On a cold, rainy, windy late October afternoon in Buchanan Michigan, I entered the championship match for the Orchard Hills Country Club club championship. Usually the elements would typically be enough to deal with, but I had just returned from a week-long trip to California, broke up with my boyfriend of 2 years, missed my flight home, and mentally, running on fumes. My opponent was a great player, who was the longest hitter at the course, a +3 handicap, played professionally on mini tours and had the power to dominate the course with his length. I previously defeated three of the best players at the club to get to this point, but I would have to dig deeper than I ever have if I wanted any chance to etch my name in the Club Championship plaque for the first time.
As the match began, it was obvious that my game was rusty and my opponent came out of the gates firing. Bad swings, silly mistakes, and a lack of focus on my part soon found me 6 down after 6 holes to my opponent for the 36 hole match-play finals. As my parents have always told me, as long as there are holes infront of you, anything is possible. Easier said than done. Anything that could go wrong did and I faced a moment where I could either continue to fight or throw in the towel for the remainder of the match.
I remember sitting in my cart and telling myself, “You’re better than this. This is your course, the course you grew up on and you know you can beat anyone out here.” I had the most inner dialogue and positive self-talk with myself in those next few holes than I ever had. I made a conscious decision then and there that I would not give up, but fight my way back. On hole 7, momentum started to shift. I made a birdie to his bogey and on hole 9, made another birdie to make the turn in 4 down.
I felt myself settling down going into the back and making good golf swings and good decisions. Matchplay is so different from stroke play. However, I focused on each shot and plotting my way around the course the best I could. Sprinkling in a few more birdies on the back and eliminating any big blow-up holes or numbers, I found myself on the 18th 2 down. I made birdie from 130 yards out to his par from 30 yards out on the par-four and could sense momentum shifting to my favor and frustration begging to build on his end. After the first 18, I was only one down entering the 2nd and final 18 holes of the match.
After a McDonald’s lunch (thanks Dad for driving down the road so we could continue the match) I continued to play my game and continued to sense momentum on my side. A continued string of pars on the front and a few mistakes from my opponent found me 1 up going into the back and final 9 holes.
I remember that my mind almost went numb at that point. I wasn’t thinking about the prospect of winning or how much the title would mean to me, I just focused on the shot at hand and making good swings and decisions. Mentally, I was broken from the past week’s trip and the breakup with my boyfriend – but golf is something I’ve always known, it’s been my escape. I believe my calmness partially caused my opponent to press and try to overpower the course and play outside his game.
As we came to the 17th hole, I had a 2 up lead and 15 footer that I had to two-putt. Standing over the 3-footer to win, I knocked the putt in and had a flood of emotions come over me. I had finally won my club championship.
Is this the biggest win of my career? No. Not even close. However, for pride and knowing how deep I had to dig down within myself to overcome my emotions, I personally have never had a better win. In the moment, I didn’t realize it, but winning my club championship provided me the opportunity to prove to myself that I can overcome anything. Adversity can bring the best out in us and sometimes, you have to face your opponent, or in my case, my goliath, and realize that your biggest opponent is yourself.
Do you have a great club championship story? Please email Kris Hart at KHart@pgahq.com and we would love to interview you and hear your championship story.