What Makes You So Special?

A few posts ago, I recalled some words of wisdom from Chris Goff, a golfing friend in Connecticut, who, upon witnessing me three putt from about 8 feet, said to me, “Don’t worry, man, you ain’t the first and you won’t be the last” – his point, of course, being that not only is perfection on a golf course unobtainable, but it’s foolish to even contemplate it. In other words, shit happens.

I try to keep those words in mind when things go south for me in the course of a round, but every now and then I do wonder if the gods of golf are testing me. Take my round yesterday . . . please (sorry, Henny). The less said about it the better, although the entertainment value provided to my playing companions earned me a drink after the round, so there was that.   I did manage to play a greenside bunker shot from my knees on the 12th hole that somehow wound up on the 8th green (about 100 yards away, which is actually pretty impressive when you think about it). But the coup de grace occurred earlier in the round.

The second hole at Cottonwood Valley (one of the two courses at our club) is a par-3 three over a pond (a canal, really) that typically plays about 130 yards. It’s not a particularly scary shot; usually the biggest challenge comes from the wind, which typically quarters from right to left and slightly toward the tee box. The flag yesterday was located in the front right portion of the green, which is something of a “sucker pin” – if a player’s shot is even a little short, it will roll back down a small hill, sometime all the way to the water. The safe play is to the middle of the green.

Which is what I tried to do, except that the wind took the ball further left, leaving me on the green but with a 40 foot putt with about 10 feet of left-to-right break. I put a pretty good stroke on it; the ball took the break, hit the back of the cup, and popped out.

“Damn,” I grimaced.

Only it didn’t stop. It continued rolling toward the edge of the green, almost coming to a halt . . . but gravity kicked in, and the ball sauntered down the aforementioned hill, and gently plopped into the water.

Naturally, this was a great source of merriment to all concerned; even I had to laugh. There ensued some discussion of how I was to proceed, and without boring you with a lengthy discussion of hazard drop options, the rules allowed me to putt from the previous spot. I managed to keep the ball on the green this time; another two putts and I wound up with a six on a par-3 that I had hit in regulation, which is probably not a record but pretty damned close.

When I recounted this story in the Grill Room, it was greeted with the appropriate amount of amusement and sympathy. Someone reminded me that Tiger Woods once did the same thing at The Masters, which I’m sure will be the only time that he and I are mentioned in the same breath.

I can divulge this and other horrors that occur out on the links because – well, something like it happens to everyone who plays the game. An old friend of mine in Virginia, Martin, struck a drive off the toe of his club; the ball flew dead straight at what could best be described a 90 degree angle to where it should have, striking a condo whose owner probably bought with the thought that no one could ever possibly hit it. Then again, he never met Martin, whose swing at impact featured him actually falling away from the ball  – think of a Michael Jordan jump shot, sans elevation.

But there’s one incident I can describe that I like to think did not have precedent. This happened in a club tournament where the other competitors in my group consisted of Spice Daddy, Fat Boy #1, and Holmes, three of the more colorful members of ours (or any other) club. We had all hit decent drives on the par-5 3rd hole, but Fat Boy pulled his second shot into some thick rough. As we looked for his ball, Holmes (who was riding in my cart) found a baby blue robin’s egg that evidently fallen from its nest. Holmes picked it up, looked at me devilishly, and said, “Poppy, watch this – I’m going to slip this in Spice Daddy’s pocket.”

We finished out the third hole and went on to #4, a vexing par 4 that featured an approach to an elevated green having more turns than the track at Watkins Glen. We all reached the green (Holmes somehow keeping the egg intact, which I thought was remarkable), and putted out. Spice Daddy had made a big-breaking 8-footer to save his par, and an apparently sincere, appreciative Holmes put his arm around Spice, complimenting him on his putt.

We then proceeded to the 5th hole, and Spice reached into his pocket to get a tee – and pulled his hand out; egg yolk dripping off his hand. “What the –“, he exclaimed . . . and saw Holmes and me giggling over in our cart. Spice let out a series of expletives, but he was laughing, as well.

I’d like to think that Spice was the first – but after this story, he won’t be the last.

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