St. Andrews, Scotland
October 9, 2018
Life is change.
A moment ago, the clouds were coming in. It was dark. The rain was steady. The wind was in my face no matter which way I turned. My game seemed a slow gray slog, a steady drizzle of poor golf with occasional flashes of brilliant mediocrity.
But that was a moment ago.
After 34 holes–18 on the New Course in the morning, and 16 on the Old Course in the late afternoon–I came to the 17th tee on the infamous Road Hole at St. Andrews, generally regarded as the most difficult 4 par in the world.
As you know, if you’re a student of the game, your target line from the tee is over the Old Course Hotel. Specifically, you aim over “O” in “Old Course Hotel” painted on the side of the building.
Which “O” is your choice.
My drive was a weak ass fade, but I cleared the hotel and avoided (just barely) the glass conservatory on the far side. I chunked a 3-wood left of the fairway and had a dicey wedge from the long stuff over the infamous greenside bunker, escape from which requires Pappillon-like skills, which given my recent foray in Hell’s Bunker earlier, was a daunting . . . nah, let’s say. . . . depressing . . .prospect.
I was out of gas.
To make matters worse, a crowd of tourists had gathered on the “Road” behind the green to watch my approach. Oh great . . . I could use some more embarrassment. Already my playing partners, Stephan, a young investment banker from Milan, and a very pleasant, but very slow playing married couple from Mumbai, had endured watching me flail around.
But that was a moment ago.
My wedge didn’t flail. It flew. And my ball came to a rest on the green 30 feet from the cup. I had a putt for par.
Mind you, I hadn’t made a putt all day. And now the crowd behind the green had grown to an epic size. Must have been . . . oh, I don’t know . . . maybe . . . I’d say . . . five or six people.
I lined it up. Took it back and . . . thwack.
Had the cup not got in the way, the putt would have sailed off the green and likely ended up in the Swilcan Burn beyond the 18th tee. But the cup did get in the way,. My ball struck the far edge, bounced a good six inches straight up, and came straight down . . . for my par.
My gallery, apparently not familiar with the game, and assuming that ramming speed was required, erupted in applause. Stephan’s caddy Doug, a bear of a reassuring man, who previously told me ( in an effort to make me feel better) that Robert Dinero, for whom he looped earlier this year, had a swing much worse than mine (with “more moving parts than a toilet chain.”), gave me a hearty pat on the back.
And so I found myself crossing the famous Swilcan Bridge with a smile as wide as the 18th fairway.
Life is change. Sometimes, that change happens in a moment, for no apparent reason. Yes, shit happens. But, so do good things.
I’m a very fortunate man.