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Monday, July 19, 2004

Sports: I Hate Golf 

Well, I don't actually, but I'm giving myself an ultimatum: Break 110 next time I play, or I'm never playing again.
I joined some friends at Austin's Bluebonnet Hills course for a Friday afternoon round. After playing well on the back nine at Avery Ranch a few weeks ago, I thought that I had a legitimate shot at a low-90s score. Things didn't quite work out that way.
Bluebonnet Hills, I had previously found, has a forgiving quality that embraces bad golfers. Its sloping hills kick bad shots back on to the fairway, and its greens don't require Brad Faxon-like putting prowess.
None of that helped me on Friday. My initial drive on a 300-yard-plus par-4 pushed just right of the fairway, but left me in good shape for an approach shot. Despite my large frame, I'm not a long hitter, and that works to my disadvantage on many courses. But I only had about 150 yards to the green. Then disaster struck. I topped a fairway wood, which sprung up the hill in front of me and popped over the other side. I never found it. Apparently it skipped down the hill and kicked right, into a brushy area that eats balls like a washing machine eats socks.
A 10-minute search found nothing and so I had to replay the shot, picking up a penalty stroke in the process. I incurred similar penalty strokes on the next three holes, after developing a tendency to push almost every shot to the right. That's the thing; I wasn't hitting poor shots. I wasn't hitting great shots either, but the shots I hit were simply not the right ones to hit on Bluebonnet's layout.
I put up a frustratingly bad 68 on the front nine, and tried to compose myself for a turnaround performance coming in. It just wasn't in the cards. I started out with a 9 on No. 10. My drive found the waist-high weeds to the right of the fairway, and it took three shots just to push my way out of them. The downward spiral continued until No. 15, a par-5 that looked wide-open enough to give me a chance at something positive.
I mashed a drive, followed up with a solid approach, and hit a 70-yard pitching wedge to the fringe of the green. It left me with a 24-foot downhill putt, which I deemed more wise than trying to chip.
I just nudged it enough to get the ball rolling. I usually have a decent putter, and my short game was the only highlight of my otherwise futile round. As the ball started down the hill, I knew it was going in. I braced myself, arms extended, and as it fell into the hole, I yelped a Howard Dean "AAARRRRGGGGHHHH." Justin Leonard only thought he could celebrate a long birdie putt. Of course he makes 5 in a round, and I now have one in my lifetime.
Anyway, I closed out the round with 57 on the back nine (I was "only" 13-over on my last five holes, which included two errant drives, both resulting in OB penalty strokes, on a hole I would have otherwise parred). Yes, the final score, a 53-over, 125, was forgettable. But ten years from now, I won't remember that triple-digit abomination. I will, however, never forget watching that ball roll down the hill and touch the bottom of the cup.
Still, three straight awful rounds (117, 110, 125) prove that I am far from a golfer. And if I don't improve soon, there's little point in continuing the charade of trying to become one.


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