Two balls. That’s all I lost over 18 holes during a recent hackfest at Johnson City’s Pine Oaks golf course.
That number alone is a small victory, given my history with the sport. I’m used to averaging nearly one lost ball per hole.
Having not swung a golf club in well over four years, my final total of 119 — 63 on the front nine and a 56 on the back — was A-OK with me. I know I’m not good at golf, but I also know a lot of other people aren’t as well, and that helps me sleep at night.
What’s most fun about golfing for me has always been the total package, and by that, I mean a combination of trying to hit balls into the holes with as few strokes as possible, but also enjoying the company and the scenery. Courses tend to find themselves in the most beautiful places in the area and Pine Oaks is no exception. At the base of Buffalo Mountain and its neighboring mountain ridges, every one of Pine Oaks’ holes features some kind of natural beauty, most frequently a backdrop of the higher elevations about Johnson City.
When I shot an eight — the first of many snowmen for the day — I was actually quite happy with that figure, given that I had to expose my lack of practice or preparation to both my wife and Butch, a course ranger. Pulling out the driver from the set of left-handed clubs Pine Oaks so kindly lent me along with a cart and greens fees, I didn’t wiff, I didn’t squibb and I certainly didn’t bomb it down the middle of the first available fairway, but I did put it well past the 200-yard mark just to the right of the fairway, which was good enough for me.
It was a fine start, soon to be ruined by multiple chip shots and three-putts that would add silly strokes to my score. This trend would carry on, but I’m not the kind of guy to let poor golfing get me down.
Just like the rabbits in the Tree Streets, the snowmen quickly multiplied. My wife Ashley, a native of par-three-friendly Myrtle Beach, would not see any threes on the day and, if she was looking and not reading her Southern Living magazine, would only see two par putts, with only one real shot at putting one in the cup.
For this distance runner, the vast majority of my time spent on golf courses came during the cross country season when many races were decided over hill and dale golf courses, and though anyone looking at my scorecard might believe my time would have been better spent running from tee box to hole, I do believe a golfing spark occurred in me. There were many, so many, bad shots to get me down, but there were enough well crafted shots to lead me to believe that, like anything else, a bit of practice would go a long way.
This positivity and practice-as-I-go attitude materialized in the latter holes of the day. Though I did close the day just as I started, with another snowman on the final hole — embarrassingly a massive drop-down par-three — three of the four previous holes were fives. The course played smoothly, nothing too difficult or out of the ordinary, leaving me to believe that I could greatly improve on my 119, which was really a 120 if you include the mulligan I used on the eighth hole, if I had even visited a driving range leading up to my re-exposure to the sport.
I hit my drivers extremely well, as evidenced by the lack of lost balls, though one of the lost balls was only lost in haste because I was playing through a foursome and most likely ditched my ball that was most likely in the fairway but not readily available.
The irons and putter, I hit rather poorly, with a eight-footer being the longest putt I could muster. My issue with golf is that I fall in love with certain clubs that I have recently hit accurately. This might seem smart, but it leaves me laying up many times just so I can keep it accurate.
Aside from saying how helpful Ray Weber, Butch Wade and Jim Hughes were at Johnson City’s golf course, thanks need to be given to the Johnson City Press’ golf guru Joe Avento who guessed I’d need two-dozen golf balls in my round, which included some of the finest golf balls I’ve ever attempted to hit. Also, to further my embarrassment, I put a guessing game out to my Facebook followers as to what my final score would be and an old pal named Matt Drollette guessed my 119 exactly. Kudos to you, Matt!
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