Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Golf Diaries: Enjoying The Mirage

Scene of the crime
Sunday afternoon, first nice day in at least six months, and a good friend and frequent golfing buddy and I are out on the course. He just turned 50, I'm turning 45 in six months, and a very good round for either of us is to break 100. It's our first time out in forever, our short game is utter garbage, but we're striking it well off the tee occasionally, and it's actually a nice day out. The other two guys we're with are at our level and easy to get along with, the sun is shining, and we don't even hurt yet, though that is clearly coming.

(I actually found an overhead photo of the last three holes. Enjoy.)

The 16th at Mercer West is a 180-yard par 3, which is to say, a par 3 that is pretty much outside of my comfort zone. I can either try to nuke a 4-iron -- no, not here, some wind in the face and uphill -- or baby a 3-iron, which never works. I go with the latter option and hit it straight for once, and watch it plug in the collar of the green. The two guys I don't know both drive the green, but my friend fails dramatically. We all get pars -- I have a nice bump and run and finally made a makeable putt -- but my buddy gets a snowman, and being the kind and sensitive men that we are, we give him crap about it.

The 17th is very pretty, which is to say, it's downright difficult. It's a par 4 with elevation and choke points straight ahead, woods to the left, and a lake to the right. I make good contact off the tee with a workable draw, and the roll gives me 140 left to the pin. My friend also crushes his drive, but not as far as mine. Being the kind and sensitive guy that I am, I have to give him crap about that. As he's away, I get to watch him put one on the green, but a good distance away; good enough for him to return the trash talk. My answering 6-iron misses the flag by about five feet, rolls behind the pin, and totally fools me from the fairway by looking a lot closer than the 20-footer I find myself with. We both miraculously two-putt, and as we head up to the elevated tee for the go-home 500+ yard par 5, we're both thinking two things.

First, that the sun is high enough in the sky, and the weather so nice, and the way we're playing... well, maybe we just keep the cart and go again. There's an hour and a half of daylight left, we could fit in another nine.

Second, that this would be a terrible idea, because we're going to hurt like hell tomorrow, and that the last half dozen good shots can't possibly last.

I have the honor off the tee, and I hit my best drive of the day. It's straight, it's got a pleasing arc, and it's as far as I can hit it, which is to say, maybe 220 with the elevation drop. I ham it up for all I'm worth, stepping back from the tee with both arms raised as if I've just won the freaking Masters, because, um, why the hell not. I'm 44 going on 45; I'm going to take the opportunity to be immature whenever I can get it, dammit. And now my buddy's got to try to out-drive that. In your dreams, mother trucker.

And he gets all of his, and gets me by 5 yards.

The intelligent thing to do, at this point, is to just drive off the course. Leave the golf balls behind as an odd souvenir for the next foursome, who have hit up on us enough times today that I want to perplex them anyway, and have the patience of mind to know that the story of what could happen next -- solid long iron, tight short iron, birdie putt -- would be so much better than anything we might, you know, actually do.

But, well, that's not how you play the game. And we're middle-aged guys, smart enough to know we're never going to get very good, and dumb enough to think that we might, you know, get better. And keep getting better, starting with this very shot.Which is when I put myself on tilt, with the following thought: maybe I should hit the fairway wood? This par 5 is wide open, there's really nothing in my range that counts as trouble. I just need a bunch of yards to avoid the high iron approach that never holds the green.

Of course, I hit a good shot with the fairway wood about 25% of the time... at the range. On an actual course? Almost never. So I club down to the 3-iron, but not before the little voice in my head is yelling PUSSY as loud as it can, and the resulting worm killing duff is about as predictable as it is, well, um, predictable. With the door wide open, my friend... whiffs and ticks the ball off the heel for about a three foot trickle with his all or nothing fairway wood, then tries it again and bombs it 200+ yards to the left rough and beyond.

We both wind up with big fat numbers to close, big fat numbers on the card...

And the knowledge that we'll be back next week, with the hope that the mirage just lasts a few shots longer.

How could we not?

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