I made my Alliance debut for the 2008-2009 season yesterday. It was actually the third meeting of this winter but other commitments (modelling shoot and Ryder Cup) meant I was unable to play at Braemar or Kemnay. Boo.. shame..
Prior to teeing off at Ellon I found I was already on the back foot. Stewart won at Kemnay last week (picking up a cheque for £100) and a number of the other Banchory Alliancers had already made their mark on the money list. I needed to produce something gritty to stamp my authority on the season.
To be honest, my hopes weren’t high. I arrived back from the States on Tuesday afternoon and yesterday morning (3am) woke up confused about what time it was and what country I was in. I lay awake for the next few hours getting increasingly stressed because I couldn’t remember the name of the lead singer of The Lemonheads. I know… ridiculous.
Add to this state of delirium, the fact I hadn’t played golf for two weeks and I was about as likely to win at Ellon as Nick Faldo is to be chosen as 2010 Ryder Cup Captain.
Ellon can, quite correctly, be described as “a course of two halves.” The front nine is open parkland – some fairly long and testing holes adding up to a par of 37. The back nine is a polar opposite. Four tree-lined, tight (but short) par fours and three par threes lead to the toughest two finishing holes in world golf. The 17th is a par four of 450 yards. If you’re to reach the green in two, your tee shot must travel some 280 yards and pass between a gap in the trees roughly the width of a tennis court, about 250 yards out. Even if you manage this Herculean feat you’re still left with an extremely difficult second shot. Unless you’ve found the very right hand side of the fairway and have hit the ball 310 yards, you’ll have to play your approach over a copse of huge trees just short of the putting surface. If you have to go in with anything more than about a 7-iron, you’re forced to play to the right of the putting surface.
Once you’ve negotiated this brute you have to tackle the 18th – just as tough. The gap between the trees at driving distance on this hole is even narrower than at the 17th. So narrow in fact, you really can’t go for it. So you’re forced to lay-up (hitting your tee-shot about 210 yards.) This leaves you about another 210 yards to make it to the green through the crack in the trees. This closing pair of nasties has ruined more scorecards over the years than they’ve poured pints of Guinness in Dublin, (that analogy is for you Mr Faldo – might have gone down a little better than the potatoes line.)
Interestingly though, it wasn’t here I faced a particular problem. My round had gone west a long time before that. A snap hook of the first tee, a shank on the ninth, a thinned chip at the fifth and some generally lamentable putting added up to a fairly dismal round of 75 (+5). If I’m absolutely honest it could have been a lot worse.
Big Stu shot a 69 (-1) and finished third. He did, unfortunately, fall foul of the last two finishing five, six. Bad luck indeed.
It looks as though I might not play again until next Wednesday’s Alliance at Huntly so, unless a golfing angel blesses me with a short game in my sleep, I’m not optimistic…. It’s Evan Dando by the way (Lemonheads).