Category Archives: The Game

A Bogey

At a fork in my round, on a brisk Autumn’s Eve

I had a driver in my hands, and thought “this one’s better from the trees”

I pulled the club back, and gave it a whack – 280 down the left hand side

A chunked wedge, two chips and an 8 foot putt – I had made a god-damned five

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Tires Squealing, Smoke Rising! The Clutch Has Grabbed And We Are Off!

Bring yourself up to speed!  I had golfed through the Southwest and had just driven from Vegas to Oatman, AZ via the Hoover Dam, and I was finally getting to the destination, if there was one, for my trip: The Golden State.  I had already played golf in 31 States and DC by this point, and 26 days had passed; my trip was more than half over by any definition.  Nevertheless, I still felt as if I was “on the way up” the mountain, if that’s a metaphor you’re comfortable with; I had not yet reached the coast.

California has always held a special place in my mind and heart, as I suspect it has for many eastern kids.  Much like New York on the East coast, California catches a lot of grief from a wide variety of people for a wide variety of reasons.  Wide varieties of people with wide varieties of things to complain about have to have a flip side, right?  Of course they do, and the obvious allure of California, beyond the childish dreams of an adulthood based more in imagination than reality, is the wild diversity of all things the Bear Republic has to offer.  I trust I don’t have to spell out any specifics here (I will be, of course, writing about my 5 days in California over the next few days, and the specifics will be abundantly clear within the details). 

As it were, however, while I could have stumbled across this more intellectual justification for my excitement if prodded as I was traveling west through the Mojave late at night, my excitement was of a decidedly visceral sort.  San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland.  I was going to see all of these places.  The Pacific Coast Highway awaited my tires.  I had a friend to meet in San Diego, a friend to meet in Orange County, and a friend to meet up in Monterey.  I had plenty of things to look forward to, and was simply jubilant at what surely awaited me. 

Had this been it’s own independent vacation, I would have been nearly as excited.  The fact that my stay in California served also as a respite from the exhausting golf/drive/write schedule I was adhering to was also powerfully alluring.  Get into the state, take a rest… you know, play a round of golf, meet up with friends, and relax for five days.  Brilliant planning, Alex.  Absolutely brilliant.

As I crossed the border from Arizona to California, the sun had not yet set over the horizon, and while I was still hundreds of miles from the Ocean, the feeling of “having arrived” was overwhelming.

Image

I have arrived!  I posted my entry photo for each state at or shortly after the time I made my way into each new territory.  None of these photos engenders in me a feeling or memory so pure as the one you see above.  Remember, I had just come from the charming Oatman, Arizona, and was only days removed from my unexpectedly memorable adventure through the Land of Enchantment.  Already feeling pretty good about what I had seen and done, I had the California of my dreams ahead of me.  As I chased the sun to the west, I was as carefree as I ever have been or likely will be.  It was a beautiful moment.  While I certainly couldn’t help but believe I was actually in California (the evidence for this belief was, indeed, overwhelming), I came dangerously close to thinking to myself “I can’t believe I am here.”  Numerous of my favorite musicians hailed from various corners of Cali, and the last thing I needed to do to squeeze out the last endorphin was to get the sound track right.  I put Op Ivy on, and cruised on towards Barstow.

My friends in Oatman had recommended Barstow as a good stopping point for the night, should I run out of the energy necessary to get all the way down to San Diego, and a quick review of the map confirmed that Barstow was indeed the way to head.  It lies at the western terminus of I-40, and on I-15.  Were it still appreciably light out, I certainly would have done at least a little adventuring in the Mojave, but alas it was not, and the clock was ticking later as each second passed.  The interstates were for me on this evening, and I quickly made my way to Barstow by around 9:30.  My journey into California had begun…

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You Feel That? The Clutch is Starting to Grab!

As I had mentioned in You Only Live Forever When You’re Young, my short life of learning yielded me the personal knowledge that I feel most free when on either the golf course or the road.  Of course, both the round of golf and the road trip are pleasingly altered by the presence of friends or family, or even of a stranger, and for many people such undertakings would be unthinkable to complete without a companion or companions.  I have a friend who struggled mightily to golf this summer in the absence of myself and in consideration of the unavailability due to an approaching wedding for his other steady golf buddy.  He played a few solo rounds, but by the time of my return had failed to play for nearly 2 months.  He’s playing it off as a lack of interest in the game (I’m calling his bluff – of all the regulars I’ve ever played with, he has been the most reliable, enthusiastic golfer… played with him last Saturday and saw the spark of enjoyment striking flint…), but I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason for his lack of rounds played this summer had more to do with the fact that his two most frequent golfing buddies weren’t around or available to play with.  For him, I suspect, golf is most rewarding when undertaken socially.

