I know I'm not the best golfer in this group of 64. Nor am I the youngest or most fit. But there's one advantage I had over my fellow hikers (besides freakishly long, skinny legs): EXPERIENCE. As a savvy soph-o-more, I figured I could school these newcomers. Caddying for the Flossmoor event only reaffirmed this notion, as I witnessed guys limping up the 16th hole in various stages of disrepair; to a man, all saying the experience was much more difficult (but more rewarding) than they had anticipated.
Experience definitely mattered. I burned around at a feverish pitch last year, but I knew there were ways to shave some time off those 1:35ish rounds. Practice swings? Who needs them. Putting? Hit and run. Golf bags? Audi 5000. I just brought 6-8 clubs and split them between the two caddies I had at any one time (swapped in and out throughout the day, but a combination of Nick, Tori, Shelby, Andrew, Ryan, Matt G, Duncan, Conrad, Mason, Chad and one player to be named later -- thanks to all of them).
The big revelation came while watching my buddy Jefe try to grind out pars and bogeys at Flossmoor. He's just wired that way and the speed golf to him is like oil and water. My thought was to take quality out of the equation and just play for bogey. Keep it in play, get it somewhere around the green in regulation, putt if possible (and even if less than possible, putt anyways), then just try to three-putt from wherever you are, on or off the green (a nice plus to hiking at Ballyneal). Swag a lag putt without thinking 2-8 feet from the hole, if the next one goes in, great. If not, just tap in and move on. Bad golf, played quickly. (I didn't realize it at the time, my Ballyneal compadre Rob Rigg took the concept to a greater extreme, aiming for double bogey on every hole and putting one handed to avoid bending down to put his Gatorade down. He started on the back nine and I never saw him all day. He ended up with 144 holes.)
|2nd tee shot in the fog, 4:44 AM|
True to form, my first round was as fast as it was mediocre. I teed off with 6-iron in a zero-visibility fog at 4:39 AM. We stumbled on the ball in the fairway, bumped it up where we thought the green might be, then made the first of 70 bogies. We couldn't see the ball in the air until the 5th hole (two balls were lost in the abyss or stolen by jackrabbits), but the morning round was an enjoyable walk in the proverbial dewy fescue park. By 18, it was blue skies and sunshine.
I completed the first three rounds in 1:24, 1:25 and 1:27 with a 87/85/86 that under any other circumstances would have me considering a trial separation with the game. Rather, I had completed 54 holes, usually an all-day affair, by 9:00 AM (okay, 9:01), probably before you finished your Monday morning Starbucks.