Sunday, April 30, 2006
The Legend of Big Yard 11
29 April 2006: Unknown, unheard of, hunk of shit
30 April 2006: Legend
Today I played the most pressure packed back nine of golf perhaps in my life. It wasn't a $10 nassau, a tournament, or the final pairing of the twice annual Chowdahead-Redneck Open with the Cup on the line. Nope, it started innocuously enough as a leisurely Sunday round by myself...
Preface: As many of my golfing buddies will tell you, I am basically a complete and total Titleist ball snob and always have been. I only play with ProV1's, which I realize is kind of a presposterous position for a 12 handicapper to take, but it is what it is. In fact, if I find anything else on the course during a round I won't even keep it but rather throw it on the nearest fairway or tee box thereby leaving it for someone else. That being said, there are a few junky balls in my bag that have accumulated over time and are usually reserved for 200 yard par 3s over water when I am playing very poorly and the odds of losing a nice ball are substantial and/or the inventory is extremely low. My golf bag is like any other, it usually contains somewhere between 10-20 golf balls. Also, nothing peeves me more in golf than not finishing 18 holes - I cannot stand playing 15 or 16 or whatever - I must post a score, even if it is a bad one. I have the Van Halen Syndrome: I have to finish what I start.
Today was the most beautiful day in SF so far this year: 75 & sunny without a cloud in the sky. So I jumped online and found a great discounted tee time at this course I like up in Petaluma, about a 30 minute drive north of the Golden Gate. I am a single and they put me with a couple of high school kids. I comment to them that 2 weeks ago I played there just at the tail end of our 6 weeks of Noah's Ark rain, when much of the course was flooded and the rough was 2 feet in some places because it was so wet that the lawnmowers couldn't even drive in the rough, which helped me lose 6 balls in the round (first time that has happened since about 1989). One of the kids works at the course, and informs me that the course is almost dried out, and they finally cut the rough down a bit last week, although now the big lawnmower is broken, so it hasn't been cut all week. This means little to me at the time.
You know when you cut your grass after being on vacation for 3 weeks, and you just leave the clippings out? That's what we had today. The rough was now down to US Open like 6 inches and covered with dead grass cuttings. Basically if you hit it in the rough, you would just about have to step on your ball in order to find it, and if you did find it then you were swinging as hard as you could with your 8 iron and advancing the ball about 50 yards. I didn't play badly on the front but managed to shoot a beyond-shitty 51. Why? I lost four balls, none of which was hit more than 10 yards wayward of a fairway or green. Frustrating, but such is life - it's a beautiful day and although it is brutally slow, I am enjoying the weather and having fun. My playing partners stop after 9 holes which leaves me alone behind a slow foursome on the back nine. More waiting on 10 tee. I hit a marginally-better-than-a-D.O., track it, and proceed to not be able to find it in the diabolical rough. I reach into the bag and haphazardly grab a couple of balls, drop one into play, and push my next shot to the right, directly into the afternoon sun, and it hits the cart parth and goes into the rough. 5 more minutes of searching, drop the other ball, make my tidy double, proceed to the 11th tee, and wait.
At this point I go into my bag to reload my ammo (usually have 3 balls in my pocket at a time), and I am a bit panicked to discover that I only have 3 golf balls remaining in my possession (and no one to bum any from). Some quick math reveals that I have lost SIX golf balls in 10 holes (all of which were in play, not OB/in water/across a road), and that I only have three balls left and 8 holes to play. The math does not seem to be in my favor, and I start to panic a bit at the thought of a first in my 20 year golfing lifetime: walking in to the clubhouse from somewhere on the back nine because I ran out of balls and could not finish my round. Suddenly I am in the midst of the most pressure packed golf scenario of my life, and based on what has happened so far it seems the odds are massively against me.
Here's the best part- my three remaining bullets. The Titleists are long gone at this point, and I am left with:
1. A Spalding "Tournament Plus" 2 (written in fancy cursive) with a massive cursive "Tony" logo on one side. I have been playing golf for 20 years and never heard of or seen this ball.
2. A ball that says "Big Yard" 11, with "distance" written undernath and "soft compression" on one side, and a giant black Sharpie smiley face on the other side. This thing makes the "Tony" ball look like a ProV1.
3. An old, old, Titleist Professional 90 (a butter ball that they stopped making in I think 1999), that is so old that it resembles the color of a grey whale even after a trip through the ball washer. This thing is so soft that it might as well be a turn of the (last) century feather ball; I don't think I could hit it 200 yards of the tee with my driver. Downhill. Downwind.