As for myself, I have found that both golf and road-tripping, the two things most freeing to me, are most rewarding when undertaken alone.  Let me be clear: I cherish and appreciate any opportunity I have to golf with other people, particularly family and close friends, and will continue to look to play with friends and family as often as practical until I am unable to do so.  Golf as a social activity is spectacular.  It’s a place to relax and enjoy time with people you like.

However, it is when I am golfing alone that I feel freest, most purely alert and able to enjoy all that the game has to offer.  I will always need to get out and play by myself at least a few times a summer.  The same goes for driving – a journey can be pleasant with passengers, but it is an activity properly undertaken by my lonesome.

I had a hunch about these things prior to leaving for my trip, and if the aim of a “life-altering” trip, as my journey has been referred to, is to… well… alter your life in some way, then I consider my trip a tremendous success.  You see, I learned that I am an introvert.  I sort of always knew this about myself, but struggled with it.  This ain’t an introvert’s world, and I rallied against what I, at times, perceived to be the complex social landscape around me.  I always seemed to rub off well enough on most people, and never had any serious issues making friends or engaging in social past times; I suspect that my pronouncement that I am an introvert may come as a surprise to some of you, given my gregarious nature when in groups of people.  The introvert isn’t necessarily a wallflower or a loner.  Simply, an introvert is someone who’s “energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction.”  (Credit where it’s due – Laurie Helgoe via Wikipedia)

Driving across this country, golfing, largely by myself offered me hours of reflection, and mentally energized me.  It was somewhere in eastern North Dakota, hurtling towards Fargo well after it had become dark, that I unleashed a rush of endorphins on myself when I finally realized that it’s okay to prefer solitude.  There is nothing wrong with me.  Social interaction has tremendous value, and is an integral part of my life, but I find that time alone is most rewarding for me.  When I am alone, I am purely and fully myself, able to be creative and articulate.  Fully able to concentrate on what it is I find worthy of my energy.  No wonder I was able to write so frequently, lucidly, and entertainingly while on my trip.

I have lost the link as I read the article days (maybe weeks?) ago, but another view of the introvert in a social world that I found extremely helpful was that the social introvert can be viewed as a kind of “battery,” (my analogy, not theirs) in that an introvert can be completely capable of any of the varieties of social interaction which are available in our world, but will need time alone to “recharge” before further engaging in social engagements (this is not my idea, only the “battery” analogy was).  If the introvert doesn’t get this recharging before going forward with more interaction, you can forget mental energy and sharpness, creativity and productivity.  This resonates so very acutely with me.  I need my time alone, and once I’ve had it, I only have so much energy to go ’round.

In addition to golfing and driving, writing is an arena in which I feel free.  I feel increasingly free when writing.  Writing is a challenge, yet also therapeutic.  It is challenging to put thoughts together with at least some semblance of consistency; with some indication that the mind responsible for the thoughts is sane and logical.  The therapy comes in the exploration writing allows me.  This entry is a prime example – self-exploratory and open.  Writing allows me to confront my vulnerabilities, to revel in my strengths and to stand in awe of the chasm between them.  It also allows me to explore the world outside of myself in the way I feel most comfortable: alone.  Writing, for me, is not a collaborative effort.  This is me, myself and I looking at the world, and myself, with open eyes.  Consider yourselves blessed that I’m letting you in.

To have the mental energy to write with the frequency and at the quality I expect of myself, my “introvert battery” needs to be fully charged.  Upon my return to Pennsylvania, I hadn’t really had much of an opportunity to charge up, if you will.  Their only son returning home meant that my parents wanted to spend time with me.  A lot of time.  And I was happy to oblige – I love my parents and get to see them a few times a year.  We ate nearly every meal together, watched television as a family, went for walks…. just did stuff, together, for nearly two weeks.  We went to Philadelphia, New Jersey and DC, together.  It was a pretty decent two weeks.  But I had very little time alone.  I couldn’t recharge my battery.  It wasn’t very conducive to good writing.

