Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Golf Diaries: Tap In

The 14th, from the back of the green
Linfield National is one of my favorite courses to play. It's not as if there's something all that magical about it, as the place has tee boxes that are too tight to each other, and a lot of pace issues if it's crowded. You'll spend the round not seeing cart service, dealing with a high amount of ball marks, and the drive from my place is substantial enough to not get there very often. But I just tend to play well there, and the price is usually good. Saturday, I was able to get out to play a round with my best golfing friend, and the guy I've played more rounds with than anyone. We enjoy each others company, and we're pretty equal in play, so it works out.

The game has been going better for me recently. Getting my eyeglasses right makes putting a whole hell of a lot better, and the muscle memory is starting to get to the point where my inner very mediocre (18 to 28 handicap) golfer is coming out, rather than the utter hack who only has a handful of decent shot per game to make him keep coming back. After a few rough holes to start, I put back to back pars together, just missed a third, and close the front with a 47 despite carding an 8 on a par four. I've also hit one of the best chips in my life for a tap in par, and I am, on the whole, enjoying my life very much.

We get to the back nine after a crushing delay, and I start it with an absolute bomb of a drive on a par four, the kind of shot that makes the hole into a pitch and putt par 3 that I never, ever convert. A skulled pitch stayed on the green, but a couple of putts aren't great, and I follow it up with a botched par 3 for double bogey, just an embarrassing hole to score badly on after doing so well on the day to date.

The next two holes are also a bit of a struggle, which is depressing, given that they are kind of the signature holes on the course, at least from a picturesque standpoint. I'm also ducking the pair behind us hitting up on a blind turn on a par five, which given the pace of play on the course, was borderline inexcusable, but it's not as if you get a ton of intellect out there, some weekends. So while I've had a bunch of good moments, I've also had some weak ones, and the round can go either way, really.

So we're on the par 3 14th, 132 on the card from the whites, 125 today from a slightly forward position. It's a hole where you leave the cart behind and climb steps, then hit over the cart path, and a water carry. I tell my man that the water really isn't in play, and it's not, given that it's a fairly short hole and an elevated tee, which makes him shank a shot into the drink with comedic inevitability, and I tee up my 8 iron.

Like most shots from a weak player, I don't really have the right distance for the hole. 125 from the same elevation would be fine for this club, but elevated is another story, and I've recently nuked a 7-iron a disturbingly long way, compared to what's needed here. But a 9-iron would make me think I have to kill the ball, which would just have miss-hit and water all over it. Besides, if I'm over, the hole has a natural backboard with the cut of the hill, and it's far from disastrous. So, 8-iron it is.

The contact sounds and feels the very slightest bit thin, without much of a divot, but it's as straight as an arrow, and maybe five feet right of the hole, and fifteen feet in front of it, when it lands. I've gotten enough elevation that the bounce is minor, and the ball checks up and meanders closer to the hole, finally stopping less than two feet away. My man puts his second shot on the back fringe, and as we drive up, we're joking about how far from the hole it looks like from the tee, as opposed to how close it will be when I get over it. When I walk up to it, it's maybe two feet from the cup, in an area of the green with no break. I stare it down like I've got a mortgage payment on the line, putt it a little firm, but watch it rattle down for the birdie. The rest of the round doesn't really matter, but I play well enough to break 100, without any more great moments.

Here's the thing as to why this experience got words: I'm 46. I don't work out as much as I used to, don't run as much as I used to. I have a director level job, and it's well and good, but it's not likely to make me rich. I'm not good enough at poker, or fantasy sports, or golf, or blogging, to make a serious buck at it. I'm a homeowner with a wife and two kids, good friends, a good job, and on some level, it can feel, well, sad. I've written books and songs and blogs that won't be remembered, and I don't do anything so well as to Matter with a capital M. There are parts to me (eyes, teeth, etc.) that remind me, more often than I'd like, that challenges are ahead, along with compromises and acceptance and maturity and wisdom.

And then there's golf, where occasional moments and this last month or so of play has said No, and Hell No, and Eff That, because look at that 8 iron creep to a tap in, and look at that drive on the 10th, and so on, and so on.

Getting worse at everything is a story, and our lives are stories that we tell the world.

I can tell a better one.

I can make birdies.

And I can see it whenever I want, by just closing my eyes and remembering the flight of the ball, the sun shining through the trees, the look of the ball mark on the green, and the sound when the second shot found the bottom of the cup.

Game on.

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