It’s been 15 months since my last competitive round, but I get to break that streak today at Congressional as I tee it up in the first round of the Middle Atlantic PGA Section Championship. It’s the local (Maryland and Virginia) club professional’s biggest tournament by far, with $10,000 on top and qualifying spots for the top 12 players into the National Championship (the PNC), held each year at the end of June. Luckily I am still exempt from qualifying (until I’m 60: I turn 58 in a week) since I won in 2001. I’ve been able to hit full shots for about a month, and I’ve increased my practicing slowly but surely until I was able to play two practice rounds this week, playing the Gold Course on Monday (shooting a 77) and the more famous Blue Course on Friday, when I shot an even par 72 and won some money off of one of the section’s best players, which showed me that I at least have a chance to be competitive in the tournament.
When I first started to practice I went over to the short game area and found myself pitching much like Tiger earlier this year. It was chunks and skulls, but after a week or so I began to put the club on the ball and feel like I was getting back to my old short game, which the guys around here will tell you is pretty good. I tried a new putter but just went back to my old Daddy Long Legs Spider, which feels very stable and rolls the ball nicely. My irons started off rusty as you can imagine, and it has always been the case that my struggles with ball striking escalate as the clubs get longer, culminating with the Driver, a club I have had no control over since my back got much worse back in 2009. Thus, I have been hitting a lot of drivers, something I have had to be careful about since it is my history to practice too much so that my back never feels good when I play. Of course, you can’t play any good if you need to practice and can’t, so I’ve been caught between a rock and a hard place with the will and desire to put in the time but not the physical ability to hold up under the strain of lots of repetitions. The good news, at least for now, is that I’ve been able to actually work on my driver swing for the first time in ages and my back is holding up wonderfully.
I’m really looking forward to playing, and I will report in after round two.
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