Now I’m back in Buffalo, and I’ve been for a few weeks.  I needed a few good weeks to fully charge up.  I also needed to get my bed into my closet of a room, and to get the apartment I was hardly moved into when I left in July into some sort of livable shape.  All that’s pretty much done now.

I’ve got a place to rest comfortably.  My batteries are fully charged.  It’s time to write.

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$1,467.87 – Amazing.

Donation

The withdrawals from GoFundMe and PayPal have posted to my bank account, and everything has been donated to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.  The donation was designated to provide treatment for those in need, and will do great things to help many people struggling with anxiety and depression.  To everyone who donated – thank you so very much.  YOU gave the money to this organization which is important to me, and your generosity continues to inspire awe in me.  Much love, everyone.

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You Only Live Forever When You’re Young…

The following will be printed, hopefully in this exact form, in the upcoming issue of Inside Lebanon Magazine.  I didn’t deal very well with the word count.  :/    Enjoy.

 

This is going to have something for everyone.  Golfers will be envious.  Travelers will be impressed.  Old people can live vicariously through me.  Free spirits will be proud of me.  Straight laced, beige suburbanites may even be disgusted with me.  Like I said, there’s something for everybody; you will find something to discuss at your next dinner party, lunch with co-workers, or binge drinking session with the guys or gals. 

Above all though, the people who stand to benefit most mightily from reading this article through to the end are the people who remind me of myself ten years ago.  I’m talking to you, Central Pennsylvanian high school student with all the smarts you’ll ever need and just enough motivation to breeze through school, but who also struggles daily with the ominous clouds of the future and of boundless choice, and what you will make of them.  At this point, I feel it my duty to ask that you kindly have your parents read this article themselves to determine if they want you reading any further.  Not every parent will want their ace student hearing these radical, subversive, far out ideas.

The world moves faster now than ever before (and the acceleration of all things is likely to only increase), and the opportunities to learn about any myriad of things abound.  Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed by the world – it’s the natural reaction.  Just know that “you only live forever when you’re young.”  It’s a forgotten lyric from a forgotten album by a never discovered bay area punk band called Fifteen, and it is poignantly and frighteningly accurate.  The crux of the meaning failed to dawn on me for years; I truly was living as if I was going to live forever, and that is no way to live.

Allow me to briefly explain.  I coasted through high school, graduating well within the top 10% of my class (CCHS ’04).  I coasted through college, graduating with a 3.98 GPA (Shippensburg ’08).  I thought I was finally ready for a challenge, so I moved to Buffalo, New York to go graduate school.  I quickly learned that professional academia wasn’t my path, and by January of 2009, I was unemployed and living in Buffalo.  Buffalo, where nothing comes easy.  The Bills are terrible, it snows daily from November through March, and the only thing blue collar about the city any more is the legacy.  It is also a city with a vibrant arts scene, a wide selection of great dining, and a fantastic parks system.  I liked it, and my girlfriend at the time, enough to stay.  I quickly got a job at the local branch of a large national insurance company.  Five years and several promotions later, I was living a dream.  Someone else’s dream.  I was living as if I was going to live forever.

While the details may differ in the minutiae, the basic sad structure of my life mirrored that of millions of young people: high school > college > stable, well-paying white collar job.  Some people love their banal white collar jobs, but most don’t, and a great many actually despise them.  Some people need their banal white collar jobs (those with children), but most don’t.  What was, unfortunately, missing from my life, and I fear is missing from those lives of many of my contemporaries may lack a simple one word description.  Call it a blend of agency, spontaneity, creativity, desire; the will to live, rather than to merely exist.  I was living as if I was going to live forever.  I was living as if all of those things would eventually just come together to make the life I wanted, rather than the one that I had pinballed through.  If I lived forever, they very well may have.  I have but one life, however, and at 27, I had stayed essentially on the straight and narrow.  High school > college > stable, well-paying white collar job.  If that’s your dream, more power to you, and I wish you well.  It wasn’t for me though, and I’m sure it’s not for a great many of you.  The world, its people and its available experiences were too diverse and titillating for me to sit at a desk and argue with the same old Providence, Rhode Island attorneys every day.

