The Eater of Golf Balls

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Steam rising from the beast

The HAC was played at the Tournament Club of Iowa (TCI –link). After 27 well fought holes, the South of Wilden crowd has won their first trophy in several decades. In my matches, paired with the stalwart MS, aka Cutter, we fought hard against our opponents, RT and TB, but driving accuracy, length, and good looks cannot match laser wedges and dropped twenty foot putts. My hat’s off to our opponents.

I have one comment to make about TCI. Designed by the inimitable Arnold Palmer, it is an anomaly in Iowa. Unlike much of Iowa which is flat as a tabletop, this area around Polk City above the dam is topographically more like the moderately hilly parts of Pennsylvania farm country. There are ravines and low buttes. Arnie, using his deep experience with golf as an instrument of pain, has created a monster that demands to be fed golf balls.

These are not subtle tricks of the light that cause golf balls to wink out into moderate rough like at Wakonda. No, its craters are like giant salad bowls filled with knee deep vegetation that swallow up those Titleists, Bridgestones, and Nikes like grains of table salt shaken into a green shag carpet.

Golf is about the mind. Each of us have fears that certain golf courses use to guide us away from our purpose of reaching the hole. I grew up playing golf in Florida, and I welcome water and sand. Florida, like Iowa, is usually flat, but water and beach sand are rare commodities here in Iowa and are usually my allies in matches against the land locked. Hills and elevation changes add a third dimension that I often find confounding on approaches, and the penalties of a lost ball are much higher than for water or sand.

But despite all this, everything is trumped by the ability to get the ball close and dropping that putt, and that is where I failed. It’s back to the lab.

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dropping putts is the whole point of golf

The HAC 2009 -and a breakthrough

montageThe 2009 HAC was played yesterday with the highest attendance ever. The teams were composed of an A, B, C, D level player and played on a 6/6/6 format of individual, shamble, and scramble format based on the difficulty of the hole. Waveland offered a challenging, classic layout and it was spiced up by a torrential downpour around midday.

waveland scorecard

My round of 76, with help from my team on the shambles and scrambles, was a bit of a revelation. I had six birdies, four of which occurred on an individual or shamble hole. I was playing in a different place with no fear or thought. I was possessed of a great awareness and presence, but had no definite perception of space or time. It was just ball and myself, and a pleasant time moving through the grass. Every component of my game was functioning, and even the triple and double bogies that occurred during the downpour were snap hooks out of bounds with a slippery grip, and I played after stroke and distance bogey and par on those holes. The putting was just simply perfectly dependable with an occasional long putt going in.

I hope this lasts through the rest of the season. I attribute some of this to a book I read the night before the tournament -Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game by Joseph Parent (link). Will keep you updated.

We won by the way, thanks to the efforts of MD, TB, and TW. Thanks to all!

Addendum: 8/16/2009

Here is the HAC trophy, also known as the Wedgie, sitting alone among my wife’s numerous tennis trophies.

SNC10525It is known as the wedgie for its features below:

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HAC played in rainstorm

MS twirled the low round on our team

MS twirled the low round on our team

The HAC event was played out at River Valley in Adel, Iowa. It is a gem that is privately owned by the original farmer (who is usually out on his tractor maintaining and will gladly stop for a chat). The weather was drizzly to monsoon downpour-ish.

We happy few

We happy few

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Me wearing a half a gallon of water

We pressed on knowing that without rain nor wind, it’s not golf (the original Scots is too barbaric for these pages). Everybody finished except for the fellows following us. After we clamored up to the 19th hole soaked to the bone (see picture below left), we were surprised to meet them happily imbibing and chatting. BK gave up on a back nine that found him 1 over through 6 holes, including an incredible series of chip-ins. They saw the rain and felt that it was not worth the trouble -there was lightning in the next county.  They were surprised to hear that we finished out, sitting drinking beers dry as kittens and grandmothers. We fought a good fight bringing it in with our heads up -I shot a 90 for the day which is great because of the conditions. The ball was rooster tailing on the greens. In the midst of the worst of the downpour, facing a 180 yard par three, being unable to see more than 3 feet ahead, I launched my 220 yard club in the general direction of the hole and made it center vector, on the fringe. Not seeing anything but the ball is a great experience. Overall a great half day off from work.

So who won? Does it matter? It was a randomized aggregate team best ball over clusters of 6 holes. Teams and post game accounting determined by Mr. A, who emerged victorious! Congratulations!

^o^

HAC tomorrow, and Wakonda Club Opens

IMG_0207Our match played among 20 of our esteemed neighbors is tomorrow afternoon. Its suppose to be fine weather. Game format and rules? -haven’t a clue. Too excited to start playing at all.

I have hit more practice balls this winter than all my previous years -here’s to hoping it paid off.

Wakonda Club opens with its newly resurfaced greens and fairways. Many old growth trees have been felled. I was at the practice tee this evening and it was a line of very happy golfists. Which lead me to think, what fine wives we have who let us enjoy this greatest of activities.

While golf marriages don’t have to be legalized, they really need to be recognized as a double plus good positive thing. When a friend fretted about playing on Friday, then Saturday, then putting in our matchplay event on Sunday morning, I pointed out that our dear club won’t be having such another grand reopening again for a long, long time, and so it would be cruel to have him not participate in what is surely an historic event. Deny that man golf, and he’s sure to start fantasizing about other women and Porsches.