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A take on the World Amateur Golf Championship in North Carolina By Bill Tomcich

Stay Aspen Snowmass President, Bill Tomcich embarks on his first World Amateur Golf Championship.

August 30, 2005

Greetings from steamy & tropical Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. For those who are curious how things are going thus far, as well as those who may not realize I have decided to compete in the world's largest amateur golf tournament along with 3,752 other golf nuts from all 50 states plus 23 foreign country's, here's a brief update...

Today was day one of four consecutive days (72 holes) of stroke play competition. Played across nearly 70 courses from Sunset Beach, NC to Pawley's Island in the south, the field is sliced into 44 flights of up to roughly 90 players each of similar age and abilities. Each flight competes on a different course Monday - Thursday. Low cumulative scores and ties within each flight advance to the championship round on Friday to determine an overall world amateur champion. In my case, I'm competing in flight 8 out of 12 for men 49 & under (handicap range of 12.5 - 13.8).

Yesterday, we played one of three courses at a complex called Bay Tree - a remarkable parkland-style layout with lots of pine trees and shade, plenty of challenge, very good conditioning, and only a smattering of course-side condos along holes #9 & 10. At only $39 per round in season, I would describe this gem as a "poor-man's Pinehurst." Too bad they are planning to tear the whole complex down next year to make room for more residential development.

As far as the competition was concerned, the first round did not finish as well as it started. After being just 3-over par after the first six holes, I became more focused on catching the doctor from Maine I was playing with, who was then one stroke ahead of me, than I was at playing my own, typically conservative game that will often find a score in the mid-80's. Against my better judgement, I took out a driver on the 8th hole, pushed it deep into the pine trees right, tried to play a safe wedge back into the fairway, but still found my line to the green blocked by another overhanging pine tree, tried to play a heroic punch underneath and failed, and the next thing I knew I walked off the green with a triple-bogey 7! Despite that miscue, I finished the front nine with a 44 - four shots behind Gerald from Maine. But at the same time, I completely lost sight of John from Pennsylvania, who I had given up for dead after four consecutive doubles. He suddenly pulled-out back-to-back birdies on #8 & 9 to tie my 44 on the front!

The back nine was really tough. A silly three-putt on the 10th for double, then it was all I could do to grind-out bogie after bogie on a course that kept on getting more and more difficult. I couldn't even manage to buy one single par on the back of this beast! This bermuda grass must be the fastest growing grass on the planet! What started off as closely trimmed to about one centimeter depth in the morning was like steel wool well over an inch deep and nearly impossible to hit out of be midday! By the end of a practice round I played later in the afternoon, it was over two inches deep and you cannot even find your ball in it! Well that thick bermuda, as well as the growing heat and humidity, took a toll on my short-game on #17 & 18 as I finished triple / double for a back-nine score of 50 and an 18-hole total of 94 gross.

Despite all that, I stand in a twelve-way tie for 51st place (gross) out of 89 folks in my flight... right in the middle of the pack and 12 strokes behind the low score of the day of 82. If I had only shot the 83 I posted during my first practice round here on Saturday, I'd be sitting in 2nd place right now. But there's lots of golf left to be played, and all these guys sitting ahead of me on the leaderboard are equally as capable of throwing 7's on their scorecards as I am, and know that I'm perfectly capable of dropping a score as low as 79, so anything can happen. Today, I'm off to play the Hummingbird course at Wildwing.

I'm staying at a condo off the beaten path near North Myrtle with friends Paul (known as papa Puibeni by some) and Al, who has actually created an online blog for his friends following at home at the attached address for anyone interested in following...

http://worldamateurgolfexperience.blogspot.com/

More updates to follow.

- Bill

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