Monday, December 21, 2009

My Top 5 Most Memorable Golf Rounds: #4: "The Round of My Life”, August 23, 2001

No one shot stands out in my mind. There was no stunningly long drive. No dart that I threw to within inches of the cup. No long, curling putt that I made for birdie. In fact, I’m pretty certain I didn’t even make a birdie all day. And I don’t even remember what I shot, I really don’t.

What I do remember are the walks between the holes and to my shots. Which isn’t too hard to understand given that Kayak Point is a beautiful and hilly layout, surrounded by large loge pole pines, dense Douglas firs and aspens—and where eagles can be seen perched in the tree and deer and foxes routinely dart across the fairways. It’s quiet, too, with only tee shots echoing off the canyon of trees. Each hole meanders up and down—sometimes sharply up or sharply down. Heck, going up the 18th you need to be part mountain goat just to reach your tee shot. And the 10th would be an intermediate run at most ski resorts. (Shown below: the beautiful and tricky par 5, 3rd.)

Between those holes are tranquil paths, draped over by the trees with deep green underbrush and berry vines. The paths are quite long and eerily quiet and, at times, rather steep between holes. They’re the kind of paths where you can hear yourself breathe and hear your heartbeat, it’s just that quiet. So that’s what I did. I filled my lungs as deep as I could, and listened to my heart thumping away as I made my way between holes. And there were moments when I thought it was pumping too fast or I was breathing too hard.

Yet I refused to ride a cart. I refused to use a pull cart too. I was going to carry my bag no matter what. I always liked carrying my bag anyway. I think it warms up my body during the first couple of holes. Today, during this round, I wanted to carry my bag more than anything. I wanted to feel every hard heart beat as I trudged up a fairway to my ball. I wanted to take, long, deep breaths after feeling little winded. I needed to know it was okay to feel that way again. That nothing was going to happen. I needed not to worry. I needed not to fear that I was having another heart attack the way I had exactly a day to the year before.

This was my first round since the heart attack. And while I had gone skiing with friends just a few months after my “event” and was none the worse for the wear, I had not been alone on the golf course. I’ve enjoyed many wonderful and memorable rounds through the years with just me as player, caddie, gallery and rules official so I had to reaffirm that I could play alone again without fear.

My dad died doing the sport he loved, skiing. I have no such intentions of dying on a golf course. So, in a way, this round was death defying. Besides, dying on a golf course due to a heart attack is such a cliché, and I’m not one for clichés.

2009 was the first year that I haven’t taken off August 23rd to play golf, and I regret that more than a little bit. It makes me think I’m losing a sense of appreciation and gratefulness for life, and even to God—after all, He’s the one that let me keep my lease. Some might find it a bit dark or maudlin that I mark or remember the day at all. I believe they’re wrong. I don’t view the day somberly. Nothing could be more positive, more hopeful and more affirming than walking a golf course under that umbrella.

In 2010, August 23rd falls on a Monday and marks 10 years since my event. I think I’ll make it a 3-day weekend. I don’t think you need to ask where I’ll be playing. And while I always love golfing with friends, I’ll be playing this round solo, too.

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