Baseline Shorks

August 23, 2009 7:19 PM

Rule #1 About Vacations: Be Flexible

Yesterday morning I was finishing up nine holes of golf about the time I should have been watching the post parade and getting ready to invest in some fine horseflesh at Saratoga Racetrack in upstate New York. "Be flexible" is a terrific rule to remember about vacations, and that's especially true when your car dies 200 miles into a road trip.

While the $25 investment at The Divide couldn't possibly have paid off as well as my brother Dave's boxing an Appaloosa named 'Awesome Maria' (his daughter's name), it satisfied certain post-new-water-pump-I-never-even-used budget criteria. 'Bullitt' was a silver '96 Taurus that logged just under 162K miles and didn't really owe me anything at this point, but I guess being partially responsible for this article's inspiration still counts on the plus side.

This was only my second time golfing all year (sacrilege!), so I was obviously just knocking the rust off playing nine. Padrick Harrington's recent troubles with PGA officials on the subject notwithstanding, time isn't a hard core factor in golf, at least not with my "grip it and rip it" John Daly style. No twenty-three wig-wagging Sergio here! That said, and being determined to get SOME golf in during a week off, I was still cognizant about getting my rental from Roanoke to Charlotte-Douglas Airport by 2:15 or start facing late fees, so I skipped around a foursome that teed off just before me.

While I took extra time looking for balls sprayed left and right the first couple holes before settling down, and I admit rushing some shots like Pad did because its really poor etiquette for a single to hold up a foursome, this was my vacation, so I played two balls on many shots, rationalizing that accurate scoring was less a factor than enjoyment. And really, from stroke one I anticipated writing something profound about playing golf under a gorgeously sunny Carolina blue sky as compensation for a dead car and lost horse betting opportunities. I became concerned with a qualitative experience versus quantifying it if you get my drift, and its just a little tougher to do that while worrying about 7s or 'snowmen' on your scorecard.

Without doing the stroke-by-stroke, an analysis that I'm certain is what causes non-playing wives or girlfriends to HATE their man's golfing, it wouldn't be much of a column without describing some high points, right?

I didn't hit three good shots in a row (relatively speaking) until the 477 yard 5th, but despite that empowered feeling I get when my 5-wood is rolling and a good wedge that put me in position for a birdie, three-putting kills ANY amount of good shots. Having the line means *crap* when you hit it weak. I think "you miss 100% of putts that don't make it to the hole" is a truism; "Does your boyfriend play golf too?" always stings, even if you're saying it to yourself.

I didn't actually powder my drive on #6, but the GPS showed only 55 to the pin, and a 242 yard ball that hangs against brilliant blue gives you a feeling in the crotch that ALL golfers will empathize with. The 139 yard 7th was over water, but it provided a second chance to attempt the 7-iron I'd tugged slightly left on #3. I put one on, then hit a *nice* pitch from just off the green with my other ball to within six feet, a straight putt I nailed for a legit par.

At that point I felt the golf gods smiling on my quick nine. Being an athletic 5'10" and 195 lbs., nailing drives of 271 on #8 and 260 on the ninth were still the schizzle, because such pokes are infrequent for me--cue Tim the Toolman's ape-like grunts of joy. That last drive also started the ESPN commentator in my brain, distracting me into distributing wedges short-right-long, followed by two swipes with my putter from just outside the fringe that weren't close to overcoming the greens right tilt. My 16-17 foot come-backer dropped sweetly though, bringing the belief that IF I wasn't time squeezed about returning that rental, playing 18 would've gone pretty damn well.

'Jim Bob' and Rusty graciously allowed me to play along on the first hole I'd skipped, and after cranking a drive inside 100 yards and dropping a 9-iron on the green, there was an opportunity to tag an honest-to-God birdie on the day. I've always said anybody can read putts better than me, and putting less pace on that slight downhill putt with Jim Bob's "try it about 3 inches to the left" advice might've allowed it to curl in. Instead, I wound up with a three-putt bogey that blew the ending to a really good story.

Still, I enjoyed a great steak dinner and finished a car-less evening off with the contemplative smoking of a terrific La Gloria Cubana robusto, just like I would have at brother Dave's if I'd made it to Saratoga. Bottom line, as long as you've got a golf story to tell, it can't be all that bad a day.

As for flexibility, manaƱa is soon enough to worry about that transportation thing.

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