With Labor Day just around the corner I'm reminded about one of my favorite golf days ever - lots of memories come to mind as I re-read this. (And thanks to the folks at Tees2Greens.com for letting me download all of my old posts). It's a long one, but it totally makes me smile all over again. I hope everyone has the opportunity to have days like this on the golf course..."Livin' the Dream" as Steve Anderson would say.
We all find ourselves out on the golf course for different reasons and with different people depending on the day. Today, I had the great fortune to play golf with four awesome women at an event to honor our friend Steve Anderson who passed away a few months ago. It all came about at the last minute for me. A few days ago one of my favorite golf pals, Deb, sent me a note saying they were short one person for the event and wondered if I could play. My work life has been a little nutty lately and I just wasn't sure if I could commit to taking part of the day off, but I told her I'd see how my day went, and if I got a lot accomplished I would make it work. By the end of Wednesday I thought I could swing it so I said yes...I knew it was just what I needed after several weeks of feeling overwhelmed.
When I walked out of my office building I found perfect golf conditions - blue skies, just a hint of breeze and probably 75 degrees. As I walked to my car I looked up to the sky and thanked God and Steve for making such a wonderful day. I arrived at the Nemadji Golf Course to a packed parking lot and people everywhere. I wasn't sure where my team was, but I figured if I walked towards the mass of people I'd find a friendly face or two. It didn't take long to hear my name and see the friendly waves of my teammates. Deb, Judy and I have played in some scrambles before but this was the first time I've gotten to play with Pat and Carol. It had been several years since I had played this course, but luckily the other gals new the layout and where the best angles were to at the greens. And since Deb is a master at reading greens I knew we would be just fine.
The event had a scramble division and a Pro-Am best ball and we were in the scramble. I knew we had a good chance of making some birdies, but you know scrambles, it all about dropping putts and sometimes getting lucky, and sometimes that can be like finding a needle in a haystack. We started out on the par-5 15th hole and we found ourselves with our first birdie opportunity. Deb eyed it up and for some reason I just went up and decided to putt first...just outside left edge was the call and my Titleist listened! Birdie! After a good drive on the next hole we didn't make the most of it and left ourselves a lengthy birdie that we just couldn't quite navigate and we settled for par.
Everyone had a great drive on the 17th but Carol left us in the best position to go at the pin...we had more than one close shot and that gave us our 2nd birdie of the day. The 18th hole was a short par-4 slight dog-leg left...not great for my fade so when I tried to hug the left side I turned it over and went in the woods left. Both Judy and Carol had good shots on the right side of the fairway, but Deb launched one over the left corner and we found ourslves in the green side bunker. To my surprise Deb wanted to take the sand shot instead of a 90 yard approach from the fairway, and what surprised me even more was that we all agreed! After several lackluster attempts by the rest of us, it was Deb's turn and she was able to get us within 4 feet (man, was she lucky - she would have had to endure us all day for picking that shot if we would have parred!). Chalk up another birdie.
I should note that up until this point we had kind of cruised on each hole, with all the golfers out there it seemed crazy but we were liking it! As we made our way over the the 1st hole we caught up to people, but we didn't mind. We were having fun!
I was happy to find myself hitting some good drives, but I've got to tell you, we all battled for long ball honors all day! After another great drive we found ourselves well inside the 100 yard marker for our approach into this par-4...after Carol put one on the green, Judy pulled out a wedge and took about a three-quarter swing. It landed short, like Pat advised, and then it bounced on and released...and rolled right in for an eagle 2!! You know girls, we cheered, we yelled, we high-fived and watched Judy's awesome reaction. We were pumped!
The next par-5 was a little longer and we weren't able to reach in 2... we struggled just a bit but still had a makeable birdie putt that we drained card another birdie. The 3rd hole (our 7th of the day) was short, but Pat told us that we want to come in at it from the left side because the green slopes away to the left and it's harder to get close to the pin from the right. We had another great grouping of drives and Pat gave us another short approach. Judy knocked one just past the hole and we were able to sink another birdie putt. We hit a log jam on the next hole because this short par-4 was reachable for guys who wanted to hit over some trees. It wasn't hard to enjoy the day even if we did have to wait a bit. Once again, this dogleg left didn't exactly fit my shot shape but I hit a line drive down the left rough and was able to clear the trees and have an open shot at the green inside 100 yards (let me just say here that it's just so fun to have 4 or 5 drives as options on just about every hole!). We actually picked mine and the best we could do was have about a 15 footer up the hill for birdie. The read was fairly straight, maybe breaking off slightly right, and after Carol and Judy barely missed, I was able to knock my Titleist 1 in to keep our streak alive (high five!).
The par-3 5th hole was not a favorite for the gals that knew the course and it was playing about 135 yards up a hill and into the wind. We all upped our club selection but after 4 shots we didn't have a ball on the green. Pat was hitting in our anchor spot and man did she come through for the team!! Her iron shot landed just left of the pin in the middle of the green and the ball rolled just a few feet past the cup. Four cheers for Pat!! We of course made her make the putt for the natural birdie (the natty) and it also gave her the closest to the pin proxy. It's funny how momentum and attitudes can change with just a swing of a club and a great shot.
