Originally created 05/29/99

Match-play golf rediscovered



AIKEN -- The thing that's so attractive about match-play golf is that if you play Waffle House golf like I do -- you know, scattered, smothered, chunked and topped -- your afternoon is not a complete waste.

That is, so long as those forgettable swings are all grouped in one hole.

There are no stroke scores in match play, only hole winners, losers and halves. A snowman melts away rather quickly in this CSRA heat, as scoreboards aren't spacious enough to describe shots, only wide enough to numerically chronicle them.

You don't play against the field and the course in match play, you play against an opponent. So if your off that day, you hope your opponent is worse off. It's not necessary to go low to win.

For example, in my four-ball match Thursday, my partner and I were a combined four strokes better after nine holes and yet made the turn one down. No one likes to dig into their wallets less than me, so losing the front, losing the back and losing the match despite winning the stroke can be frustrating.

But that's the beauty of match play, where the better golfer doesn't always win.

Tina Trimble, a finalist in the Women's Southern Amatuer championship Friday at Woodside Plantation, made three birdies during the first 18 holes of her 36-hole match against Robin Weiss, to Weiss' two.

And when Trimble sat down for lunch, she starred at a six-hole deficit that she would puncture only sparsely. Weiss captured the week-long Woodside grind, stemming Trimble's comeback on the 34th hole for a 3 and 2 win.

Weiss did exactly what match play requires: She hit fairways, she hit greens, and when she didn't hit either, she somehow salvaged par. Par can be match play's best friend. Weiss made 29 pars in 34 holes Friday, a usual recipe for victory.

"When you're seven down, you almost want her to put you out of your misery," said Trimble, who golfed collegiately at Furman.

"She had all the momentum and wouldn't let me gain any."

What's unfortunate about match play is how professional golfers abandoned it only until the PGA Tour anted $1 million for its return. How much fun would it be to bracket the Masters, and have a Tiger Woods vs. Jack Nicklaus first-round match?

All of golf's important Cups -- the Ryder, Presidents, Solheim, Walker, Curtis and Palmer -- use it. All the USGA amateur events use it. The summer amateur circuit is exclusively match play. And the PGA Championship determined its champ with it until 1957.

The Augusta City Amateur should also be match play, because then maybe I'd be able to contend in the final flight. To determine who this city's best golfer is, stage a week's worth of matches at Forest Hills and let's see who emerges.

Then you'd be able to use this little tip sheet of gamesmanship I've prepared to help you advance on through.

-- Turn your beeper on and have it coincidentally go off when your competitor's in the middle of their backswing.

-- When your opponent is standing over a test 4-footer for the win, jingle the change or tees in your pocket while they take the putter back. This is a proven winner. Ask Chris Kane. He can tell you how affective this technique is.

-- "Inadvertently" walk in your partner's line. Par-savers are tougher to navigate when they must travel through a couple of imbedded footprint.

-- "Inadvertently" nudge your opponent's ball behind the tallest, thickest tree around. Then walk up to them and say, "Wow, you got a bad break there."

Trimble had too much dignity to try and rattle Weiss' fairways and greens robotics, though she didn't say "That's good" too often.

Next time Trimble might want to try pocket jingling.

Rick Dorsey can be reached at (706) 823-3219 or rdorsey@augustachronicle.com.