I laugh at the hilarity of my situation, and I am up to the challenge to try to finish 18 holes with at least one golfable ball. There is no one behind me; I am the last man on the course, and I am alone. I decide that Tony will bat leadoff. Driver, then driver off the deck into the front bunker, a sandie and 2 putts for only my 2nd par of the day. The game is on.
Waiting on the 12th tee (a short par 3 over water into the wind) for the foursome in front of me, I decide to call Brain and inform him of my now comical situation. He advises me to do what Van De Velde shoud have done on the 72nd hole of Carnoustie and play nothing but 7-irons into the house. I explain to him that this isn't even really an option, because I have already lost 6 balls that weren't 10 yards off of a fairway or green, it's not that I am spraying it all over the place.
I leave Brain laughing and tee up Tony again - he is even par through 1 hole. Although I have only wedge from 132, I know as soon as I hit Tony that I didn't get all of him. I was right: splash. Tony sleeps with the fishes. So now I re-tee with Big Yard 11, and I am basically shitting my pants that I now have 2 balls left, one of which is so soft it is almost unplayable, and I just hit one in the water on 12, and I still have to deal with the natural wildlife habitat left of 13, water all along 14, and all along 18, not to mention the Insano-Rough 9000. I hit Big Yard 11 into a bunker left of the green, and start imagining which hole I will be walking in from in shame: will it be 13? 15? Will I make it to 17?
I walk toward the 12th green along the water's edge, and lo and behold I see a ball that I believe I can fish out of the hazard. It's a freaking Top Flite XL XXX-out. I have never been so happy to find a golf ball in my life, and for the first time in recorded history I keep a Top Rock that I have found. Top Rock XXX-out replaces Tony, and I am back to three bullets.
Holy Shit: these things come in XXX-outs?
The 'good' ones are so crappy - why differentiate?
I semi skull my bunker shot, and it rolls hot off the green and disappears down the embankment towards certain death in a watery grave. I figure I am back to two, but amazingly Big Yard 11 somehow manages to cling to the cliff's edge above the lake. I feel like Freddy at the 12th in the final round of the 92 Masters. Except that I made a quadruple bogey 7 to his Masters-saving par. Three balls left, six holes to play.
Big Yard 11 keeps his spot in the starting lineup based mostly on his miraculous non-water mojo. Bombed driver down the middle, 9 iron to 30 feet, and two putts for par. Big Yard 11 is starting to grow on me.
Fourteen is a short par 5 with water all down the right and also in front of the green. Another bombed drive into the left rough 5 yards left of the fairway, and I fear that my short friendship with Big Yard 11 is over. I finally find him and hack a 7 iron pin high left, leaving a 30 yard pitch left. Good pitch shot, and Big Yard 11 rolls to within 6 inches of the cup. Tap in birdie. Big Yard 11 is my new best friend.
Fifteen: striped drive left again, 5 minute search, finally find it. My 9 iron is pure and lands about 5 feet short of the pin, but despite Big Yard 11's "soft compression" is rolls 30 feet past the flag. Two putt par. Big Yard 11 is officially en fuego.
Sixteen: par 3, 143 downwind. Wedge to 25 feet, routine two putt. Despite having the feel of a metallic rock that makes a Top Rock feel like balata, and the fact that the sound it makes when falling into the cup is not one of a golf ball but of a marble, rock, or tinny piece of pewter, Big Yard 11 is 1 under through 4 holes.
Seventeen: Fairway, knock down 9 iron just over the green. Chip to 4 feet. One putt par. Big Yard 11 is my peyote, and I am in a happy place.
Eighteen: Three balls left, but water all down the left and hugging the green. At this point I already have the idea for this post, and I am reluctant after 5 holes of 1 under par golf to lose Big Yard 11 since I cannot imagine that I could ever locate another one, and especially since I realize that if I can get him to the clubhouse then through the wonders of digital photography I can share him with the world. I make a bold decision and bench Big Yard 11 in favor of Top Rock XL XXX-out. It's 8:05, the sun has set, and visibility is getting pretty bad. Top Rock is the whitest of the three, which finalizes my decision. Top Rock is bombed right down the middle, then despite the fact the I club down to land the ball short to compensate for this ball's complete lack of spin, it still bounds all the way over the green. Chip up, lip out a 10 footer for par, and tap in for bogey. A solid save on a tough water hole that Dennis Eckersley would be proud of.
So I made it after all. I cannot remember the last time I played a 5 hour round, lost 7 balls - only one of which was a really bad shot, shot a ridiculously bad 93, and had so much fun. Big Yard 11 is a legend: 1 under par in his 5 holes, reversed the Insano-Rough Jinx, and prevented the walk of shame.
BY11's smile: infectious.
First 12 holes: Seven lost balls, 21 over par (only 2 pars)
Last 6 holes: Zero lost balls, even par (4 pars, 1 birdie)