My home course has been closed for just over a week now, but I have been fortunate enough to still sneak out, er, I mean get out, and play a few holes...this past Saturday was in the 50's and I lugged my bag around for a few hours and got 11 holes in before I needed to head home to get ready for a great concert. I had planned on playing on Sunday, too, because for some reason I thought it was going to be another mild day. It wasn't.
I started to panic...had I missed my chance to really appreciate my last golfing of the year?
To my great joy the sun came out on Monday and the weather guy said we might see upper 50's. I emailed some friends who worked by or traveled by the golf course to see if the greens had been covered yet...two reports back...they're still free of hay! So it was lunch at the end of the day so I could squeeze in as many holes as I could before dark.
I pulled in the lot by the 12th tee about 3:15pm and suited up. I wouldn't need gloves - yippee! I mapped in my head which holes I would play so that I could get 9 in before dark. My first hole would be a par-3 (#16). The wind seemed like it was cross, so I took an extra club and watched my ball sail over the back...I clubbed down one but hit the ball so square that it went over the back, too. The swing was feeling pretty good! I was playing a 2 ball scramble so I hit a couple of chip shots and had a tap in par.
From #16 I went to #8, another par-3 (I love back to back par-3's!) I went long again, but I had to because the hay bales that will soon cover the greens were right on the front edge of the green and I need to fly them. Almost sunk my first birdie putt, but settled for another par.
Next was #9. I finally pulled out my driver and took a couple of practice swings. I decided to try a little more Steve Stricker-like swing - if you watch Steve, he doesn't have much of any wrist action on his back swing until the top. My practice swings felt a little weird, like my backswing was too short, but I figured I try it. First ball, good. Second ball, even better! The swing felt good and my balls went straight! Why didn't I try this sooner? Two more missed putts and another par.
Off to #10...now I'm into the wind and going uphill. I'm still working on my new Steve Stricker swing and darn it if I didn't hit 2 more decent drives! As I'm marching up the fairway with my bag bouncing on my back and singing along to my ipod, I see our course superintendent. He comes over and asks me if I could avoid the tees and greens because they just put chemicals on them. I'm a bit bummed out but I understand. He says that tomorrow might be the day they blow the straw, so I realize that this is going to be it for me for the season...time to make the most of it!
I hit 2 decent approach shots and accidentally hit the green (whoops!) when I was trying to aim left. My new goal was to hit all of the hay bales instead. When I go retrieve my 2 Titleists on the green I see that I would have had about a 6 footer for birdie - so I give myself that birdie!
On #11, I teed up on the right side of the tee box. This is a 3-wood lay up hole since there is a creek about 100 yards from the green. I forgot my new swing thought for a moment and pushed my first shot right. I hit a great 2nd drive to the bottom of the hill and hit my next two shots from there (I love playing scramble format!). Even my irons were feeling good today. I hit purposefully over the back of the green and then headed over to #12. I'll take a par.
I was starting to get in the groove with my new Steve Stricker swing and both of my drives were inside the 100 (I love downwind holes!). My first approach to the hay bales went long, but on my second one I hit it! I'm calling that a birdie.
As I'm walking up to #13 there is a deer right in the middle of the fairway. She's giving me the stare down and not budging. I get up to the tee box and tee up over to the left. The deer starts moseying left and my ball goes sailing over her head. It was funny to watch her watch my ball. My second one goes in the same place and she finally trots over to the woods. This hole is long par-4 (for me) and I decide that I want to hit the green...a well struck 5-wood and I'm in the front right, not too far from the hole still cut in the green! That felt good. Since I don't often hit this green in regulation I decide to try the putt (shh!). I miss and take a par.
Number 14 is a par-5 that can be a potential birdie hole for me. The hole was playing downwind, so I snuck onto the front right part of the tee box (sorry Nate!) because I wanted to see if I could fly the fairway bunker. I hit 2 great drives right where I wanted to and they ended up about 2 paces apart, well past the bunker!
The green was reachable in 2 for me now but I decided to hit to the hay bales on the left side. I pulled out my trusty 22 degree Nike CPR and gave it a solid, aggressive swing and it felt like the ball just jumped off the clubface. Two hops and I hit the hay bale! I'm giving myself an eagle!!
As I make my way to my last hole of the day, #15, the sun has snuck behind the tree line and for the first time all day I feel the chill in the air. The 15th is one of my nemesis holes - it's a long par-4 that I only hit in regulation about 1 in 5 times. I tee it up on left side of the tee box and hit 2 more solid drives. I'm really liking this new swing (and why not, it's Steve Stricker!!). I know I don't have many balls left in my bag, but I dig out a couple more and hit 2 more drives...both solid.
I'm a good 175 out and I pull out my 3-wood. This time I'm going for the green and not the hay bales just to see if I can. One good swing later and I'm on the front half of the green! It was then that I decided that, since this was probably my last hole of the year, I was going to hit every club in my bag. So I hit my other three drives with my 5-wood and my hybrids and then I pulled out the remaining 4 balls in my bag and hit a few more irons. The shorter iron shots allowed me to hit my wedges into the green.
It was the weirdest feeling - every shot felt great! I even channeled Seve on a couple pitch shots (which I hit over the green on purpose).
As I made my way to the green I see 3 balls on the putting surface...I decided that I needed to putt those birdie tries because the Craz-E deserved some attention, too (sorry again, Nate!). I took my new Kenny Perry stance (wide!) and gave it my best stroke on each putt - none of them dropped, but they were all good efforts considering the condition of the greens right now. I'll take a par.
I gathered up my 8 golf balls and took a moment to say my final farewell for the year. I couldn't have asked for a better way to end my season. Usually after lugging my clubs around for 9 holes I'm tired. But today, as I made my way back to my car, I felt refreshed, invigorated...happy.
Thank you, Mother Nature, for giving me this last chance to remember why I love golf. Thanks for letting me say good-bye to the deer, the bunnies, the muskrat, and the chipmunks (I said Good Riddance! to the geese!). And thanks to Steve Stricker for giving me the opportunity to pull out some of the best swings I've had all year so I can keep those memories with me in the off-season!!
I am beyond grateful to have been given this extra day to really make the most of "the last day of my golf season". See you next year, golf course!! For those of you lucky enough to still get out on the golf course, play your next round for me!
PS...in case you were keeping track, I'm taking a -4 (31) for the round!!
PPS...when I wrote this I wasn't expecting that we'd be in the upper 40's today! So with about 45 minutes of sunlight left I headed over to the course again today and got in 4 holes...playing 3 balls and just enjoying the walk...and the deer. It's so hard to say good-bye!!
Filed under: scramble, Steve Stricker, Fall, grateful, end of season, birdie