We being today with an admission. I'm obsessive. Fine. Feel better? Cards on the table. I'm good, too. Thanks for asking. Except for the pain in my left middle finger, the first knuckle, to be precise. Repetitive motion injury, I suppose.
Over my slightly extended holiday weekend, I played golf three times. I used to really enjoy golf and though I have never been any good at it, have never been instructed how to properly play the game, I hit the links 2 or 3 times a month in my younger years. Then I broke my wrist, changed jobs, spent my free time playing and coaching soccer (both of which I was also obsessive about), got married, became a Dad, found poker, and, suddenly, it had been 10 years since I picked up a club.
A few months ago, Emet asked if I wanted to go hit some balls (that's what she said). She had taken some lessons last summer and had seen my cobweb-riddled clubs in the garage. I agreed, thinking my wrist wouldn't be able to handle it (it really will never be the same), but the price of a bucket of range balls seemed like a small financial commitment to find out. I sprayed balls all over the place, but the wrist held up and, most important, as any duffer knows, I whacked a few off the sweet spot, long and straight and arching beautifully in the blue sky.
So we started to play. Executive courses (not just chip and putt, though), nods to my wrist and her lack of length. You know where this is going.
Or, perhaps not.
Last Sunday, at 4 p.m., the thermometer read 114 degrees in Palm Springs. The wind was at least 25 mph. When we got to the course, there were fewer than 10 people as moronic as us on either of the 18-hole layouts. We walked right on. And we played the long course (we'd hit their short course the previous day, early, before the heat got obscene), Emet's first time on a track longer than 3000 yards (it clocked in at 5100 from the reds). What a fucking trooper she is.
She was skeptical, but I bribed her. My most previous obsession helped, since about 12 hours earlier I'd stacked a guy at a 1/3 NL table at the Spa Casino to more than double my buy-in with my set of 4s (in case you didn't get the Twitter update, about a half-hour into my session, absinthe sat down to my right, which elevated the fun quotient of the evening considerably). Since we'd been up so late, we didn't have much gumption to sweat poolside and while exploring our options for fun, I said I'd buy her a new golf shirt with my poker haul if she'd consent to walk out into the middle of Hell and play with me.
I ended up buying her two.
We survived the conditions and the length. I threw my pitching wedge but once. She didn't take my name in vain. By the end, we were sucking wind and damn near dropped from exhaustion before being revived by an excellent dinner at the perfectly-named Happy Sushi.
That's not the last of it. Oh no. We came home Monday and with several hours to go before I picked up AJ, and another day off, I went and played at my local course. Hell, it was only 90 degrees out. Almost felt like spring.
Here's the thing. Obsessive, yes. Competitive? As all hell. In my mind, I know I'm not good at golf. But that doesn't ease the pain of screwing up a shot you've made before. Or of three-putting. Since I am apparently now going to spend every spare minute longing for a tee time, I figure I need to get to a point where I can score at a level that won't piss me off.
This weekend, I shot 77 on the Executive Course (par 55). That's a bit worse than usual. On the long course, in the heat and wind, I shot 98 (par 72). That's about right. At my home course (also par 72), the most difficult of the three (based on slope), where my two previous attempts yielded a 107 (definitely NOT solid) and a 102 (better, but still...), I shot a 93.
And I'm still fired up about it.
I've never played better than bogey golf. And there it was, just 3 strokes off bogey golf in only my 11th round since I came back to the game. I rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt that I knew was in the moment it left my blade. I hit nearly every drive down the middle. I didn't throw a single club.
Am I good? No. But I can hit good shots. I'd like to continue hitting more each time out. It's said the only way to play better golf is to play a lot of golf. I can do that.
One last bit. When I walked onto the local course (Sierra Lakes, if you wanna check it out), I was paired with another single. There was a foursome, Asian folk, already waiting on the first tee box and my partner, a boisterous 50-year-old who had a 12-pack of Coors Light with him, barreled right up to the group and asked if we could hit first. To my surprise, they agreed quickly and willingly. We rushed to the tee and my partner hit a nice one, straight and about 220. I bombed one a mile. On a line, 285 when it stopped rolling. The brute force of my swing, the beautiful sound of square contact, the wholesome trajectory of that little fucking white ball in flight...
"Ahhh!" said one of the Asian gentleman as he watched it fly. "You like Tigah Woods!"
If that were the only good swing I'd had all day, it would have been enough to bring me back. There was more, however, which means only one thing.
Emet's gonna be lousy with new golf shirts.