Dropping back to earth in super slow motion, my ball hit the flagstick about two feet above the hole and fell straight into the cup! Eagle! I won!
My senior year of college had been a dream come true! Our team won the conference championship and finished high in the national tournament. I was medalist in our conference championship and earned All-American honors. I had a new girlfriend. She was the Yearbook Queen. She was really hot. Now, just a few classes during summer school, I would graduate and move on to make my mark in the world of golf.
During the mid-1960s the federal government made agricultural grant money available to small communities across the nation’s farm belt to build or improve rural golf courses. Every rural community with a lick of civic pride was taking advantage of this “FREE MONEY.” The city fathers were busy converting their tired old 9-hole sand green golf course into a beautiful grass green community asset. My girlfriend’s dad was superintendent of schools in one of these rural communities.
Gene Pool, from my girlfriend’s hometown, had tried out for our golf team for the past two years. He was a good player but never quite qualified for the ten-man team. Gene would hang around the putting green and practice range and play an occasional round with us. We knew him as that kid who worked at his hometown golf course during the summer. Gene kept telling us about how the course he helped build would soon be one of western Kansas’ finest tracks. Throughout the entire spring season Gene kept talking about the grand opening shortstop tournament scheduled for the third Sunday in June at his newly refurbished golf course..
What a break, my busy golf schedule allowed me to play in the tournament. I could spend a long weekend with girlfriend’s parents. Some time to really get to know them. Girlfriend’s mother could show-off her oldest daughter’s new boyfriend, the big golfer from Ft. Hays State.
We arrived in her hometown in time for a quick practice round on Friday. Her younger sister’s boyfriend, who was a good high school golfer, and I played another practice round on Saturday with his high school golf buddies. Gene Pool was really pissed that I had not played the practice round with him.
The (Grand Opening) shortstop was the typical 27-hole event, three trips around the 9-holer, with the leaders paired for the final 9-holes. I shot 36-33, 69 and was leading the tournament by three shots. Gene Pool, had played well, shooting 74, and was playing three groups ahead of the leaders. A sloppy three putt on the first and an OB on the fifth had me back at even par but still leading by two, I thought. While lining up my birdie putt on number six, I looked up to see Gene Pool grinning ear to ear. When I tapped in my par after a lip out, Gene said, “How do you stand for the tournament?” When I told him I had slipped a little and was back to even, his face lit up even more. He almost shouted, “You need a birdie on one of the last three holes to force a playoff, WITH ME! I just shot the round of my life, 33, one under for the tournament.”
Talk about pressure – my girlfriend, her sister, the boyfriend and his buddies, her mom, who had been milking this deal for all it was worth, my girlfriend’s dad who had walked every step, smiling. I could not let them all down. Gene Pool for Christ sake! I can’t lose to him! He couldn’t even make our team. A little hook into the rough on seven meant I could not spin my wedge over the bunker. A perfect flop shot left me 20 feet. Trying to make the first, I almost missed the 4-footer, but got my par. I have got to make a birdie! Another par on number 8 meant I had to birdie the cute little ninth. Only 275 yards but the two-tiered green was elevated severely in the back half. The pin was cut in the back right corner. Easy, just hit that same little hooked tee shot, as round one, and run it up the front of the green – two putt – then kick his ass in the playoff. Perfect. NOT!! My ball did not hook!! Now I was left with an impossible shot – only ten yards from the downhill pin and elevated about eight feet above my ball. I can’t stop my ball near the pin, even with a perfect cut shot. The more I looked the shot over, the more Gene, the asshole, Pool gloated. I hate that SOB! I selected the exact spot where my bump-and-run had to land. I needed a perfect bounce – to get close – to have the putt that would tie Gene, the asshole.
Every eye in the gallery, that now circled the green, watched as I took several practice swings. I wiped my, now sweaty, hands on my towel, and then hit the shot of my life…too hard!! My Titleist 3 hit the bank hard, missing my intended spot by two feet, and popped straight up into the air. Dropping back to earth in super slow motion, it hit the flagstick about two feet above the hole and fell straight into the cup! Eagle! I won!
I heard a scream from my girlfriend and a moan from Gene! I turned and watched the asshole fall to his knees, sobbing uncontrollably. He could not stop crying; he would not shake my hand. He was devastated!
The Championship trophy had an electric clock built in. For years I smiled every time I checked the time.