58, 54, the Par That Got Away, and Texas A&M Basketball Coaches

ThePuttNext Saturday will be the six-year anniversary of my venture into the world of golf. I was reminded of this when Mark M., on Facebook, when he noted that his Wichita State Shockers had won another game in the NCAA Basketball Tournament and I reminded him that I was happy for him, just as long as Texas A&M hired away their coach the way they did with Mark Turgeon back in 2007. All of that got me to thinking about how all that came about, about taking up golf and about how my game is doing now, six years later.

My venture into golf came about on my birthday, April 6, 2007, when Fred the Intern, and his brother Pat the Deacon took me golfing for my birthday. We went out to Bogeyville where we were lucky to actually hit an honest bogey. All that was truly a ruse to keep me out of the house while my wife got things ready for a surprise birthday party. It was also a few weeks before my wife gave birth to our second son, Joey, coming in at 10 pounds, 12 and half ounces! It was a sweet time, but it also had it’s down side.

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Not only was that the day that I turned 46, but it was also the day the Billy Gillispie stepped down as head basketball coach from Texas A&M to take the post at the University of Kentucky. It was a depressing fact at the time. I couldn’t believe the best coach since, well, ever for A&M stepped down to go to… I know, University of Kentucky. It truly was a step up for Gillispie, but hard on Aggies as we knew we were losing the best coach to come along since, well, ever.

In hindsight, he should have stayed put at A&M. That led to A&M snatching Turgeon away from Wichita State. He eventually left for Maryland. He should have stayed put. A&M hasn’t been to the Big Dance since he left and the program has fallen back into mediocrity that seems is a very comfortable place for A&M. I’m not sure who the coach is at A&M right now. He has been so lackluster that when you go to Wikipedia and look at their page or A&M men’s basketball, he isn’t listed.

But what about my golf game? And how is this all related to Texas A&M basketball? Trust me, it is. Every spring comes March Madness, and every spring, the golf season begins. The two go hand-in-hand. At least in my sports brain it does.

So given all this, I got to looking at my golf game to see how I am doing. My goal has always been modest given that I started so late in life with the game and because I don’t get to play very often. My goal is simply to break 100 for 18 holes, or score better than my age for 9 holes. Over time, I have come much closer to the latter goal than to the first. I think the lowest I’ve scored on any 9 holes is about 54, so in three more years… I should eclipse that. But I hope to do so this year.

Today I went out to play 18 in view of the fact that I hope to break one of the goals between now and next Saturday, April 6th, my 52nd birthday. As you can see from the headline, I am progressing. I scored a 112 for the 18, 58 on the front 9, and 54 on the back nine. This overall score is more consistent to the way I’m playing. Instead of the 125 to 135 range I was shooting when I took up the game six years ago, I am hitting around 110 to 115 for 18 holes. So there has been some improvement.

The game today was even more notable because I’m starting to make shots that I want to make that only a few months ago I would not have tried. For instance, on the fifth hole, a 387 yard, par 4, I was only moderately down the fairway facing several trees that I needed to get over in order to have a decent shot of the green. I knew I didn’t need to hit the ball hard, just high. I pulled out my 7 iron and launched the ball right over the trees landing 75 yards from the green. I was a bit shocked. I knew what I wanted to do and simply did it. It was a sweet shot and while those shots are rare, I’m beginning to make more and more of them every time I go and play. Six months ago, those shots were not in my ability. In fact, my long game is slowly coming together and once I get my short game together…

Then there was the par that got away. On the back 9, where I have historically had problems, it came together on 452 yard, par 5 number 15. Today I did better than ever on that hole. My tee shot, straight up the middle 175 yards, leaving 225 yard to the middle of the green. The pin was at the front of the green, so not quite that far. My mid shot was excellent and just right of the green about 25 yards. Since my chipping has been missing I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the chip shot came together as the ball bounced off the thick grass and rolled onto the green, leaving a 15 foot shot for birdie. I knew with the greens being as rough as they were, the crews aerated them this week, so there were countless holes along with a lot of sand, that a birdie was out of the question.

The goal: get it close enough for a par. I did get it close enough for a par. But that sand. That rotten sand. That bouncy sand. That destructive sand. That par ruining, heart breaking, glory stealing sand. There was so much of it. I paid it no heed. I knew I could make the three-foot putt for par. I knew I had it in me. The sand actually knew better.

I swung the club smooth and straight. The ball rolled toward the hole, skirting to the right just enough to miss. The par was gone. I tapped it in for a bogey, but the par was gone.

My solution: pick the ball up and try again. Again, the ball skirted to the right. Try again: again right. Try again, aim left, the ball went left. I never got the ball in from the three-foot range.

But that is golf. My best was rendered a bogey because the crews had worked on the greens. I wasn’t the only one missing their birdie and par shots, but it felt like a lot of the games of my past. I shook it off and went on to score a 54 for the back 9. Not bad. I only  need to improve 5 strokes to break 50 and 3 strokes to shoot better than my age. Maybe on Monday…