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If the first hole was any indication, it was going to be a very long day.
I had received the invitation to go to a media day for the grand reopening of The Water’s Edge Golf Course and gladly accepted. Bulletin publisher Jay Bondurant and I set out for the course about 8 a.m. Thursday.
It had been two years since I had been on a golf course. I wasn’t very good then and the first hole we played Thursday proved I hadn’t gotten any better with age.
Our day actually began on the sixth hole. Chris McDaniel, the local pro from Poplar Forest Golf Course, teed off from gold tees — those the farthest from the hole. McDaniel had interned at Water’s Edge sometime back.
He nailed a nice drive down the center of the fairway.
Jay was next. We were hitting from the blue tees for the round. I’d never enjoyed that “privilege” before. When I do play, it’s always from the white tees, which are considerably closer to the hole. Jay’s tee shot settled in well down the fairway as well. Now it was my turn.
That shot went up in the air, to the right, down a hill, ending up nestled in the rough by a tree stump. Dick Feroe, a regular at the club, was also a part of our group. His tee shot hit the fairway making it three-for-four. I was the lone rough rider.
After a couple of swings in the rough, it was suggested I might want to take a drop in the fairway. “Could it really matter,” I thought to myself. “My next shot will probably just end up back in the rough somewhere else.”
There’s nothing like the power of positive thinking.
After nine or 10 shots, I finally rattled the ball into the bottom of the cup.
En route to the next hole, we drove by Ron Willard’s home. He’s president of the The Willard Companies which owns the course. His picturesque home provided a nice backdrop to the tee box for the seventh hole, a 150-yard par 3 that was surrounded by water on three sides.
“Just my type of hole,” I mused, thinking that “I might as well get ready to lose my first ball of the day.”
It’s a good thing I had brought a box.
In golf, the worst player on the previous hole tees off last. In this case, that was me. And so I did.
Chris’ shot had hit the green and Jay had crossed the water safely. I picked up a 4-iron for my shot, not because I thought it was necessarily the right club, but rather because I had actually hit a ball up in the air with that club on the last hole.
I teed the ball and repeated in my mind the thought of the day: “Slow and smooth.”
The club went back, came forward — contact.
Relief: The ball was up in the air.
Surprise: It was going far enough to clear the lake water in front of me.
Excitement: It was heading in the direction of the pin.
Shock: It landed on the green, rolling to a stop within 3 feet of the hole.
I tried to play it cool. I made my way back to the cart, trying to hide my smile. “Nice shot,” someone said. I nodded in appreciation, acting like it was something that happened all the time.
I knew better, and because of the previous hole I’m sure my playing partners did as well. As best as I can remember, that’s as close as I’ve ever hit my first shot on a par 3.
Three foot, two inches. That’s how close it was upon measurement for the closest to the pin contest. I wrote my name down. Then I had to putt. Unfortunately, I missed the birdie try. Folks that I used to play with wouldn’t have let me keep my name on the closest to the pin contest sheet because of missing the putt. “Make the birdie putt or move on,” was their motto. Not so for this fella. I kept my name on, played on and after the round accepted my award for winning the closest to the pin contest on that hole.
As for the rest of the round, it didn’t really matter. Let’s just say that shot on the par 3 was my highlight. Thankfully Mr. Feroe was gracious to me all day with my side-to-side play.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I am proudly displaying the book I won — “Pinehurst: Home of American Golf” — at work. In fact, the author of the book, Richard Mandell, was on hand to personally autograph the book for me.
The only other award I’ve ever won in a golf tournament was for being a part of the last place team. At least I got this one for making a good shot — even if it was lucky and even if I did miss the birdie putt.
Just please don’t ask me if I made the par putt that followed.