I've golfed in one other scramble, a couple years ago, but that was on a par-3 course, so I really didn't count that.
Now I can say I've played on a big boy's course. And the results, while they could have been a shot or two better, made me hungry to go back out and give it another try.
It was the cause that got me to agree to the scramble in the first place, as these days I'm not getting out on the course nearly as much as I used to. Our local autism chapter sponsored the tournament, and my buddy's son is autistic. He and his wife were two of the organizers of the event, so it made sense that three-quarters of our four-man dart team should go hack it up on the course for a day.
My other buddy's father-in-law rounded out our foursome, and I don't think any of us had big expectations for the day, except to hit a couple/few shots that we weren't embarrassed to call our own, and enjoy a couple cold beverages on a gorgeous July day. None of us are tremendously hideous golfers, but none of us are Tiger Woods, either.
I got pretty excited for the whole event, cleaning up my clubs the night before, and digging through every pocket of my golf bag. I didn't count 'em all...but I'm pretty sure I found about a hundred golf balls in there. (several of which will have to be deposited, driver-style, into the lake off the dock next time I go up nort.)
I cleaned up my golf shoes that I haven't worn in three or more years, and I reached high on a shelf in my closet and pulled out a couple new sleeves of my favorite golf ball...the Molitor Scary Long, by Spalding.
Now, it's not my favorite because it's a two- or three-piece ball, or it's got a balata cover or whatever other technical reason you can dream up for liking a golf ball. Nope. I like this ball because it's....."Scary Long!" (says so right there on the ball.) And because when they were available, they were nine bucks for fifteen balls.
When we used to golf a couple times a week, my buddies probably got so tired of hearing me say, "Scary lonnngg!" a dozen times each round. And rather than pronounce it "Molitor" like the former baseball player Paul Molitor...I'd always say "Moli-TOR." Don't ask me why. But I did it again on Sunday. Many times over. And I had a blast.
The tournament was held at The National Course at Fox Hills, a course I knew very well once upon a time, because I had a job there my first summer out of high school...which was the summer it opened.
I shoveled more than my share of shovels full of limestone onto the cart paths (which have since been replaced by asphalt...all my hard work, paved over!) and woke up at ungodly hours of the morning to mow the greens. Employees had free golfing privileges, and I bet I can count on three fingers the number of times I golfed that summer. (I was still a tennis player then...not a golfer. Not that I'm a golfer now, either, but...)
So anyway...we get to our first tee (which was the 10th), and no one wants to be the one to duff the first shot, so I take it upon myself to tee up a Moli-TOR, and send one out there far enough to be good, and in the short grass.
My tournament's officially a success. I can pack it in...let's go home.
The other guys aren't any better on their drives, so we use my shot in the fairway, and I send another shot up near the green, a little to the left, but pin high. That one's playable, too. We chip it on and put it in the hole for a par. Smooth start.
Our second hole is a par-3 over water, and the prize for a hole-in-one is a new car. I send a nice easy 5-wood (shut up) through the air and it lands on the green...but it's about 25 feet from the hole. (I like my car, anyway.) Two putts and we're in for another par.
Just as I start to think that this game is pretty easy, I step up to the next tee and my Scary Long turns into a Scary HIGH. I'm pretty sure I knocked down a seagull with that ball, and it landed maybe ten yards in front of the women's tee. "I should have gone home after my first drive," I mumble to myself.
The rest of our round was filled with different guys stepping up at different times, and coming through with shots that kept us in it. We might not have done anything fancy, but we did OK. A couple downhill 10-footers for birdies, and sixteen pars, and we found the clubhouse at 2-under. (I would add here that I made one of those birdie putts, but that might sound like bragging. So I'll leave that part out.)
We had plenty of decent looks at birdie putts during our round, from eight, ten, twelve feet away. My buddy's father-in-law's mantra was, "Never leave a birdie putt short." And time and time...and time...again, we left 'em short. I was the biggest culprit. My putter and my brain just didn't know how to work together. I hit twelve-foot putts nine feet, and I hit thirty-foot putts twenty-two feet. And I got a little frustrated.
But then I recalled how many times I've golfed in the past three years (like...fewer than ten), and I reached for my beer and looked forward to teeing off on the next hole.
Realistically, we had a good chance at finishing around 5-under. And that would have been a good number. Because when we went in for the post-golf dinner and raffle and awards ceremony, we learned that the winning score was.........3-under.
That speaks more to the fact that the 16 teams in the field were pretty average golfers than it does to the fact that we were good enough to finish only one stroke out of first place. I would guess that in a competitive scramble, a winning score would be closer to 10-under, but I can't say for sure.
It still would have been sweet to win it, though. Fifty bucks a man for placing first...and an evening of "What ifs" and "If onlys" for the runners-up.
I also bought forty bucks worth of raffle tickets.
And guess what I won there.
It was for a good cause...
...and I can't wait to tee off next year.
"Golf is a game whose aim is to hit
a very small ball into an even smaller hole,
with weapons singularly ill-designed
for the purpose."