Second in a series of daily first-person stories from the 36th Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.
By TONY LEODORA
Today might have been the most perfect day of weather in Myrtle Beach – since I started coming to this seaside paradise many years ago to compete in the World Amateur Handicap Championship. Cool morning. The day warming nicely, tempered by a steady breeze that made everything so comfortable and enjoyable.
The question that arises: Why did I ruin such a perfect day by playing golf?
Let me get the rest of the wisecracks about my round out of the way quickly.
With a little bit of luck … I could have been awful.
If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have had any luck at all.
The day started out bad … with a pair of double bogeys … and got worse from there.
The Thistle Golf Club – in Sunset Beach, North Carolina – was in pristine condition, especially the greens. Then I proceeded to splatter graffiti all over the beautiful landscape.
Actually, I hit the ball much better than I had in months during the first eight holes of the round. But the drastic transition from putting on greens that rolled at about a 7 on the stimpmeter the last couple of days, to relatively quick greens, set the stage for disaster.
There obviously was a rumbling going on inside, while three-putting four of the first eight holes.
On the 10th hole of our round (No. 7, a difficult par five on the MacKay nine), I finally hit a bad tee shot and it turned into disaster. Like the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff that completely unravels every time something goes bad, I came unglued.
I took a 9, followed by a double-bogey 6, a double-bogey 7, a double-bogey 6 and another 9. During that five-hole stretch, I didn’t come close to hitting the center of the clubface with any shot. There were chunks, worm-burners, pop-ups and even a wedge shank … something I never do.
I was so bad I pulled the fellow competitors in my group down with me.
Richard Bryant, retired U.S. Air Force from Omaha, Nebraska, and Ricky Slate of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, started out playing steady golf. But they, too, fell apart. Bryant finished with a 91. Slate sunk to a 92. And I pulled up the rear with a 96.
Denny Burch, a Villanova graduate who lives in the Harrisburg area, was low man in our flight with a 77. That leaves me 19 shots back, in 43rd place.
Rather than recount any more of the gruesome details, here is a look at the day … by the numbers.
3 – The number of players in our “foursome.” There was supposed to be a fourth but he probably got a look at the quality of players in his group and withdrew from the tournament.
44 – The number of World Amateur Handicap Championships our threesome has played in … which means we can’t use inexperience as an excuse.
39 – The total number of putts I stroked, jabbed, pushed or pulled during my round.
5 – The number of golf balls I lost … all in a stretch of four holes.
6 – The number of bottles of water I drank on the golf course … the only good thing about my day.
18 – The number of holes we had to wait, before hitting any of our shots, on the group playing in front of us. Our round took 4 hours and 55 minutes – relatively reasonable, by World Am standards. But threesomes pay the price of waiting.
The best part of our threesome was my two fellow competitors – both from very different backgrounds. Bryant, a nurse in the Air Force, has continued as an operating room nurse in civilian life. Slate, a foreman in a rock quarry for 42 years, suffered a stroke a few years ago that was limited to his eye. He wears a black patch over it and laughs about how little kids see him and ask their parents if he is a pirate.
The only thing they had in common was the fact that they were two very admirable examples of gentlemen – not a rare occurrence in the game of golf.
We all agree — tomorrow is another day. And I finished with three pars in my last four holes. A glimmer of hope.