[Devil Ball's The Amateur Side looks at golf from our side of the ropes. If you're interested in contributing a story of your own, read on. Today, Shane Bacon brings us his tale of St. Andrews. --JB]
It is every golfer's dream to walk the 18 holes that make up the Old Course at St. Andrews, a golf establishment that, no matter the rumors, is one of, if not the, oldest golf course in existence.
We Americans long for the moment when you're standing on the first tee, argyle sweater in tow, attempting to find the biggest fairway in the world even while your knees are clapping louder than a British Open gallery.While Augusta National might be the golf version of Joan of Arc, an unattainable creature for us all to slobber over, the Old Course is our Marilyn Monroe, a beauty that, for the right price, will let us have a run around her beautiful, elegant tracks.
From the moment I landed in London, England for my abroad semester in 2005, with too many clothes and not enough money, I knew that at one point I'd be swinging north to Scotland, if only to set eyes on the town that is St. Andrews. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd eventually be caddying there, playing it more than once, and have a photo of the town hanging, still to this day, proudly over my hickory headboard.
Something else I didn't expect? To take a shot at firing an under-par round at the Old Course, something that this past summer was well within reach as I trundled with my father on the back nine of Her Majesty.
I'll be honest ... in 2006, I shot 72 there, a round that included a lot of missed opportunities, but something my father was so impressed with he monogramed a polo with the number on the sleeve that I still, to this day, have hanging in my closet whenever I need a red golf shirt to sport. It is, on a short list of things, something I'm proud of to a point, because it was one of those days that things could have been much better. I drove six greens, but three-putted most of them. I found myself in fantastic spots around the tightly mowed fairways, only to leave with a par that was only satisfying enough to define the word.
But 2009 was different. I was a bit older, a bit more mature and possessed a game that I thought was more in control. My dad took a caddie out with us as we patrolled St. Andrews, and Nigel Matthews, the bag toter, was one of a kind. My putter was not.
Coming up the 16th hole, I had again put myself in a wonderful spot, driver up the right side of the fairway, avoiding the Principal's Nose at all costs, and just a pitch and a putt away from 1-under. The birdies had been out there that day, but were few and far between, leaving Nigel to continually scratch his head and actually ask my father, "Does he always struggle with the putter?" (Thanks a lot.)
The birdie was again left for begging, and the Road Hole was starring me directly in the face. The 17th at the Old Course had always been an interesting booger for me. The first time I played it, I hit a driver in the fairway, only to leave my second shot in the Road Hole bunker, the only place on the hole you do not want to be. Incidentally enough, it was the only bunker I found all day at St. Andrews, and hit my third shot to within an inch of the cup, tapping in to save par. Every other time I played the hole was different. Once I hit a monster 3-wood so far up the right side I figured I'd better stop in the Jigger Inn to snag a pint before searching for my ball, only to find it in the middle of the fairway, 150 yards from glory.
This time, however, I was pushing for a goal. One par, one birdie, 1-under.
That was not how this little fairy tale would end. I pulled out my TaylorMade r9, and gave it a wallop. Nigel, standing oh so close to my person, watched as my ball sailed and sailed and BAM.
Needless to say, if paint is missing from the Old Course Hotel, your check is in the mail, Mr. Kohler.
Nigel, in his perfect Scottish accent and wonderful ability to encapsulate the moment, starred at me and said, blankly, "That shot made quite the clatter."
Under par on my fair lady will just be another goal of mine in the future.
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