Father Son Competition

Weather this time of year can be a little touch and go. Spring thunderstorms will ruin an afternoon round in a matter of minutes. Luckily, today was about perfect. The warmth of the sun only buffeted by the occasional passing cloud. Even better, my partner in crime was able to get out with me. Sure he’s my son, and he’s only 15, but these rounds are by far my favorite. Always a good time, good old father son competition.

School has been crimping the boy’s playing time, so he was anxious to get out for at least nine. Like riding a bike, he was finding fairways from the jump. Fearless, the way golf and life should be played. Both of us opened with bogies on the first, a little inauspicious. We were playing the White course at Bradshaw Farms Golf Club from the blue tees. Second hole I had the decided advantage as my drive found the fairway deep and his drive was a little wayward to the left in the rough. Looking at reaching the par 5 in two, I wait for him to get out of jail from the left rough and the overhanging trees. Dude pulls off a straight gangster 3 wood up the left side fading gently to the middle right of the fairway. I’d deem that a perfect shot, he couldn’t have struck it better. Putting my hybrid to work, I hit a hot bullet runner, horribly struck shot that I’m praying will stop somewhere near the green. Miraculously, it drops anchor just before careening into purgatory behind the green. It’s not quite Hell back there, I’ve never found a ball that’s gone over, so that area must be in the mist between Heaven and Hell. I’ll take a little up and down for birdie any day. My young Jedi takes too much club with his approach, but is lucky because his ball somehow kicks right nestling in the pine bark just above the soft creek bed. I give him a 20 percent shot at getting up and down from here. He has to hit a flop shot out of pine bark to a tight pin with no green to work with. If he hits it too long, he could end up 70 feet from the hole as the ball will catch the down slope. He could even hit it into the hazard behind the green. I feel for him, he didn’t deserve this, but I’ll take strokes where I can get him. On a good day, he’d be down 3 after this hole. Walking to it, he sizes up the impossible odds and draws his 60 degree wedge back blasting it like a bunker shot. Knocks it to about 7 feet….holy crap, I can’t believe he just did that. Calmly, he knocks it home, now just 1 down. I consider this a 2 shot swing….to his good.

We both par the next, good drives, mediocre approach, good chips, moving on. The par 3 follows, again both sitting well, with good tee shots. Somehow, we both miss from inside 4 feet for par saves….inexcusable really. The 5th hole yields uneventful pars, golf game on autopilot. We get to the 6th, a tough little par 3 when the pin is on the left, which it is. We both pull our tee shots into the sand trap. Hole is running away from us, if you can get inside 10 feet, you’ve done something. He flops his out leaving an uphill 10 foot putt for par. Feeling a little pressure now because that was a great shot, I plan on matching him. Just get mine over the lip with 60 degree wedge, trickles down relentlessly to about 10 feet matching my son’s effort. He is first to putt. As he is lining it up, I have a very good feeling it’s going to drop so it wasn’t a shock to watch it fall. Now the the pressure is really on, giving it a solid rap the ball hits the back of the cup and falls. Two sand saves, deposit those dollars in the sand save box.

The boy is 3 over, I’m still sitting strong at 1 over with 3 to go, and a par 5 up next. I hit a pretty good tee ball out left center on this dog leg right. This is pretty much a 3 shot hole no matter what for me so it’s all about position. He follows suit and we are both in the fairway. His second is a nice 3 wood leaving him about 130 in. My brain turned off or something and I mistakenly hit my second approach too short leaving me about 145 to the pin. Typically I’ll play to a 100 to 120 yardage depending on the pin placement. Really don’t have an answer for why I pulled an 8 for my layup instead of a 6 o 7. Still, should have no worries, hit a 9 in there close and give myself a chance a birdie. I tug the 9 leaving about 30 feet, not a good shot. He hits his in there close, but I still feel like I’m in control. Scoping the slope, I take a bead on the hole and give it a good stroke….again, my mind has left me and some simpleton is at the controls. I leave it woefully short….like Federal budgeting short, I’ve got a good 8 feet now to save par and he’s got a 12 spot for birdie. He gets right to work, these young guys play the game so fast, his putt lips out. Looked good all the way too. At least my putt is uphill, I can do this. In the back of my head I know the next hole is the #1 handicap so if I can make par here, I should be able to cruise on in from there. My putt doesn’t take the slight break and doesn’t fall….bogey. My lead is down to 1.

