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Friday, June 21, 2013

Wrap-Up: Golfing Road Trip


It's all good.  What an amazing trip!  Even as I was dragging my feet, even as I was trembling with anxiety, even as Barb and Shirley were talking me out of withdrawing and going home on Tuesday with my tail between my legs, Pat promised me that my game would change as a result of this experience.  Pat was correct.

I stepped up to the first tee for my final match, looked out over the fairway that stretched out in front of me, picked my spot, and took my shot.  The ball went there.  It wasn't a long drive, not even for me.  But it was straight and true.  And my drive stayed straight and true for 18 holes.  Stunning.


I won some holes, lost some holes, and tied some holes in that final match.  That's the way it is with match play.  My opponent, Dale, was worthy.  Neither of us ever conceded a single putt so long as there was a chance of a tie or a win on the hole.

"I don't ever give up," Dale told me early in the game.

I'm not going to give up either, not ever again.

My palms were not sweaty (although my body most certainly was pumping out the sweat).  I realize that in the South proper women do not sweat.  The glow.  On the golf course, in the South Carolina Low Country, in June, everyone sweats.  It was a hot, gritty, determined match that went the full 18 holes.

I took one of the par 3s on the front 9 and Dale took the other one.  I took both par 3s on the back 9!  As we twined our cart through the trees between the 14th green and the 15th tee box Dale said, "Here comes the Hole From Hell."

Everybody had struggled with it all week.  We all talked about that hole, a short little thing of about 85 yards, but all carry from the tee to the green.  Everything between is hazard, a tidal marsh area that's mostly dry but filled with spiky grasses, hard-packed sand, and zillions of little crabs (and who knows what else) skittering around.  I know.  I had walked down into that mess and tried to hit a ball out to save a shot earlier in the week.  (That decision had cost me 8 shots.)  The back of the green slopes steeply into the water.   It's the only hole on the course with a drop area.

I had the tee, and I had a decision to make.  Although a storm had come through and cleared the air somewhat, it was still humid and heavy.  Barb's words of advice were loud and clear: Pick a club, believe in that club, and take your shot.  I pulled out my 9 iron -- too much club in a less humid environment.  I'd tried my pitching wedge earlier in the week (when I ended up down in the hazard trying to save the shot that turned into 8).  I'd also tried my 7 iron, which had sent me over the back of the green.  I'm not entirely comfortable with my 9 iron.  We've just never made friends and bonded in the same way that I have with my 7 and 8 and pitching wedge.  So as I pulled it out and walked up to the tee I whispered, you have a job to do today, right here, right now.

And without a practice swing (or 2 or 3) I teed up, lined up, and took my shot.  The result was a breathtaking launch into a high arching flight headed directly toward the flag.  The ball seemed to hand in the air at the top of its flight, practically hovering directly over the flag.  I watched and felt faint.  Not too much, not too little.  Then it began to drop, just right, plop onto the green.  A long birdie putt that I missed, followed by a perfect putt for par!

I was 1 up with 3 holes to go.  We halved the next 2 holes and went into the par 5 18th hole with me still 1 up to the finishing hole where I've been consistently ending up in the right side bunker.  I skipped that step this time, but Dale found the bunker.  I took the hole, and the match!

What did I learn?  That deep inside me there's a fierce competitor -- that mental beast I've been searching for -- and if I allow her to come to the surface I will play my game more confidently.  I learned that it's perfectly acceptable, even desirable, to unloose the beast, that animal that's been covered up and masked and disguised and denied and even discounted for most of my life as a well-trained girl.  And I learned, from the women with whom I golfed for a week, that when the game is ended and our beasts have gone back into that special pocket in our bags, we can and will all sit down together, enjoy our lunch and each others' company, and look forward with sheer relish to the next time our beasts meet for battle.  What a lesson this week has been!