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October 7, 2004

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Decisions, decisions, decisionsÖ I guess thatís what makes this time of year so much fun, the number of options we have when trying to choose an outdoor activity.

I must be a little sentimental, because I usually give in to the need to fish and golf in October. The weather is changing and I know there wonít be many days left for the summer activities.

I wish I was more practical, especially this Sunday. I told myself the annual ďChili OpenĒ one-person golf tournament traditionally marks the end of the season for me. To be honest, Iíve usually put my clubs up way before October because Iím so disgusted with my game. However, this year I must have felt I got a little better. My improvement, either perceived or imagined, led me out to Timber Ridge Sunday morning for the tournament.

Immediately I knew I was in trouble. Not one of my fellow hackers had shown up to put his skills in the limelight. Instead I was looking around at 24 of the best golfers in the area. At least thatís what I told my wife when I got home and she learned that I had paid $30 to play in a tournament in which I came in dead last.

I was playing so poorly that one fellow golfer mused that he wouldnít have to read about the tourney in the newspaper because I was playing so badly that I surely wouldnít want to voluntarily tell anyone about it.

While I believe my golf game has gotten better, I still struggle to score well. Sure, that sounds like an excuse, but believe it or not, I do hit much better shots. It just seems like I still canít birdie or par many holes. Granted I was really bad, so improvement doesnít mean that Iím lurking on the doorsteps of the PGA. Still, you would think I could break 40 every now and then. For whatever reason that seems to be my magic number.

But on Sunday I was sure I could do it. Of course this was a one-person scramble, meaning each golfer got to hit two balls, and play the best results.

So every time I stepped up to swing the club, I knew I had two chances.

So after the first nine holes was completed I was choking down my bowl of chili trying to figure out how in the world I had carded a 41. Thatís right I was seven shots over par after just nine holes even though I had two stinking attempts on each stroke. The moral of that story is two bad shots donít make one good one.

But I still had nine holes to play. Surely I could take advantage of this special format to turn in my first official round under 40.

After three putting three straight holes, I was on the verge of another infamous meltdown. I have much greater respect for professional golfers. Their skill ability is one thing, but their mental toughness, thatís what gets them through to the big payday.

Granted I wasnít expecting any sort of payday. I consider every tournament a benefit event. My entry fee goes to the club and benefits someone who is better at golf than me. I still hoped to salvage some bright spot from my horrible showing. If I could just break 40, it would be a personal victory. Obviously, I wouldnít be doing back flips and shouting for joy, but I could at least go home a little less down trodden.

But another collapse on the second to last hole left me in trouble. I had tallied 36 strokes heading into the finale on the par 4, hole #2.

I guess the fact that I had pretty much written off my goal took some of the pressure off me. I hit a fairly decent drive in the fairway about 110 yards from the green. Then I hit not one, but two good approach shots with my pitching wedge. The first plopped down on the green in good shape. The second faded just a little right with the help of a strong wind. It landed on the bank just off the fringe and rolled around the green to the back edge.

When I arrived on the scene I had to decide which ball to play. The latter shot was closer, as the flag was at the back of the green, but it meant I had to come in off the fringe.

I decided to go for it, mostly because I had little trust in my putter at this point. The mind games began almost immediately after I picked up the other ball. I had struggled with my wedge nearly as badly so I was immediately second guessing my decision. Ultimately I decided to putt the ball off the fringe.

The first effort was all I needed as the little white ball rolled on home for the birdie. I had done it, I broke 40. Sure it was using two shots, but I did it. Okay, so I finished dead last in the tournament, but that last shot was enough to keep me from putting my clubs away for the winter. We surely have at least one more warm spell left.