We finally found a dog-leg right and once again everyone hit great drives and we ended up well inside the 100. The running commentary was that we were expecting Judy to hole another eagle, but she gave us a nice birdie chance by hitting one withing 4 feet...one putt later and we're off to the next hole with another birdie in our pocket. The 7th hole was similar to our first hole but it was a par-4. I finally beat out the gals for long drive and we found ourselves with another makeable birdie putt...and we made it! The 8th hole was a par-5 that could be reachable in 2 if we could get a good drive out there...we were fortunate that we all had good drives but I remember distinctly Deb saying we had 167 out after Pat bombed a drive.down the left side of the fairway. We had a group discussion about the 2nd shot...Pat said the with the pin up front you had to hit short of the green or balls would roll off the back. Carol led off and while I think she thought she was short, we thought maybe it was on the front fringe. I hit my nike CPR 22 degree hybrid about as good as I could right at the flag and when I saw it bounce short I had visions of a great shot..but unfortunately, my ball picked up speed and rolled into the back fringe. We figured we had options, but when we got closer, Carol's ball was only about 12 feet from the hole! I loved her reaction when she saw her great shot.
Carol, Judy and I all had putts that just missed and Deb stepped up like she knew she was going to make it...and she did! What?! Another eagle? Oh yeah baby! At this point we're a combination of giddy and slightly surprised at our streak. The 9th hole is a par-3 that was playing about 105 yards. The green sloped up from the front and if you didn't get to the middle of the green with the back pin, the ball could roll all the way back to the fringe. It felt slightly into the wind and I found myself between clubs. I wanted to hit my Callaway Big Bertha 10 iron (my favorite club in my bag), but after watching a couple balls come up short, I decided to club up to a 9-iron. I hit it crisp and had it just right of the flag, but it actually released up the slope and I was about 15 feet past the cup which left us with what looked a speedy downhill putt. The first 3 of us to putt were fooled by the beginning slope and flat last 6 feet and we all left it short. Once again, Deb stepped up and knocked it in...there was never a doubt after it started rolling.
In case you weren't doing the math, we were now at -14 through 13 holes.
The 10th hole was another par-3, but we were back at 150 yards because there was a chance to win a Ford Truck with a hole in one. With a back pin we felt it was playing about 160. Judy got us on the front part of the green, and I was unsure of what club to hit. I don't know why I didn't hit my 22 degree hybid, but instead I pulled out my 7-wood and promptly hit it over the back of the green. A couple more wayward shots and we were looking at Judy's 40 footer as our only option.
In scrambles, it often comes down to Par-3's...if you can't get it close, you're forced to take par and that could be the difference between having a chance and being in the middle of the pack. I think in the back of our minds we would be content with a par, knowing we still had 2 more par-3's to come...but it didn't hurt to take at whack a the the birdie. Carol had the line but was short, so Judy got up and said she was going to let her ball "go for a ride"...and yes, you guessed, it, she drained it!! Cheers and high-fives ensued again and we were on our way to another par-5. We would need 2 great shots to have a chance to get on in 2, and Pat got us to the 200 yard marker after blasting a drive down the right center. With firm fairways and a flat approach to the green it looked possible that we could have a chance to try for eagle again. Carol hit a great shot just short and Judy also got one just short of the green. I pulled out my Callaway X 3-wood and then talked to it a bit (I have a running joke that my 3-wood and I are in couples counseling - sometimes we have a great relationship, other times, not so much). I almost always hit it low, so I figured a low runner might just do it so I told my 3-wood to hit a stinger and told my Titleist to run, release, and get on the green...and it did! Normally, 200 yards is not in my wheel house, but today I guess it was.
I once again looked up to the sky to thank Steve for possibly giving my ball an extra kick and then we went to look at that eagle putt. The putt looked straight on the read, but after watching Carol's putt move, we all wondered if we needed to play it outside the hole - the mental games got the best of us and we had to settle for a tap in birdie (and that's how we felt - like we had made a bogey or something!)
The par-3 12th hole was another fairly straight forward hole...the yardage said 115, but the rangefinder said 121. Feeling in between clubs, I wasn't sure if I should club up or down. Carol got us on the front of the green and I decided to hit an 8-iron...solid contact but I pushed it right. Deb's hit was looked like a shot right at the flag but it ended up sticking on the front right by Carol. After measuring to make sure Carol had closest to the pin (and she did!), we once again were looking at about a 20 footer for birdie. I don't know about where you play, but in Minnesota, everything goes towards water...the Nemadji River was to our right, so we decided that left edge was the call. As 3rd putter I watched Carol and Judy's putts and agreed that just outside left was the call - I hit what I thought was a great putt and just when I thought it was going to drop in the side door it just slipped past. Dang! Deb just missed and now it was Pat putting in the anchor position. With this being her home course, she looked confident over the putt. We all watched it roll and Judy even screamed as it hit the front of the cup, certain it was going to drop..but it didn't. A nasty horseshoe lip out left us with a par and it felt like a momentum killer. But as I walked over to the next tee box, looking up to the sky to share my thankfulness for the day, great friends, and some amazing golf, I wondered if maybe, just maybe, Steve was giving us a sign that it's okay to have a par, too.
