On 14 my arm is now definitely a handicap, as is my handicap. These guys are way in front of me and on this par 5 I’m well back. However, by keeping it relatively straight I again earn us a half and Ed does wonders from the trees on the downhill par 3 so that we’re three to play and still all-square. 16 is a long, long uphill par 4, but the painkillers are kicking in and the muscle injury must be stopping me pronating or supinating, or more technically screwing up because I hit a monster drive. It must have flirted with 300 yards (obviously a soft five iron for tour guys but for me a pure wonder). Ed is back some 205 from the pin and I watch with awe as he hits the shot of the day. Virginal and with that soul satisfying sound, he stops eight feet from the cup on a small and tilted green. Ed beams and I beam back, Dave and Dave are up against it now. My 100-yard wedge lands on the back and I’m putting, but Ed is snug and neither Dave is on the flat top. I par but Ed’s bird wins the hole and, at least for me, takes shot of the day. Now we’re down to crunch time and 17 could win it for us. It’s a short par 5. I’m in the fairway but Ed is in trouble and shanks a second up the middle. Dave and Dave are both grinding and we’re up on the green where both Ed and I record five’s, mine only by courtesy of a shot. Dave Two is over the back and out of the hole and Dave One has a twenty-five foot snake to strangle or the match is over. Magically, it goes in. I am torn between disappointment and admiration. Disappointment, because my competitive juices are rising and this has now become more than a match, right now its a quest. Admiration, because it was a great putt. Admiration wins. I can see Dave One glowing and know that in his position so would I. He’s just saved a chance for his team by pulling off a wonder strike. Perhaps my disappointment is tinged with jealousy, I haven’t really made a putt all day. But these are good guys and this has been a great day, I shake Dave’s hand as he comes off – ‘great putt’ I say. Golf wins and the hole has failed to defeat a great competitor!
In the buggy over to the 18th however, it occurs that we are ‘dormy’ one. One up and one to play. But this is a long par 4 and the Daves certainly have us off the tee, although our team are in reasonable shape. The second shots fire in. Dave Two is bunkered, Dave One is off to the left as is Ed. Now its my turn. You may suspect a drum roll and the emergence of a hero. I did as well, since my second left the utility club sweetly and flew toward to flag at the front of the green. I thought I was dancing and more, I thought I was really close. Two putts and a stroke to come, no way they beat a net three. I thought, we’re home. But when we get up to the green, the respective captains of the ‘Ryder Cup’ teams now alongside us, I find no ball on the green. I didn’t just catch it sweetly, I caught it perfectly and its ten yards over the back! Somehow this injury is improving my swing. Note to network pundits – recommend elbow immobilization on next broadcast! My chip is not that bad but still leaves me above the hole. Now we have spectators and just a little pressure. Ed is performing wonders. There’s no easy out here and no, the hacker did not turn hero, but we scramble a final half and walk away one-up. In the greater order of things it was a relatively meaningless competition but winning is nice in any phase of life. However, today it was the joy of golf that won out. Good times with fine friends on a challenging track in the Sunshine State. It may get better than this but, right now, I’m having trouble seeing how.