So I quit my job.  I didn’t have anything lined up, other than the desire to get on the road, to see the country, and to play some golf.  Throughout my short life, I learned just a few things about myself, and chief among them was figuring out where I felt most free: the golf course and the highway.  The idea sort of built itself around my quest for my own sort of freedom.  I set out to play 49 rounds of golf in 49 days this summer, in the lower 48 and DC.  And that is exactly what I did.

Setting out from my humble Buffalo apartment on July 14, my VW packed with my clubs, some clothes and a few other knick-knacks for the road, I began a 7 week, 12,287 mile journey across our great United States.  Our great United States, flawed and imperfect as they are, are full of beautiful scenery, interesting people and great golf.  All of the places I wanted to go, to see, that I never had the impetus to visit, I was now going to see: from charming small towns in New England to the bucolic splendor of the inland South; from the gulf coast to the heart of Texas, from New Orleans and Las Vegas to Los Angeles and San Francisco; from the Midwestern fields of Iowa to the center of the world, Lebanon, Pennsylvania itself; I was going to see it all.  A narrative could, and hopefully will, fill a book, and this is but a magazine.  Here then, are a few memorable moments from the trip:

– My very first night on the trip was spent at the home of Tom and Lynn Bedell, in Brattleboro, Vermont.  Tom, who makes a living by writing about beer and golf, had reached out to me after hearing about my trip on Reddit.  Upon my arrival, I was served a feast fitting for a prince: ribs, corn on the cob and a wide variety of tasty salads.  Following dinner, we sat on their porch, nestled in the mountains of Southern Vermont, and enjoyed fine beers, wines and liquors over the sweet aroma of cigars and the stimulation of fine conversation.  Most memorably though, was Tom’s powerful reminder to me that “not everything you write will be a masterpiece.”

– August 6, 2013.  Page, Arizona.  The date and location of my adoption as a Native Grandson.  I had just teed off on the majestic 15th hole – one of those beautiful par 3’s with a very elevated tee, affording you an awe-inspiring view of the desert valley below, when I crossed paths with an elderly Native American woman, who had just trudged up the 150 foot hill I was about to drive down on my golf cart.  I asked her how she was doing, and upon her retort of “not so good, honey.  Not so good,”  I decided to dig deeper, and asked her why she wasn’t doing well.  She responded that she had some pins in her hip, and would very much like a walking stick of some sort.  I jokingly told her that I’d give her one of my clubs if I could deal without them.  Seconds later, she was rooting around in my bag, looking for her stick of choice.  I stopped her from pilfering my club, and instead offered her a ride to wherever she needed to go.  Five minutes later, we were as close to the post office as we were going to be able to get.  As she got off the cart, she said “Thank you, Grandson.  Oh thank you, Grandson.”

– By August 20, I had dropped my handicap from 10.9 at the beginning of the trip to 8.5.  I had made my first eagle of the trip the day prior, but after the front 9 of my 2nd of 3 rounds on the 20th, I was dejected.  I had duffed my way to a 44 on the front, and was getting close to the point where I’d be playing just to finish the round.  Hole 10 at Two Rivers Golf Course in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, was a short par 5, and after I blasted my drive, I was left with just 190 yards to the pin.  My only shot at the pin though was to hit a fade, the opposite of my natural draw, around some trees, and still high enough to carry the bunker guarding the pin, which was tucked in the back right corner of the green.   I pulled out my 6 iron, opened the face, and let her rip.  I faded it right around the trees, just high enough to carry the bunker.  Stuck it to 5 feet.  Dropped the putt.  It was the finest shot I have yet hit in my life.

I will shamelessly direct you to my web blog, golfing49in49.wordpress.com, should you wish to indulge in my voluminous recollections of my trip; replete with stories from the golf course and from the road, and with musings on not only what these things mean to me, but also on a wide variety of other topics.

If you’ve had your fill of my stories though, that’s fine, I get it.  A thrilling cross country, international (I did play a round in Windsor, Ontario, too!) barnstorming golf tour isn’t everyone’s idea of a freedom quest.  But it was my idea of a freedom quest.  The lone thing I’d beg you to take away is the actual profundity, rather than the fleeting trendiness, of the now common saying “You only live once.”  You’ve got one shot at life; get out there and find your cross country golf journey.  If you don’t, you may end up as a 27 year old claims adjuster for the rest of your life.

