Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Member-Member Rundown

Last weekend I played the final truly meaningful event* of the FGR's 2013 golf season - the Blah Blah Country Club (real name withheld) 2013 Gentlemen's Member-Member Tournament and by now you know that if I'm bothering to write about it, then it either turned out really well or it was a Jaguarian failure (we can at least get a new word out of this Jacksonville debacle). Let me preface the following account by stating that I entered this thing with less mojo than Rocky had in his first fight with Clubber Lang. I stood on the tee as a 5 handicap who had not broken 80 in almost ten weeks and what was even more troubling was that I didn't really care. My attitude towards the game could be summed up by the scene in Mel Brooks' History of the World: Part I when the two stoned Roman soldiers had the following exchange:
Who's up for some golf . . . YAYYY!!!

Soldier A: "Do you care if it falls?"

Soldier B: "What?"

Soldier A: "The Roman Empire."

Soldier B: "Fuck it."

Just replace the word "falls" with "rises" and the words "Roman Empire" with "your handicap" and I was Soldier B. So of course I hit my opening tee shot to three feet for a birdie and that may have been the whole tournament right there. My psyche was so fragile that a tee shot in the bunker followed by a ho-hum bogey may have resulted in a "check please" situation. But lucky for me (and my future relationship with my partner), it didn't go that way. In fact, over the five nine-hole matches** we played, I was two under on the opening holes with two birdies and three pars including a nice little 20 foot curler in the fourth match that appeared to be cruising along whistling a tune when it stopped and said, "half price lap dances?" then looked both ways to make sure none of his wife's friends were around and ducked-in the side door.

I'm not going to bore you with the full blow-by-blow but I will say that we entered the final nine with a half point lead on our next opponents who also happened to be two of the guys we play with all freakin' summer. It was win or go home for them and win or tie and go home for us. We were one up when I birdied the 5th hole (for those Blah Blah Country Club members keeping track, we started on the 3rd hole so our 5th was the actual 7th) to put us two up and things were looking good as we would only have to win one more hole or halve two of the last four to win the flight. We then of course lost the next hole to a birdie, halved the 7th hole and, just to keep things exciting, I three-putted the 8th to even-up the match.

As we all stood on the last green lining-up 10-20 foot par putts, I saw one final meltdown looming and fully anticipated politely shaking hands, walking straight to my car and driving-off the property . . . forever. The golf gods, however, must have figured that one soul crushing defeat per season is enough and guided my partner's putt into the hole. I stood there for a moment in a state of disbelief thinking "the game likes me . . . it really, really likes me." I then made a beeline for the bar to get "primed" for the playoff.

" . . . divide by the sandbag factor . . ."
The playoff format is as follows: (1) both players tee off; (2) one ball is selected and the team plays alternate shot from there until the ball is holed; (3) the whole field (in this case six teams I think) plays together and strokes are awarded based on the combined handicap of the teammates, the handicap number of the hole and one of the formulas on the chalkboard in Good Will Hunting.

The first hole was the no. 5 handicap so we, along with everyone else except the guys from the top flight, were getting a stroke (we were in the second flight so we should have had an advantage). We both hit the fairway and decided that I would hit the approach which I knocked to the same spot from where I had three-putted about an hour before. My partner hit a C+ putt which left me a five footer for the par net birdie we would need to continue. Every other team but one had already made net par or worse so, if I missed, the playoff would be over and we would finish in a five-way tie for second. After watching me weave my way up to the ball, the other team in the mix must have been all over each other like Judge Smails and Dr. Beeper after Smails drained the Billy Baroo putt. Unfortunately for them, they didn't know what they were up against at that point. There was nothing about my putt that wasn't perfect. Stroke, speed and line . . . center of the cup. (I'm still getting chills when I think about the prospect of missing it).

The second hole is the toughest on the course - 430 yards with trees right, out of bounds left and a green that has no bailout option. It was getting colder and darker (at least it was in my head) and the ball was not flying. My partner did me a huge solid by absolutely smoking his best drive of the weekend right down the middle. (I think my drive went 120 yards into a fairway bunker). Our opponents had to have about 200 yards to the green for their approach and I couldn't watch as the guy who had just hit a perfect 3-wood from about that distance on the previous hole took his club back. Then I heard the applause, looked-up and saw the ball 20 feet from the hole and you have to be f*cking kidding me. I had 155 yards which would normally be a solid 7-iron, however, short was not an option, it was cold and the odds of me hitting a "solid" iron shot at that point were well south of 50/50 so I went with the choke-down 6 and smacked it right in the center of the green. A pair of two-putts and we were on to the par three 9th.

Now it was really getting dark and cold. If it didn't end there, I was probably going to need a lift to the next hole a la Byron Leftwich. The 9th hole is a blind uphill 170 yard tee shot where the only miss is a little short. Neither of our opponents hit what appeared to be good shots. When my partner hit his, it looked perfect and judging by the applause a few seconds later, it was. (I honestly have no idea what I did with my tee shot. If you told me today that I never bothered to hit it, I would be inclined to believe you). The next few minutes were a bit of a blur.  We had about six feet up the hill for birdie. I kind of remember the other guys barely missing their par putt and then me asking at least five different people, "two putts to win right?" I was NOT going to be the guy who spazzed the glory putt two feet above the hole so I left it three inches short, happily absorbed about a dozen "nice lag" calls and then watched my partner tap it in for the win.

Suffice it to say that there were a few celebratory cocktails as we held-court in the bar for the better part of two hours. In the days since, I have been repeatedly asked if I've received a letter from the club (the answer is "not yet" but let's just say I haven't been sprinting to the mailbox lately). I only wish I had some footage of the playoff because I was so hell-bent on staying focused that I never really took the time to look around and enjoy it. As it is, the only recorded history I have is the following text exchange with the FGW and, if I was not previously aware that I have the most supportive wife this side of Tami Taylor, I'm pretty sure this confirms it.

"Oh my God he's never going to
shut-up if/when he gets home."
FGR: (4:47 p.m.) We won the flight. In a playoff.

FGR: (5:55 p.m.) Holy shit we just won the whole thing!!!

FGW: (6:41 p.m.) Awesome! We just got home from Dundalk.***

FGR: (8:03 p.m.) Waiting for a ride home.

FGW (8:05 p.m.) No rush - have fun.

(It was later pointed-out to me that "No rush - have fun" may have meant, "don't come home until I'm asleep" . . . I can live with that).


* Cut to the FGW rolling her eyes at that one.

** The format is a six team flight with two players on each team. You play each of the other teams in the flight in a nine hole match where you get a point if you win a hole, half a point if you tie a hole and squadoosh if you lose a hole. There aren't many strokes involved because you're flighted with teams that have roughly the same combined handicap. Your best friend in this format is the opponent who is a 9 and thinks he's a 5. It's a little bit like that line from Rounders. "If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker." I was pretty sure I was the sucker.

"Welcome to
Dundalk Hon!"
*** For those not familiar, if the Baltimore area were the human body, Dundalk would unfairly be regarded as the space between its third and fourth toe at best and its armpit at worst. I say "unfairly" because most people from Baltimore have never actually been to Dundalk. But, because most of the hack local morning radio D.J.s use it as their go to punchline, it gets a bad rap when really it's just a blue-collar part of town - something I learned when some snot-nosed law school buddies and I went to the Dundalk Heritage Festival as kind of a goof and left thinking, "wait, why doesn't everyone live here?" All you need to know about Dundalk is that it doesn't have a Starbucks and no one there gives a crap. (Note to self: open a Starbucks/tattoo parlor/wholesale cigarette store in Dundalk . . . sorry, couldn't resist).

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