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.