Happy Birthday, Clay

Actually yesterday was Clay’s birthday. I know that since I share June 26th as a birthday. Of course Clay is my junior by a few years. I’ll make a bet that Clay was wading a trout stream on his birthday.

Clay would bet I was out with grandchildren. He would be right.

Thanks for all you do Clay. You are very much appreciated!

Believe it or not, I played golf. I thought maybe I got to move up to the senior tees after turning 65. Nope.

I played in the LPGA Pro-Am. The swag that the pro-am partners get is too good to pass up. I got one of the spots reserved for the media covering the event. I do work for the NWADG as part of my job and Chip Souza, the sports editor at the NWA DG, wanted me to play with him. Not too many staffers are golfers.

Funny story, I was having trouble getting my game going. Hadn’t played in 11 months. I hit some OK shots for me as an out of practice old timer, but not quite up to the level of our pro, former U.S. Open champ Eun-Hee Ji, or the rest of our group.

We made it to No. 14 tee and I’m operating on fumes. Martin, her caddie, comes over to me to inform me that I couldn’t just shut down. I was ready to just ride the last four holes. I’d been walking with Martin and Ji until then.

Martin said, “I need one more good shot and one more putt out of you.” It was the kind of challenge he gives his player sometimes late in a round when he senses she’s hit a wall. I definitely had. My back hurt, my knees ached and my hands were sore. I had taken some Advil but it wasn’t helping.

Martin handed me a Gatorade and an energy bar and said, “Come on. Finish.”

I’ve noticed of late that when the tour players are interviewed after a great round that they say, “The key was my caddie gave me a lot of good numbers (on yardage) today.”

So I told Martin, “I just haven’t gotten many good numbers from you today.” Our whole group laughed, especially Martin.

We got to our approach shot at No. 14, a 600-yard par five. Martin said, “It’s 114, but we’ll call it 118 with the severe uphill.”

I said, “That’s my number,” and I hit a full wedge to 10 feet. It was only the second time all day they’d used my shot. (Part of that is that the pro was usually close.)

The next hole is the 150-yard par three, straight down the hill over water. Martin said, “Your number with the down hill and down wind is 131.” I said, “That’s a great number again.” And, I hit it to about 8 feet.

We got to No. 17, the par three surrounded by stands. Martin said, “Clay, it’s downwind and with that factored in, I’m calling it 141.”

“Boom,” I yelled, “that’s my number for a 7-iron,” and I hit it close again, the best in our group again.

I cranked a No. 2 wood to the left fringe on No. 18, a 220-yard shot up hill to the par five finishing hole. Ji didn’t want that shot. Too much twist and turn from that sidehill chip about 50 feet left of the hole. You might not be able to stop it and it would run off the green and 40 yards down the slope to the point Ji had played her second shot. We used her approach, at the base of the hill that was about 50 yards further from the hole, but much easier to stop the ball. And, she hit it real close, using the back slope of the green as a back stop to spin it back.

Martin said, “You did your job. I asked for one more shot, and you gave me four or five.” I guess I just needed someone to challenge me.

I am sore all over today. I’m ready to move back to a trout stream.

Had fun. I don’t really look forward to golf anymore. My putting is horrible. Martin gave me the line – as did Ji - almost perfectly all day and I didn’t hit the hole except once on a 5-foot birdie putt when I was the only person to go to the green. Everyone assumed I’d make it and I did. I was once a great putter. I thought I’d make everything. I now think I will miss everything and that’s not a fun thing in golf.

I have no bad days on a trout stream. I don’t look at anything as a miss, or a failure, even if a big trout breaks off, or the fly pops. I just assume that some are going to get away and I quickly transition into the next cast. I don’t do that in golf. I agonize over the last miss and know I"m going to miss the next one, too. It may not be the yips, but it’s probably something close.

My putting once revolved around very light grip with the hands and just a roll of the shoulders to get the putter head moving. That light grip has disappeared. No matter how hard I try to soften my grip, it just doesn’t happen.

Look out White River, here I come.

Clay you have a heck of a gift! I sure enjoy reading your posts about golf. I felt like I was out there with you!

Lucky for me, there are only a few these days! I might play golf if the coaches invite the media for a round in late July.

We had the 2 youngest grands here for the past few days. They are 5 (girl) and 6 (boy) and cousins. Spent a good deal of time fishing with them. We have a pond next to our condo and it’s loaded with small bass and bluegill. Those two had me working hard taking off fish, baiting hooks and untangling line.

It was a great birthday present. Grandkids are a special gift from God.

I don’t do either of those sports, but I enjoyed the writing
and the angst that was conveyed. Clay, you have the gift of clarity and conciseness.

