Carl and I ended up playing with Toller and Stan today. They were visiting our course and I invited them to join us in order to make up a foursome. As a result, they became, willingly or otherwise, witnesses to Carl the Grinder at his best; playing for two dollars like it was the Open championship.
Carl and I pretty much always have a match. I think playing a match helps you enjoy the game more, even if it may not always necessarily make you play better. The great putter of Bobby Jones' era, Walter Travis, once said that you should always play for something, "even if it's only a ten-cent cigar." And I think he was right. If you aren't playing for something, you're really just practising.
After a near-perfect opening drive, I yanked my wedge shot into the pond on the left side of the green and promptly made a six. My back had been telling me to stay home; and when I did that to give Carl the first hole, I thought I probably should have listened. On the par three second hole, Carl hit it to about four feet and made birdie. I hit my tee shot in the bunker, blasted the ball out of the bunker and across the green, and then chipped in for a three. It was a wasted chip-in, given that I'd lost the hole anyway, but it helped lift my spirits a bit.
On three, after a reasonably good drive, I hit my second shot long and right of the green and eventually found myself three down after three when Carl made an easy par. By now I was really wishing I'd listened to my back and bloody well stayed home. It seemed inevitable that I was going to get thoroughly trounced by Carl, who was obviously in good form. Sometime, early in the proceedings, I had told Toller and Stan about the fact that Carl had already shot his age or better four times this year. I don't mind bragging him up a bit, because I think it's pretty damned impressive. I mean, I'm not exactly holding my breath waiting for me to start shooting my age.
Anyway, we played on and I managed to eventually fight my way back in the match and even go one up after I chipped in for birdie on sixteen. On seventeen, I hit a solid drive only to have Carl knock it twenty odd yards by me right in the middle of the fairway. It's really rather annoying to have a 74 year old consistently knock it by you. But, as a wise man once said, "it is what it is."
After this terrific drive, Carl mentioned that he needed another birdie if he was going to shoot his age again today. I hadn't really been paying attention to what he was shooting. I knew he had gone out in 36, but he had made a double bogey on ten and a bogey on eleven, so I had sort of counted him out as far as shooting his age was concerned. But he had kept it together, making a nice birdie on twelve, just missing a birdie on thirteen, and then, after bogeying fourteen when his tee shot kicked left of the green leaving him short-sided in thick rough, just missing another birdie on fifteen and making an easy par on sixteen. Sure enough, Carl was three over par standing in the middle of the fairway at the hundred yard marker on seventeen. He needed one more birdie and a par to shoot 74.
Now I've noticed that it is generally not a good idea to be thinking about your score; especially thinking about shooting your lowest score ever, or about shooting your age. More often than not, bad things happen when you get ahead of yourself and start thinking about what you might shoot. But, sure enough, Carl hit it pin high and about twelve feet left of the pin on seventeen and then drained the putt to get it back to two over and to square the match heading to eighteen.
On eighteen, Carl hit a perfect tee shot to the centre of the green, leaving himself about a fifteen footer to actually shoot one better than his age. I, meanwhile, missed the green on the right and was again sitting in the thick rough that encircles most of our greens. I knew I really needed to chip it in for a chance to win. Unfortunately, I tugged my chip and left myself about a five footer for par.
Carl, with a chance to finish birdie, birdie, and actually better his age, then hit a rather wishy-washy putt to about a foot and a half short of the hole. I let him mark it and think about it for a minute or two while I set about holing my five footer for par. I picked my ball out of the hole and then tossed Carl his marker, conceding his putt for the half. I was grateful to have managed to square the match, particularly since I didn't have the two bucks in my pocket to pay him had I lost. I find it rather stressful to play for money when I don't have any cash on me. I think Lee Trevino spoke about that; saying that real pressure was having to make a putt when it's for ten bucks and you only have two bucks on you.
So, Carl shot his age again today. Okay, it wasn't an official result, since it was match play and I'd given Carl a couple of short putts during the round. But it was close enough.
I can only hope to live long enough to someday shoot my age. I'm 60, and my best score is 65. So, I don't see it happening for me any time soon. Carl, on the other hand, is starting to make a regular habit of it. In fact, he recently shot 70 at Timber Ridge, near Brighton, Ontario. As for Toller and Stan; I don't know what they shot, but they were good fun to play with. I just hope they enjoyed their day as much as Carl and I did.