When I was in Las Vegas, for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association soiree in January, I casually mentioned to RotoWire's Jeff Erickson that I used to play golf. Jeff responded that I should bring clubs to the Arizona First Pitch, where Joe Sheehan, Jason Grey, and he played each year.
I dismissed this, noting that I hadn't played the game in 41 years.
It is true: I used to play at least once a week, between the ages of 12-21. I bought golf clubs with my Bar Mitzvah money, and Sunday mornings usually found me on the links with my mother and brother.
One day, in my early 20's, I found myself playing with my brother, Peter, and his best friend Michael Drake (who is now the Chancelor at UC Irvine). Now, Peter can be a very abrasive and sarcastic fellow (not unlike our father), and he could wreak fear in me, but Michael was no such animal.
Michael also probably knew better than anyone how to get under Peter's skin, and he was particularly good at it that afternoon. In fact, he was so good at it that somewhere in the back nine, Peter started throwing his clubs at his friend.
That was it for me. I thought I was playing for fun (I do want to play my best, always) so I gave away my clubs and that was that.
But Jeff's words got me. Since I no longer was working for ATT, I had a little more time on my hands. And, while I do like to get exercise, I do have to be careful with respect to my well documented health issues.
But, nine holes at a leisurely pace once a week, and maybe an hour at the range as well, seemed like a good path, especially since I basically knew how to play.
I got hold of my brother-in-law, Eric Hedgecock, and consulted him, bought a set, and headed off to the driving range a few times and then Eric and I met up and played nine. I did ok: some clearly crappy shots, but I sank a 30-foot putt, and hit enough decent shots that I both felt good, and had that elusive fun.
The next Sunday, I played again (Eric was otherwise occupied) and I actually bagged a par that day, which was more than encouraging.
Then came LABR (I was checking out courses in Scottsdale, and found golf, with its muscle-memory repeatable process was a good framing to talk with ballplayers), so I laid off for ten days. Eric, however, got a tee-time for us last Saturday (March 14) and off we went.
My game was still typical--more good shots, but still some loss of focus--when we got to hole 7 and Pine Meadow, a 215-yard Par 3.
Eric had the honors, and then I teed up, straightened my left arm, tried to remember to look at the ball and follow-through, and hit what felt like a very good drive. I hit it clean, and the low-liner hooked a little, but then straightened out nicely, but I lost track of the flight.
"That is a pretty good shot," said Eric, "I don't see the ball, and think it might have gone in."
I laughed, noting "as if," finishing with "I probably overshot."
Eric was not so sure, and we walked towards the green and he repeated, that he did not see my ball, and thought it went in. By then I could not see it either, but I tried to be patient, let him take his shot, and then walked up to the green.
Damned, if the ball was not in the cup. I pointed to it to Eric, and started laughing, and he shook his head in disbelief (just like me) and came over to look himself.
No question: It was an ace.
Back in the pro shop, the Clubhousemaster confirmed with Eric that I was the first person to get a hole-in-one at Pine Meadow wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, while wearing high-top Cons.
We went into the Clubhouse and I offered up a round to everyone (amazingly, it was only around $40 as everyone drank Coors Lite) and my fellow links mates came over, patted me on the back and shook hands, while looking at my feet. "Did you do that wearing those shoes?" was the question, and I nodded, and again a wave of heads shaking in disbelief ensued.
I confess that it all seems like a strange dream: that on the 25th hole after a 41-year layoff, I should hit that shot. I certainly was not even aiming for the pin, but rather the green at large, though such a shot is a golfer's dream (I felt bad for Eric, who has played all the 20 years I have known him and had never even seen one). I cannot believer anyone ever takes a swing with the intention of getting an ace, rather it is just an amazing strange occurance among many that happen in life.
But, just the thought makes me smile in the best of ways.
Thursday, Eric texted the note in the local sports page, adding to just how surreal the whole affair has been.
When we were walking to the eighth tee (first time since my return I got the honors), I looked to Eric and said, "Maybe I should quit now?" but I didn't (I actually hit a pretty good 7-iron right to the lip of the green next shot).
In fact, it is again fun, and I will stick with it. Who knows? I might get good.