Second in a series of daily first-person stories from the 35th Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.
By TONY LEODORA
After playing in almost half of the 35 World Amateur Handicap Championship tournaments in Myrtle Beach, one might think that butterflies would no longer upset the stomach. No so.
For some reason – maybe because I have played the least amount of golf this year — and by far the least amount of competitive golf in 35 years – opening round jitters ruined any chance of getting out of the gate quickly.
The first round course was Diamondback – one of the farthest drives possible from the week’s headquarters at the Sheraton Convention Center, in the geographic middle of Myrtle Beach. Diamondback is way north, and way west on Route 9.
Instead of the long drive serving as a time to relax and focus before the start of the first round, it obviously frayed the nerves.
The short, gory results of the day – the jittery nerves led to a 48 on the front nine before settling down with a 40 on the back nine for an uninspiring round of 88. There were three 3-putts and five more putts that were missed from inside three feet. Scores in my flight ranged from 77 to 104. I’m sitting in 35th place out of 55 players – wondering how I turned a 78 into an 88.
Change of strategy for Round 2 – try decaf.
Best part of the day was playing in a totally enjoyable foursome of single-digit handicap players in the Mid-Senior Division.
Bob Linkous lives in Queenstown, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He is an inspector for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Taking full advantage of living on the Chesapeake Bay, he is an avid sailor and owns a 43-foot Beneteau sailing yacht. He also is a pretty good player and led our group with a round of 79.
Jim Long is a retired high school baseball coach from Brenham, Texas – halfway between Austin and Houston. He now lives outside Austin. He escaped what could have been a tragic start, with what looked to be two lost balls off the first tee. But he found his first ball and made a miraculous bogey. He played solidly through the middle holes before running out of gas in the stretch run and limping home with an 87 Randy Bradberry is a retired middle school principal from Monroe, Georgia. He also had a strong round going before finding trouble in the closing stretch. The solid level of his game was belied by the final score of 83.
He also kept the group loose, with his colorful Southern application of the English language. After making a 50-foot birdie putt, he exclaimed, “I finally found my range. I just got over the ball and hit the ying-yang out of it and damn if it didn’t go it.”
He also had the line of the day – after one of my less-than-stellar drives barely reached the fairway. “That was a USGA shot,” yelled Bradberry. After realizing nobody in the group knew what that meant, he explained, “U-S-G-A, U Suck … Go Again.”
A side bonus, although the tight, wooded course did not make for fast play, we didn’t have to wait on almost any holes. However, it still took 4 hours and 55 minutes to play. Believe it or not, that is not a terrible pace for the first round of the World Am. I am not the only golfer suffering from the jitters.
After golf, the immediate world funneled into the Myrtle Beach Convention Center for the nightly 19th hole. Plenty of food, drink and products on display. And plenty of rehashing the trials and tribulations of the day’s round.
Good news — there is a lot of golf still to be played.