When the alarm sounded on the morning of the Fourth of July, I immediately regretted several decisions. The decision to stay out much later than I should’ve the night before and the following decision to agree to take part in a family golf tournament the next morning.
I didn’t want to look at my phone because I didn’t want to see the numbers that indicated the time of the morning. It said 6:00 a.m. but it might as well have said, “Way too early son.” My tee time was scheduled for 7:15 a.m. at the Meadows in Moorhead.
So, I slouched out of bed and crawled towards the shower, hoping the warm water would wake me up to the point where I could function. As I stood in the shower, I began to think about this golf tournament.
Why did I agree to this? I don’t really golf. I mean, yes, I go out to a course and hit the small white ball around the golf course but I wouldn’t call that golfing. I call it hit and chase with the fairway being an optional part of my game.
When my uncle Randall had called earlier in the week to ask me my handicap, I had told him I had no idea. There was a silence on the other end, followed by one of those "okays" that make you believe he has simultaneously thought how wrong it is that you don’t know and how bad you are going to look on Thursday.
That exchange made me nervous for the tournament called the BRAG. I knew maybe three people in this tournament. My uncle, my cousin Luke and my cousin’s husband Justin. All of them nice people but very much guys that wouldn’t hesitate to give you a little guff for sending your fifth ball into the water hazard.
After getting ready, in my best golfing attire, I headed to the course. When I arrived, I went to my trunk to pull out my clubs. Now, I need to explain the type of golf bag I use. It is a red and white Wilson bag that I believe was made in 1964.
I also had fairway woods that are actually made out of wood. The head of the clubs are 95 percent wood and the shaft is made out of the type of metal you could probably bend with your mind. I had recently been given a driver by my boss, Mike McFeely, because he felt so bad that I was using a driver that Arnold Palmer used as a teenager.
This didn’t help my anxiety on what was turning into a beautiful Independence Day morning. There were six groups of four in this tournament, 24 players all together. I was in group four, which I found out was the wrong group to be in when teeing off for the first hole. Groups one through three had teed off with less fanfare.
By group four, everybody who was waiting and even those who weren’t gathered around to watch your group tee off. I assumed from the get go I was the worst golfer in the world, so having to prove that fact to what seemed like a Tiger Woods worthy gallery wasn’t going to go over so well.
I was the last one in my group to tee off. As I placed the ball on top of my tee, I said a small prayer. “Lord, please just let me make contact.” I felt like a Little Leaguer brought off the bench to hit because the rules required me to play at least one inning. I just didn’t want to screw up.
I grabbed the new driver and felt a small amount of confidence come over me. I felt that with this thing, I was going to drive the ball 1,000 yards and into the hole then run around the course like Happy Gilmore.
I have no idea when it comes to technique in golf and so I just figured if I kept my eye on the golf ball, I won’t miss the thing. I settled into my stance and took a mighty back swing. As I came down and hit the ball, I heard a distinct ping sound.
That sound was one I had heard hundreds of times before when golfing. It was the sound of me topping the ball and driving it all of 10 feet off the tee. To their credit, no one behind me laughed although I’m sure some were thankful they weren’t in my group.
I sheepishly walked to my golf bag, grabbed a fairway wood and walked back to my ball. I cursed the whole way for allowing myself to look so stupid. I didn’t think it could get more embarrassing. The golf gods knew it could.
I settled into my stance again, looked down the fairway and just figured I’d hit one far enough I could actually walk a longer distance than to my cart and back. As I took the swing, I felt the same feeling run up the club into my body. I topped it again.
This time, however, instead of going straight forward, it took a hard left. The ball didn’t want to be a part of me disgracing the game of golf and went for a swim instead. How one hits the water hazard when it is nearly directly behind you is beyond me. I accomplished it, though, so that has to be worth something.
My life was over. I had embarrassed myself in sports in front of several of my peers. I looked down at the beautiful green grass and immediately wished I had agreed to forego this tournament. I managed to finish the hole without the aid of a strong drink.
A funny thing happened after the first hole though. I started to watch the other players in my group. They ended up being human as well. One guy in our group might have as well been called Aquaman because of how often he hit the water.
Another guy was largely impressed with his putting but wasn’t too impressed with how long it took him to get to the green. My uncle Randall, whose body is slowly starting to reject the years of baseball he has put on it, was struggling to putt.
Because of their play, I started to relax. I started to not care about score. I started to just hit the stupid ball and amazingly, I started to play better. I started to crack jokes and started to wish I didn’t have to work later that afternoon.
Finally, after four hours of morning golf, my 18 holes were up. I wanted to keep going, seeing if I could get better. I wanted to crack a couple more beers and couple more jokes with my group.
My morning anxiety had been replaced with afternoon positivity. I left the course with a great amount of anticipation and hope that I get a chance to redeem myself for my first hole failure next year.