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Just Slowly Lift Your Left Foot, You’ll Feel the Car Start to Lunge Forward…

I hadn’t given much though to the end game, blog wise, and I’m glad I hadn’t, haven’t, and will not.  Writing, particularly of this story-telling, narrative type, isn’t something that ought to have a definite end (or even a definite beginning – “life is a narrative,” or whatever other flowery prose you want to insert here hopefully gets the point across – far more than a concrete process, story-telling is an ebbing and flowing medium, the letters and words merely being the vehicle…), and it is my firm intention that this blog will live on and continue to grow despite my (first) cross-country golfing opus having now come to an end.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to be transitioning the site from what it was, for the duration of my trip, to what it will be – an avenue for writing and, hopefully, entertaining, primarily through tales of golf course and traveling debauchery.  At the suggestion of my homeboy Paul Zwirecki, I am heavily considering taking at least some of my musings away from the written word and to the spoken word – I will be pondering the benefits of podcasting and will likely end up utilizing podcasting for at least a portion of the dissemination of the golf/travel empire’s official media moving forward.  Regarding the immediate future, however, the blog will very much retain the feel that you are all well accustomed to.  Several times weekly updates until you have finally stepped off that 18th green at Fairview with me.  There will, of course, be other writings interspersed here and there, but the bulk of my new entries will concern the trip – I have yet, after all, to write of my travels from Southern California back to the East Coast – nearly half of my trip!

Enough of the meta, and on to the nuts and bolts changes you may have noticed for now:

– I have updated all of the stats from my trip, both golf and non golf.  Check out the stats pages for whatever you may be looking for, but just a few notes:

First, golf related, I ended my trip at a superb 7.80 handicap.  According to the USGA, I’m better than 85% of players who keep a handicap.  That alone is pretty good.  However, as most golfers are aware, most golfers do not keep a handicap.  And, the majority of those golfers who do not keep a handicap fail to do so, ultimately, because they are not very good.  I don’t know many guys with a skill set needed to register a cap below 12 or so who don’t keep one.  My regular golfing buddies would all have handicaps well above 20 if they kept one.  I suppose then, that I am well within the 90th percentile of all golfers, and probably even a little higher, maybe around the 92nd-93rd percentile.  These guesses are really very academic, however.  In the end, I became a far better golfer than I ever dreamed I would become.  I’m still quite deficient at many areas of the game, however.  The reasons I will continue to go back to the course haven’t really changed, and indeed have become more of a pull than ever before: I am a good player, am getting better, and have numerous areas for improvement.  Whether you’re a duffer or a pro, I suppose that those reasons are the main ones why most of us find our way back to the links with at least some frequency.

Regarding my fuel economy, I averaged about 41.5 m’spg over 12,000+ miles.  Not much to say here, other than that I drove hard when needed, and quite passively when I had the chance to do so.  It was nice to have a sturdy ‘bahn burner to get me around – fuel consumption was a little lower than I may have hoped, but given the amount and variety of driving I did, I think it’s a pretty damn solid number.

I made my way to 31 Interstate Highways (and 23 spurs).  If you like roads, or civil engineering, or are curious, just check out the ones I hit on the old stats page.

I came in under budget.  I’m not really surprised that I was able to do this.  I ate fast food and stayed in cheap chain hotels most nights.  The main reason I’m not surprised that I came in under budget though is that I know, and met, a tremendous amount of very generous folks who offered me a place to stay, picked up a meal, or paid for a round of golf.  People are pretty damn good.

I didn’t see a scale until I made it back to PA.  I was fat when I left, and am still fat.  Oh well.

– I have removed the Itinerary page from the site.  Everything is still there, the page is simply no longer accessible.  Doing this was the first step in transitioning the site into what it will be moving forward.  The eventual plan is to have a page dedicated to the trip, which of course will include an itinerary (and stats – I left this page for now as it has some relevancy at this time).  I will also be going back and adding a new category to make searching for past entries a little easier.  I liked the idea of categories for entries from the onset, but quickly became relatively lazy in appropriately categorizing individual entries.  I’m going to add a “The Trip” category, as well as some others, and will be properly filing old entries, as well as new ones moving forward, shortly.

– I have significantly altered the “About” section.  What fit for the trip no longer fits.  As fluid as a storyteller’s stories can be, this section will be.  Maybe one day I’ll find a succinct sentence or two to ‘splain the site quickly and efficiently.  Until then, the about section will likely see somewhat frequent changes.

