wood off the tee, leaving me a gap wedge for my approach that I hit to 15 feet. Two-putts and a par. The grind has begun. I miss-clubbed at the downhill Par 3 Sixth Hole, hitting my tee shot into the creek that front the green. Double-bogey. A poor chip led to a bogey at the short Seventh Hole and a bad tee shot at the slightly uphill Par 3 Eighth led to another. At the 376 yard Par 4 Ninth, the tee shot starts out downhill, goes over the creek, then straight uphill to the green. I found the fairway, but came up well short on my approach, then hit my pitch a good 25 feet past the hole. But I slowly rolled in the slick downhill putt for par and a score of 46 on the front nine, even with a 10 at the Fourth!

I stood with confidence on the Tenth tee, another downhill tee shot that had to cross the creek. It quickly evaporated when my tee shot found the water and led to a double-bogey. I pulled my tee shot well left at the uphill Par 3 Eleventh Hole, which resulted in another double-bogey. But I was grinding, and my tee shot at the Par 5 Twelfth Hole found the middle of the fairway. I hooked my lay-up left with my hybrid, pitched out to the fairway, then wedged on to 15 feet. Two-putts and a six. A three-putt bogey at the very short Par 3 Thirteenth Hole was followed by another bogey at the long, 219-yard Par 3 Fourteenth Hole. After missing the green right for another double-bogey at the Par 3 Fifteenth, I was determined to finish strong. Although my tee shot went left into the treeline at the Par 5 Sixteenth, I hooked a 5-iron out and down the fairway. My third shot with a 7-iron came up short of the green, but I chipped on and made the 12 foot putt for a par. I found the left rough on the Seventeenth and my approach shot went even more left. I got a break when my pitch shot hung up just above the right bunker, leaving me a straight chip and a short putt for bogey. I got another fantastic break at the Eighteenth, as my tee shot at the 371-yard Par 4 hit in the creek, bounced high in the air and forward up the fairway, leaving me 135 yards uphill to the green. My approach with an 8-iron found the left rough and I chipped up to two feet and a closing par. It added up to a 44 on the back nine.

As I headed to the clubhouse, I felt a great deal of satisfaction. I had done it. I had grinded out a decent score on a day when my game wasn't hitting on all cylinders. I had met the goal I set for myself after the disastrous 10 on the Fourth Hole. I hadn't let it define my round.

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