... is better than a good day in the office. That's how the saying goes. There are 2 reasons that is not relavent to this post.
1. I love my job. A round of golf or a day in the office are similar to me. I enjoy both.
2. I wouldn't categorize my round of golf today as "bad".
I started the round on the back nine at Victoria Hills. There were quite a few groups going off the front nine and I wasn't in the mood for a 5 hour round of golf.
About a year ago one of the golf course employees asked me "Why are you playing from the gold tees? How many times have you shot even par from the blue tees?". I have used that line plenty of times to explain why I play the blue tees more than gold. I simply explain "I haven't shot even par from the blue tees yet".
1st hole - #10
I drove the ball just off the fairway, hit the green and missed my 12 foot putt. Nothing exciting. A standard par as the architect intended the hole to be played.
2nd hole - #11
Hole #10 is a par 3. Similar to the first hole, I hit the green, missed my putt (this time about 20 feet) and tapped in for par. BORING!!!
3rd hole - #12
The wind was slightly in my face. This made it impossible for me to drive the green. I decided to play a 5-iron off the tee, which left me in the middle of the fairway about 110 yards off the green. The wind was still in my face and my next shot was uphill. I decided a smooth 9-iron was a better choice than my pitching wedge. I left the ball in the back bunker (maybe I'm too strong for this game). I hit a great sand wedge (for me) leaving me a 5 foot downhill putt for par. I missed the putt and tapped in for bogey.
4th hole - #13
Still into the wind, I played a 3-wood off the tee. I would like to blame the wind, but I'm pretty sure my awful swing was the cause of my snap hook way off the fairway. The trees between my ball and the green made it impossible for me to hit the green in regulation. I played the ball over the trees as far as I could, leaving me about 20 feet short of the green. I used my 58 degree wedge to spin my chip shot stopping it within 1 foot of the hole. A little luck after plenty of bad shots.
5th hole - #14
The 124 hard par-3 should be pretty easy. I decided to hit a low shot, hoping the ball would hop once and stop somewhere near the middle of the green. I accidentally landed the ball about 2 feet right of the hole and the spin made it stop about 7 inches behind the hole. A hole-in-one would have been nice, but I'll take the birdie.
6th hole - #15
This par-5 is the #1 handicap (hardest hole) on the back nine. The father and son (9 or 10 years old) finally waved me on to play through. I appreciated the gesture, but this was the worst time to let me through. After my tee shot I have to run around a like carrying my bag. Either way, I wasn't going to pass up this opportunity to play through. I played a 3-wood down the middle of the fairway leaving me about 230 yards from the green. I normally would have played another 3-wood trying to setup an eagle putt. Since I just ran around the lake I didn't have the energy to try that difficult of a shot. I played a 7-iron directly into the wind leaving me 85 yards to the hole. I stuck my 54 degree wedge to 5 feet and made my birdie putt.
Did you even notice I was 2 under par for the last 2 holes? Are you even paying attention?
9th hole - #16
Since my 3-wood was doing it's job, I decided to use it off the tee. It was another snap hook. This time directly into the woods. When I finally found my ball I had 2 options. I could play it back into the fairway, taking my medicine for a horrible tee shot, or I could try to hit the ball through the 5-foot opening in between 2 tree trunks. I chose option B, because safe shots are no fun. I decided to hit a 6-iron from 130 yards. The concept made sense, since it's easier to hit a 6-iron low enough to stay below the branches than a 9-iron. I hit the ball WAY too solid. It was definitely going at least 165 yards, well beyond the green. As it was passing the last tree it hit a branch, which knocked it directly toward the middle of the green and stopped all of it's momentum. My back-to-back horrible shots now left me with a 20 foot putt for birdie. I missed. In fact, I left it 5 feet short. I made my 5-foot putt and moved on.
8th hole - #17
This is an easy par-4. I cut the corner with a 3-hybrid, leaving me about 105 to the hole. It's an uphill shot so I hit an 80% pitching wedge to 4 feet from the hole. I have hit this put about 1,000,000 times. I know it's an inside right putt, and it's downhill. There is almost no way to miss this putt once you know how easy it is. I hit the perfect putt and started walking to the hole immediately to pick up my 3rd birdie in 4 holes. OOPS... what happened? The ball hit one of the aerated holes in the green and jumped to the right. I wanted to slam my putter in the ground or break something. Instead I decided to pretend it didn't happen, take my par and move on.
