In only a month, my quest is complete, my Holy Grail has been attained, total glory stenciled onto my scorecard.
Where to begin?
Not long ago, I wrote about my quest to shoot an 88 and experience the elusive vindication that only bogey golf can provide. I first picked up a golf club in my mid-twenties – the natural, I am not – but over the past year or so, I’ve started taking my golf game a little more seriously.
Don’t get me wrong. I rarely hit the driving range. I still drink to excess and partake in the mandatory cigar (or two) but I’m far more confident in my stroke than ever before, which is what golf is all about. Years ago, I would fear which direction my ball would travel after striking it. These days I expect a good shot and am miffed, surprised even, when that dimply little fucker doesn’t do what I tell it to.
Back to my quest for 88. I woke up a few Mondays ago after a long weekend of work and headed back out to Pebble Creek, my local course of choice, to squeeze in a quick 18 before sundown. A 4:45 tee time gave me plenty of time to finish my round, weather-permitting.
After grabbing my double Jack and Coke from the bar (why break tradition?), I drove my cart up to the first tee. Only days before, I had worked out for the first time in months and was concerned that my massive(ly sore) pecs might affect my golf swing. With limited mobility, an 88 was probably out of the question but a relaxing round was not.
A gentleman stood alone at the first tee about to begin his round. Upon greeting me, he mentioned he played for the local church league and asked if I cared to join him. Apparently he couldn’t see the horns growing out of my forehead. My sweat-stained, baseball cap must have covered them up. I responded by politely saying that drinking, smoking and cursing were an inherent part of my round. He drove off nervously.
Surely, I jest… as far as you know.
I teed off by myself, eager to see what this round would hold, knowing how close I’ve been to 88 in the past but not trying my hardest not to obsess about score. Take it easy, C. Keep your cool, C.
A double bogey on the first hole, a relatively easy one, is no way to start one’s quest for 88. After a solid drive, I stuck my approach off and to the right of the green. A duffed, chip shot thanks to the unforgiving rough at Pebble Creek left me with a six. I chalked it up to not being warmed up but knew staying in the fairway would be crucial.
I found redemption on the second hole, par three. A solid tee shot and a two-putt put me back on track. A bogey on three led me to the dreaded fourth hole where I tallied an eight my last time around. Like déjà vu all over again, I put my tee shot in the water on the left. So much for my 88.
After a drop but nice iron shot to the green, I penciled in another double bogey: five over after four holes.
The fifth hole at Pebble Creek is a long par four with a half island green about 360 yards away with water along the left side. It’s the number one handicap hole on the course, which means they consider it the most difficult. Some kids were fishing in the lake off to the left side about a hundred yards up or so. The old Chump would have been nervous about an errant tee shot heading in their general direction, but not the new Chump. My perfectly, sizzled tee shot sailed way past them in the air, right down the middle of the fairway, enough to elicit a “Nice shot!” from my new gallery of fans as I drove by. I tipped my cap graciously. Unfortunately I ended up three-putting the hole for a bogey but I had settled in, realizing I was hitting the ball well and that 88 might be attainable after all.
I parred the sixth hole, then bogied the seventh. On the eighth hole, I met back up with my church-going friend. Careful not to curse, fortunately I had no reason to. I played eight and nine with him just to be nice, which was a good thing because he got to see how well I was playing. A par on the eighth hole and bogey on the ninth gave me a solid 43 on the front and kudos from my new, non-sinning friend. Cut and paste that score to the back and I’d blow an 88 away. But let’s not get ahead of myself. There was plenty of golf left to play.
My partner turned in after nine holes which left me to play the back by my lonesome once again. A perfect tee shot on ten, my best ever on that hole, and a solid approach led to another par, my fourth after ten holes.
Okay, let’s not get nervous.
…which I did.
I got way ahead of myself on 11, thinking more about score than the shot at hand. Double bogey. But another par three awaited and I had been hitting my irons solid all day. I continued to, landing yet another par. Two over after three holes. Keep hope alive!
Then came the double bogies, as unwelcome as a zit on prom night. I had fended them off long enough. Two consecutive left me six over after five. Bogies on 15, 16 and 17 left me nine over after eight holes and 17 over after 17. Since Pebble Creek is a par 71, I would need to par the 18th hole to shoot my 88.
Perfectly doable but don’t think about score… or so I kept telling myself, the ghost of caddies past.
I crushed my drive down the middle of the fairway to the left, exactly where you want to be on this hole. The flagstick sat waving in the distance, 132 yards away. My 8-iron beckoned. Unfortunately, it beckoned off and to the right. I missed the green, about ten yards away but still pin high. The rough had been holding my pitching wedge up all day but if I could just get up and down from there, well, you know.
The chip wasn’t bad except for the fact that the green sloped downward and to the left, which meant my ball rolled downhill of the cup about six to seven feet. Make it for par and land my 88. Miss it short and while still shooting a solid round, my 88 would have to wait another day.
The pressure mounted.
I measured the putt carefully with no one around and the sun slowly setting. I took my time, then took some more. I backed away then lined it up, struck through the ball… and sunk it!
Elated, I was somewhere between a Phil Mickelson geek jump and Tiger Woods fist pump, my grin unmistakable and extremely well-earned. I texted everyone I’d ever played with to share the news.
I’m finally decent, a respectable golfer. Vindication!