Playing Your First Golf Tournament

By Gary P. Joyce


Golf is golf … chasing the magic white ball around for 18 holes, trying to perfect your swing at the local range, practicing that long putt so you look like Jordan Spieth at the Royal Birkdale 15th hole. But, as we’re sure Spieth could tell you, playing in a local tournament for the first time is a looong way from becoming the only player besides Jack Nicklaus to have won three legs of the Grand Slam before turning 24 years of age, as Spieth recently did.

Age and life aspirations aside, if you’re confident in your golfing ability, why not try a tournament?

Competitive golf is a bit different that going out and banging a few with the guys (or gals). You’ve got to be able to handle defeat without letting it drive you crazy, you have to be cool under pressure, and you should have a really good grasp of the rules of the game.

“I think over-preparing is one thing first timers often do,” said Jim Carracino, PGA Director of Golf at Timber Point Golf in Great River. “If you feel you’re playing at a level to enter a tournament, why change what you’ve been doing. Test the [competition] waters at your own club, and know what caliber of players you’ll be playing against. You don’t want to play your first tournament against well-seasoned players,” he added.

Brian Donlan, the Assistant Pro at the Bellport Country Club, said it’s all about the rhythm of the game. “Keep the pace moving. If you play, say, a four hour game with your friends, do the same at the outing. Play your regular game. It’s no different. And treat the course as you would your home course. Rake the traps, replace divots. Pretend it’s your course.”

Other pointers include playing a round at the course the tournament is to be played if possible, although some golfers like to be surprised. Make sure your clubs are clean (and you have your great-grandfather’s mashie … like Judge Smails, aka Ted Knight, in “Caddyshack”), your shoes are ready, you’ve rain gear, and have an adequate number of the balls you intend to use.

Work on the weak parts of your game leading up to a tournament, be that putting, driving, or rough and sand shots. Being confident in all aspects of the game will make it easier to play with confidence.

Jack Nicklaus once said, “Success depends almost entirely on how effectively you learn to manage the game’s two ultimate adversaries: the course and yourself.”

Play the course, not the other players, and play it in the style you’re used to. Some golfers play conservatively, some are risk takers. Don’t change your style for a tournament, because what often happens is the pressure of tournament play may exacerbate how you play; i.e., conservative players may play more conservatively, etc. Play your regular — and comfortable — style of game.

A good place to give tournament play a shot is at the 50+ Lifestyle 24th Annual Golf Outing, which will be held Thursday, September 26, 2017, at the Timber Point Country Club. The event is open to men and women 50-plus years and older and includes a continental breakfast, dinner after golf with open bar, greens fee and cart, a barbecue lunch, raffles, awards and trophies. Call 631-286-0058 ext. 112.

And remember what The Golden Bear said: “Professional golf is the only sport where, if you win 20 percent of the time, you’re the best.”

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