So many flags. It feels likes there are 7.000 of them – though I think this year it dropped to only 400. But there they were – little wires sticking out of the ground with orange nylon flags fluttering in the breeze. They mark the out of bounds, and the out of bounds starts at the end of the fairway, not in the edge of the woods.
You know you’re in Richlands.
2020 sees the ushering in of a new season for the ECO Tour – a ten event series ran by the indelible Jay Clark, highlighting some of the most challenging and fun courses in Eastern North Carolina. This year there are a few changes – starting with the manufacturer sponsor. Previously sponsored by Innova, in 2020 the ECO Tour is sponsored by Dynamic Discs. Likewise the addition of the Farmville Course and the deletion of Berkeley (Goldsboro). Lastly, Fly Guy Disc Golf, who in 2019 sponsored a hole for the series, in 2020 is sponsoring a hole, a Basket Pedestal, and will set up at all ten events to vend.
So lots of things have changed – except the OB at Richlands Steeds Park for the event.
Mitchell and I got to the park a little later than I would have liked – I had honestly forgotten how long of a ride it was – and so we had to set up in a hurry. The day before we had debuted a new “4 square” layout at Kentwood and we really liked it and hoped to replicate it at Richlands – but upon arrival , choosing from the remaining real estate that was left, we had to opt for the “ long barn” approach of placing our four 10x10 tents in a row, flea market style.
I cannot say that I was looking forward to returning to Richlands – last year’s rounds with the (unnecessary and over produced) OB was still a raw spot in my mind – tempered only by the fact that everyone has to play it, so while I may not agree with it, or at the least think it is excessive, it is in fact fair to the field. But I did want to prove to myself that I could beat the layout.
It was cool to be at the event and get re-introduced to Kevin Gleason of Team Latitude 64. It was also wonderful to joke with Scott Conway, formally of Team Fly Guy who is now sponsored by Dynamic Discs. It was nice to see many faces that I hadn’t seen in a few months, as well as to meet new players. I really enjoy the “feel” of ECO events.
2019 saw me shooting 77/63/ 140 (707,855). For context the 77 twenty five shots off of the lead, last and worst score for round 1, and rated so low that it didn’t meet the mean and wouldn’t apply to my future ratings calculation. It was also full of OB penalties and had me seething mad and frustrated. I recall that I almost left out of anger.
Second round though I had calmed down, played smarter and cleaner, shooting only 4 worse than the best score in the division. Of course it was too little too late, but it did let me slink away licking my wounds with 10th place finish in a field of 13, and the knowledge that if I keep myself calm and keep it reigned in, I could play this course, OBs be damned.
With that lesson fresh in my mind, I came into Richlands that morning with the plan to play smart, play safe, and play small. No risks. No “I bet I can do this”. Just play smart and small.
It was such a good plan – when I stuck to it. Through the first 10 holes, I would later learn that (while I suspected) I played well enough to have a 3 stroke lead for a while. (Interestingly in this period a pretty hard rain event happened – and I played great in it. Last year Geoffrey and I noticed a pattern hat despite preference, it seems I play better in the rain. More on that below **) The problem is with success came an abandonment of the plan. I admit it. I took credit for the scores as my being a good player – and ignored that my playing good was thanks to me having a strategy – and then I got in my own way. I started throwing harder. Deeper. And finding OB. Once I hit the first on, frustration took over and any plans I had went out the window. Where I was only 2 over after 10, I went on a streak and started piling up strokes left and right, and when I checked live scoring with 2 holes to play saw I was 4 strokes off of the lead. Sure – I usually would be happy with a tie for 4th out of 15 – but I knew instantly that my misguided play had hurt me, and I was able to focus and buckle down for two more holes, ending in a three way tie for 5th, 2 strokes of the lead. (There was a 2 man tie for 1st, a two man tie for 3rd, and 3 of us tied for 5th.)
A smarter man would have learned from his good start and his failure, and looked at how he regained control with 2 strokes to go and enter round 2 with a plan in place. I admit I didn’t. I was stung. I was mad. Hindsight being the 20/20 vision that it is, I can clearly and vividly recall now how bitter I was about the layout – again – and not place the blame where it belonged. I had not learned my lesson – yet. That would come in round 2.
Round 2 saw me carded in a five some that held a 1 stroke difference across all of us. I also got to start on a hole that I liked. Arrogance and ignoring the plan beset me before I even threw the first drive. I missed a clutch birdie putt, clanked the band for par and took a 4 on a hole that I needed. I threw OB. I lost my temper. One thing I tried to do was to suppress my frustration outwardly – but it only smoldered and raged harder within by doing so. I limped off the course, not with the worst round, but not too far off, to claim a pitiful 11th of 15 players – a far cry from the 3 stroke lead I had when I played with a plan. I was humbled. I was ashamed. And I want revenge.
Mitchell and I packed up the store , with much appreciated help from Team Fly Guy member, and headed home. Usually we stop for dinner – this night he grabbed some hot dogs from a gas station while I pumped fuel. We had had a hard two days (The day before was Winter Jam). We were tired. We just wanted to go home.
But 2021 I am already looking to Richlands. I know I have to have a plan, I know I have to stick to it. And I have a year to make myself listen - even when I don’t want to. But between now and then there 9 more ECO events to go – so I have to set this back in my mind, and focus on them for the time being.
** About playing in the rain – I’ve given this some thought, and I mentioned it to Mrs. Fly Guy. She pointed out that maybe the rain “takes me out of my head” and thus makes me play with more attention to detail. I think she may be on to something – My mind does often wander, and I do seem to perform in other areas of my life / work when there is an exigent situation. An interesting thing to ponder no doubt.
Thanks - HP
Next Up: Kings Cup 15