Swing, Swing

I’ve already written about how bad a golfer I am.  I’ve also written about how it doesn’t stop me from playing.  I went out with a couple buddies today and shot the best round of my life.

I mean, it wasn’t a good score, but it was the lowest score I’ve ever carded.  My previous best was 106, which was almost exactly three years ago.

I played better than I can ever remember playing.  I tend to slice the ball (send it veering to the right) off the tee, but today, I was able to hit the ball reasonably straight, and while I only hit three fairways, six of my other tee shots landed within a club’s length of the fairway.  And trust me, I have experience hitting out of the rough, so that was no big deal.  I also had a lot of touch around the greens, getting the ball up in the air with my wedges and putting it down in the vicinity of where the hole was.

(Say you break the green up into three sections; front, middle, back.  I usually put the ball on the front or the back portion, regardless of the pin location, based on the manner in which I mishit my shot.  Today, wherever the pin was, I was generally able to get the ball in that section.  i cannot tell you how much that helps; if you shave six shots off your score simply by reducing your 35-foot first putt to a 15-foot first putt, you’re well on your way to scoring better in general.)

I thought I might have a chance at breaking one hundred after I played the first two holes at 1-over par.  I promptly triple-bogeyed the third hole, thanks to my first “worm-burner” of the day (a shot that skids along the ground, theoretically setting fire to any unsuspecting wildlife that may happen to squirm by).  After my tee shot left me just off the fairway, I had to hit a ball laying a bit above my feet, and I overthought it.

Even though I’m not very good, I still try to hit the “correct” shot.  I imagine what an actual golfer would want to do (aim here, avoid this tree, hit there so the bunker isn’t in play on my next shot, etc.), and then I try to do something close to that.  So, with the ball above my feet, and wanting to make sure I hit down on the ball, I tried to move it back in my stance and aim to the right.  Instead, it went straight…through the grass and into the creek 50 yards away.

I scuffled a bit, notching four sevens in five holes, but recovered for a par on the par-3 eighth.  I hit my tee shot on the ninth down the middle, knocked my approach onto the green, missed my birdie putt short by two feet, and then sent my par attempt off the lip of the cup.  The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat all in one hole.

I played the front nine in 50 strokes while losing four balls.  My best nine-hole score is 48, so I was behind that pace by a hair.  I started the back nine with four more sevens in the first five holes, but one of those was a pretty long par-5, so I’ll take that.

I began to heat up, relatively speaking, on 15.  I missed right off the tee, hit a passable low line drive back onto the fairway, and then came up just short on my approach.  I hit a really nice chip, however, and followed with a six-footer to save bogey.  I then parred the next two holes, just missing a birdie on the par-3 17th after my tee shot landed eight feet from the hole.

Things went haywire on 18.  After the rough start to the back nine, I decided not to count my score until the round was over.  The elusive 100 was gone, but I could still shoot a pretty decent score and be happy with how I played.  Plus, I was 20 shots ahead of my two buddies (seriously, this was a “Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach in the 2000 U.S. Open”-level runaway), so the satisfaction of playing well and finally beating them again, which I used to do all the time, would make the round a success.

My tee shot was one of those like you see on television as the leader gets to the 72nd hole of a major championship.  It wasn’t dead straight, but the hole is pretty open to the right of the fairway, and it was only leaking a little bit.  I don’t use a driver, because I can’t hit it anywhere close to straight or far, but for a 3-wood, I hit it probably as far as I was going to hit it.  The severe downhill slope didn’t hurt.

It’s a blind tee shot on the 18th hole, and when I went to find my ball…it was gone.  We looked for a few minutes, but it was to no avail.  I lose balls on that hole all the time, even though it’s open, because by the time we finish it’s usually getting dark.  Today, though, we finished in plenty of daylight.  My guess is that the group ahead of us, who was already done on 17 before we got there, must have had trouble on 18.  We assumed we were clear because they hadn’t been within range of us since the fifth hole, but they were on the green when we got to the top of the ridge, so they probably saw my ball come down, got mad, and picked it up.

I obviously didn’t mean to hit into anyone; like I said, it wasn’t even a possibility for the previous three hours.  And I doubt I did hit them, but golfers get really ticked when a ball comes into their vicinity.  I know we’ve been down there when people who have been behind us all day, and therefore know that we’re there, just wail away and send balls rolling towards us.  We get mad, so I can see how they would too.  But if that’s what happened, don’t be a dick and pick someone’s ball up.  It was a first offense, so just finish the hole and go home.

So here I was having to take a drop after hitting a pretty decent tee shot.  I had been using that ball since the sixth hole, and avoiding penalties was a big reason why I was playing so well.  I was pretty frustrated, but I dropped a new ball and took aim for the green.

It might have been my anger, or maybe the thicker grass prevented my club from coming through properly, but I hit a low line drive that picked up a pretty severe slice.  It bounded past a tree (the one time I manage to miss a tree, of course), skidded through the grass, rolled across the street, and came to rest on the grass near the clubhouse.

So after playing one ball for 12 holes, I was now on my third in three shots.  My fifth stroke was a nice chip that left me about 10 feet to the hole.  I thought, “well, hey, at least you can end on a positive; that was a good chip, now let’s make a good putt.”

I didn’t, and I sent it far enough by that it rolled down the hill a little farther than I’d have liked.  I made sure to give this one enough oomph to get to the hole, and it did.  In fact it started going into the hole before deciding that no, I hadn’t hit quite enough shots today, and I was going to need to hit one more.

I tapped in for an eight.

I added my score up in the parking lot, and as I got to the last few holes my shoulders sagged.  A 54 on the back nine meant 104.  A new personal best, but…I mean, I’m not saying I’d have made a birdie, or even par, but still, to card a snowman in that manner, with a milestone within reach, was almost sickening.  If I’d lost just one fewer ball…if I’d made a couple of the half-dozen putts I missed just right or left of the hole by a few inches…if, if, if.

I’m sure I’ll get there someday, especially if I can bottle up some of the things I did today and keep improving.  But it stings, you know?  So close, and yet…no, not that far at all.

They say you should get back on the horse, so I’ll be out on the links tomorrow afternoon.  It’s a different course, one I’ve never played before, so I’m not expecting big things.  But you can bet I’ll have a better eye on my overall score.

You know, just in case.


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