Flight of the Pro V – Beside the Point

Golf.

It’s a beautiful sport, and sorry, Mayor Mohrfeld, it has a ball.

I don’t play because I’m good. I’m not. Let’s be very clear about that right now.

I… am… not… good.

I’ve been a double bogey golfer most of my life. I’ve never taken a lesson. I read and watch and take hints from just about everyone in any random foursome I play in.

I’m not one of those people who doesn’t like to hear what I’m doing wrong. I think it’s the journalist in me. I just take in all the data and try to make something comprehensive out of it.

I have a few rules on a golf course. The first is don’t have a beer until you’ve played at least three holes. If things look and feel good, stay away and stick with water. Who knows when that sub-90 score may come. But a cold beer can change your focus, and several cold beers will definitely change your focus.

The second rule is I don’t give tips. It would be akin to a checkers player trying to help a chess guy. Laughable.

The third is don’t cheat on your score. No way to get better if you don’t really know how good, or in my case, how bad you really are.

But social golf, the kind you play with friends on a cool weekend morning, isn’t about beating everyone else. Golf is a game of social interaction. It’s the budding friendships and getting to know other people. I’ve been stretching that circle lately because it makes me more well-rounded. And it generates a network of people.

It’s about laughing and learning with like-minded, and not-so-like-minded people. Not learning about golf particularly, but learning about those people’s lives and families and careers.

It’s about finding some of the best burgers or hot dogs around. And it’s about fresh air and sunshine, and in the latter parts of the season it’s about taking full advantage of fall. Get 18 and a beer in before college football comes on.

It gets endorphins going and then you come home and you still have the day with your family. Get a couple chores done, make some football food, and see if you can entice your wife into watching the Hawkeyes or the Vikings.

Nowadays that football food takes the form of chicken and greens. Doc says stay away from the nachos, cheese dip, wings, and beer.

Now the golfers out there reading this want to hear about a hole-in-one, or an ace, I found on No. 2 at Green Acres Golf Course in Donnellson a week ago.

So here you go. The hole was about a 146-yard par 3 according to my Bushnell range finder that I use more for 80s hairband music in the cart than giving two shakes about how far out I am. But it has this button you can push on it and this lady comes on and tells you how far it is to the front, center, and back of the green. It’s geo-located via some Elon Musk satellite piggy back or something like that.

I just like that it plays music.

Now most golfers would say ok, 146 to the hole on the back right side, so I need to hit about 138 and let it release and roll up close to the hole. I don’t think that way.

146 to the center. Ok I have to hit it 146 yards. With that distance most men would hit a wedge or a nine iron because they do it right. You see, you’re supposed to hit the ball before your club hits the ground in most cases, and then after the ball strike, the club cuts through the turf and you get this nice peel.

I have NEVER, never gotten that peel, so clearly my mind says I have to hit the ball flush or on the upswing, which makes me use a bigger club.

So in my defense, I know if I tee up a five-iron I can hit that club about 140 yards cuz I’m kind of a wussy. There wasn’t much thought in this for me. I grabbed the five and teed the ball about half an inch on the ground. Took an easy practice-like swing and … click.

The ball had a gorgeous start up against a clear blue southeast Iowa morning sky. The dew from the shot settled nicely on the back of my fully rotated calf as the club cleared the ground just gently scraping the moisture that hadn’t burned off in the sun.

Now, in theory, the motion of the swing from your back arm coming through should cause your back shoulder to rotate your head out of the swing. In theory. I remember seeing the club hit the ball quickly and then lifting my head.

The ball seemed to hang out there in the Donnellson atmosphere for an unusual amount of time, but it began to arc, or “fade” to those of the golf vernacular.

As a bit of preface, which fits nicely as our golf ball still finds trajectory, I had just holed in a putt from off the green on No. 1. I was on the front side of the green, off just about a foot and then about 23 feet of green before the hole. The putt came clean out of the cut and broke, or “leaked”, again with the vernacular, to the right and toward the hole. My Titleist ProV 1 caught the right side of cup and went completely around the lip of the cup and fell in on the front side for a par.

I had been practice putting for about 30 minutes prior to our tee off time and was ridiculed for such prepping by my playing partner Jay Baldwin.

“That’s why you practice, Jay” I said walking up to get my ball out of the cup. “Drive for show, putt for dough.” We sometimes bet a soda on the round.

Back to my ball on hole 2 still hanging in the air waiting for me to return to the story.

“Boy someone came to play,” I hear behind me. “That looks really good,” either Gordy Fedler or Steve Knight said.

The ball lands softly making its way as if being controlled by some remote navigator toward the flag. It comes down with a very light, soft thud and bounces. It bounces again…and gently disappears.

I turn to Gordy, Steve, and Jay standing behind me and ask, “Did that go in?” They’re all in full cheering mode and high fiving and patting me on the back. I don’t even recall what they said…except for Jay. “I think maybe it’s hiding behind the pin and you can’t see it,” Baldwin deadpans. Somebody says, “No, that disappeared.”

I laugh, uneasily, thinking he may be right, but I grab my phone and text my wife and daughter and brother “JUST HIT A HOLE IN ONE”

The texts fly back – “WHAT!??!!”, “WOW!!!” from my wife, and daughter in NYC.

Here’s what my brother John texts, “So now you have to buy beers. That’s the rule.” Nothing superlative from him….He’s just wondering who’s stocking his refrigerator.

But Jay goes one better after we get to the hole and realize the ball isn’t nestled behind the pin where we couldn’t see it, but indeed it was sitting in the bottom of the cup nestled against the pin.

“In Japan if you hit a hole in one, you have to buy your group new cars,” he says without smiling. Jay’s wit is a bit dry, much like a good whine (make note of the intentional misspelling).

We shoot some pictures for posterity and one that I think I’ll use in the plaque I’ve ordered to commemorate the moment.

We get off the green and move to hole 3 where I tee off and hit a drive down the left side near the timber. I stayed out of the woods and went to hit my second shot and Jay said, “you gonna keep hittin’ that ball?”

It never entered my mind that I was playing the same ball and I should pull the ball from the game and save it. But I caved and it now sits at home awaiting a plaque in a slide on a my desk with the words “Hole in One 9/5/21.” written with a red Sharpie.

The hole-in-one really means little in the grand scheme of things. I’ll take a morning of golf over most things, but not every thing.

Joining the “club” as Tom Gendron likes to say, isn’t bad, though.

But that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is the co-owner and editor of Pen City Current. He can be reached at editor@pencitycurrent.com.

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