We were now -16 after 16 holes with a par-4 and a par-3 left. The 13th hole looked like a long hole at first, but Deb said it was deceptively short. I bombed one down the left center and we were about 105 yards out with a slight breeze in our face. I initially pulled out my 10-iron, but after Deb hit her 8-iron just long (she crushed it!), I opted for my 9-iron instead. I felt a good swing coming and my ball landed about pin high and ended up about 12 feet away (geez, I wish I could "stick" the ball sometimes!). The putt wasn't overly tricky, but it did have break from left to right, and if the ball just skimmed an old hole about half way to the cup it should go in. Carol, Judy and I all missed (I pushed my putt, dang it) and Deb stepped up and played it right where she told us to - and bingo! It dropped!
Our 18th hole was the par-3 14th. Strangely, the women's tees are on the left side of the hole and the guys tees are on the right - it put us at an angle to go over a mound and put a greenside bunker in play, but with a front pin it was playing about 115. When I stepped up to the tee box I felt pretty confident with the 8-iron I had in my hand. Hit just short, bounce up and have maybe another 15 footer...I could see it in my head and my practice swing felt good, too. My last thought as I was in my backswing was, "hit the back of the ball" and I came down and it felt good. It was heading just left at the mound and I thought my vision was coming true - but I must have hit just on the down slope of the mound and before I knew it my ball had rolled all the way to the back of the green. Had that ball been 2 yards shorter or 2 yards longer I would have probably hit perfect, but instead I on the fringe. We couldn't capitalize on another shot, so it was my 50 footer that was our last chance at birdie and to get to -18.
There was definitely some break in the putt, but it was really hard to know since it was going to take a whack to get to the hole. Carol and Judy both were short, and then Deb stepped up...I had been putting 3rd all day but I wondered if maybe Deb saw the line and and wanted to go with it. It wasn't surprising to see her putt go past the hole after watching 2 putts come up short, and now I was staring at this putt that I honestly didn't know really how to play. What I did know was that I was going to have to hit it hard, and with that came my usual push to the right...I ended up about 5 feet right of the cup and a little short, so I'm not sure if I would have had the line that I would have had a chance, but I certainly gave up any chance for a 2 with my last stroke of the day. We left it up to Pat, our anchor putter, but her effort came up short, too.
Deb drained our 6 footer for par and we ended the round with a -17 (54). It was a funny mixed bag of emotions - we had an AWESOME round of golf...I mean AWE-SOME! But with -18 so close within our reach that last par felt a little like a let down. As we made our way back to the clubhouse I think we all lost the let down feeling and were pretty darn excited by our score and just grateful to have had such a fun round of golf with great people.
With 2 events going on (Scramble & Pro-Am Best Ball) and scores all over on the scoring table it was hard to know which sheets were for which events. I saw a 53 posted and for just a moment thought..."if we could have just made one more putt!" But that 54 was amazing, even if it wasn't the winning score.
With any good scramble there is usually a skins game, and now we were waiting to see if our eagles would make us some money. Eagles on par-5's can often get canceled, but Judy's awesome chip in on the 1st hole could very well be a skin...and not only was it, it was the ONLY skin in the scramble event! WOO HOO!
It was a little hard to hear everything with so many people eating and talking, but then we heard the emcee say Team Davern (that's us!) We weren't sure what place we had finished...did they say 3rd? When I heard the prize, I was pretty dang excited and it turns out we WON the scramble event! The 53 I saw earlier was in a different event on the other course.
At that moment, standing there realizing that the 5 of us had put our best out there today, and more importantly had so much fun, made the past few weeks of stress and worry just disappear. I was flooded with such a sense of appreciation and feeling completely blessed to have had life's circumstances allow me the opportunity to play today that I think I felt my heart swell up just a bit. I took a second to take mental snapshot of Carol, Judy, Pat and Deb and then took another moment to share my thanks to God, and to Steve Anderson, for creating such a perfect day. Sure, winning was pretty darn terrific, but this 18-hole adventure will be something I won't soon forget.
THANK YOU to the dream team...Carol, Pat, Judy and Deb (thanks for asking me, Deb!!) - it was THE BEST!!
And speaking of best days...I must share that one of my other golf pals from my home course had his first ever hole-in-one today at this event! Way to go Darrin!!!
And for Sam...see, sometimes, golf is like life...a roller coaster of emotions, but in the end it all comes down to gratefulness.
Happy Labor Day weekend everyone, I hope it includes golf - I know mine will!!
I love golf and I love to write, so I can't think of anything better than having a happy place like this to write about golf to my heart's content. Thanks for joining me!