Happy Birthday.

ADG

I really enjoyed reading that, Clay. I’ve never, at any point in my life, been close to the caliber of golfer than you were/are. Still, it’s a game I’ve enjoyed during my adult life (I wasn’t fortunate enough to be exposed to it as a young man).

However, at this point, I just can’t play due to the physical toll. If that sounds funny to say about golf, especially to younger folks, I get it. I used to think that way too. But as I’ve grown older and accumulated more physical problems - especially, with both knees - I just can’t play the game any more. Maybe if/when I ever get knee replacement surgery.

The point is, I related the way you described not being able to play the game as you once did. Your words - though specific to you - resonated with me. Happy to hear that you rallied and made some key shots down the stretch - good for you!

And by the way - a belated Happy Birthday; I’ll jump back to being a year older than you again next Thursday, on the 4th.

I’m a bit younger than Clay, and wasn’t nearly as good a golfer at my best, but I can relate to this. One of the reasons I quit playing is that I felt a pop in my left shoulder on the driving range one day. I’m pretty sure that pop was a piece of my rotator cuff. The right RC is even worse, although I don’t remember any pop. And my back has been shot for years, thanks to having two spine surgeries (thus Swine Fusion) before my 16th birthday. I’d love to play again, and every spring as I watch the Masters I get the bug. Then my body reminds me why I quit.

I got to play Pinnacle once, a media day when it had just opened and was still called Champions. Heckuva course.

I once tried to get a nurse to date me who was/is a pretty good golfer. It seems one of her criteria for a man is someone who could beat her on the golf course. Nope, no can do.

I’m sore today. But it’s not as bad as I feared. I know the difference between pain and soreness. But I am not going to run back out there and try to play.

FYI, I don’t have the ability to dial in a number in my irons. The goal is a flush hit. If I played twice a week instead of twice a year, I could maybe know how far my shots would go. As it is now, they all are going 20 yards shorter than 10 years ago.

Happy Belated Birthday Clay!

WPS!!!

I’ve played golf for over 50 years and have always struggled with my putting. I had my handicap down to about a 12 years ago but the last few years it’s hovered around 17. I can relate to Clay and the loss of yardage on my irons. Today I hit a pitching wedge about 100 yards, back in the day it was 125. I’ve lost about 25 yards on all of them and more with my drive and woods.

Like Jeff I’m battling shoulder issues which make it harder. My doctor says I have a slightly torn rotator. I’d hate to see how much a fully torn rotator hurts.

I played today with two friends and quit keeping score after the second triple. It’s certainly frustrating to not be able to hit it like I did 15 years ago. Trying to protect the shoulder and hit a golf shot does not work well.

But my putting has stayed consistent. Horrible.

Happy Birthday Clay!

I almost forgot this, I’ve got a treat coming as a 65 year old: lifetime fishing and hunting license. My fishing license is good through October. When I renew it (and my hunting) it’s all going to cost me $35 and I’m good in Arkansas with a lifetime license. I believe I will have to buy a federal duck stamp each year, but maybe that’s it.

Green fees go on forever! But senior fees at public courses are going to be cheaper, right?

Happy birthday Clay and a great story to boot! I’m feeling your agony…it’s happening to me this past two years. The twins started out driving ,me a couple of years ago when they were13-14…ugh! Golf used to be my release from the stress of work as a doc but now I almost dread playing. I still enjoy practicing and hitting some balls, but it’s too hot each summer by the time work slows down enough for me to hit the range. Plus my back isn’t cooperating anymore. Sucks getting old!

The thing I still beat the boys at…hunting! They see a big deer or get into good set of birds and get too much adrenaline…miss or whatever. They’ve penned me the “cold assassin” bc I don’t get rattled, just take care of business with my old browning gold!

I can remember first time I beat my dad in golf I was 15. I think I shot 79 and he shot 81. He knew and I knew how we stood all day. He laughed when he totaled up the score. He said, “I thought I could hold you off one more year. You should now beat me forever. Know that I’ll be trying to beat you but I don’t expect you to ever lose to me again. And your margin of victory - if you work at it - will grow. Trust me that I’ll always be practicing and ready if you are not.”

As always, he was right. And he did always work and practice but youth will be served.

Aloha and Happy Birthdays to LDHog and Clay,

LDHog, I don’t have any grandchildren yet but I am already planning our activities together! I totally get where you’re coming from.

For Clay, I greatly enjoy your insight…most especially about golf since I still try to play. I can easily relate to your story telling. If possible, please consider more golf stories…past or present. Especially any stories from Augusta or other famous sites.

GHG!