By R.J. Smiley
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The question is: Can we consider a bulkhead wall on a water hazard a critter? As a writer, I will use my poetic license to say, yes. The story is good enough that you will forget whether it was a Critters or a Characters story.
Before we get into the golf tale, let me paint a verbal image of the 8th hole at Santa Rosa Beach Golf & Beach Club. The hole looks very much like something that would be found at TPC Sawgrass. If #8 were a par-4 hole, it would be easy to explain. The hole is a sharp dogleg left with water all the way along the left and in front of the green. There is a thin strip of fairway only 15 yards wide with a wooden bulkhead wall, about 6 feet high that defines the dogleg. The green is very wide but shallow front to back. Even regular players at SRB are intimidated, especially when the wind is in your face. The wind swirls in the natural canyon that is created by the luxury homes on the right and the long-needle Pine and Cypress trees on the left side of the water.
Brad, a local pharmacist, is a good player known as a long hitter who hits towering high shots. On a crisp Friday morning, he had a fine round going with his regular group. Standing back on the blue tee, Brad selected a 6-iron for the 176 yard shot into a gusty breeze. He hit a solid shot that continued to rise as it flew directly toward the flagstick. But Brad underestimated the wind. To his dismay the Vice golf ball, with three red dots, splashed just short of the bulkhead wall. “Wow! I thought 6-iron was plenty of club.”
Brad took a drop onto a finger of land that protrudes into the water. After a soft touch wedge over the water, Brad was left with a four footer for his bogie. Most golfers at SRB use pushcarts; Brad is no exception. He maneuvered his pushcart along the narrow strip of fringe between the bulkhead wall and the putting surface and set the brake on the north side, a close walk to #9 tee.
The others in the group had putted out when Brad placed another new Vice ball, with three red dots, in front of his oversized ball mark. With his back to the water, Brad was ready start his stroke when the Tee Times author of this story shouted, “There it goes!!!”
The other three heads swiveled to watch (in s l o w m o t i o n) as a gust of wind toppled the pushcart off the bulkhead wall. The scene reminded me of the old lumberjacks shouting ‘t i m b e r’ as a giant white slowly fell.
In his excitement Brad made a one-handed stab at his golf ball then ran for the pushcart. Usain Bolt would not have won this race.
As the three of us watched from higher up on the bulkhead, Brad was able to retrieve his pushcart with only one leg thigh deep in the water. Question: What was the first thing Brad reached for? Not his wallet! You were correct, he grabbed his cell phone and tossed it up to his partner on the bulkhead. “Dry it off quickly!”
As Brad dragged the moss-covered pushcart from the water he left behind about 20 SRB wooden golf tees floating in the slop.
Brad looked flustered for a minute then said, “I guess all we can do is laugh.”
Then the author of this story said, “Well it really was a good 4 with a ball and golf bag in the hazard.”
Brad said, “I don’t remember putting.”
“Yes, as you starting running for your pull cart, you made a one-handed swing with your putter. Dead center with nice speed.”
Brad dried off his driver and hit his tee shot on #9 as two of us used our golf towels to dry the rest of his golf clubs.
Ten holes later Brad finished his round with one wet shoe, one wet pant leg and a cell phone that still worked. Brad finished the round with an unforgettable 78.