The event was a successful one for Kytäjä, with Minna Kaarnalahti taking home the silver medal in the ladies event and Andy Fowlie collecting the bronze medal in the mens event!
The mens event was won by Keijo Jaakola, who beat Marco Willberg on the second playoff hole, while in the ladies event Taina Olenius defeated Minna on the first playoff hole.
Other Kytäjä players:
T37 Sampo Laisi (81,80,77)
T63 Riku Roine (77,80,87)
MC Petri Syrjänen
Well, the first thing to say is that I am extremely happy to win a medal at these Finnish (mid) championships. It is true that I am not Finnish... but I have lived in Finland for over a decade and chosen to live my life in this country, so these feel like my national championships also. I consider this to be the most important competition that I play each year (unless I try to enter the Erkko Trophy) so it is very satisfying be in contention during the final stages.
Another reason to feel satisfied is that I really didn't have much of a golf swing this week. My back has really been troubling me and my ball striking has not been very good for almost a month, despite the helpful efforts of my chiropractor (Kytäjä player, Sampo Laisi). This week I didn't really know which direction the ball was going or how far it was going... so it was a real challenge to try and get decent scores.
I played a practice round on Wednesday with Riku Roine (my first look at the Tammer Golf course) and then made a plan for how to play the course in the tournament. I noticed that almost every tee shot had one side where you could miss, even by quite a lot, and still have a chance of making a par. My strategy was to play very conservatively, hardly ever hitting driver (4 times in 54 holes), not going for par 5's in two (even though they were all easily reachable) and aiming for the rough (on the "safe" side of the hole) on many occasions. This seemed to be the right strategy for playing the course and it allowed me to get the ball round in pretty decent scores without a reliable swing.
In the first round, I played all day from the rough, only hitting two fairways, but I hit some good recovery shots with my short irons and most of my missed greens were only by 2-3m. I made a bogey on the difficult par 3 11th, taking three from the fringe, birdied the 13th with a 3m putt and again took three from the fringe on the 18th for another bogey. That added up to a 73, which was good enough to be in 6th place, 3 shots behind Marco Willberg.
In the second round, I continued with the same plan, avoiding mistakes for the most part... my two bogeys came on the 6th where I thinned a lob wedge from the middle of the fairway into a water hazard over the back of the green and had to get up and down from under some trees for a bogey... and on the 14th where I missed a 2m putt. Birdies came at the 8th (from 3m) and the 9th (from 1.5m). Overall I was rescued by my putter on many occasions, needing only 26 putts for the round. My score was 72 and that lifted me up to 3rd position and into the final group, two behind Marco Willberg (european mid-amateur champion from 2011) and one behind Keijo Jaakola (runner up in the same event this year).
In the final round I struggled once again with my swing but stuck to my plan and held it together pretty well for almost the whole round. A birdie at the long, difficult 5th hole was cancelled out by a bogey at the 8th as I went out in level par, remaining two shots behind Marco and level with Keijo. On the back nine things started to slip a bit as I failed to get down in two from the fringe on the 10th and then three putted the 11th for another bogey. A string of pars followed, helped by a great bunker shot on 13 to within 50cm of the hole, and I was still in with an outside chance as we came to the 16th. On that hole I had a 3m downhill birdie putt on that hole which would have got me back to +2 for the tournament... while Marco (at -2 for the tournament) faced a 2.5m putt for bogey. My putt didn't break in the way that I expected and it went past the edge, Marco slotted his right in the middle and Keijo made a birdie to get back to even par. That was the end of any realistic chance for me.
In the last two holes I seemed to finally run out of energy, luck and concentration, finishing double bogey, bogey for a 77 and a total of +6 for the tournament. I was pretty disappointed with my finish and was on the way to throw my clubs into the car "not very gently" when Niko Helin informed that I had anway finished in 3rd place, despite the poor end to the round... this changed my view of things rather a lot!
Overall I am very happy with the result and delighted to have a bronze medal from the national championships. I am particularly pleased with the way I was able to make a good plan for how to play the course and to stick to that plan for 54 holes. I didn't swing the club very well, or hit the ball as well as usual, but I did a good job of "playing golf" and got the ball into the hole in a pretty low number. Besides the bronze medal and a prize voucher I also took a few points off my handicap which is now nicely on the correct side of zero at +0.3. This was a great week for me.