So Close part II
The final approach to the Mare Island golf course is pretty steep, and with the twists and turns leading you to the top of the hill it doesn’t allow a clear view of the club house or parking lot. At this point I am usually wondering,”how crowded the course will be”? Once you crest the top of the hill you finally get a glimpse into the parking lot. “Not too crowded, maybe I’ll be out there solo”? One slight right turn brings you into the parking lot, and my initial observations was correct the lot is almost empty, maybe 10 cars. Feeling loose from the short warm up at the range I stopped for a minute and took in the moment. “How lucky am I right now”, I thought, “Friday off, a perfect early summer day, and resting my eyes on the postcard worthy view from the putting green just sets the mind right. Let’s go play, let’s see what happens out there”
I made my way to the first tee, set the ball in place, and stepped back to line up my shot. I turned my back to look at the Napa River flowing out to the San Pablo Bay below me, which confirmed my earlier thought, “I’m so lucky” When I turned back to tee off a twosome had arrived at the tee, I walked over to them “do you want to join me” I asked. “Sure thing” they said. We got caught up, tee offed, and out we went.
By the Third hole we were fast friends and sharing work and life war stories and successes. However my mind was on something else and it was festering since the first hole. As usual I play from the white tees and so did one of the two other guys.
The other player in our group was playing from the tips and absolutely hammered his drive. When we left the first tee I noticed he had his name embroidered into his guy bag; my thought “He’s a golf pro. I didn’t recognize him or his name, ok maybe he’s a teaching pro, but where, what club, or does he play pro and I simple have not seen him play”? His swing certainly pointed to Professional he was flushing almost every shot, and there was another hint; That Sound. On almost every shot his contact with the ball was so pure it made this crack sound that you could feel in your chest. Driver, fairway medal, iron’s it was all the same. I found myself trying to get close to him when it was his turn to hit so I can feel that contact.
Our round was going well, nothing out of the ordinary.
The twosome had never played at Mare Island so I was their course manager. That was pretty cool, it was kind us like being a caddie for our Pro in the group. I would give a lay up suggestion or a line to the hole, something I think about while I prepare to hit, but I’m only able to execute that strategy maybe fifteen percent of the time. He would take my information and hit right where I thought would be a good spot. It was great to know that course management really works, who knew all you had to do was execute your plan... For most of our round the Pro had us both out played by several stokes, but what I like about this game is that sometimes you can experience, be it for a brief moment, what it’s like to play side by side, shot for shot with a Professional.
We found our way to the 14th hole; an elevated Par 4 that plays about 350 yards to the center of the green. As usual the Pro hit from the tips and the ball fired down the fairway settling down in the middle. I lined up at the whites tees and committed to driver, and hit my shot, it too settled in the middle of the fairway. We each made our way to our shots and discovered our golf balls were resting three or four feet apart and I was a few feet in front of him. “You’re away” I said, we both laughed. Sitting out about 150 (yards) from the pin he hit 9 iron and and I hit 7 iron, we both landed on the same side of the pin and from our point of few it looked to be about 5 feet from the hole. We both headed to our putts satisfied with those shots. The balls where six inches apart and each about 4 feet from the hole. “You’re away” he said to me, we both laughed. I putted first..and missed. He putted and made his birdie putt. I tapped in for par. So close to a perfectly matched hole.
We all moved through the rest of the round in the same way we had for most of the previous holes. Our pro leading the way with the other player and I tagging along. We completed our round and as it goes in single’s golf. We shook hands, thanked each other for the round, and parted ways. It was a great experience with two great guys. As I was placing my clubs into my trunk it finally hit, something I didn’t realize in the moment. Call it “the zone”, call it “lucky”, but back on the 14th hole I went stroke for stroke with a pro. Our shots literally matched for that entire hole. A thought came to mind, “How amazing I match this guy’s game, shot for shot. For that one hole I was there, everything clicked”. I took that in for a moment and then a smile came over my face, “I know exactly what I need to do, I need to work on my game so I can match a professional not for one hole, but for the entire round. I’m so close...”