– I had only 3 dudes take part in my guessing game for total number of strokes, birdies, lost balls and miles driven on the trip.  Given the small amount of entrants, I decided to get each of my buddies something small from the trip.  I already saw you, Ham, and gave you what you got – Marty and Brendan, I’m almost certain I left your stuff in PA.  I know, an act of buffoonery.  I will give my apt here a rudimentary search, and if nothing turns up, will be sure to pick up the stuff next time I am back in PA.

– I have made it clear on my Support/Donate page that the fundraising portion of the trip is over.  As of now, I have received the money from GoFundMe, and am just waiting on PayPal to transfer the funds before I make my donation.  The final tally being donated to the ADAA will be $1,467.87.  That is 100% of the donations, minus the fees associated with working with GoFundMe and PayPal.  I will be sure to write an entry dedicated to the donation once it is made.  I plan on getting the transfer from PayPal either Monday or Tuesday.

I know, this was probably not the entry you were hoping for, but I think it was an important “nuts and bolts” entry as well as something to sort of set the stage for what’s next, regarding the site.  Before you can pull out, however, you need to engage the clutch.  Rubber is going to be burnt in the very near future.

Lastly, please let me know your thoughts on potential podcasts about golf and travel.  Dumb idea?  Probably.  Awesome idea?  I’d love to have that confirmed…

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The Last Hurrah…

So I am back in the Commonwealth, and my whirlwind tour of the country is drawing to a close.  As you will note, however, I have only thus far written about my travels from Buffalo through New England, the Mid-Atlantic, South, and Southwest.  Last writing I did was about Oatman, Arizona.  That means I have all of California, the Northwest, Plains and Midwest to write about.  I also have a ton of golf to write about as well.  Last round I wrote about was in Nevada.  Still gotta write about golf from CA through OH as well.

While I was golfing at Torrey Pines in San Diego, my phone had run out of battery life, and I had lamented that fact to Mike, one of the guys I was playing with when we reached a particularly gorgeous scene overlooking the ocean.  He told me not to worry, gesturing to the side of his head, and reminding me that the only photo I needed was in there.  Not in his head, but in mine, of course.  Indeed, while the traveling itself will soon be over, the full experience that comes with travel – the recounting of the time spent on the road, the sharing of wisdom garnered throughout the States with those who’ve never been to places I have, and the comparing of experiences I have had with others who may have been where I have been, will never end.

Don’t worry, friends and readers, though I am about to land in Lebanon late this evening, I have all the notes and pictures I need to get you through the next few weeks – I will unleash a steady diet of writing until I have finally recounted the minutest detail of my travails.

I do hope I haven’t let anyone down with the relative lack of extensive entries here in the last few weeks, but the truth is that I had begun to be just the slightest bit exhausted.  7 weeks on the road, with golf either every or every other day, and hours upon hours of driving between takes a toll on me.  Add to that the exploring and other tidbits of traveling I’ve attempted to do, and I have come to look forward to those bed sheets when, eventually, I found them.  Just laying in bed watching TV was phenomenally relaxing the last few days.

Other than the ominous exhaustion which is beginning to wear on me, I am in fine shape physically.  A few weeks ago, my back was worn out at the constant stresses I subjected it to with every massive swing.  I began taking an ibuprofen before each round.  Doing so really made the rounds more enjoyable, and although my back was still sore upon my first swing of the day, taking the ibuprofen before the round reduced the number of holes it took me to fully loosen up from 6-7 to 1-2.  Maybe I won’t take any before my final round?  Who knows.

Regarding that final round, I am beyond nervous about it.  I’m sure it won’t be just my dad and uncles watching on the first tee, and I’m almost certain that I will duff the ball so hard, if I even make contact.  I’ve been playing really great golf the last 5 rounds, and more than anything, I want to have an awesome finishing round at Fairview, a course which I have never bested 83 at.  My last 5 rounds are 77, 78, 75, 78 and 75.  It is looking good – but I will have some nerves to shake off.  I am playing, undoubtedly, the best golf of my life, and can now boast a 7.8 handicap — the lowest my cap has ever been, and a full .2 lower than my uncle, “#1 son,” Bob has ever been.  I have finally caught you, Uncle Bob!  Fitting that I finally get down below an 8 just before my final round of the trip.

