As I write this, the inside of my right arm has flourished, if not flowered, into a wonderful rainbow of color. The bruise centers on black and fades through violet to subtle and delicate shades of yellow. But how did I come by this noble injury you may well ask? And herein lies the next adventure of the wayward hacker. As you will have discovered, if you have read my previous columns, my relationship with golf is very personal and largely a lonely if not completely solitary one. Overwhelmingly, I play alone, largely for the safety of other golfers and especially the innocent public to help save what the military call ‘collateral damage.’ I tramp the swathes of rough in noble isolation. Well actually, its hard to get anyone to play with me twice! I can count on one hand the number of competitions I have ever been in. However, this day was one of the exceptions. As part of a special conference I was attending, the afternoon was given over to practical examination of so-called, skilled performance. This examination was to be conducted communally on the golf course – and what a course it was. When I tell you they have played the ‘Q’ (PGA Qualifying Tournament) school on this course, and that it lies in the environs of Central Florida, I’m sure you’ll be able to find it easily enough. The facility has two courses and ours was of the curved, feline variety. Having previously played this track once, I was already nervous, as it is a test that is largely beyond my bag.
The game was foursomes and my partner and I were part of a faux “Ryder Cup” competition, pitting Eastern US residents versus their Western cousins. Handicaps were in play and as the identifiable hacker I received the maximum 24 shots (that’s one on each hole and two on the more difficult which sounds just great until you actually tee off). The first is a reasonably open par 5 and my partner (whom I shall call Ed because his name was Ed) sent his tee shot a long way but much left of the fairway, we’re already in trouble! The opposition (whom I shall call Dave and Dave, for that was their names) are in good shape but I have come out of the box well and am not far behind in the semi-rough. Ed is out of the hole but I get a reasonable second and a good wedge to within 10 feet (there in net two). Of course, I don’t sink the real bird but get a net bird and remarkably we take the lead at one up. The second is one of the hardest on the course which is a mixed blessing because I get two strokes. The other guys are playing off between eight and ten and so also get one here. Although I have a long drive, its wide and I waste one of my strokes having to wedge across a line of trees that I’m close to. I waste a couple more but my partner has a three footer to win the hole and put us two up. We leave still one up with Ed fuming internally but still sunny externally. As I look across I think to myself, I know that feeling. Missing from three feet has become such a specialty I’m thinking of going into coaching – well commentating at least.
Hole number three is a simple par 4 and we walk off tied again, although both Ed and I had a shot at winning it. I’ve got a strange feeling we’re going to regret these misses (well of course I have, I’m writing this after the round is well over!). Four is a straight par 5 and one Dave is off left in trouble and the other out right. Ed is long and straight and I hit a low runner and so we’re again looking rosy but second shots show that golf is a great equalizer. By the time we’re all putting its more of the tied hole and we go to number five still one up. And now the tragedy begins. Five is a relatively innocuous par 4 and our team bombs it. Again, one Dave is in the bunker left and the other Dave is short right, but both Ed and I have hit straight and slightly through the fairway and we’re both looking at 80 yards from virtually the same angle. Good huh! Well not hardly. Dave One hits a great bunker shot right to the edge of the green and although Dave Two is relatively out of it, we’re under a little pressure. Ed hits a fair shot but is comes up short of a falling away green, I just plain duff. Barely eating 50 of the 80 yards left I am now in the wrong place well above a slippery hole and a fast and wrong sloping green. Not only do I mess up but Ed goes walkabout as well and Dave One pulls off a great par from the fairway bunker to even the match. Ouch that hurts! I’m thinking with a just a little more effort or luck we ought to have already put the whole match out of reach by four or five. Now we walk to the par 3 even.