Monday, July 6, 2015

Golfing Diaries: The Moment

The hole in question
Yesterday, I'm playing a local course, just the second time that I've played this year. After a decent warm-up at the range, I can't get the ball in the air off the tee, and I'm just scrambling to keep pace with better players, just about the worst kind of round you can have. Slowly it starts to turn around, but the front nine is bad enough to squash any chance of a decent score, and there's been a bunch of lipped out putts to boot. I'm sure there are parts of me that the sunscreen did not catch, and the skin on my knuckles is peeling off and hurting like hell. It's not the worst time I've ever had playing golf, but it feels like an opportunity wasted, and the chance to play a round now is not something I take for granted. I'm 46 now, under no illusion that I'm going to get really good at this, or that it's going to lead anywhere beyond something I like to do, and want to do better.

Then we get to the 16th, a par 3, 170 yards from the whites, downhill through the approach and uphill at the end. You can see it next to the post. There's nothing terribly complicated about it, but it's well protected by the bunkers, and in the dozen-odd times that I have played this course, I've never scored very well here. I pull out the 4-iron, and I haven't hit a good iron off the tee all day. But I've hit a few approaches that have put me on the green on the back nine, so hope before experience. I swing.

It's one of those fine trajectories that makes you come back, a soaring, straight and low-handicap worthy iron that lands on the front fringe, leaks into the green, and trickles into the left center region, stopping about ten feet from the first cut. The other members of my foursome congratulate me on the shot, but the pin is in the back right area of the green, leaving me with about 20 to 25 feet, across the hill. I'm really just hoping to two-putt and not mess up the good feeling I've gotten from the shot, but I've been putting reasonably well, in that I've had lipped out putts. I've got time to take off my gloves (yeah, I wear two now, because the skin on my hands is so ready to tear up) and think about it, as others are scrambling to get out of the rough and bunkers.

Hmm. Well, that looks like a reasonably clear line, just the single break, left to right and reasonably stable through the path to the cup. I go through my pre-shot routine, get into my stance, and let it roll.

Curling, nice pace, has a chance... and it takes the lip and goes in as the foursome applaud. Longest made putt of any of us on the day. First birdie of the year, maybe one of a dozen in my whole damn life, and such a good feeling that the inevitable disaster on the next par 4 does not even bother me.

There's a chance, not a great one, that I could get better at golf. I have moments, an increasing amount of patience that comes with age, a growing ability to recover from mistakes by taking my medicine and hitting recovery shots, rather than going for the green with clubs that are not within my ability to hit with any degree of consistency. I haven't given up that hope.

But the moment when ball meets cup? It's all I really need to keep playing, to ignore my sunburned ear tips and neck, the expense, the increasing difficulty in getting my friends to fill foursomes, because golf is so not hot right now, and may never be again.

All we have is moments. And that's the only thing that golf can give you. For me, it's worth it.

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