Besides a few hacks at the Par 3 West in Greenwood, I haven’t taken any real golf swings since lumbar spinal fusion in 2009 and then meniscus surgery in 2012. Excuse 1: Can you imagine what back and knee surgery do to a golf swing? Anyway, I’ll have more excuses later.
Plus, I spent Monday at home sick. Excuse 2.
So, I didn’t think I’d be playing in this year’s Media Day Golf Tournament, sponsored by Savannah Lakes Village, in association with the upcoming NGA Tour event here in the village.
But, late Monday night, I asked my wife, Shea, to check my golf bag for balls. Yep. They were there. Tees. Yep. Markers. Yep. All clubs. Yep. Darn!
Then it was raining when I left Greenwood Tuesday morning. He-he. (Excuse 3?) I wouldn’t have to go out and show off my rusty swing, after all. Thank goodness.
But wait …
As I crossed over from Greenwood County into McCormick County, the skies parted and the rain stopped. What? You have to be kidding me?
I stopped on the side of the road and emailed SLV Classic communications contact Phil Kinzer. “Is the course playable?” I asked, hoping for an answer that would keep me off the course – which, for SLV residents, likely meant fewer divots. (Excuse 4?)
Phil: “It’s playable. Cart paths only.” Ah. Denied again. You mean I really have to go through with this? (Not that playing such an awesome course as Monticello is bad; but ME playing such an awesome course as Monticello IS bad). Then I remembered the one thing I forgot to ask my wife: “Did you check for my golf shoes?”
Was this my “out clause?” (Excuse 5). I rolled into the Monticello Course ready to cover the media event and then skip the golf, but then I had second thoughts. You see, my conscience got the better of me. Kathy Godby, who writes the golf committee article each month for Shorelines Magazine, had just penned an article for the upcoming April 1 issue about the golf shoes in the golf shop.
Well, guess what I did? Yep. Bought me a shiny new pair of FootJoys. I had no more excuses to keep me off the course. And, well, the golf shoes were very nice.
I was teamed with villagers Paul Aube and AJ Piwowarski (thank goodness, because I thought it would be all media. You see, those who can’t play golf … well, we write about golf). Andrew Macke, a sportswriter with The Index-Journal, where I worked for 10 years (1996-2006), was also on our team. I thought, “Well, at least another hacker will be with me.” Yeah, right. The guy who “just started playing” was way better than me. Things were looking bad. I was going to be the fourth wheel. You know, the guy out there smacking around balls for no good reason.
I made my typical on-course excuses: The ground is wet (I can’t hit fairway shots when the ground is wet), I haven’t played in forever, I’m just a duffer, yadda, yadda.
Too bad there wasn’t a gallery. When I played in a club tournament in Greenwood in the late-1990s (when I used to play daily), I coughed up the “I don’t play well with people watching” excuse. Funny thing? My first three tee shots with a driver went out of bounds, each by less than a foot, and some guy about 10 carts back yelled, “Hey, buddy, just pull out a 4-iron and punch it up the middle.” How embarrassing. I made a 12 on the par-5 first hole – the easiest hole on the course. I birdied the par-3 second. Go figure.
Yes, golf is a game of fun, no matter how good or bad you play; however, my uncle played in the U.S. and Senior Opens, and he tried to teach me the game, so I feel pretty bad that I’m 44 years old and couldn’t shoot a 44 on one side on my best day.
It’s golf, though. Paul reminded me to think about the positive and forget the negative. He had an acronym for it, but I can’t remember it right now. The idea wasn’t lost on me, though. What can I do to help this team? C’mon, something? Anything!
Paul and AJ clearly play well. I’d expect nothing less from those who live here. Andrew was a surprise. He used to be a hockey player, and, as I was informed by NGA player Justin Reiger just a few days ago, hockey players make great golfers. Justin was a hockey player until he switched to golf at age 16. Andrew clearly has a future on the less-than-duffer side of golf with his pretty swing.
At least I knew where I stood. In this scramble, I’d be the one whose ball would get picked up every time over the 9-hole event. You kind of have to accept your role.
Or maybe not.
AJ’s long drives put us in great position on just about every hole. When he didn’t, either Paul’s or Andrew’s shots did. Then my little miracle happened: I started making putts. Three birdie putts, to be exact. I felt like I was actually making a contribution to my team.
I have to give Andrew a lot of credit. He putted each time before me, and I watched his line and speed like a hawk. Andrew would miss by a hair. I would make minor adjustments and, well, I’d sink the ball in the hole. Teamwork!
I got high-fives, and a few compliments that I REALLY needed. Still, I had not once hit a tee or fairway shot that was the best ball. That was until the highest-rated hole on the course. AJ nailed a brilliant tee shot in a good landing within 100 or so yards of the hole. AJ told me to go long, hit the bank, and let it role down to the hole on the second shot over the water. Guess what? I did it. I had the best ball on that shot, and went on to make the birdie putt. For one hole, I felt like I was just a tad bit more than the “putting dude.”
That’s how golf is: You can go from feeling really bad about the game to feeling pretty darn good about it. That’s why even the worst of us can have a good time.
We ended up finishing second (by one stroke).
Phil jokingly (I think) tossed away several of the scorecards – including ours – because no one signed the scorecards. C’mon, Phil, we know the rules. It’s Media Day. What can you expect, my friend? The media are used to bylines on stories, not signing scorecards. Well, if he wasn’t serious, we finished second. I’m making myself believe he wasn’t serious.
What I thought would be a stressful, embarrassing and soggy day on the golf course turned out to be one of new friendships and plenty of good feelings. I was grateful to be teamed with these fellas, and I learned a lot about how even the worst golfer in a Scramble foursome can make some decent contributions.
Besides Paul and AJ asking me if I wanted a coat every five minutes – I guess they are now part of the masses who know you’ll never see me in a coat – things went about as well as I could have expected. Just kidding, Paul and AJ. I appreciate the coat offer, but I was sweating by the second hole. I’d play in my underwear, but, according to golf committee rules, that’s not proper attire. I guess I can understand that.
Now, we won’t talk about all those fat fairway shots I had that went 20 yards. Let’s just say AJ had to keep the sand container handy to fill in my Grand Canyon-sized divots. Don’t worry. The groundhog from Caddyshack did not pay a visit to Monticello this morning.
Thanks to Savannah Lakes Village for a great time. Sorry, August Luedecke, that I couldn’t accept the on-course beer refreshments, but I had to come back to work. I don’t think the Shorelines’ owners would have appreciated me being tipsy while working.
Maybe I should have taken up that offer to play nine more holes. Hmm.
One thing I will say: It’s a great thing to work where “work” often involves playing golf. Maybe SLV should have a few more Media Days, just for the heckuva it. Maybe my game would improve.
Good luck to all involved in the upcoming tournament. As always, SLV does everything first class.