The golfing gods get the last laugh

Patrick Newell

Golf stories, like fishing tales, get longer, more dramatic, and heroic with each retelling They also bore the heck out of listeners by the fifth or sixth time they are recounted. Just as a fisherman is wont to exclude those dismal days with nary a bite, the average golfer spends precious little time at the 19th hole regaling his bar mates with the day’s mishaps and foibles. No one really cares, they’ve all been there.
Channeling my inner golf raconteur, here is yet another golf story. If you’re already hitting your mental snooze button, you can bypass the rest of this blog.
A truism of all amateur golfers: You’re never sure what will happen before you tee off. How well – or how poorly – you play is a mystery until you have actually played a few holes. And day to day, the level of play can swing (pun intended) wildly. Another axiom of golf: The higher one’s handicap, the greater (potential) disparity in play from day to day.
So Tuesday night, I was matched in my league against Canasawacta Country Club’s biggest tournament winner, Robert Branham. The two biggest tournaments at C.C.C. are the men’s member-guest and the club championship. Between those two, Bob has between 30 and 35 career wins. No one else is even close to that number of titles. Now in his mid-50s, Bob is still the titular golfer by which all other C.C.C. members measure themselves. This was my opportunity to show Bob that I not only can write a decent game, but also play a fair game of golf. Referring to truism one, my strong tee shot on the first hole was not a precursor of good things to come. In fact, I managed to hack it up pretty good, and Bob took me to the woodshed in a lopsided victory. I think Bob summed it up best late in the round: “This isn’t your best display,” he said.
If Bob could have seen me the next day. Actually, if anyone had seen me play, they would have noted the 180-degree turn. After finishing my morning responsibilities at the newspaper, I had a few hours until I had to return for my afternoon/evening shift. I resolved to make an adjustment in my golf game based on feedback from Bob and my playing partners. For this one day, the fine-tuning worked beautifully. Shots headed in their intended direction, and I even dropped a few putts outside of gimme range. Rain was intermittent on Wednesday morning, and for a portion of my round, the wet stuff held off. Toward the end of my 10-hole exhibition, the misty rain finally took hold. Playing the fourth hole – the number one handicap hole on the course – I resolved to finish up soon, and hoped I could close strong. Teeing off on the 464-yard hole, I hit my best drive of the short round. If you have played C.C.C., you know that if a drive does not reach the 200-yard mark from the green, your second shot is a blind one. Fortunately, I drove it past the 200-yard mark, and could see the flagstick. Pulling a six-iron from the bag, I made solid contact. From that far away, it’s hard to figure the depth of where the ball will land on the green, and my ball hit about 35 feet above the hole. The green slopes heavily downhill from the back to front, and as I walked toward the hole, the ball slowly trickled back down the hill settling 20-25 feet above the pin. A precarious position given the severity of the slope. I didn’t care, it was the first time this season I had hit the green in two shots. I looked around the course as I studied the putt. The skies were heavily overcast and grey, and no one – and I mean no one – was in sight. Later, as I walked back to my car, I would encounter the only other players on the course that day. Those players, however, were on the opposing side of the course.
My next shot was mano–a-mano with my ball and putter up against a fearsome green and a tiny four-inch cup waiting for a ball to eventually drop. Looking at the slope of the putting surface, I estimated a direction to hit the ball, and resolved to just nudge the ball forward, and allow it to trundle downward. I hit the putt softly, and in hindsight, probably had time to pull out my cell phone and videotape the 10-second trip to the hole. Watching my dimpled friend’s travels, it quickly crossed my mind, “hey, I didn’t botch this right off the bat.” The ball was seemingly magnetized to the cup, and into fell into the bottom. As the ball reached the cup, I raised my putter, a la Tiger Woods, and fist-pumped as if I had just holed the winning putt at the Masters. Just as it was 30 seconds earlier, no one saw that putt go in. I hit my two best shots on that hole all year, and capped the hole with my best putt. Fittingly, no one saw it, I’m sure no one reading this really cares, and I promise, I won’t tell this story again.
The golfing gods got the last laugh – again.

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