9th hole - #18
Average par 5. I drove the ball to about 230 yards from the green. I hit my 3-wood to within 10 feet of the green. An easy up-and-down to finish the nine with a birdie. A poor chip shot stood in the way of an easy up-and-down. I left the ball 7 feet short and missed my birdie putt.
I changed nines at 1-under par.
10th hole - #1
I drove the ball down the middle of the fairway. The approach shot was a simple one, which should have lead to a birdie putt from 10 feet or less. Instead, I decided to block my 8-iron to the right of the green leaving myself a difficult downhill up-and-down. Again, I chipped the ball well short of the hole, this time leaving myself a 15 foot par putt. Somehow I was able to make the long par putt and keep my momentum.
11th hole - #2
This was a rather boring hole. I drove the ball 275 yards down the middle of the fairway leaving myself a pitching wedge to the green. Again, I should have left the ball within 10 feet of the hole. I pulled it a little left and had about a 15 foot birdie putt. A simple two putt lead to another par.
12th hole - #3
This par-3 is always difficult for me. Today it only played 170 yards, but the trees on the left and the bunker on the right still made it a challenge. My tee shot missed the flag by about 2 inches and passed the hole by 10 feet. Another missed birdie putt and tap in par left me 1-under par.
13th hole - #4
The last real challenge of the round is this par 4. The tee shot has water down the left side and bunkers down the right. It's only a 3-iron off the tee, but the obstacles make this a very difficult 3-iron to place correctly. I hit the tee shot a little thin and left way too long of a 2nd shot. I normally am taking an 8-iron into this green. Today it was another 3-iron. I spent plenty of time analyzing the possible outcomes and chose the line that will most likely lead to a par. I hit the shot perfectly and thought I had a tap-in for birdie. Apparently I need some eye surgery. When I got to the green I realized I had 15 feet left, and for some reason I couldn't remember how that putt breaks. I was lucky enough to leave the birdie putt within a foot and tapped in for par.
14th hole - #5
The scorecard shows this as the #1 handicap (hardest) hole on the course. To me this is an easy hole. It's a par-5, and I probably average a 5. I birdie this as often as I bogie this hole. Today I tried something new (not on purpose). Instead of hitting the huge fairway, I hit my 3-hybrid into a sand trap. I recovered by hitting a perfect sand wedge leaving myself 230 yards to the green. A smooth 3-wood and 2 putts will end this disaster and keep me at 1-under par. I decided, instead of hitting the green I would pull the 3-wood so far left it's possible it went into the road 50 yards left of the fairway. At this point, most people I have played golf with (including myself on a normal round) would guess where the ball went out of bounds and drop a ball near there. That is against the real rules of golf and not something I wanted to do during this amazing round. I decided to drop at the same spot and hit my 5th shot from 230 yards out. I hit the shot of the day leaving myself an 8-foot bogie put. I missed the putt and tapped in for double bogie. Even if this round ends up over par, I will know in my heart that when faced with a moral decision, I made the right one.
This round quickly changed from 1-under to 1-over par.
15th hole - #6
Walking up to the tee box I knew I needed to try to drive this green. A good drive and an average chip will probably leave me with a good birdie possibility. When I got to the tee box I saw the pin placed directly behind a huge bunker. 86 the driver. There is no way I can stick a short pitch close with the pin tucked so close to that bunker. I decided to take a 5-iron off the tee and give myself a short iron in. I hit my 8-iron perfectly. I may have even said "that's in the hole" as it bounced directly behind the bunker. When I got to the green, expecting to pull my eagle out of the hole, I found my ball 10 feet away from the pin in a completely different angle than I watched it come in. The only explanation I can come up with is "it hit the flag". I don't know how else it would end up where it did. I was lucky enough to make this putt for a birdie, getting me back to even par.
