Immediately following my round in New Mexico, I headed north to the land of freedom, Colorado. As I had mentioned in my brief entry about Colorado, it’s hipster central up there. It calls to people who love and need the great outdoors in their life, but also want both the draws of a city and a laid back, progressive vibe. I’m sure I would have really loved it in Colorado, if I had had the opportunity to get up to Colorado proper. Unfortunately, I was unable to get up to Denver, or Colorado Springs, or even over to Durgano. Colorado was in and out.
My round at Conquistador Golf Course began a long stretch of solitary rounds. I had just enjoyed two rounds with playing partners, and the appeal of a solo round was mighty. Not only could I get the round completed far more quickly, I wouldn’t have to think about anything other than golf, or whatever else I felt like thinking about. Basically, I didn’t have to ride around the course wondering if my cart mate was going to cast me to the fiery pits of hell. It would be my first of 4 rounds in a row by myself, and all rounds were on beautiful desert courses.
Conquistador, in Cortez, Colorado, was another municipal course, but lacked the accoutrements of Pinon Hills. No, Conquistador was my speed. My speed indeed. I played from the blue tees, which supposedly measured 6819 yards. I was high up there, some 5000ish feet above sea level, but I had been similarly high in some other areas, and wasn’t bashing the ball 300+ more often than not as I had done at Conquistador. According to the distance markers on the course, I hit drives of 314, 324, 330, 310, 355 (!), 327, 340, 331 and 339 yards. The mishits went pedestrian distances of 265 and 297. I should have played from the gold tees, which measured a purported 7152 yards. Whether it was the elevation or a shortened yard stick, the course needed a listed length of around 7,500.
This round was kinda the shining beacon on the hill for the mantra “drive for show, putt for dough,” or, as I once famously said amongst my playing partners “drive for show, hit irons for a less impressive show, putt fairly well, and do everything else piss poor.” The very first hole was a short, straight par 5 playing downwind. Driver and 7-iron had me on in two, but I didn’t putt at all before the round, and blew my lag putt 5 feet past. Of course, I missed the comebacker, like the duffer I am. A disappointing par, and my round was under way.
Over the last few weeks, I have come to develop a mechanical approach to the rounds of golf I am playing, particularly when playing alone. My main goal is to finish the round quickly. Of course, a quicker round has meant more time for traveling, writing (even though I’ve been dreadful about this), and sleeping. But, more importantly, a quick round means I haven’t had to wait. I hate slow golf, and would rather die than play a 3.5 hour round by myself. Yeah, that’s right. 3.5 hours, if playing by myself, would have me welcoming death. I oughta be done in 2 – 2.5 hours when playing by myself. My goal, then, is to do everything I can to avoid waiting – if that means playing at a more rapid pace than I otherwise would, just to catch a group ahead of me – that’s what it means. It has also meant that I don’t mess around with the putting green. I’ve played so much golf, that I can generally get a decent feel for the greens just by walking around a little bit on the first green. If I can’t, I drop a few balls and putt a few putts. 1 long uphill putt, 1 long downhill putt, 1 15 footer uphill, and 1 15 footer downhill. That does it. I’m ready to go. One thing I don’t do, though, is any of that nonsense if someone is behind me, even if I am way faster than them. If I’m playing through, I hustle, to the point almost of not giving a shit. I hardly bend over to read my putt, leave the stick in, and give it a whirl. It’s lead to some pretty shitty putting.
That was kinda the story on 1 at Conquistador. A single walker had let me pass him after I domesticated my drive on 1, and was waiting there while I doofed around planning my putt. It never had a chance, that lag putt. It never had a chance, that 5 footer.
I ended up playing alright on the front, shot a 39. I hadn’t played too well on the back though, and made a few double bogeys en route to a 42. It was another mundane 81 – a round that I guess I can’t be too upset by, but which did nothing to energize me. I really am playing too much golf. The course offered some nice views, but was not located within the views as my round in New Mexico was or my round in Arizona would be. Still though, to be golfing this close to the mountains is pretty cool.
After Colorado, it was off to the Hearts of Darkness, Arizona and Nevada. You can read all about my fun times in those two bastions of sin here: I Went Away Myself and I, to the Heart of Darkness. I did play some entertaining golf, though, in those areas, as well as in Utah.
I had serious concerns about getting on Lake Powell National, another municipal course, given the yuppie infiltration which descended on Page the night before. How dumb could I have been? Yuppies don’t like golf! If they do, they certainly would never want to play in Arizona. Nah – there’s way too many canyons too see and lakes to boat on around there. The course was basically wide open. It was 8:30 – and I asked the pro shop dude where everyone was! He reared back in surprise, letting me know that there were at least 24 people out there. Six groups out by 8:30? Not sure how they manage to stay afloat with that tremendous amount of play. The course, however, was breathtaking. Spectacular vistas on essentially every hole. It was built on some higher ground, and the winds were a blowin’ in all directions. Any group I came to let me through, and I completed my round quickly, if terribly. I shot an 87. Easily the most noteworthy occurrence while at Lake Powell was giving my Native Grandmother a ride to the post office.
