We have a 91 year old guy at our club who plays at least four times a week and will not play unless there is some money on the line. The guy is ultra-competitive, is a past club champion (back in the 60's and 70's), and has won every other club championship flight from A to D as he got older and his game faded. He refuses to tee it forward and has figured out how to play the course even when there are some forced carries that challenge his diminishing length. The thing is, he really knows the game, his ball is always in play right in front of him and he is still as sharp as a tack.
I have played a lot of golf with him over the years but I hadn't played with him yet this year. I love the guy (he always regales me with nice stories about my Mom and Dad) but I usually avoid him because, frankly, his money games are a little rich for my taste. The last time I played with him his handicap was 28 and he was very dangerous with all those shots. I decided to get a game in last week, as it was a nice day for mid-November and I didn't see the weather being very good going forward. I got to the club and there were 3 guys ready to go, and my older gentleman friend was one of them. After I negotiated our wager down to a manageable level, we threw balls and he ended up as an opponent. He was now a 33 handicap and I was going to have to give him 23 shots.
I played pretty well for not having picked up a club in a couple of weeks, but I soon realized that I could not afford the slightest mistake because he made very few. Our match was tight and we halved the front nine (I had to birdie the short par 3 9th to beat his 4 for the half). The way we play it, if you half the front, everything carries over, so the back nine was for the whole match.
I made my worst swing of the day on the 10th tee and hit it OB. I still managed to make a 6 on the tough par 4, but so did he and I was behind right away. We went back and forth, nobody getting ahead by more than one point. I parred four of the next five holes but I was still one down going into 16, a difficult par 3 for him, because it required a high, long shot to get to an elevated green at least 60 feet above the tee level. He played it the only way he can, hitting it forward to the bottom of the hill, and then trying to hit it up the hill to the green with a lofted club. He missed the green with his second shot and made 5, so my par 3 won the hole and we were back to even.
I again had an advantage on the short par 5 17th because, while it is a short enough hole that even I can occasionally go for it in two, it is a four shotter for him. We get to the tee and, lo and behold, the staff had put the men's tee forward to the Senior tee on this day, cutting off 40 yards from the length of the hole. I hit a solid tee shot, but pulled it slightly left and caught a bunker that is usually out of my range, forcing me to layup on my second shot. He hit three really solid shots and was on that green in regulation for the first time in years, putting for birdie from about 30 feet. I hit a good approach shot to about 10 feet. He two-putted, and I had to make mine to half the hole, but I never scared the hole.
One down, one to go, and I had to give him two on the final difficult par 4. He hit his worst drive of the day, which made the hole a four shotter for him, he was never going to get home in three. I hit a good drive and a really solid second shot with a hybrid and had 35 feet for birdie. He was predictably on the green in four, but was 55 feet away from the hole. His first putt was woefully short by about 10 feet. I two-putted for par and he stepped right up and nailed that 10-footer in the back of the cup to half the hole and win the match. He turned to me and proclaimed, "never a doubt!" I shot a 39 on the back with a double bogey and it wasn't enough.
I never had more fun losing a golf match in my whole life. God bless him and I look forward to trying to get my money back next season.
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