As someone who is used to walking an uncrowded course alone, the last couple of days were certainly a change of pace...
Nicklaus, Palmer and Travino
I had just walked through my 9 hole course this past Sunday morning and was making the turn back to the first green when a threesome in two carts went by. As I came up on the tee box, they suggested I should go ahead of them. I offered for them to join me and they accepted. As we introduced ourselves, there was something about the three of them that seem familiar. One of them was very outgoing and quick with a friendly insult. He had a resemblance to Lee Travino - both in looks and in personality. The second was a taller man, a bit more reserved but not without a quiet sense of humor. He of course would have to be Arnold. The third of the group who seemed to be my age or a bit younger, had the thoughtful demeanor of Jack Nicklaus. Of the four of us, he was the best golfer out there.
After we finished the first hole, we folded up my push cart and got it to fit into Jack’s cart. I would of course pay the cart fee when I got back to the office, but it beat the hell out of me trying to keep up on foot.
While Arnold was off on one side of the fairway of the second hole, Lee suggested I keep an eye on “that guy”. Apparently, Arnold was a bit loose with the rules of golf. Later in the round, Arnold told me “We’re just out here to have a good time. Only one of us takes this game very seriously” as he shot a glance over at Lee. Back in the cart, Jack told me the two had been friends and golfing partners for decades. It was easy to see that in the way the two would rag on one another. Lee was a stickler for playing by the rules. He hated gimme putts - he wouldn’t offer them and was even more adamant in not accepting them. His catch phrase was “just knock the hell out it!”. Didn’t matter if it was a par 5 drive or a 6 foot putt.
Throughout the round, the three old friends continued to give each other a hard time at every opportunity. All the while, Jack was racking up the good scores. I was doing ok after a shaky start and ended up with an average round. After a nice iron shot off the tee, I heard one of them say "man, I wish I could hit my irons like that". The whole time I'm thinking "man, I wish I could keep my driver in play like these guys can".
After the 9th hole, we all exchanged numbers with the promise of getting together whenever their normal 4th couldn’t make it. It turned out to be a very enjoyable round of golf. It gave me a glimpse of how much fun the game might be when played with good friends.
The League of
Extraordinary Gentleman Hackers
The next day while at work, I got a call from the GM of my course asking if I’d be interested in subbing on one of the teams for the Monday Night league. I told him I would if he couldn’t find anyone else. When he called back two hours later and told me he’d struck out (I doubt he even made another call), I agreed to be there before 5.
I’ve never played in any level of competition during my short time of golfing. I was nervous as hell for the rest of the afternoon. I showed up early, was explained the rules, the shotgun format, and what a skin was. Man, there was a lot to take in. When I see these terms posted here at TST, I have to google them just to keep up. I was now faced with actual participation. I passed on the skins, reaffirmed I wasn’t interested in joining the league (despite the GM’s best sales pitch), paid my cart fee, met the opposing team, and waited for my partner to get there. I was so nervous, I took the wrong cart to my car to load my clubs. This prompted the guy with what was supposed to be my cart to stop by and tell me “for future reference, the little number on the key ring is supposed to match the number on the cart".
Great. This was going tits up in a hurry. To make matters worse, my playing partner hadn’t shown up and everyone was now out on the course. He finally arrived and we headed out to the 7th tee, trying to be as un-invasive as one can be driving a golf cart against the grain while 4 other teams are trying to play competitive golf.
We finally get to the tee box - and the moment of truth. No warmups and more nervous than I’d been in a long time. I take a practice swing, try to relax and remember what’s been working so well for me, and… I stripe a 4 iron right down the middle of the fairway.
Sadly, this would become the pinnacle of the match for me.
I could do almost nothing right the rest of the evening. I few ok shots amongst a myriad of pushes, tops and slices, but a complete loss of confidence in my full swing. My swing path was off and I didn't know how to fix it. My playing partner was right there in the weeds with me. Our opponents were both pretty good. I would have had to play my best golf to keep up with them. For the most part, they were pretty cool with what felt to me like a train wreck.
Then, on one of the par 4’s after my tee shot hit a tree and I was able to salvage a bogey, one of them called me out on my score. When both his partner and mine immediately confirmed the 5 was correct. he apologized profusely. I jokingly told him that with the way I’d been playing, I couldn’t blame him for questioning it. That broke the tension a bit and we ended up getting through the last few holes without anything else going horribly wrong.
Overall, it was a hellish round of golf and everything I’d feared it would be. In his book “Five Lessons”, Ben Hogan refers to a sound swing being able to hold up against the pressure of competition. Mine had folded like a tent.
As it turned out, my score wasn’t as bad as it felt but it still sucked. And the experience was so bad it was laughable. If anything positive came of this, it was the confirmation in my belief that a golf league just isn’t for me.