Still though, the views were so tremendous that I could’ve shot a 117 and still been somewhat enamored with the place. It was a testament to golf course design to get all 18 holes put in – there were large rock formations all over the place, and holes had to be built either around them, or on top of them. There was no going up or down some of these changes, other than of course on the signature 15th hole – wherein I encountered my Native Grandmother. A kind of out and back design, very few holes were parallel to one another. So, not only were the views tremendous, they were varied. Just check some of them out:
THE PICTURES ARE NOT LOADING. TOO BAD.
So I meandered through Arizona and eventually wound up in St. George, Utah. St. George was the only place on the trip where I would be golfing during the off-season. When I picked St. George during the planning phase of my trip, I only picked it as it was perfectly located in Southwest Utah. I took no care to consider the weather. An average high of 102 during August. Woof woof.
I showed up, brilliantly, at 2:15 – the middle of the afternoon. It was hot as hell. Of course, I had no trouble getting on the course. St. George Golf Club was my third consecutive municipal desert course. At $17, the course was in good enough shape to get me thinking about moving there. $17 to ride 18 holes! Amazing! I haven’t paid that little to ride 18… maybe ever… A true out and back, the front 9 weasled their way first to the east, then back to the west, while the back 9 moved westbound before going east. Having not learned from Colorado, I again teed up again from the blues (6718 yards) rather than the golds (7238). I hit the ball a long way, but still don’t feel confident enough to step back to those courses in excess of 7,000 yards. Teeing up from back there says “I AM GOOD. FEASTETH THINE EYES UPON MY SWING, FULL OF GLORY AND EXUDING THE MOST HOLY OF EXCELLENCE.” I do like to ham it up, and will boldly pronounce my skills, but only if I myself feel them to be superior. Therefore, you will only ever hear me or see me saying I’m truly good at writing / storytelling. For me, the words are interchangeable. I can golf, I guess. But hey dudes and dudettes, I CAN WRITE. If there were pro tees for writers, I would be writing from them. But, when it comes to golf, I play from the set of tees that is best for me. At most courses, that is the longest, but when the longest is over 7,000 yards, I move up one spot. Hate if you will, but the goal of the game is to have fun.
It was hot, and the ball would be carrying, but I wasn’t quite as high up as I was in Colorado, and my drives returned to their standard lengths: 281, 265, 269, 266, 270, 276, 273, 300, 275, 252. Those are my distances off the tee. I would love to live in Colorado, just to say I averaged well over 300 off the tee. But really, it would only be frustrating when I got back down to the sea, and felt as if I were swinging my club in a paper bag. It was good to be a little bit lower in Utah. And I was dialed in. I hadn’t gone low since Oklahoma, 5 days prior, and had only 2 rounds in the 70s in my last 10 rounds. I parred the first 6 holes, and began mentally flirting with the idea of that ever elusive even par round. To add to my excitement, it was the rare par 73 course, meaning that I would have more cracks at par 5’s than par 3’s – a huge boon to a buffoon like myself, who relies on the big drives and distance to get these entirely average scores.
I’m going to be honest with you guys and gals right now. If I die having never shot an even par round, I’ll be the slightest bit upset. It’s a mundane achievement for good golfers, but for 8 handicappers like me, it’s an achievement. It is in my bag. I know it. I have all the shots I need to get that score. I have the resiliency to do it, and I have the “golf IQ” to do it (despite some recent risks on holes – two of which resulted in Eagles! which I will discuss later). But it’s no guarantee that I’ll ever do it. I need to be at the right course, on the right day, under the right conditions. And I need to play well.
I thought I had it all at St. George GC. It was hot and windy – conditions I could work with. The course, while long, was not overly challenging (at a 71.7 course and 123 slope rating, it certainly was not easy… a bogey golfer would feel challenged here), and I was playing well. Even par after 6. I usually wait until 6 to start thinking about making that even par round. And you know what? I always bogey 7. Always. It’s kinda like a pitcher who’s throwing a perfect game. I mention something to myself after just the 3rd inning. Isn’t that too early to start thinking about it? It is. But you know what, I’ve had so many rounds where I’m buried after 6, that I feel entitled to begin the excitement at that time. Remember that round at Maple Run in Thurmont, MD? Yeah, that one where I was +10 after 6? Yeah – shit like that is what excites me after 6 even par holes. It’s exciting that I’m not having one of those days.
So yeah, the endorphins were starting to swim through my veins, and of course, I bogeyed 7. Then I bogeyed 8. Then I bogeyed 9. Just like that, I was in need of a spectacular back 9. 9s that spectacular just ain’t in my bag. I had been defeated yet again.
