Now that I'm home from work, I can finish what I started in Part I.
Sunday Morning - The Big Day
After nearly killing Jeff, we spent the remainder of the day relaxing and drinking some beers. Figuring my task was not nearly difficult enough, I stayed up until about 2 AM chatting and drinking beer after beer. By the time Jeff and I stood up to go to bed, the ground was actually spinning.
Real smart move. I went to bed and woke up with a well deserved headache.
A couple of aspirin, two bottles of water and three cups of coffee later, it was time to face the hour of my reckoning.
Sunday Afternoon - Meet Your Partner
The format for this 9-hole, 2 man team extravaganza was best ball off the tee followed by alternate shots. I was paired with one of the best players in the area, a fellow named John. He was a really nice guy and he made me feel a lot more relaxed right away: if I screwed up miserably, at least this guy wouldn't make too much fun of me.
The drawback to such a good partner was this: if we had a bad outing, it would be pretty clear whose fault it was. That same morning while I had been downing water and coffee attempting to become semi-human, this guy was playing 18 holes in a local tournament and winning. I'm not kidding.
The other pair we were playing with (also a nice pair of gents) suggested I go ahead and start things off.
They must have been licking their chops when they saw my tee shot duff off the driver and barely land past the women's tees a couple dozen yards away.
John said not to worry about it before stepping up and crushing a drive 300+ yards straight down the fairway.
It was pretty obvious that I would be taking all of the second shots today.
Fortunately, this played to my "strength", if it can be called that. I'd been pretty comfortable with the irons prior to nearly taking off my brother-in-law-to-be's head the previous day. I knew if I just focused and remembered my fundamentals I could perform pretty decently.
Of course, I've also learned that's the whole trick with golf. The fundamentals are many and difficult. I sent the thing about 40 yards straight behind a tree.
This guy was so good though it didn't matter. It was obvious I had been paired with him for a reason. After he knocked the ball on the green with the third shot, I sheepishly looked at the other pair and said, "The fix is in, eh?" They chuckled but I'm pretty sure they were contemplating smashing my face in with whatever club was handy.
All told I really didn't play too badly, but it was obvious that without John I would've been a total disaster. He kept leaving the ball in such great locations all day long that it was easy to keep it moving forward.
I eventually did get back to fundamentals however and remembered my iron shot. Nothing spectacular, but at least I wasn't threatening any hubcaps out there.
We even managed to score par on a couple of holes and I was starting to feel more confident.
It was then I had the crazy idea: This guy is so good, I thought, I may as well just go for the money on every shot.
This turned out to be a terrible plan, as I tried to actually play a draw shot on one hole around a tree. Why I thought I was capable of doing this I have no idea: I'm not even sure how you properly execute a draw shot. I ended up hitting it pitifully a few feet right behind another tree.
Time was running out for the day to be considered anything less than a mockery. Sure, with John on my team we wouldn't end up in last place, but all anybody would be talking about was "the fix".
After another magnificent tee shot, I put the ball in another lousy spot in the rough with our second shot.
John was obviously getting tired (your shoulders would've been sore too). He hit a decent enough shot for our third into the fairway, recovering my bad ball, but left it short of the green.
It was then that it all started to fall into place.
I hit a chip waaaay too hard. As soon as I hit it, I knew I had put it over the green and we'd be lucky to double bogey this mess. Once again I had blown it.
But then there was a clatter as my ball hit the pin and dropped 2 inches from the hole.
There was scattered applause from the group who at this point was likely feeling sorry for me. I knew I had gotten insanely lucky: the ball was coming in hot but was absolutely saved by striking the pin halfway up.
The encouraging words from the other gents out there though started to give me a little confidence. I still had one more chance to make a shot to be remembered, and the 9th hole coming up provided the perfect opportunity: there would be a prize for whomever hit the longest putt on the final hole.
The 9th hole contained really the only water hazard on the holes we played. The hole was surrounded by a river that should prove reasonably easy to hit over if you left yourself in a good spot off the tee. With John on my side that shouldn't prove too much of a problem.
Sure enough John knocked it short of the river, but just to the right of the fairway in the rough. It would be up to me to make a shot to get it on the green.
Fortunately the pressure was immediately off as the pair we were playing with put it in the water on their second shot. I would find out later this was a general theme out there that day. I guess the presence of water is enough to make you think.
It certainly made me think. I hit the thing and got enough of it to get it over the stream, but it landed right on the steep edge of the river and was essentially unplayable. I may as well have hit it in the water, because any attempt to play the ball would've resulted in falling into the stream. John said not to worry about it, he was sick of that ball anyway, and he took a drop.
His chip from the drop left it about 30 feet from the hole and about twice the distant of the current longest putt on the hole.
So this was it. My last chance.
Problem here is I have no idea how to really read a green. When I see a guy make a putt that rolls in from several feet to the right or left, I can't figure out how the heck he did it. How did he know it would break that much?
John was there to save me. He made the read for me and pointed to a spot about 3 feet to the right of the cup. "Hit it here," he said. "Nice and easy."
By which I'm pretty sure he meant "Leave me with a halfway decent putt that I can make, it's hot out here and I want a beer."
Damned if I didn't hit that thing perfectly. It rolled and rolled and started to curve to the left.
"He's got it!" John cried out, and the other pair watched tensely.
Perfect. Right in the cup. From 30 feet.
I pumped my fist and started to stride off the green in excitement. "Stay there, we have to mark it!" shouted the others.
Despite almost killing both of his progeny in a single vacation, when Julie's dad announced the winner of the longest putt later in the clubhouse, I could tell he was excited.
In the end we shot a 42, one stroke off the lead. Although it felt like I was hacking all over the place I guess it wasn't ever quite as bad as I thought. Golf is a funny game, and I guess veteran golfers know that you tend to remember your bad shots. I certainly had plenty of them that weekend.
But everybody else seems to remember your good ones.
So, in the end, despite all my efforts to make a total mess of the situation, I actually ended up having a pretty good time.
The question people have been asking me is: Will I keep playing golf now that it's over?
Let me put it this way. I don't think I'm ever going to be the one who suggests "Hey guys, who wants to spend the afternoon playing 18?"
But if somebody else were to suggest it, I'd be a lot less likely to come up with an excuse.