I rarely feel pressure on the golf course.  Indeed, that is a massive part of the appeal of the game for me.  But on that first tee on Saturday morning, my knees will be shaking.  My Dad and Uncles have seen me play before, but how much do I want to get up there and stroke a 300 yarder down the middle?  A lot.  A LOT.  I’m hoping it’s just us four at the first tee.  Hole 1 at Fairview is a 310 yard, downhill dogleg left par 4.  A hole that makes me drool.  Last time I played at Fairview, I duffed my tee shot on 1, but ended up parring the hole anyway, and shooting an 83.  Why couldn’t I have just gotten the ball off the ground?  I know why.  I was trying to hit it 310 miles, not 310 yards.  Just one tee shot, Alex.  Just one shot to show everyone how good you’ve become.

I will write more about how well I’ve been playing lately at a later date, but the numbers should speak to it.  Yesterday, I played at the magnificent Roseland Golf & Curling Club in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.  The course hosted a Canadian PGA Tour event from ’79-’91, and again in 2012.  It’s municipal, and very well maintained.  I shot a 78.  Granted, the course wasn’t in tour shape, but still… I shot a 78 at a course where pros played.  And today, I had a 40/35 split at the marvelously delightful Sunny Hills Golf and Recreation in Kent, Ohio.  I won’t even do this place the disservice of beginning to describe how splendid the layout was at this time – just know that it was easily among my 5 favorite courses on the trip.  Also know that the par was 35/36 – meaning I was under par on the back!  Took me until my 98th 9 of the trip – but I finally made it through a side under par.  Pretty cool feeling.

Just a few last notes, and thank yous from the past week or so:

– I will be giving ALL donated money to the ADAA when I stop accepting donations.  I was not as aggressive at raising money as others would have been, but this trip very quickly turned into something very personal and unique, and enjoying my unique experience of travel became my focus, not raising money.  I will, however, continue to accept donations at both my PayPal and GoFundMe sites until September 14.  On the 15th – I will be withdrawing all of the money from both, and writing a check to the ADAA for the total amounts received.  I will let you all know the final amount, but right now, it’s something close to $1500.00.

THANK YOU:

– Pat Farley, for hosting me in Madison, for buying me some range balls and a few beers at the range so I could goof around at the range like a kid again, and for picking up the tabs as we barhopped around Madison

– Devin Farley, for suggesting that I contact Pat, his brother, whom I had never met before about staying with him, and, presumably, about singing my praises to Pat

– Rick (unsure of last name right now), for playing the back 9 with me in Madison with an unbelievably positive attitude and energy.  Also thanks for the drink, ball marker and divot tool from Maple Bluff CC

– Ben and Ashlea Klahr, for allowing my to crash on their “fyoo-ton” in downtown Chicago, for dinner and drinks as we meandered through West River, and for the always stimulating and thought-provoking, yet comforting conversation we have always shared.  You guys are stellar, and we do not see enough of each other.

– Rachel Miller, my amazingly brilliant cousin, for hosting me on my second night in Chicago, for dinner and drinks, and for phenomenal conversation about a wide variety of topics.

– David, Julie and Liam Bird, for hosting me in Elkhart, Indiana for 2 nights.  Hospitable by the very definition of the word, they were happily welcoming to a stranger, known only through David’s brother.  They fed me well, gave me a comfy bed to sleep in, and were excited to converse with me about anything that came up.  A stellar family, and one that I’m glad to have gotten to know.

– Robert Bird, for hooking me up with his brother in Elkhart.  Even though we vary in age by a pretty wide margin and only really hung out over the course of a few summers working together, he’s always been a great friend.  One of my most reliable friends with regards to checking in with me on the trip, always good for a Stern joke or a picture of the E-house where I used to, and he still occasionally does, work.

– Dean Leazenby, for taking me on the pristine Christiana Creek Country Club in Elkhart as his guest, for guiding me around the course, for lunch and a drink at the turn, and for playing witness to the greatest stretch of golf in my life (5 birdies in 13 holes, and -1 over a 15 hole stretch)… perhaps importantly, a tweaked back forced him to retire for the day on the 17th tee.  I was +2 at that point.  I doubled the last two holes.  I NEEDED HIM TO PLAY!

– Elizabeth and Mark Hoffman, for their incredibly generous donation of $150.00!

More later – now back to sweet home, Lebanon.

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