We get to the 8th. There is a little traffic in front of us, a foursome taking advantage of the special twilight rates. When the fairway clears, my son takes the tee and hits a little bit of long left duck, except it’s not as long as usual, but it’s not in too much trouble. I hit a good one fading it in on the right side just short of the traps. The flag is in the worst possible position on this three tiered green, up top in the back…hateful. The foursome is still on the green and my son is about 220-230 out. He tells me he’s going to go ahead and hit, he doesn’t think he can get it there, it’s all uphill, just a brutally long shot. “No, wait for them to clear…if you hit it like that 3 wood you hit on 2 it will probably make the green….you are hitting it clean and pretty long today…wait”, wiser words I have never spoken. The green clears and he sets up and unleashes a beautiful low boring draw, that ball was mashed. I can’t tell from where I stand, but I’m pretty sure it landed on the second tier, but I couldn’t see where it ended up. I’m looking at 170 from a pull lie, so I try to fade it into the green. Dumb, dumb, dumb…the slope is king, I pull it solidly but above the sand in no man’s land….”Somebody have a get out of jail free card?”. Driving up to the green, I’m astonished, where is Robert Stack and the crew from Unsolved Mysteries? I can’t even believe where his ball is….2 feet from the hole…..seriously? Game on! I’ve got to knock this chip close, plenty of green to work with, but I have to make sure I land it on the top tier. I’ve seen quad bogies erupt from this position. A low runner is the play. Hitting it, hoping it would nestle close, somewhere inside 5 feet I’d be ecstatic. The shot looked good the whole way just missing the hole leaving me about a foot for the save. “You made me nervous on that one dad”….I laughed, “don’t count the old dog as dead, you never know with this game….hit a good putt”…yes, I had to needle a bit, it will put hair on his chest. Doesn’t flinch, knocks it home we are all tied going into the 9th.

All is pretty quiet on the tee box as we wait for the group in front of us. Not much of the usual trash talk. I think he was in the process of posting his last shot to Instagram. When the fairway cleared on the 9th, he pulls driver and cranks one hard down the left side on the lower tier of this two tier fairway. It’s another smash job. Instead of my usual play to 140 or 150, I pull a 3 wood, knocking a deep fade out on the top level. I have 95 yards left to reach on this par 4, he has about 98 with the angle. This green is the devil’s work depending on pin placement. Today, it’s amicable and inviting, down front to the left. Green light special! The key here is left is dead, hit it right and you have a little bit of a bail out. If you hit the ball on the right side of the green high enough it will catch the slope and run back down to the left pin placement. That’s the smart play…sure you could go at the pin, but if you tug it and miss the green or even catch the left side you are playing defense. My son wedges one in close using the right side of the green and the slope. Unlucky, it stops a little bit short, but he is still looking at a little less than 10 feet for birdie. I have an easier angle to the flag, taking a sand wedge high, my ball checks quick….within a foot of his. From the fairway, it looks as though I’ve cruelly one upped him, but it was mirage, he will get the read from me. Walking onto the green, both of us are 2 over with a good chance at birdie. He marks his ball and watches my putt like a hawk. I hit a good putt, solid, right edge, looks good all the way, but curls left just at the end as it loses speed. A backhanded kick in from there for par. Sometimes you just know you are cooked and this was one of those times. The boy hits a beautiful no doubter for his first 37. Removing hats, we shake hands, he’s grinning ear to ear, we are mirror images. Birdie, birdie finish to take the old dog down. I’ll have my revenge, but for today he can relish the takedown.

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