It’s Saturday 7th May and the weather forecast was for 20+ degrees in Ireland, a heat wave. I wake up ready for a great day in The Irish Amateur, open the curtains and the rain is hoping off the ground, some heat wave!
We arrive at the course at 11.00am, an hour before our tee time. We’re 2 over par for the first 36 holes and in a decent position to make the cut, the leaders are 8 under par and we’ll need to shoot near the course record to get into contention.
It’s wet, a bit cold and the wind is kicking up a bit, typical Irish Am weather. I’m well wrapped up against the elements, full rain suit and even a cap, I don’t like caps.
We go through our warm up and head for the first tee, no need to test the wind today, it’s going to be straight into our face on the first few. 11.57am and the starter announces us, as if he’s back in Balcarrick GC having a knock with friends, Gav flushes one straight down the middle, we’re off.
A pushed approach shot and we’ve started with a bogey, not what we wanted but we’re prepared for whatever the course throws at us. A great drive and 3 wood into the wind and we’re at the front edge of the par 5 second, a delightful chip later and we have an eagle in the bag.
On 3 the tee shot is weakly hit, it’s still in the fairway but a long way back. The second is pulled a little and we fail to get up and down, another bogey and we’re back to level.
Pars follow at 4 and 5 so we’re level par and getting into a rhythm. The drive on 6 is pushed just left and we find the second of the fairway bunkers, a pitch out is all we can do. The third shot is 240m into the wind from a downhill lie, Gav thinks he can muscle a 3 wood to the front edge, I believe him, he’s done it many times before. It’s low and the mound in front of us takes all the power out of the shot, it catches a fairway bunker 92m short of the green. We’re well back in the bunker and need a pitching wedge into the wind to get back to the hole. Disaster, the club bounces on the firm sand and the ball hits into the face of the bunker. A moment to regroup, the caddy takes his time cleaning the club and we discuss options. We agree we can only pitch out this time with a sand wedge and take our chances, another disaster as we hit the lip and stay in the bunker once more. We get out with the next one but we’ve now taken 6, a good pitch to about 5 feet and we seem to have settled down but we miss the putt and end up with a 9.
Deep breaths, time for a drink of water, check our yardage book, discuss yesterdays shot into the par 3 seventh, calm ourselves and get ready to play. We make a 2 putt par on 7, drain a 20 foot putt for a birdie on 8 and we’re over the shell shock.
9 is playing 155m with a gentle breeze from the left, a perfect 8 iron distance. Gav starts it at the left hand bunker, it stays there, plugged in the face of it. He blasts a lob wedge out to 15 feet but fails to convert. We’ve turned 4 over with a quadruple bogey on the card.
Regulation pars on 10 and 11 are followed by a bogey 4 on 12. We’re now a total of 7 over par and for the first time missing the cut is a fear. Picture perfect birdies on 13 and 14 bring us back into the game, 16 is a potential birdie which could get us into the final day.
A par at 15 keeps us on track. A weak drive to the left of 16 is not what we hoped for but it’s not a disaster, Gav pitches to 12 feet but the putt slips by. As Gav makes a regulation par on 17, word comes through that the cut looks like being 5 over, we need a par on the last to make it on the bubble.
On 18 we discuss our strategy, we agree a 4 iron off the tee will leave us a short to mid iron into the green. The 4 iron is pulled and tracking towards the water hazard on the right, it stops just short. An awkward stance but better than the alternative. 7 iron to the green is a little weak but makes the front edge, 34 yards short of the hole on this monster green. Gav’s first putt is not up to the standard he expects of himself and it’s 20 feet short. This to make the cut, he gives it everything he has but it slips by, game over!
It’s difficult to talk about all the emotions you feel at a time like that. A young lad I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for the past 6 years is standing in front of me having just missed the cut in the biggest tournament in the country. Could I have done something different on the 6th? Should I have encouraged him to pull driver on the last? Could I have given him a better read on one or two of the putts? Did I do enough? Did I let him down?
Not sure this caddies life is for me!