16th hole - #7
Enough fun. Time for boring golf. Let's hit the fat part of every green and trust our putter to finish this round. Easy enough. I played a 6-iron into the wind leaving myself about 20 feet for birdie. 2 putts later I left this green still even par.
17th hole - #8
Nerves were not iced. I struggled to remember how to grip the club. How much shoulder turn is too much? Should I try to hit the ball solid or try to hit it low? Too many questions. I knew my chances of hitting this fairway was slim. I took a 3-wood and swung (possibly with my eyes closed). Somehow I drew the ball in the shape of the fairway, leaving myself 105 yards to the middle of the green. The same questions above came back. How could I possibly hit such a small green from so far away? The same shot I expected to stick within a few feet earlier in the round seemed like a 1-in-10 chance of holding the green. I swung as you would imagine with all of those nerves. Somehow the ball stayed on the green. The 30 foot putt I had ahead of me was well within my original plan. Hit the fat side of the green and let my putter do it's job. Done. 2 putts later I had 1 hole left to shoot the round of my life.
18th hole - #9
Par-5. What happened? Why am I not nervous? I was more focused on this tee shot than any shot I have had in the last 4 or 5 holes. I knew exactly what to do, how to grip the club, how to turn my shoulders, everything. The same confidence that led me to 1-under on the front nine was with me on the last tee shot of the day. I roped a 3-wood down the middle of the fairway. When I got to my ball I realized the wind knocked it down about 10 yards shorter than I expected. This not only added to the complexity of the next few shots, but it also added some doubt about my club selections. I pulled my 3-hybrid because if it's hit well it will be long enough to take the fairway bunkers out of play. On the other hand, if I just hit my 4-iron there is a good chance the bunkers are out of play anyway. I put my 3-hybrid away and decided to believe in my 4-iron. Good choice. The shot was as close to perfect as I can hit a 4-iron. Walking up to my ball I had a few thoughts in my mind:
1. Less than 150 yards is a gimme. There is no chance of me not getting a par on this hole.
2. Is that pin really a middle front pin? That is the easiest pin position on this hole. How lucky can I be?
When I got to my ball I couldn't tell if it was a front pin or not. It almost looked like a back pin, which is one of the hardest pin locations possible. A pro would have walked to the green to find out where the pin was. I decided to just swing a 7-iron into the wind and try to hold the middle of the green. All putts are easy enough from the middle of the green. I hit my 7-iron solidly, but was unable to complete the turn. The result is a blocked shot to the right side of the green.
Holy s (poo)! I am on the green. I would have paid $100 on the tee box for someone to put my ball on the green after 3 shots on this hole.
At the green I realized the pin is a middle front pin. A smoother 7-iron would have probably left me within a few feet. Now I have a downhill putt, breaking at least 3 or 4 feet. I take my time, pull the pin, and walk around every angle more than once. My thoughts ranged from "Just get the ball started, the slope will take it the rest of the way" to "If you just make this putt you will shoot under par!". I picked a spot that I knew would get it close. Now my only focus was to slow down my swing, and not over-hit it. The slightest added power will easily add 3 or 4 feet to this putt. I started pumping my fist within the first second after hitting the putt. I knew there was a 0% chance of this ball stopping more than a foot from the hole. It was as close to perfect as I can hit a putt. About 3 feet from the hole I changed my goal from shooting even par to shooting under par. This was it! It's going in! What an amazing end to this round!!! I missed. It hit the lip of the cup and rolled out.
Now I have 7 inches left to shoot even par. Part of me wanted to enjoy this moment. Part of me wanted to pick it up and call it good. Part of me wanted to finish my round by hearing the ball land in the cup. I made the putt, heard it hit the cup, and almost started tearing up.
Reaching a lifetime goal is an amazing experience. I don't know when it will sink in, but I hope it results in more pride than depression. I'm not sure I expected to reach this goal in my 30s, 40s or 50s. What should I do next?
Quote of the day - "I BQ'd and you shot even par. What are we going to do with the rest of our lives?" - My best friend.
* BQ'd = Boston Qualified = Qualified for the Boston marathon.