We typically have a 36-hole qualifying tournament at our club a few weeks prior to our club championship, and the qualifier is stroke-play, while the club championship is matchplay, conducted over a 2-3 week period (based on the number of entries).
Two years ago I finished 2nd in the stroke play qualifier... shooting 150 (gross) over two rounds. The eventual winner of the qualifying tournament shot 146, but was getting married the same weekend of the opening round of the club championship. The club champion from the year prior doesn't have to qualify and automatically gets the top seed in the club championship the following year, regardless of if he does or doesn't play in the qualifying tournament. Even if he does - his finish position still doesn't matter... he gets the top seed. Which I think is only fair. He is after all the defending club champion.
I ended up being the second seed that year. Ended up in the finals of the club matchplay championship and took my finals opponent to 38 holes before he finally put a dagger in my heart with a phenomenal green-side bunker shot, with a downhill lie to a tight pin, that he almost holed, to finish 1-up in our 38-hole match.
It was the most enjoyable tournament experience I ever had.
And the funny thing was that I was playing horrible golf that summer going into the qualifier and seriously considered withdrawing. But I figured what the hell... got nothing to lose. Ended up playing great (and putting great) the next 4 weeks and damned near pulled off the impossible, finishing runner-up in our club champs that season.
Tournament golf is definitely different, especially stroke play. I've witnessed many really good playing partners over the years just completely melt down during the stress of knowing that every last stroke counts and that all putts have to be holed, where every mistake can exact a very humiliating result. It's just a different game compared to the weekend games with the regular buddies.
Good on you for teeing it up, and well done on a great rebound from a tough first day. 👍