June 24, 2004

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

While Christmas is a favorite time of year for this editorial spot, Fatherís Day also ranks right up there for the Outdoor Corner. Not only do we fathers usually get some fishing tackle, golf balls or other supplies for our hobbies, we also are allowed free run for the day (or at least part of it) to go out and pursue some of these interests.

For me the choice has been easy these past few years (hard to believe Iíve been a father this long) as Iíve been lassoed into playing golf in the annual Fatherís Day Tournament at Timber Ridge.

This year was a bit different, as I actually did the roping, reeling in a new partner. Unfortunately, this guy reads the paper. Last week I played well enough to brag about it in this column. So I believe my partnerís expectations may have been a little too high.

Of course I took care of that immediately as I sliced my opening tee shot and followed it up with a rather bad short iron that wasnít anywhere near the green. My putting did little to redeem me. After about three holes of that, you run out of excuses. You should be loose by now. Youíve tried different stances, different grips and nothing has made it any better.

Tournaments basically are like rubbing salt in the wound. Not only do you have to contemplate finishing with the worst overall score, but there are all the skills contests to boot. On every hole there is a sign, highlighting someone elseís great shot. You get to marvel at the monster drive on hole number two as you are taking your third shot from well behind where that golfer played his second attempt.

You think about tossing your putter in the pond as you look at the sign where some lucky golfer nailed a 40-foot putt and you just missed one from 40 inches.

I canít drive the ball with the big hitters and I definitely could use some putting lessons. So about the only chance I have of winning a skills contest is if there is a prize for the shot that went the farthest out of bounds.

Thatís golf. Eventually you settle into the gloom realization that it simply is not going to be your day. A golfer still goes through the motions, striking the ball when itís his or her turn, but that glimmer of optimism has long faded.

But golf is famous for its recovery skills. What other sport can you play so consistently bad at, yet make just one good shot and turn the tide? A golfer can score the worst round of their life, but chip one in from out of the sand or land one inches from the pin off the tee and all is forgotten.

The redemption value of that one good shot is amazing. The fact that you lost $20 worth of golf balls and nearly knocked your neighbor off his golf cart with an errant tee shot, well, that is all forgotten. Instead you drive home replaying that beautiful second shot on hole number six. That nice easy iron that you so effortlessly stroked onto the green. The soft thud the ball made when it landed on the green and the high-five you got from your partner when your ball finally stopped just a few feet from the hole.

Of course you missed the putt, but that doesnít matter. All you remember is the shot and it is that memory that has you itching to go play again.

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