Thursday, September 15, 2011

I play alone…

…YEAHHH with nobody else…

I gave up drinking alone a while back so that activity has been mothballed, but for as long as I can remember I have enjoyed playing golf alone. I doubt George Thorogood would get inspired by such an activity. Whatever. Go have one bourbon, one scotch & one beer, George.

I just got off the course after a solo round, mainly because My Man Mike cancelled out of our weekly round. Damn job of his. Since I had already packed my change of clothes I decided to press on in his absence. So after work I went over to Winter Park Country Club, a delightful, walkable nine-hole layout about ten minutes from work.

Now, I really don’t want to bore with details, but I am going to anyway. Mainly because it wasn’t boring. A number of things happened during the round that were just plain weird, funny, inspiring, frustrating. In other words, a typical round. So here we go. Now on the tee, from Altamonte Springs, Florida via Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio …


First hole: I arrive to the tee just as a threesome of elderly Jamaican men were coming off the ninth green, and our paths intersected at the tee. Now, etiquette dictates that players making the turn (them) must yield the tee to players beginning their round (me). They obliged, and offered me to play through, which I accepted, but the problem was I hadn’t warmed up yet. So I let them hit their tee shots while I swung two clubs tying to get my back to pop. Each one of them was a good player, and the last guy swung cross-handed; in other words, he played right handed with a left-hander’s grip. Very rare. He proceeded to smack it about 220 yards down the middle. They then stepped to the side of the tee while I caught one pretty good, about 240 yards down the left side. We walked down the fairway together and we chatted. They were from Kingston originally.

So the round’s off to an interesting start…if you think a threesome of elderly Jamaicans, one with a crosshanded grip, is interesting. I do. I pitch onto the green and have a six-footer for birdie that I struck well but it horseshoed out on me. Tap in par. Off to a solid start.

Second hole: Short par 3, about 150 yards. I pull a 7-iron that settles pin high right, about 20 feet from Webster Avenue. Now this shot is hard enough, but when you have in the back of your mind the nagging thought that a dump truck could t-bone you at any second it adds a wrinkle of difficulty normally not accounted for. I have to hit a major flop shot over a bunker & catch it perfectly. The ball stops 6 feet past the pin, so I have basically the same putt that I did on the first. This time I made it. Par.

Third hole: Straightaway par 5, about 440 yards. I tag my drive about 250 with a peel-cut off the trees on the right. With about 185 to the green, I take out my trusty 7-wood and proceed to hit a skank pull-hook that rattles in the trees on the right. Ugh. For the third shot I have to execute another flop shot that I stick to, again, 6 feet. I run in the putt. Birdie. I’m one under. At this point I am glad I worked on my pitching the night before.

Fourth hole: Signature hold of the course. A right-to-left bending par 5 of about 530 yards. Left is death. Literally. Because it’s a cemetery. The play is to stay right off the tee and on the second shot to set up a wedge into the green, which is exactly what I did – drive in the right rough, a 3 wood down the right side, a punch sand wedge. Two putts, a solid par on the toughest hole on the course.

Now, I’ve got four holes under my belt, which is a good check point as to how I am doing. Well, shit, I’m one under. Got no complaints.

Fifth hole: Straightaway par 4. Road on left, trees right. And of course, I hit it where I always do. In the trees on the right. I only have about 100 yards left to the green but have to punch & run it due to the hanging branches, which I do, but a touch too firm and it rolls off the back of the green. Now, it bears noting that right behind the green is the intersection of two busy roads, and the evening rush hour traffic is humming behind me. I take my sand wedge, ball back in stance, and hit a perfect pitch shot. It lands about 15 feet short of the hole and starts rolling…and rolling…and…plop. Into the cup. A chip in birdie! Now, I may be playing alone, but I still celebrate, so I give it a fist-pump “YEAH!’ when the ball goes in. The next sound I heard was a car horn, and a guy yelling “NICE SHOT!” from his car in the adjacent intersection. I hollered a “THANK YOU!” at him and a doff of the cap.

God I love this game. And I’m now two under.

Sixth hole: Pretty little par 4, dogleg right, trees all the way down the right. Two ways to play it: There's the safe play which is a hybrid to the corner & a flip wedge to the green. Then there is the stupid way: Try to carry the trees on the right, cut the corner to go for the green.

I’m two under. Time to get stupid.

My driver is well struck but a touch low. Any other hole it would have been perfect. On this hole it’s jail. The ball rattles in the trees, which mercifully spit it into the fairway. Good break, but I have to hit another punch shot to the green, which came out just like the one on the previous hole – a touch hot, the ball settling off the back of the green. A tickly downhill chip leaves me ten feet from the hole. I run the putt in for a well-earned par.

Seventh hole: Short par 3, about 125 yards. I hit a smooth 9-iron to the middle of the green. Two putts later I have my par.

Checkpoint time. Seven holes down, I’m still two under. And I’m starting to think about it. Not good.

Eight hole: Basically a repeat of the seventh. A 125-yard par 3. I settle over my 9-iron with thoughts of ‘Wow I would really like to shoot under par’…this is exactly what NOT to think. I swing and the contact makes a sickening thud sound that occurs when the neck of the club hits the ball. We call that a shank. The ball goes dead left about 100 yards. I’m not loving this game so much now, but I am laughing at how much of an egotistical dumbass I am. I find my ball in the rough and hack out a sand wedge just trying to get it anywhere on the green. I did, and two putts later I register my first bogey on the round.

Final hole: Dogleg left par 4, trees left, parking lot right. Now, I’m one under, and I could just hit an iron & a wedge to the green, get my par and bask in an under par round. Well, what’s the fun in that? Out comes the driver, and there goes my ball into the parking lot, featuring a nice high bounce over a car leaving the lot. Well I’ll tell you something right now – I am finding that ball, I don’t care if it’s in Ocoee, and I am playing it. I find it, about 25 yards past the green, and I have your standard garden variety pitch shot over the parking lot, palm tree & bunker. Kid’s stuff. Needing one more good swing, instead I blade the pitch and it goes screaming into the palm tree, which, in this instance, acted like a parachute, depositing my ball on the green about 15 feet from the hole. Two putts later, I make a wild par and shoot a very satisfying one-under 34.

So to recap, in an hour & a half I met three Jamaicans, had a honking gallery cheer my birdie, shanked a stock nine iron, and damn near took out a Lexus with one of my drives.

Just a typical day on the links.

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