Thursday, 25 October 2018

The People You Meet

One of the great things about golf is the people you meet. The game is all-consuming when you are playing it; so, for four hours or so, you can forget your troubles and just worry about making the damned ball behave. You are generally playing in pleasant surroundings, with birds and various critters sharing the park-like setting with you. But it's the people you meet in your golf travels that really makes it special.

This week I arrived in Murrells Inlet, SC and, as a single, was lucky enough to be paired up with Richie and his nephew, Henry, at Indian Wells; and with Mike, from Cornwall, Ontario, at Wachesaw Plantation East. 

Richie is 81 and claims he played at a six when he kept a handicap. He drove it by me all day and had all the shots, and confessed that he made a lot of money playing as a six. I know I wouldn't have wanted any of his action. Henry struggled a little with his game, but was also great company on the course.

Mike is a five and, at 62, still bombs it. We played the senior tees and he generally had little more than a flip wedge to the par fours. The first time we played at Wachesaw he shot 73 with a double on the last hole. I shot 43 on the first nine, so my 35 coming in did little to prevent me from being thoroughly whipped.

Today I managed to arrange a skins game with Richie and Mike. Henry had to leave for Virginia. Richie and I played the senior tees at just shy of 6000 yards, while Mike had to play the whites at 6300. After nine holes, we each had one skin. Mike and I won ours with birdies, while Richie won his with a par on the tricky third. Richie went out in 39. Mike and I were one shot better.

Mike announced on ten tee that it was now "game on," and wasted no time in winning another skin with an impressive birdie from the right trees. I birdied 12 and 14 for two skins. Mike made par on 15 for a skin after Richie and I failed to get it up and down from the apron. I won another skin on 16 with a par and headed to 18 with a one skin lead. 

Eighteen at Wachesaw is rated as the second or third toughest finishing hole on the Myrtle Beach grand strand. It's a beast. But as luck would have it the senior tees were about fifty yards ahead of the whites today. Mike hit a perfect drive, right in the middle of the fairway, that, unfortunately for him, had about two yards of roll. He was left with about 160 yards into the wind. Richie and I hit good drives leaving me about 120 yards and Richies about ten yards less. 

Mike hit a solid shot that didn't draw for him, leaving him about 30 feet for birdie. I hit a punched 8 iron to about 20 feet, and Richie hit it onto the back apron after the wind layed down on him. When they both missed, all I needed was a solid two putt for the win. However, there is nothing worse than needing a two putt on the last to win, unless it's needing a one putt from thirty feet, downhill
 and breaking left to right. Anyway, I stood over the putt and announced to the boys that I just needed to hit a solid putt. Sure enough, it went straight in the hole for birdie. 

I never birdie 18. Oh, I birdied it once by chipping one in, but birdies are few and far between on that hole. It was a great day with two really nice guys and two pretty damned good players. Mike shot 75 and hit the pin twice without the ball going in. Richie shot 79, breaking his age again. Something that was obviously no big deal to him, given how solid a player he is.

I managed a 73. I've shot 73 at Wachesaw atleast half a dozen times. But I can never seem to shoot par on this track. We're scheduled to play again tomorrow if the weatherman is wrong about the projected thunder storms. The great thing about golf is the people you meet.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

It's Still All About How Many

At our course, we don't really have a driving range. We have a tee box where you can hit as much as a seven or eight iron to some patchy ground with a couple of markers; but that's pretty much it. We have a small practice green where it's hard to find anything close to a straight putt. But at least you have a view of the lake.

Ours is not really a club for those who love to practise. We all generally head from the car to the first tee wondering what we've brought that day. We might hit a few practice putts, and maybe even a few chips, prior to teeing off. But that's about it. Funny, when we go elsewhere to play, or compete, we often have the opportunity to hit balls first. But I'm not sure it helps an old cripple like me. I'm usually aching before I tee off if I do. So I prefer to just focus on trying to find the best way I can to get the damned ball in the hole.

I just arrived in Murrells Inlet last night. Bright and early this morning, I was on the porch enjoying a coffee and my pipe, and watching two guys get ready to play. My porch overlooks the practice tee and the practice putting green at Wachesaw East. It's a really good course that hosted an LPGA event for a number of years. 

One of the guys headed to the practice tee and hit one shot after another, with barely a pause before raking another ball over and whacking it. He was done in about seven minutes and announced to the other guy, who was on the putting green, that he hadn't hit one decent shot. 

The other guy had started putting four footers; making the lion's share of them. Then he practised hitting lag putts; putting them all out. And finally he hit some chips and pitches before heading to the first tee. It looked to me like he had a really decent short game. And he seemed calm and ready to play.

I don't know about you; but I'd have been willing to put a fairly substantial wager on the guy with the short game. But, who knows, maybe the rapid-fire guy can putt like a demon. In the end, it really is all about who can get it in the hole in the fewest number of strokes.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Old Age and Treachery

Golf is becoming a challenge for me. Actually, I guess I should say it's becoming more of a challenge for me. I began the season as a three handicapper, crippled with a bad back. I'm now an eight. The game is tough.

But the other day I played a match with Levi. I was giving him the gears about how he must be so discouraged, being two down after ten to an old cripple. Levi responded by winning twelve, fifteen, and sixteen, to go one up. Suddenly, I wasn't quite so cocky.

On seventeen, we both missed our drives left. Levi was in jail in the trees. I was in the rough and blocked by the trees on the corner. To hit the green, I needed to play a thirty yard hook with a five hybrid out of thick rough. Somehow, I pulled it off and found my ball on the front edge of the green about twenty feet from the hole. Meanwhile, Levi had to pitch out and missed the green with his third. Two putts for par and I was back to all square.

Levi and I made par threes on 18 and decided to go extra holes. We both hit it over the back into thick rough on 18. We then both chunked our chips. Levi played his third about six feet past the pin, and I stood over my chip and told Levi I was going to make it. Sure enough, I did--not the first time I've managed to do that to Levi.

Golf is becoming increasingly difficult for me with this damned back. Most of the guys I play with, including Levi, drive it forty yards past me. I'm hitting hybrids where they are hitting nine irons and wedges. But I still absolutely love this game. And sometimes old age and treachery can beat youth and skill. Not always, but sometimes it can. Sorry, Levi.