It happened. It finally %@#^@$! happened.
There was a round of golf played last Sunday amongst friends on a beautiful, Florida afternoon… but this was to be no ordinary round.
That last time I cried over a sporting event was only a few weeks ago. The Lightning had just won the Stanley Cup. (See? I told you there’d be another celebratory post!) I’d be moved to tears once again because of sports but far sooner than I thought.
This tear-jerking, emotional, congratulatory, raise-your-hands-in-the-air-and-wave-them-‘til-you-just-don’t-care post is not about professional sports but rather one of personal achievement and refers to another post wrote only two months prior.
Not long ago, I told you all I joined a golf and country club with certain goals in mind. The objective, other than to shed some of this COVID weight, was to hone in on my golf game, shave a few strokes off the scorecard, eliminate the three-putts and triple bogies that have inflated my scores for so long and mix in far more one-putts and birdies that keep those high scores from happening.
As any casual, “amateur” golfer will tell you, chippin’ ain’t easy. Neither is posting a low score.
I recently played in a four-man scramble with my girlfriend’s brother-in-law, a monster golfer in his own right. A former college player from the University of Evansville, the guy could stroke the ball. Having not played in six months due to a bum knee, he was still the best golfer in our foursome. Two iron in hand (that’s right, I said two iron), he all but carried our foursome of decent golfers to a second-place finish.
After watching him launch a golf ball a mile into orbit, let’s just I could have chosen to be inspired or give up on my game altogether. The same goes for when I hear guys in the clubhouse talk about posting super low scores. Give up or carry on. After working a fair amount on the parts of my game that have plagued me, I’ve been plugging along, working on form, eliminating mistakes here and there but nevertheless chalking up the occasional seven and eight on a hole.
Never able to put a full round together: tee shots, approach game and putting, my scores have continued to hover around the low-90s, respectable but stagnant. I’ve shot my fair share of rounds in the 80s but even those rounds had flaws, mistakes, lost balls, penalties, elements I could identify and most certainly eradicate. I mean, with the amount I’ve been playing lately, the odds were with me, right?
So, the boys and I traveled to the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota for a relaxing day of golf. One Ball Kall was celebrating ten years cancer-free so what better way to spend it than on the links? Like I said, the weather was gorgeous. Sunny, breezy, absolutely scenic.
The last few rounds I’ve played have demonstrated a pattern. I’d start off strong, quite often going par-par but ultimately, the blow-up hole was somewhere in the mail. There’s nothing quite as deflating as finishing two holes even par and then being three over after three.
This time, that didn’t happen. Not today, junior. In fact, I was even par through six holes. Four pars, a birdie and a bogey. As the kids say these days, accurate AF.
I was starting to feel a calm confidence, plus a little bit of luck. Even my errant shots were manageable. I was either stroking the ball well or scrambling for par when I didn’t. On the par three third, my iron shot landed only a few feet from the flagstick. A tap-in for birdie. After that hole, I had five straight one-putts. As any golfer will tell you, that’s where you make your mark. With five pars and a birdie, I finished the front nine with a 38, by far my best nine ever.
I could have celebrated then and left it at that but I decided to press on. My regular cart partner, Dr. Dragonberry, was nervous whether to even mention the round I was having, as if he was talking to a pitcher in the middle of a no-hit bid.
The back side started bogey-bogey-bogey but I scrambled to get those so despite adding three strokes to my score in three holes, they weren’t total losses. I chose not to let it get to me. Then came the par-three 13th and another ball I nearly put in the hole from the tee box. That birdie got me back on track, then came par-par-par-par. Again, this was a ridiculous round and I can’t even believe I’m telling this story. It has been a long, LONG time coming.
Stepping up to the intimidating 18th tee box, I knew what was at stake. With a few strokes to give, and beating two golfers in my group that on every day but that one are better than me, my golf sensei told me to focus. I subsequently put my ball in the drink. My first penalty stroke of the day. So much for thriving under pressure.
I finished the 18th with a double-bogey, my only one on the day…. but it was still good enough for a forty on the back.
And thus, concluded my first… ever… round in the 70s.
A 38-40, a total of only 28 putts on the day. Nine pars, two birdies. I embraced my three friends elated. For years, I hadn’t come close to sniffing a golf round in the 70s. This particular Sunday, I left little doubt. The sense of accomplishment was overwhelming. The tears flowed freely.
Like I said, prior to this month, it had been a while since I’d cried over a sporting event. Here’s hoping that doesn’t stop any time soon.