I actually played better on the back, going just +2, to end up shooting a 78. My best round in a while, and one that was, ultimately, satisfying, even though my ultimate goal was not met. I had managed, however, to feel as if my severe reverse McKernaning from the few weeks prior, was finally past me, and I felt capable again of playing some good golf.
Las Vegas came and went, and I was now just a day away from California – the destination for any East Coast kid who has always wanted to get out there and see the world. I did, however, have to sneak a round in in Nevada. This would be a challenge. Rounds in Las Vegas all cost around $100, and I just wasn’t prepared to share the links with the same people who were pulled to Vegas that I wrote of earlier. There would be dudes in Orange pants, old guys with cowboy hats, women from New Jersey, and shady businessmen at those courses. No, I had to find a muni elsewhere in the state. It was just a matter of driving down to Boulder City, where I ended up playing Boulder City Golf Course, my fourth municipal desert course in a row.
Another brutally hot and windy day at a desert course. It took me 6 shots, not 6 holes, to figure out this wasn’t going to be the best round. +4 after 4. A waste of a round of golf. The round slowed down tremendously. I hustled through the first 14 holes in 95 minutes! Amazing! It took me a brutal 59 minutes to finish the last 4. An old couple behind an old guy. Stubborn, they wouldn’t let me through. Oh well. If I was playing better golf and had a number to chase, I would have raised some hell. As it was, I shot an 82. Another okay round, but after my round in Utah – I was hoping for far better.
The highlight of this round, amusingly, was courtesy of the old lady in the couple up ahead of me. I was milling about in the fairway, waiting to play, firmly in stage 4 of Golf Digest’s stages of tee box waiting. The lady up ahead, likely playing her 12th or 13th shot of the hole, hit a chip that was far from her liking. Now I’m talking this lady was easily 70 years old, perhaps older. I had no expectations of what her behavior should be like, but if I was asked, I would have guessed that she would be demure. So imagine my amusement when she threw that wedge halfway across the fairway in disgust at herself! She hit a poor chip, and threw the club like my teenage (or, let’s be honest – my mid 20’s too) self would have. Hilarious! An old lady having a breakdown! I laughed. Out loud. I LOL’d. I wish I could have been just a little closer to her, to hear what would have undoubtedly been the most hilarious utterance of my trip.
When I had finished my round and driven my cart over to my car, I was lucky enough to be parked just a few spots over from the old couple. I didn’t say anything; it didn’t feel right. But I had a huge smile on my face the entire time I was throwing my clubs back in the trunk. I really should have asked her to get a club out, and humor me by throwing it across the parking lot. I’m sure she wouldn’t have.
So Mulligan’s, as Green Valley in Sioux City, Iowa, has closed down, and I’m the last dude here. The league members have left. The remarkable open and welcoming Director of Golf, Scott Harmelink, and president of the golf board (more on the intriguing city-course relationship which Green Valley has with Sioux City in a later entry), Mike Neswick, have left. I’m not sure if I’m about to be kicked out, but I don’t want to push my luck. There are two teenage kids here trying to close up shop. One’s going to be a sophomore at UNI this fall, while the other is going to be a Freshman at Mount Marty in Yankton, South Dakota.
I would say that I wish I could go back to being their age, but I’m not sure that I do wish that anymore. I’m living a fairly uncertain life right now – let’s review. I’m 27. I quit my stable, well paying job and left to go play golf and see our lovely and diverse nation. Who knows what I will return to when I eventually get back to Western New York. I have a relatively useless degree, and only have experience running steam locomotives and settling claims. Who knows what will happen? It’s an uncertain time – and a lack of certainty can produce a lot of anxiety.
However – I have increasingly come to know, and this has been, obviously, accelerated mightily during the last few months, that uncertainty is just a waste of time. Things will work out – at the worst you’re homeless. You still find a place to sleep. You still find a way to get food in your stomach. I’m not going to become that destitute, but I’m also not sure it’s the worst idea in the world. There is a romantic appeal of being homeless, and relying only on your self and the kindness of strangers to get by. Honestly, I had dreams of being a hobo at as young as 6 years old. Don’t worry Mom and Dad – I won’t become a hobo…. yet…
So yeah, I am being kicked out now, and I have bargained for 3 additional minutes to wrap this up.
What I wanted to get at with regards to not wanting to be a teenager, is that your first few years of college can be the years of your life most laden with uncertainty. You feel a lot of pressure, you find ways to relieve it, but it’s always there. MAKE SOMETHING OF YOURSELF. At no time in life is that feeling more pressing than your Junior year of undergrad.
I would never want to go back to such a time; old enough to feel the pressure, not wise enough to realize that it’s only in your mind.
For my young friends who are kicking me out, assuming you read this: You will be fine. it will all work out. Have fun.