Wednesday, 20 May 2009


This weekend saw the Tour move South to the much vaunted Southern Dunes Resort for its most prestigious Two Day Event. I had once again practiced in earnest, two sub 80 rounds at Championsgate - albeit of the front tees not the championship ones - had, I felt, put my game into the best shape since I arrived.

Southern Dunes is highly rated here in Florida, a purpose built conurbation which has many rental homes frequently visited by UK visitors. Indeed, five years ago Matron and I had looked at properties here but as it is a further 10 miles from Disney and (more importantly) at that time there was a premium on most properties of about $100,000 as views of the course came at a price, we decided on the cheaper (and in our opinion better located) Bridgewater development were we currently live.

I had never played the course although I was acutely aware of its merits and the inherent difficulties it possesses. It has over 220 bunkers, is more akin to a Scottish Links than any other course in the Area, and its Greens are notorious for their difficulty and unpredictability. Truly a fine test for the tour's principal event. My four ball featured last year's one day event winner Randy Stephens and Flight Leader Wayne Weaver, three events, three victories and big hitting Nathan Gonzales.

Nathan, Wayne and Randy

The First Hole at Southern Dunes Resort

The Saturday round was very peculiar, Wayne and myself quite probably played better tee to green than Randy but his knowledge of the course was better and he also had better management around the greens and much more secure putting. I three putted 7 times as did Wayne... Saw him post 90 six shots better than I and amazingly ten better than Wayne. Nathan stuggled on the greens so much he 4 putted at least 5 times. It was still somewhat of a surprise that at the end of the day I was indeed second to Randy two shots clear of third and 4 clear of the menacing Wayne who I knew would come back strong on Sunday.

I teed of on Sunday with Randy and third-placed youngster Lonnie Laoretti… an impressive striker of the ball whose father is a scratch golfer who had won the US Seniors Open in 1982 and currently owns The Great Outdoor Golf Course out near Cape Canaveral where the shuttle is launched. In view of this I had a mindset of protecting second as opposed to contemplating winning the event. I made a major decision and went back to my old putter in a desperate attempt to solve this woeful aspect of yesterday's round. Lonnie came out all guns blazing - such a powerful hitter he had birdie opportunities on all the first 4 opening holes and failed to take any. Randy and I scrambled manfully and by the 8th, the scoreboard read the same as at the start. At the turn, I had narrowed Randy's lead to 5 after a lengthy par saving putt at the 9th…

7th Hole at Southern Dunes Resort

I led Lonnie by one and he was fast moving up, Wayne was still three adrift of me. I was playing steadily, driving well and had not three putted at all so as we approached the tenth, second place was still on my mind. I managed a sand save on ten which cut Randy's lead to four and opened up a two stroke lead over Lonnie.

In my opinion the whole course of the contest changed on the 12th, a dog leg par 5 of 540 yards. I had out drove my partners splitting the fairway and they had both pulled theirs left some twenty yards behind me facing a blind shot over the water to the dog leg green some 250 yards away. The safe pay for both was a lay up, chip and two putts - an easy 5, I could have a go so advantage to me. Quite simply however, Lonnie played the finest shot I have seen on this trip to about 8 feet from the pin for an eagle opportunity. This seemed to get into the head of Randy who for some unknown reason took on the dog leg and left it short in the hazard, he then hit his approach into the bunker and turned in a gut wrenching 8. I made a very important decision to play conservatively and laid up, chipped and posted a safe par. Thankfully, Lonnie missed his eagle putt but tapped in for a birdie.

As we approached the 13th Randy's lead was now one over me and two over Lonnie. On the 14th tee, a cagey small par 3 of 130 yards surrounded by 12 pot bunkers, it was game on as Randy (following a great par save at 13) was two ahead of both of us. Two holes later I would have the tournament in the bag. Both guys put their tee shots into the bunker probably both under-clubbing. I took an extra club aimed long and hit a majestic shot. I had an easy par, they both took 5 and suddenly I was joint leader. On the 15th after a safe tee shot I hit a 6 iron to eight feet, rapped in the birdie opportunity, both guys took another double bogey after three putting and suddenly I was three up on Randi and four up on Lonnie with three to play.

On 16 I stretched my lead over Randy to four and realised a bogey bogey finish would be sufficient. On 17 Lonnie lost his ball and with it any chance of second place, Randy finished par, par to keep second place from Wayne who had already posted an 88 in the clubhouse. I was pleased for Randy because I believe he deserved a place. He probably never saw me as a threat as I think he felt Lonnie would make a charge and I somewhat sneaked in under the radar. I also hit the front at the right time, with so few holes left that they could not respond. It says something for his character that he finished as well as he did, when he was obviously suffering with his back nine performance. So like Faldo did to Norman in the 96 Masters I had overturned a 6 stroke deficit to clinch the title and the $300 dollar first prize.

A great day concluded with the news that in game 7 of the series Magic defeated, nay thrashed the holders Boston in the NBA playoff to move into the semi finals.

The tour now moves North to Victoria Hills, were I made my debut last year. Very poorly I may add but after a 3, 2, and 1…. Wheres Dust Bin!... The only way is down… But I remain confident of further success if I can maintain this form.

We are going to Miami this weekend for Matron's birthday and she has told me to put my clubs in just in case. The Blue Monster at Doral beckons I think!

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