Bogeys on Parade: My Hundred Hole Hike Experience

6/27/2012 0 comments

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.

Father's Day Re-Post: A Father's Love

6/17/2012 0 comments
A look back at a memorable Father's Day last year...

I don't even know where to start. It's 5:09 AM on Monday June 20th and I'm supposed to be somewhere around the 7th or 8th hole of my 108+ hole journey right now. Instead I'm laying in bed wide awake trying to process everything that's happened over the last 24 hours. A short recap:

- I teed it up with my beautiful wife Sue for our first time together at Ballyneal
- 10 days after playing one of my worst rounds ever, I did a complete 180 and played well enough to go toe-to-toe straight up against the reigning club champion.
- I spent the afternoon with Ben Cox and his wonderful family. I got to play with Ben for his first two holes after his skiing accident, then the rest of the front nine with his father, Ken.
- I got to spent quality time with friends and other guests huddled up in the basement of the Ballyneal restaurant praying that a tornado didn't rip the roof off.
- I got to deal with the disappointment of hearing the words "there's no way you can do your marathon tomorrow" due to the huge hail storm that tore through the course.

Any of one of these topics could probably be a chapter in Volume 2 of One Divot at a Time (hypothetically speaking), but the one that plays out over and over in my mind is obviously the two holes with Ben and his Dad. In an ironic twist of fate, what on the surface would be a nightmare scenario for me and most golfers - getting paired up with a father and son on a Sunday afternoon on a 45 minute per hole pace, turned out to be the highlight of my golfing life.

After getting to know Ben over the last couple months, I knew he would do great. Ben is nothing if not determined, and with his engineering brain always working, I knew he'd figure out how to make the golf swing on the adaptive cart work. I knew with his patience and positive attitude, he wouldn't get frustrated over the misses and the do-overs. And I knew he would continue to be an inspiration to everyone he met the same way he's been an inspiration to me.

What really stuck out with me and what I want to focus on is Ken and the special father-son relationship between Ken and Ben. As a father of three, it was an extremely humbling experience. On Father's Day especially.

I hadn't had the chance to meet Ken prior to yesterday. We had spoken on the phone and traded a few text messages, but had yet to meet in person. Of course, the reason I hadn't met him was because he's been working full time at his day job then spending most of the night trying to renovate their house to prepare for Ben's return. That was Exhibit A.

Exhibit B was the Denver Post article from last week. Talking to numerous friends and colleagues about Benjamin Hochman's piece, many pointed out one of two things: a) the family's tremendous faith in God that He is working this accident into something bigger and better and b) the pain that the father must be going through being on the slopes with Ben as he made that life-altering jump.

That was really all I knew about Ken prior to yesterday at 1:30 PM. By 4:30 PM, he was enshrined into my personal Dad Hall of Fame.

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