Stocking up for winter

It's not premature for reflection about the golf season just past

WILLIAMSVILLE — Some golfers let the season go readily. Others move south to avoid the problem. Those of us who winter on here eventually have to admit that golf is finished until the spring thaw. Eventually.

The first of December revealed the first semi-serious blanket of snow on the ground. But with reports calling for temperatures over 50 by mid-week, the golf clubs remained in the car trunk, delaying the fatal move to the garage.

Still, it's not premature for reflection about the season past and, with Thanksgiving's vapors still about, potential gratitude. Surely there was something in the year's rounds gone by that will buoy us through the holiday frenzy, warm us in January's chill, sustain us in February's gloom, and have us chomping at the bit when cabin fever breaks out in March.

It may all be illusion, but that's nothing new for the golfing tribe, which thrives on false hope: that new swing thought that was leading to crisp iron shots in the fall, the way the putts seemed to be dropping more often, the vanquished chili dip, the banished slice. Yes, they seem to say, next year is the year.

And sometimes it is. It was for my brother this year; he had his second and third ace. And it was for me, too. So for starters I'm grateful to orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Thatcher, who operated on the leaky discs that scuttled much of the 2011 season for me.

A series of cortisone shots kept me playing for a while, but by the time I went under the knife in late February I was pretty much an invalid, much less a golfer.

Barely more than a month later I was swinging the clubs again, heading down to Pinehurst with the MOTO Research Team. The swing may have been a little shaky, but I carted it around to 11 states and four different countries this year.

Slowly, things came around. While always capable of a terrible round, for a mid-handicapper I began to have some pretty good ones.

In my many years of play, I had never broken 80, and I was beginning to think it never would happen - not getting any younger and all that. And when I played a handful of rounds with opening nine 39s, only to implode on the inbound side, it began to seem even more unlikely.

But then it happened. And I wasn't even playing with the MOTO Research Team. Richard Davis and I had been trying to arrange a round together, and we finally found an early September date at the Brattleboro Country Club.

We were paired up with Tony DeFrancesco from Winhall, who had stopped in for a round after doing some business to the south. Off we went, and starting with an opening birdie it all went my way. I finished 39-39 for a 78, and felt positively blissful.

It was a little like the first time I hit one over the fence in a softball game. A little surprising, but immensely pleasing. Simply, the feeling of not knowing whether you have it in you, and then you find out you do.

There were a few things about the round that seem worth noting:

Everything was going pretty well.

Nothing went terribly wrong.

I was lucky.

My mind was right.

Any golfer recognizes the round where one facet of the game screws up the whole.

“It would have been a great day if I were putting.”

“My short game was killing me.”

Add your own misery here.

Actually, it usually is my short game that kills me, but since I hit ten greens in regulation I didn't have to chip that often. When I did, it was good enough for three one-putt pars.

I hit only six fairways, but wasn't that far off line. I almost drove it OB on number nine, but the ball stayed in―the lucky part―and I scratched out a bogey. I took a double on 14, but that was the worst all day.

So, no big number disaster holes.

I'm not really sure why I felt so easy-going. Maybe because playing well is fun. Maybe because I'd botched those earlier promising rounds I figured I might again, and I simply wasn't worried about the outcome. What would be would be.

And since I'd never played with Richard or Tony before we kept up a pretty steady stream of conversation that took my mind off the score. I didn't really know the score, because I prefer not to think about it.

I knew I was doing well - after the double bogey on 14 I shot three straight pars. So after my drive on 18, a little right, I couldn't help myself; I started to think about some numbers. And that's when I started to get nervous.

But I dismissed it, and had one more good swing in me, one more green in regulation, one more par, and my best round ever.

I thanked Richard and Tony for being around for the occasion and gladly let them buy me a beer. Then I sailed home, through the rest of the season, and well-provisioned for the cold months ahead.

Once the clubs go into the garage, that is.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates