Friday, July 22, 2005

Day 13: Spotsylvania, VA; Durham, NC

I wake on the futon of a guest bedroom where my host has already left for work.

Tonight I’ll be home, but I’m still looking for that capper for the trip. First stop is Loriella Park in Spotsylvania, Virginia.

No, first stop is the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which is not only under construction but also has a traffic jam caused by a stalled out car.

After inching over the bridge, I finally get off to look for ice, only to find the store is out. It’s getting hotter as I move farther south.

Loriella is just off Route 3 on the outskirts of Fredericksburg, where I went to college. The area has gone from college town to metropolitan suburban clone (i.e. it looks just like Fairfax, especially along route 3).

I wonder if this course was here while I was in school (it wasn’t, PDGA says it was founded in 2001) and how my life might have been different had it been. I mostly played Ultimate in college, could the butterfly effect have changed that much?

My records indicate I have played Loriella before, at a tournament. I arrived late, play was slow, it rained some, and I have no recollection of the course at all. This is odd. Two years later, I still remember the route to Warwick Town Park, and several of the holes in great detail. Loriella, I remember not at all. .

A weird thing happens when I’m warming up. I have the car doors and trunk open and am doing my stretches, when a child, who apparently speaks no English, wanders into the parking lot, giggling and pointing at my vehicle. There is a playground about 75 yards away, but not an adult in sight. She walks up to my car, and, trying to be polite, I say “hello” a greeting she takes to mean we are now friends and my toys are her toys, so she climbs into the driver’s seat and begins playing with the steering wheel.

All of a sudden, this chance encounter gets very, very awkward. There is still no adult in sight, and it is maybe 11:00 on a Friday. I have a rental car in a half empty parking lot with a child in the front seat. I immediately think of a 10 and 13 year-old in Harrisonburg who stood by the 18th Hole of the new park and asked golfers finishing a round to give them a ride home so that they could save the dollar for the city bus.

I decide that the best course of action is to move a healthy distance away from the car so that I can still see everything but can’t be mistaken for having sinister intentions. Do I live in a different world from these people? Have I seen too many episodes of Law & Order: SVU? Eventually a mom or a nanny or somebody comes up and whisks her away, apologizing a bit too profusely and I feel safe to approach my own car again and get my discs.

After I warm up and go -1 on the first two holes, I wonder if maybe my notes are wrong and I played The Grange. I simply can’t imagine I was in the high 60s on this course, rain or no rain. In between the second and third hole there is a fenced in portion of the park. A plaque informs me that this is a slave graveyard, formerly marked with wooden crosses, now deteriorated. There is no record of who these slaves were, when they were buried, etc. For just a moment my mind shoots back to the NO ILLEGALS graffiti I saw at Calvert. I can’t help think, as well, about the other grave I visited earlier in my trip and how the accidents and circumstances of history lead us to different places.

The course itself is rather uninspiring. It’s a bit long for me to birdie, with a lot of open holes, especially on the front 9. Not too much trouble on any of these holes (I do bogey the one tight alley hole), but not much hope, either, unless you can throw farther than I do. There is a distant feeling that reminds me a bit of Rose Lane in the early days, where one could feel as though one were the only person on the course or indeed in the world, but it’s not quite enough to make up for the pedestrian nature of the course.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with the course, but there are none of those moments where I finish or approach a hole and think: “you know, some thought went into that pin placement,” or “I wouldn’t have thought to put a hole there, but it worked.” Instead, the course has the annoying competence of a Woody Allen movie; it’s hard to point to obvious technical errors, but I’m never really in any serious danger of enjoying myself (much less being inspired).

I’m bored and in a hurry to leave, so I rush to the 18th tee and drive my shot into the ground, turning a long hole into a “5” when I miss my putt and a possible 59 into a 61.

I shrug, and yet…I hate to end such a great trip with a mediocre round on a mediocre trip.

And so, I decide as routes 95 and 85 diverge south of Richmond to take a right turn towards Durham and stop at Valley Springs.

It is appropriate that Valley Springs is in Durham, because I call it the 87 Blue Devils Course. This team was the one of which Jim Valvano said you look at it and say, “I can beat them.” Then you lose. You walk off and say, “I’m glad I’ll get another shot at them, because I’m still not convinced they are better than me.” Then they beat you again. You say, “Well, I hope I get them in the tournament, because know that I know their tendencies, there should be no problem.” Then you get them in the tournament and they beat you again. And so it goes.

I arrive at about 5:20 and decide to try something different. I’m warmed up from earlier in the day, so I start. Hole #1 is a short birdie hole, which I deuce, and I chip in from a good 75 feet on Hole #2, so I think it is my day.

The first time I played Valley Springs, on a visit to Durham for a seminar, I was -1 after 17 holes, only to let my drive go too early on 18, kick it off a tree into the woods for a 5 and a round of +1. Since then, I’ve always felt the same way about Valley Springs that Valvano felt about Amaker, Dawkins, and company. I KNOW I can beat this course.

I just never do.

The last time I was here, a few weeks ago, I was -3 after 9 holes and still managed to finish +1. Today, I get to -3 after 8, but I bogey 9 and make the turn at -2. Then, I take a bogey on 14 to go to -1, then I push the Valkyrie right on 15. I think it is coming out; I don’t hear a hard crash, but I search the area for 20 minutes with increasing desperation. I turn over rocks. I shake trees (getting dirt on my sweaty, sleeveless arms), I pray. No disc.

Finally, reluctantly, I take a drop, assess the penalty stroke for a lost disc, and approach for my body to go to par. As I turn to the 16th hole, I see my disc lying beside a tree about 45 feet from the hole. It had indeed kicked out of the foliage. I am ecstatic. Since this is not a tournament, I go ahead and play the original lie (no time limit when nobody’s waiting on you), save my par.

I am redeemed.
I have a second chance.
I take a six on the next hole, a hole I’ve birdied before. I hit a tree off the tee. I try a flick and my flick hits a tree and bounces backwards farther into the woods. I miss my putt. I finish the round at 57.

It is now 6:15, so there is no doubt I will play another round, and somehow this round takes on imaginatively high stakes in my head. I know this is my last chance to finish the trip on a high note. There are no motels rented, no other courses tomorrow. There is only daylight for one more round. It is now or never to pluck out this thorn in my flesh. The icing on the cake that is this trip will be defeating par at Valley Springs.

So it is back to the car for Gatorade and one last trek to close the circle. I’m tired. I’ve played 36 holes today in humid, southeastern heat. I’ve played close to 20 rounds in the last 10 days. My shins hurt. I feel a blister coming where my toe chafes against my sweat saturated sock. I so what any self-respecting amateur golfer does: I pretend it is the last round of the last day of the Ryder Cup and everything is up to me. My opponent will shoot a 54. All the previous rounds were leading up to this moment.

I get my birdie on one and a par on two, then I get a tree maybe 10 feet away from the tee on a 225 foot right curving hole. For a moment I think of wilting; I think of returning to the first tee to start the round over. (It’s now 6:30—will I have daylight?)

But no, my imaginary teammates are counting on me and my imaginary opponents are smirking. There are defining moments in every golfer’s imaginary career and this is one of them.

I pull the JK Valkyrie out of my bag.
I breathe in and out.
I check my footing and balance.
And, in the most important shot of the entire vacation…I flick.
Two hundred and fifteen feet later, the disc comes to rest snugly under the basket for a tip in three. I have saved par, but to paraphrase The Wolf in Pulp Fiction, let’s not start…um..congratulating myself just yet. There are 15 holes to play, and I’ve been -3 on this course before.

I immediately deuce Hole 4, and I consider moving into course management mode, but I’m not sure -2 will be enough of a cushion. Hole 8 presents a classic risk/reward conundrum with a right to left that is more open for the easy three but a narrower alley on the left that, if I split the tree can give me a deuce opportunity. Another moment of truth.

Out comes the Valkyrie and I split the trees dead center with good spin. Easy deuce. I’ve reached -3. The rest is managing the course.

Hole 9 goes uphill. Three
Hole 12 is a long right that is too far to throw the Stingray but which can give me grief if I yank the Leopard (to try to turn it). I must throw it hard enough to get the distance, but not yank it, and not let it fade too far away from the hole. Three.

By Hole 14, I’ve caught up with some guys playing doubles. They let me play through, and I let go of the Leopard too early, putting me in a world of trouble. Short and in the woods. I could pitch out and try a long approach for a 4, or I could try a tight alley along and out of the woods. It’s a harder shot and missing it puts a 5 in play, but making it gets me close enough for an easy four. I flick and it clears the woods, well short of the hole but leaving me -2 with four holes left.

Hole 16 is where I got the 6 last round. It all starts with the drive. Just keep it in the fairway. You’ve got two strokes as a cushion but Hole 18 is a long uphill hole. Just keep it in the fairway. I do. Three.

Hole 17 is a blind shot that looks harder than it is. It has a bit sharper hyzer than you think, but there is a lot of space on the right, so the trick is to take an overstable disc and leave plenty of room to turn. I let the Valkyrie fly, and although I let it go a bit too early, it clears the bend with about five feet to spare and lands to rest about 10 feet from the hole. I’ve been putting real well, but I finally choke one, letting go of the disc with no spin. I could have shut the door with a birdie, but instead I head to the 18th.

There, the other group of doubles players awaits to let me play through.

You know, I laugh at the guys in the World Series of Poker who say, “Just one time…” They remind me of Rich Mullins: “Everyone I know says they need just one thing, / When really what they mean / Is they need just one thing more…” Yet here, I am, on the fairway, thinking, “Just one time; just this one time.”

The difference being this time it is not a prayer to an indifferent poker god but a reminder to myself to think of nothing but the present moment; this one time; this one shot. I have a stroke to play with, so all I need is to make sure I get good pull. There is a tree on the right edge of the fairway, but it is far enough that were I to hit it, I would have enough distance to still get a relatively easy four. The only real danger of a five here is letting go too early and chunking it to the left or really yanking it.

A nice straight throw with a lot of snap.
Just one time…
And then the disc is out of my hand, spinning hard and pushing right (as the Leopard does), not yanked, but at good speed. It misses the tree and heads off the fairway to the right, but far enough, and it doesn’t hit a tree but keeps going, coming to rest a good 50-60 feet from the hole on the fringe of the right rough.
The actual crowd is respectfully impressed.
The imaginary Ryder Cup of Disc Golf crowd goes nuts.
I approach with the Stingray, overshooting the pin by about 12 feet, leaving me two putts to finish under par. For good measure, I bury the par putt for a 52.
I can go home.

Later, as I pull onto 85 south towards home, the Kingston Trio is singing “Lonesome Traveler”:

”Well one of these days, I’m gonna stop all my traveling,
Well one of these days, I’m gonna stop all my traveling,
Well one of these days, I’m gonna stop all my traveling—
Well, I’ve been traveling long.”

One of these days.
Not today.

Only 35 more days until the Georgia State Championships at Rose Lane.

3-2-4 4-3-3 5-3-4 OUT (31)
3-3-4 3-3-3 3-3-5 IN (30) 61

2-2-3 4-3-2 3-2-4 OUT (25)
3-3-3 3-4-3 6-3-4 IN (32) 57

2-3-3 2-3-3 3-2-3 OUT (24)
3-3-3 3-4-3 3-3-3 IN (28) 52

Final Tally:
Courses: 18
New Courses: 8
States: 11
Number of Times I've Played Valley Springs Under Par: 1

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Day 12: College Park, MD

The mind and the body adjust of their own accord to circumstances.

Todd and I know that we can sleep in, yet when I awake and make my way down to the bathroom, my brother-in-law is getting ready for work. It is not yet eight o’clock.

We do spend some time with a leisurely breakfast, but then it is time to pack up the car. We say good-bye, pausing to admire the tie-dyed shirts that my sister-in-law and niece made yesterday but are not quite dry; then it is off to BWI.

I wonder if dying is something like this—the gradual giving up of the things you’ve accumulated in the first half of your trip. I know there may be golf this afternoon, but I also know that I will be play alone and Todd will be on a plane to Ohio.

We part at the airport, Todd holding the camera out in front of him to take one last picture of the two of us. It has been a great trip made better by the presence of a good friend. I know I would have enjoyed myself had I gone alone, but there is an icing on the cake that I got to share the bulk of my trip.

After Todd is gone, I adjust the driver’s seat, pop in Sunday Ladies Philosophy Club and head for College Park. I make one wrong turn where 95 turns into 495, but it is easy to turn around and my directions to the park are simple enough.

Calvert Park is the oldest course in Maryland; it’s Mach 1 baskets are in good shape, though, and there are alternate tee pads and pin placements for every hole. Today, it appears as though all the pins are in the long positions, so I decide to play the short tees (there really isn’t that much difference).

As I lace up my high tops, I’m in a somber mood. There is a little wind that is affecting my warm up putts, and I see some graffiti on the portajohn announcing NO ILLEGALS, but really it is just the awareness that things are drawing to a close.

I shoot a pedestrian 54, with two birdies and two bogeys. Even making a 20 footer on 18—the longest hole on the course--to save my par round, is not enough to get me jacked up. Around Hole 16, my shins start to hurt from pounding the pavement and pushing off, a dull, achy sort of pain. I’m always happy to shoot par, and while Calvert is no Rock Hill, it’s no Douglass College either. For the first time all trip, my bed at home sounds more enticing than tomorrow’s course. Looks like I timed the length of my vacation just right too.

There is one very nice moment though, when I throw my second flick of the round. It makes a solid approach to a long hole with a right turn, and I realize I’m getting slightly more comfortable making this throw, even in the middle of a round. It is not the orgasmic thrill of throwing an ace; rather, it is the pleasant prospect of a new friendship, one you think might last a long time. Why it should seem odd that among the many good things about this trip, improving my game should be one, I don’t know. But it has been.

I get to the home of the people I am staying with in Maryland, but they are out for most of the evening, so I start watching a downloaded movie ( Being Julia). As usual, I’ve packed way too much, and I have DVDs, books, and downloaded movies that I didn’t even glance at.

This seems as good a place as any to add some of my less than complementary observations about the trip:
--The merging lane of a highway is for accelerating until you reach the speed of traffic, not for stopping until you find a break in traffic.
--Many of the towns in New England have an irritating habit of only identifying the cross street on their signs. This can be annoying when you are not sure that you are on the correct street to begin with.
--There is a preoccupation in New England with letting you know that something is a STATE law. You must, for example, yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. This is not a local ordinance, nor is it a national statute. It is a STATE LAW. And don’t you forget it…
--Despite my two day stay, I still avoided buying gas in New Jersey.

3-3-3 3-4-2 4-3-2 OUT (27)
3-3-3 3-3-3 3-3-3 IN (27) 54

Day 12 Tally--
Courses: 16
New Courses: 8
States: 11
IKEA Stores Visited: 1
Books Brought on Trip: 4
Books Bought on Trip: 1
Books Read on Trip: 0 (little bits of de Caussade)
Movies Downloaded to Watch on Trip: 5
DVDs Brought to Watch on Trip: 9
Movies Watched on Trip: 1

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Day 11: East Brunswick, NJ

Because we are staying with my in-laws and there is no check out time or long travel to be done, I do something unorthodox for this trip: I turn over in bed and take another hour of sleep.

The PDGA web site says there are two 9 hole courses that are close to our zip code, but my sister-in-law assures me that Douglass College at Rutgers is the closest. There are also some courses in Pennsylvania about 30 miles away, but Todd thinks he can get Pennsylvania more easily than New Jersey since he is living in Ohio (sensible boy). Since the weather calls for rain at four, we decide playing Rutgers in the morning would be our best bet.

Douglass is marked as 3729 in the PDGA site, and the last time I was here (I think 2 years ago) I shot a 48. If I had Warwick as an ace up my sleeve to ensure at least one great course at the tail end of the trip, I also had in the back of my mind that it would be nice to have a course that could be played under par to hold in reserve.

The course was established in 1978, so there are a few eccentricities. (The sign on Hole 3 says "Par 4" for a 200 foot hole.) The baskets are in good repair, though, and the trees are used quite well to make you at least make some shots.

Hole 1 is short but with a very sharp hook that makes you go around a tree. Hole 2 is reachable, but a low hanging tree ensures that you have to drive straight and low. There are a lot of holes like that. I deuce the first three holes and settle into course management mode--make sure you get your pars first, then take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. The only trouble I get in is on Hole 7 where I'm distracted enough by a tree in the middle of the fairway that I try to overthrow the Leopard and end up driving it into the ground. I'm left with over a 100 feet for my approach and I have obstacles. Fortunately, I'm able to throw the Whippet (I think this is the first time it's been out of my bag all trip) to within 15 feet and make a meaningful if not very difficult putt to save par. If I have goals of shooting in the 40s, even on an easy course, I have to eliminate 4s.

Making that putt gives me some confidence. I'm four under after 8 holes, and all I'm thinking is 8 pars and a birdie and I'll have my goal. The ninth hole is a short left to right (anhyzer) with a slope away from the pin to the left and a short, felled tree by the hole that one can go over if one wants to run straight at the hole The problem with the straight shot is that you are tempted to loft it to get it over the tree/bush and thus risk fading down the hill away from the basket. I take out my DX-Roc and concentrate on throwing it just enough with angle to turn it slightly right over the barrier and hope that it will land hard enough to hold. When I let it go, I know I've thrown the shot I wanted, but I wasn't thinking about the target, just the area. And that's when I hear the chains.

Aw, the sweetest sound there is. Not the glancing sound of some chains but that sweet "chi-ching" as the disc hits the chains and the chains hit the pole and each other. Just as a basketball net has a specific sound when a shot is "swished" so too does a basket when a long approach or tee shot hits chains true.

After a 21 year hiatus (I said 18 in About You section, but I calculated wrong), I have rejoined the Brotherhood of the Ace with my third career hole-in-one. Todd takes a picture of me by the hole from the tee and another as we arrive at the basket. Finally, lovingly, I take the Roc out of the basket, kiss it once, and put it in my bag, never to be thrown again.

Oh, but there's work still to do. I'm now six under and approaching rarified territory. Further, I've got the adrenaline going. The back nine has a few more tricky holes, but I get three more birdies to finish at 45, a new course record for me and only the second lowest round I've shot ever. I even make a meaningful flick off the tee on seventeen. I get a par, but just the decision to throw it rather than the more comfortable backhand pleases me. I'm working to expand my game so that I won't be afraid to throw the flick when it is called for.

Back at the car we call the spouses to celebrate. Todd has thrown a 53, his first time under par (54) on any course. But, strange role reveral here, he's brooding a bit. He had at least 5 putts bounce out, and he easily feels he could have been lower. The course is short enough and we have nothing else planned for the day that he is sorely tempted to play another 18 after Gatorade.

Todd is a sweet man and a good friend, though, and he is concerned that going back out on the course could ruin my good round. What if I go out and throw a clunker. Today should be about celebrating my good fortune.

I explain, however, that while I can brood with the best of them when I don't do as well as I hoped, that if I have good fortune, I'm pretty much happy no matter what. That round is in the bank and nothing can take it from me, ever. I could go out right now and shoot a +9 and still go home happy. I'm floating. So, my advice is bascially, "I'm here for you. I've got mine, if you want to go get yours (or take another stab at it), don't let me stop you."

He does, so we head back out to the first tee.

Todd throws a -3 on the next eighteen, and a strange and wonderful thing happens to me. Basically, I'm as loose, mentally as I've been on a golf course in ages. I'm playing with house money.

When I'm loose, I tend to putt better.
I start to putt real well on a short course.
I birdie the first six holes. Combined with the birdie that I ended the last round with, that is a run of seven straight birdies which I know is a record for me. I par 6 and birdie seven.

After I throw my drive on seven, I lick my index finger and make the sizzling noise. I am on fire and enjoying the ride.

Eventually, I do start to wilt in the heat and 36 holes is 36 holes, short or not. There is this weird dynamic when you are on a zone. You don't want to think too much and break the momentum, but you also don't want to make foolish mistakes. I actually take a 4 on Hole 10 and that announces to me that I need to start easing back into concentrate mode rather than just momentum mode.

I am -9 going into seventeen and I make a long arcing flick that I think looks good, but when we approach the hole, we can't find the disc. A short search finally reveals it up in the tree and it is over two meters. I'm bummed, because I threw a good flick and I've seen my chances of tying my best round ever (44 at Bull Run, a much easier course) go by the boards. Once we get the disc down though, I realize I can do a straddle putt from around the tree, and if I don't overthink it too much (and I don't) I can make a 20 footer to save par. For the second time in the trip I take a circle three. I get my birde on the short 18th hole and finish -10 for only the second time in my playing days.

I have to say, as an aside, both times I've shot -10, on very easy courses, one of the first things I think is, "John has shot -10 at Rose Lane, a course I am fortunate to be under par on." One would think that my shooting a good score would reduce the awe in which I hold better players, but it's actually the reverse. I see how hard it is to go double digits on even an easy course. One tree the wrong way, one slip of the putting hand, can cost you a stroke.

Todd and I are both bone weary tired, not just from 36 holes but from the last seven days. He decides we need to celebrate so he treats me to a movie of my choice and I finally grab the opportunity to see War of the Worlds. After that, it's out to a nice Mexican dinner with the in-laws.

Tomorrow Todd is heading home, and he is anxious to play his home course and see if he sees improvement from a week of intensive practice.

I think I'm looking at College Park as a stopover on the way home. Perhaps on Thursday I'll play Loriella or Valley Springs on way home.

Oh, and after dinner, I get a sharpie to date the disc. Todd and I sign it and it comes out of the bag and into the suitcase.

2-2-2 3-3-2 3-3-1 OUT (21)
3-2-3 3-2-3 3-3-2 IN (24) 45

2-2-2 2-2-2 3-2-2 OUT (19)
4-2-3 3-3-2 3-3-2 IN (25) 44

DAY 11 Tally
Courses: 15
New Courses: 8
States: 11
Deuces Thrown Today: 18
Deuces Thrown in New York, Vermont, Maine, and Massachussetts Combined: 5
Number of Aces Thrown on Trip: 1
Number of Aces Thrown in the Rest of My Life Combined: 2
Number of times I've been double digits under Par 3: 2
Consectuive deuces thrown: 7
Discs Lost on Trip: 3 (Todd 2, Ken 1)
Discs Retired on Trip: 1

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Wish I Could Say It Was My Drive That Did It; Douglass College, East Brunswick, NJ. Posted by Picasa

Day 10: Warwick, NY

Both Todd and I express awareness that Vermont is a transitional state. Geographically, we are now turning south for the first time. (Going from Maine back to the hotel in Massachusetts doesn’t seem to count.) Temporally, we have passed the half way point and are now nearer the end of our trip than the beginning.

So now I’m struggling a bit with that late weekend, Monday’s coming, kind of blues that so often robs me of the joy of whatever I’m doing. I’ve scheduled Warwick late for this very reason, so I know I’ll have something to look forward to.

Warwick Town Park is one of my top 5 favorite courses, or it was two years ago. I’m curious to see how it stacks up to my nostalgic memories of it.

The course is in a huge part in southern New York, hard to find and get to, but well worth the effort. One thing I like about it is that it has four configurations on most holes—two tees and two permanent baskets, so the course can play anywhere from 4400 to 8800 feet. Todd and I unapologetically decide to play the short course.

I have two reasons for this. One is, as Todd is so fond of saying, we are amateurs. That is what it says on our card. The other is that I haven’t been in sniffing distance of 54 since Connecticut. Granted, both the Vermont and Maine courses claimed to have pars that I shot under, but I tend to think of 54 as par on most courses.

Two things go wrong today that I am surprised have not yet gone wrong on the trip.

Todd and I warm up to the first cracks of thunder. We’ve had surprisingly good luck with weather, and Accuweather has said a possible thunderstorm from 4:00-5:00. It looks like it could open up on us at any moment.

Todd and I both started with a birdie on the first hole, and this will be my only birdie of the day. I do have a couple of 12-15 footers (and one 20 or so) to save par, because I’m not approaching real well, but I’m driving okay. Hole 9 is fairly long, and I get a good drive, but I hit the only real tree in the middle of a very wide fairway. Bad luck. This means I have a long approach that leaves me the 20 footer for par. When I make it, solid, I take the turn at -1 and I’m thinking there is the possibility for a special round.

Hole 10 is my one bad tee shot of the day, and it’s not recoverable. The hole is a two tiered downhill with a tree line guarding the tier, so you pretty much have to get it there (if not through) on your drive or getting to the hole on approach is just luck. As I let go of the Stingray and it catches a branch, I’m running up to see its lie, and I twist my ankle pretty bad, aggravating an old ankle injury. Stupid. Running on non-level terrain is the way I usually tweak it. My approach did get down the gap, and I have a 25 footer that makes a good run, but I still take a four to return to even par.

Hole 12 is a 174 foot classic risk-reward. You can shoot through a narrow alley of trees to a visible pin, or you can go around the forest edge, taking an easy three. I split the trees with the Leopard, getting within smelling distance of an ace, but landing 10 feet past and to the left. Psychologically, going from under par to par and then back under is such a huge boost. It allows me to attack holes and feel as though I have room for error without having to “hang on” to par. Unfortunately, this is my one bad putt of the round, and I take a three. I tell myself I haven’t lost anything but an opportunity, but it’s a momentum shifter, because on 13, the rains come.

Playing Disc Golf in the rain is a tough experience, especially in a more open course. If it’s not cold, it’s doable, but it’s a chore. Part of you is saying “speed up” to get in and out of the rain, the other “slow down” because that is when you are more likely to make careless mistakes. Certainly the rain adds weight to the disc and makes distance harder. A firm grip is almost impossible.

I hold on for another two pars, then Hole 15 is where the nerves finally give way. I get a solid tee shot but the approach is blocked by a tree and I take a four. Sixteen is reachable off the tee, but now the rains are coming harder, and with them wind. The wind pushes my Valkyrie right, and my short approach with the Roc is a bit long. I’m trying to wipe my putter, but my rag is wet, and so is my shirt. My glasses are fogging, and my putt glances off the chains and out. Seventeen is a 400+ hole, and I get a decent teeshot that the wind pushes right leaving me a makeable but hard 100+ approach. The wet leopard slips out of my hand, going maybe thirty feet. I save four, and par out on 18.

This is one of those moments where I’m lucky Todd is with me, because my first thought is, “It’s only 4:30” so if I were here myself I might be tempted to change my clothes and wait in the car to see if it clears and play another round. I really wanted to be under par on this one, because I love the course and I know I may not be back for a long time.

Part of being in the moment, though, is accepting the things we cannot control, like the weather. The flavor of the trip is not about trying to control the uncontrollable, it is about accepting the unexpected surprises and coping with the sudden disappointments. I threw well today; it just wasn’t meant to be.

Winding out of the mountain roads towards 287, the rains come hard, but we are eventually rewarded with a safe arrival at my in-laws.

There are pork chops.
There is wine.
There is good company.
There is ibuprofen.
Life goes on.


2-3-3 3-3-3 3-3-3 OUT (26)
4-3-3 3-3-4 4-4-3 IN (31) 57

Day 10 Tally
Courses: 14
New Courses: 8
States: 10
Ankles Rolled: 1
Thunderstorms: 1

Monday, July 18, 2005

Todd at Warwick Town Park Disc Golf Course Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Day 9: Bradford, VT

In 1987, Judith Viorst published Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day . Eighteen years later, Ken’s Vacation Blog presents Ken and Wonderful, Great, Not Bad, Very Good Day.

What follows are the top five things that happened to Ken today. (They happened to Todd, too, though his might be in a different order.

Number Five
Todd had been craving a New England seafood dinner and he finally got his wish at The Weather Vane, voted the best seafood in the Greater Rutland area nine years running. Yeah, I know, how big is Rutland, right?

Well, let me put it this way. I eat seafood once a year. I don’t like seafood. I had coconut shrimp. It was very, very good. It was not as milky sweet as the coconut shrimp in Los Angeles, but the shrimp itself was plump and good, and the breading was light. There was just enough for me.

Todd? Well Todd had not one but two lobsters, and let me tell you, I was in awe. Any meal where they have to bring you a bowl of tools, that’s a meal I want to witness. Todd, in a ritual tone of voice explained each item. The nutcracker for breaking the shell…the bowl…for the shells…a small pitchfork for extracting meat…a bib for what bib’s are for…a moist towelette because there is no neat way to eat a lobster and Todd is going to eat two. He does, too. When they bring out the lobster, I have a hard time seeing Todd’s head over the mounding pile of red on his plate. Once it is over, all I can say is that I have a new appreciation for Todd and his ability.

Although Todd pays a bit more for his lobster, my tally, including beverage and tip, comes to $11, for the best seafood I have eaten.


Number Four
Nothing like a nice, hot, Jacuzzi by the motel swimming pool after eight straight days of disc golf to cheer the weary bones. I’m not talking a tepid room temperature bath with bubble jets, I’m talking a legitimate hot (but not scalding) Jacuzzi. Thanks, Priceline, for the free upgrade. Oh, and after the Jacuzzi, there was a nice hardwood, New England sauna. I feel so…pampered.

Number Three
Tired of supporting the monolithic conglomerate that is Amazon? Annie’s Bookstore is open next to [see below], and we wander in. The selection is superb, and although I wasn’t planning on it, I get the new Harry Potter book, not because I’m anxious to read it but because I know I’ll get it eventually, and I would rather support the small, independent book store. I also buy a used Alexander McCall Smith book on CD to listen on the way home. Todd picks up a gift for his wife and a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, which we heard discussed on NPR during our drive. (You know that it is a good day when NPR can’t crack the top five.)

Number Two
Vermont is the home of Ben & Jerry’s, and across the parking lot from the motel, next to Annie’s Books, is the Ben & Jerry’s store. Ken has a scoop of Super Fudge Chunk that is piled high out of the cup. Todd has a brownie, topped New York Chocolate Chunk Supreme Decadent Something or Other, with hot fudge and whipped cream, and…a cup of coffee. (If I had those two lobsters, I don’t think I’d eat for a month, unless I had Ben & Jerry’s to tempt me.)

Number One
Eighteen holes at the Oxbow Disc Golf Course. Total course length 5310 feet. 10 holes under 300 feet (deceptive given several uphill drives), 5 from 300-400, and 3 over 400.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived in Bradford. It is a spot on the map up the interstate, and the PDGA site said the course was on high school land, which usually means not very technical.

There are a few short holes to start, then at Hole Six, the course takes a sharp right and goes up the mountain. The course is a bit of a workout, but once you are on the side of the mountain there are some breathtaking views, including one hole (9, I think), that has a three foot tee pad over the trees below to a blind pin placement. It is as close as throwing off a mountain as you ever want to get.

Then there is a long, 400 foot plus down the mountain. I shot well, not lights out, but as close to my peak as I have on the trip, I think. I miss one putt I should make and another for birdie that is makeable but not a gimmie. One of my fours (Hole 5), is due only to lack of local knowledge, as I put my drive within 20 feet of the pin but in a deep grove of trees with no out. I throw my first roller of the trip on 12 to get around some bush and another on 16 to save par that makes me happy because the difference between 58 and 59 is significant psychologically. I haven’t been in sniffing distance of 54 since Connecticut, and this strikes me as a very good score for the first time on this course.

You know, I like Vermont. I’m lucky I didn’t go to high school here, though, because if I did, I might never have graduated. I can see playing the first five holes for lunch, hearing the bell for forth period and be presented with Trigonometry to my left and more disc golf to my right. (Not that I needed an excuse to skip Trig, anyway.) The vice principal could have met me at hole 12 and I would have detention forever.

Then again, I’m sure the course looks different in the fall and winter. (I wonder if Vermont has an Ice Bowl.) Maybe one could hike up the hill and then snowboard down.

One of the many things for which I’m grateful for this trip is that (mid-life musing coming), I’m not too sure if 10 or even 5 years from now a course like this or Maine’s would be a bit too much for me. I hope to play disc golf into my sixties, but some of these steep climbs would be prohibitive.

So that's my day, and the antique store rest stop with 50 cent sharp, Vermont cheddar cheese can't even crack the top five.

Man, some days being alive totally doesn't suck.


2-3-3 2-4-4 3-3-4 OUT (28)
3-3-4 4-3-3 4-3-3 IN (30) 58

Day 9 Tally
Courses: 13
New Courses: 8
States: 9
Rollers Thrown on Trip: 2
Lobsters Consumed: 2 (Todd)
Coconut Shrimp Consumed: 6 (Ken 5; Todd 1)
Jacuzzis Taken: 1
Things New Hampshire Has Over Vermont 1: (State Motto)
Things Vermont Has Over New Hampshire: Everything Else

Oxbow Disc Golf Course; Bradford, VT Posted by Picasa

Day 8--Durham, NH; Auburn, ME

Because we don’t have to check out of the motel, Todd and I allow ourselves to sleep in. I awake around 9:30 to hear Todd checking e-mail, and he informs me that the breakfast buffet is actually quite above average: make your own waffles, French toast, danishes, as well as all the usual suspects.

I wander down and make myself a waffle, but there isn’t any jelly to put on it and the consistency is a little rubbery, so I try a cinnamon bun and then we start loading up the car.

Our plan is to take 93 up to the Play-It-Again sports in Derry, New Hampshire, get a replacement disc for me, cut across to Durham to play at the Lake Hickory course, then cut across to 95 up to Maine to play Dragan Fields in Auburn.

There are two fatal flaws in my plan. The first is that I found a note that says there is a Skate and Sport shop by Amesbury right off the interstate that sells disc. I think that it is preferable to go to Play It Again, because I can find store hours on the Internet and I know it won’t be closed on the weekend. I have never been to a Play It Again that did not have discs.

As we go into New Hampshire, Todd asks if Bienvenue is French, because our welcome signs are bilingual. I say (thinking back to Cabaret—Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome) that I think it is. Todd says he is surprised because he never associated New Hampshire with the French. What, I crack, “Live Free or Die” doesn’t immediately make you think of the French? Once we cross over the state line 93 appears to be heading for a traffic delay, so we get off the interstate for a parallel adjoining road. I begin to become concerned because all I have is a street name, West Broadway, and not a route number. In fact, I drew myself a little map and have 93 running north south and to the side I have written “121.” On the map, route 121 looks much farther north than 10 miles. Did I write the wrong exit? It seemed clear on the map on the Internet that I could buy the discs and cut across a NW road to Durham, but if the Play It Again is farther north, well that isn’t happening.

On our way up the local road, we pass the Robert Frost Home. (We can see it from the road.) There is a nice white fence and a barn; I ask Todd if he wants to stop and take a picture, like at Sleepy Hollow, but he just shrugs and says the only one he knows who cares about Robert Frost is a former colleague of ours. Todd, I will remind you, is the man who took a picture of his Samurai Roll (avocado, crabmeat, cucumber stick, rice, kelp wrapper, topped with salmon) at Little Tokyo.

We hit the junction for 102, which is the route we need to cut across to Durham, but I tell Todd to go West for 2 miles in case this is the road of the Play It Again sports, even though route 121 is still 10 miles north. If we don’t hit the store before the interstate, we can backtrack and say we missed it. The first street sign we see says West Broadway, and it is going through a small New Hampshire town that isn’t like most suburban places where I usually find a Play It Again shop. I am almost simultaneously hit with two very contradictory, nay diametrically opposed emotions.

The first, following fast on the heels of “so where on West Broadway is this store, what’s the number” is a triumphal “121!” The second, more sinking feeling like that of the grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is, “perhaps I should have taken the road closer to the store closer to where I knew there was an actual disc golf course…

The sporting goods store is in a shopping center, and to give you and idea of how fast my heart is sinking, the biggest banner in the window is an invitation to join the “Skater’s Club.’ It seems if I get my ice skates sharpened a certain number of times, the next one is free. Ice skates? Nobody (in North Carolina anyway) goes to Play It Again Sports for ice skates…not when the summer is nice and they are on their way to play disc golf. I’m met by a clerk who asks if he can help me.

“I’m looking for golf discs for disc golf” I say with a rather pathetic, pleading whine to my voice that I can’t remember having used since I was, oh, 12 and I was asking my mom to buy me the new Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators paperback (The Mystery of the Talking Mummy?).

“Sorry, we don’t carry those.” No, of course not, why would you?

So it’s back in the car, and I’m almost tempted to go back to 495 or at least go to Maine first, since Dragan Field is supposed to have a pro shop (that may or may not be open on a Saturday). Durham is right in the way, though, so we decide to head there first. In the meantime, we pop in Umberto Eco’ The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana to pass the time.

Now my second fatal error is not entirely my fault. Before going on this trip, I called John Nisewonder and asked for course recommendations. He passed along that a buddy had told him that the course in Dover, NH that I had initially planned to play was under construction and not “worth” going to. Since the PDGA says 18 holes to 16 baskets, I decided that Durham, with its 11 holes (and a little closer to the interstate) is a better bet. Besides, the PDGA website says it is by a ball golf course and is $3.50 per round. I think, quite reasonably, that this means it is more likely to be maintained. (There is also a message at saying, from someone in 2003, to bring bug spray.

Our instructions are approaching from the North and we are coming from the south, but it is supposed to be by a bed and breakfast, so we have no trouble finding the road. I go in to the registration area and wait patiently for the college aged receptionist to check in the guests. Can she helps us, she asks a bit dubiously.

We’d like to play the disc golf course, do we pay here?

Oh, I’m sorry, we can’t do disc golf anymore. The owner sold the golf course or something…not sure…haven’t been able to let people go out…

Todd and I return to the car, stunned. My mind is racing…I don’t have the instructions to Dover, to I get them tonight and come back tomorrow (adding another 70 so miles to a long leg of the trip)? Do I leave New Hampshire for another trip? How can I? I’m desperate…New Hampshire is mocking me for the French comment, I know, or for dissing Robert Frost. It’s cosmic pay back. I understand cosmic pay back, but this is like a prison term for jaywalking. I’m sorry New Hampshire….I’ll never say anything bad about Robert Frost again if only….

As we continue on the road, I can see a basket from the road, and I’m tempted to get out and jump the fence, but there is no place to pull the car.

“Turn the car around,” I tell Todd. I go back in to the B&B but the receptionst is gone, getting sheets for a bed. I find her down the hall.

Okay, I’m not crazy, but hear me out. My friend and I are on a road trip to help me in my goal to play Disc Golf in all 50 states and New Hampshire doesn’t have many courses. I don’t want to mess up your insurance, but please, I’m begging you, can I just go around to the back yard and throw one hole so I can say I’ve played in New Hampshire?

“You didn’t ask me,” she says with a nod and turns away. I take this to mean, no permission in case anything goes wrong, but she won’t call the cops.

Todd pops the trunk for me and I grab two discs and tear aound the garden, finding a sidewalk about 150 feet from a basket. No time to warm up or even aim, I let the Leopard fly, run up with my putter, finish the hole, jump over one of New England’s many stone fences to the road, backtrack to the car and jump in. Todd finishes his phone call and asks me if I got New Hampshire on the board.

“Yeah,” I say with a slight scowl.
“What’s the matter?” he asks.

There is a slight pause.

“I took a 3.”


Maine welcomes us with a claim that “Life Should Always Be This Good” or something of the sort. Along the road, the Maine Highway Safety committee regales us with bits of advice, most of which could apply to disc golf as well as driving cars.

“Check your speed often.” (Sure.)
“Avoid driving while tired.” (Well, duh.)
“Always wear your seat belt.” (Okay, not all.)

We stop for lunch as the world’s busiest Rest Area along the interstate and get some more good old fashion “We’re So Glad You’re Here That We Can’t Wait for You to Leave” New England service. Honestly, only half of it is Popeye’s fault (setting up two lines for self-service and ordering that mix, but the other part is the family ahead of us.

Okay, I’ve never been a patient man, especially when it’s been almost 24 hours since I got a disc golf fix, but Todd and I make several observations regarding this family.

1) The name is Popeye’s Fried Chicken. The menu options should not come as too much of a surprise.
2) When there are 2000 people in line behind you, you are morally obligated to know what you (and your two kids) want BEFORE you are next in line.
Still, it’s another hour or so to Dragan Field, so we figure we need some sustenance. I have some chicken strips and mashed potatoes and it’s back on the road.

Dragan Field is one of the highlights of the trip. It is one of those beautiful farmland courses that is sprawling, distance oriented, and a work out. The pro shop is, indeed, open, and I try to purchase a new Sidewinder, but there is only a 150 class, so I get a Champion Teebird instead (as much turn as Sidewinder but less speed, so less fade and less glide.) I also buy a DX Monster which is supposed to be a 10 speed (Sidewinder is 9) but with the same glide as Sidewinder. It’s a bit pricey, but I’m worried about not having anything in between the Leopard and the Valkyrie.

I’m glad to have them and will use them, but it turns out I don’t need them. The course is open enough that I can throw the Valkyrie and not worry about too much fade. Todd loses a beat up Eagle on Hole 1 (where we throw 3), but he turns over a Gazelle into a roller and drops under the hole for a deuce and we are off. On the second hole, I chip in from about 75 feet (Roc) for a deuce, and I know it will be a good day. The fourth hole is a 405 foot par 5 according to my scorecard. I take a 4, but I realize this will be a long course (5116) with a lot of elevation changes, so I should focus on learning my discs and practicing distance throwing. (Also, no injuries…watch footinb with all the ups and downs.)

The course is a beauty. I hit about 6 baskets on putts, but only 1 is one that I really should make every time (10 feet) and another that I should make 90 percent (15). I’m actually putting better; my misses are hitting basket or chains from 20+, rather than the ones that are hitting the bottom of the basket from a lazy 12 feet. One even comes to rest on top of the basket. I get another deuce on the 310 down hill, tenth hole. I try to calculate if this is the longest hole I’ve ever deuced (a 35 footer curves in with the Stingray). It could be, but with downhills you can’t be sure.

Todd and I both make 20 foot putts on 18 and it feels good to finish on a good note. I shoot a 61, Todd a 66, and the par listed on the card is 68, so I’m feeling pretty good. We stop back in the club house to see if anyone turned in Todd’s Eagle (no) or if they have any for sale (no). While there, I check out the scores for last tournament and am a bit discouraged. The course record, I’m told, is a 47, which doesn’t bother me (son of owner), but I’m seeing quite a few high 50s. I would have been third to last in the advanced division, towards the middle of intermediate. Then again, there are some cards for recent local monthly, and in these, I am pretty much right in the middle, so it is possible that not as many recreational players play in tournaments up here. The guy at the clubhouse says that occasionally new players come out and, if this is the first course they play, get discouraged and never come back. The PDGA web site calls it a “technical” course, which Todd deems accurate. Upon consideration, I think it possible with knowing a few local shots and putting consistently, I probably could shoot in the mid to high 50s (57-58) and that I not only don’t suck, but I do have a little, if only a little, talent.

In Chapter 3 (“The Virtue and Practice of Surrendering Ourselves”), de Causade writes, “It is necessary to be disengaged from all we feel and do in order to walk with God in the duty of the present moment. All other avenues are closed. We must confine ourselves to the present moment without taking thought for the one before or the one to come.”

Certainly today is like that. To the extent I can disengage from expectations, outside distractions, what came before (who shot what when I wasn’t there) or what is to come (Am I getting better? Will I compete when next I play?) and focus on the present moment, the moment when a 75 foot chip goes in, I am the happiest. De Causade suggests in another passage that all of God’s decisions are a series of decisions leading to the present moment, that the present moment is the most important one. Can I accept the clanking putts from 15 feet if I understand that they are a series of moments that give significance, positive or negative, to the present moment? I think I can, or, at the least, I can make it a discipline so to try. Today was good practice because the moments were good and so I could work on not spoiling them by whining that they were not better. On other days there will be, no doubt, practice taking the disappointments as meaningful gifts that will make me appreciate the good ones (as well as the great ones) even more, but for today, the job was just to take the above average and be content.

On the way home, Todd plays Over The Rhine on the CD. I’ve never heard it, but seems like people at A&F are anointing them flavor of the month. The lead singer is claiming that every day, she dies a little. I guess this is true. But some days you live a little, too.

Like today.

HICKORY POND (I considered apply the heretofore labeled Rhode Island rule and taking a 2 on each hole I couldn’t play, but I decide that applies only to courses that are open with holes that are unplayable.)

3 (OUT) 3
Total: 3


3-2-3 4-3-5 3-4-4 OUT (31)
4-2-4 4-3-4 3-3-3 IN (30) 61

Day 8 Tally
Courses 11.1
New Courses 6.1
States 8
Discs Lost 3
Discs Bought 2
Allusions in the First 3 Chapters of an Umberto Eco Novel: 2300
Maine Department of Safety Highway Tips Passed: 13
Maine Department of Satefy Highway Tips Followed: All of them.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Day 7--Charlestown, RI; Amesbury, MA

Friday is a bit of a shorter leg for us, but I find myself fighting crabbiness all day. Perhaps the lack of sleep or muscle tiredness is getting to me or perhaps it is something else. Nothing big, no big blow ups with Todd or anything, I just find myself more irritated at day to day things than normal.

The day begins with a drive to Target where Todd and I stock up on Gatorade, food in bar form, non-meltable sugar delivery systems (Starburst and Jelly Beans), etc. I get some safety pins to keep my golf pants rolled up on the right, but I resist the urge to get a small bit of laundry detergent. This turns out to be a good idea, since the detergent is complementary at the hotel in Massachussetts.

After Target, we take route 1 along coastline. We past Mystic, Connecticut, and we wave at Mystic Pizza, but it doesn’t have quite the same thrill as Sleepy Hollow.

I’ve checked the distance on Yahoo! It is supposed to be about 30 miles to the course in Rhode Island, but it seems that weaving through little towns in Connecticut takes forever. (Perhaps this, too contributes to my grouchiness.) Actually, though, it is my bad, because I forget that the scales are different on the maps, so once we are in Rhode Island, we get to the park fairly quickly.

On the way to the park, though, we get rear-ended at a traffic light. I get out of the car and check the bumper, and it looks clean, so the impact was, thankfully, not bad enough to do any damage. I wave the lady who hit us on and hope that good karma will be returned.

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country, just barely double the size of Seneca County in Ohio (where Todd lives). The course is supposed to have 9 baskets and the only other course in Rhode Island is a 27 hole object course, so Tiffin has more disc golf baskets than Rhode Island. Rhode Island does have more people in it than Alaska, though, so that is one thing it has over bigger states.

Ninigret Park is big for a park. It has a nature center, a pond, an observatory (for star gazing). As we approach the first tee, we find benches by it, a little club house (not just a bulletin board) where people can post their names if they got an ace, and a netting tied up between two trees for warming up. What a cool idea. Clearly someone has put thought into this course, and I’m suitably impressed. The first hole has three tees, and we decide to play the short tees to make the round quicker and not have a long day like before. It is 165 feet, and I throw close to the pin but behind some trees. Todd parks his tee shot for an easy deuce.

I try to putt from a sitting position so that I can get under the tree branches and my disc hits the branch, going a few feet but being equally blocked. I take a 4 and announce that I am starting my round over. (My mulligan philosophy is that you don’t take them on any hole but the first because the first is just like tossing in the towel on the round and starting over.) I also announce that if I beat Todd by 2 or less strokes, he can put an asterisk in the eternal record book. (Todd seems unconcerned; he’s just happy he got a birdie.)

I tee off again, park my tee shot and take my deuce.

The second hole is either less than 140 from the regulation tee or 201 from the “pro” tee, so we re-think our decision to play the standards. It is a blind right turn, so we take turns spotting each other, which is a good think, because I’ve convinced I’ve crossed the fairway and landed in the left rough and Todd says I am, in fact, in the right rough. I have no shot so I need to pitch out to the fairway and take my four.

Then an odd thing happens. We see two signs pointing us to Hole #3, but we are walking down a long path and we can’t find it. Eventually we feel we must have missed it and start back down the path, looking for tracks off into the woods where we might have gone. Todd eventually calls to me that he has found a tee for Hole 5, so we figure we will trace it back to the third hole, but we can’t find a close by Hole 4, nor indeed a Hole 5 at the distance stated from the tee. Finally, though, we see two locals teeing off on a hole ahead of us and ask them where Hole 3 is.

Hole 3 is…um…gone. The next hole is actually Hole 6, which they show to us. Some of the baskets have been taken away and the only other ones that have baskets are 6 and 7. There are some paths marked for 8 and 9 and sticks to mark where the baskets would be if we want to play imaginary golf. Hmmm.

Okay, time to play “How Well do You Know Ken?” Can you guess the first thing that pops into Ken’s mind when he hears this? [I figure Cindy knows already.]

Is it…I’ve just driven over 600 miles from the Disc Golf capital of the east, the great state of North Carolina to play the only registered course in Rhode Island that the PDGA web site says has baskets? (Not really.)

Is it…Well, I’ve got 120 miles to Lowell and at least we won’t be tuckered out for the better course, and I’ve got Rhode Island on the board? (Not really.)

Still don’t know? It is…Crap, I’ve got two holes to beat Todd by two or more strokes or he’s going to say he beat me. Asterisk, we don’t need no stinking asterisk! Todd and I both bogey hole 7, then I tee into the rough (a slope along the side of the road on 8) and am in serious, serious, trouble. Fortunately, I pull a rabbit out of my hat with a long, hyzering approach that floats over the road and cuts in the back door for an easy par. Todd takes a four and we are, technically, tied.

Now, here is the difference between Todd and me. At least one difference. Todd figures he shot +1 over 4 holes, so he extrapolates his score and claims he would have shot +2 for the 9 holes. He’s happy. I figure we should both take 2s for the holes we didn’t throw, because we clearly would have gotten deuces on any of the holes if we could have played them, and it is not our fault we couldn’t. Therefore, I believe my score is -4.

The title of this story is “How I Beat Todd by 6 Strokes on a 9 Hole Course.”
We get lunch and fill up on gasoline on our way out of town and it is a 120 miles jaunt up 95 and 495 to Lowell, making a slight circle to avoid Boston. Traffic is a little slow, but not as bad as Connecticut. We pass the exit for Walden Pond, which is slightly more of a charge than passing Mystic Pizza, but it’s not enough to get us to stop. (We’ve got more golf to play, darn it.)

Also, for reasons I know not, Massachussetts seems to have more Dunkin Donuts than anywhere I’ve ever seen. Every exist has a gas/lodging sign that includes a Dunkin Donuts. Now I love Dunkin Donuts (I would rank it somewhere above Mystic Pizza but below Walden), but I think the Massachussetts people are a little too proud of their donuts.

Well, we get to the Fairfield Hotel and Lauren (our check in person) is terrific. It’s busy, but she’s efficient, helps everyone until she’s finished before going on to the next person and stays cheerful. Best service of any hotel so far.

After a 10 minute nap or so (it’s about 4) we head out to Amesbury. By now we are starting to get rush hour traffic, but Todd finds a bypass to the busiest part and we arrive at the park in good stead. There are kids playing Little League (which warms Todd’s heart), and I mention as I warm up that I have a good feeling about the round. Some of the baskets are Machs, but they have been spray painted yellow to make them easier to see, an innovation that I put up there with Druid Park’s use of the metal ring around letters on the pole to tell you which pin placement is in play.

I’m mentally thinking about shooting par, but I’ve misread. Turns out the course is longer than I thought (5233 feet; 8 holes 300-400), with the alternate tees being the novice tees that are shorter (too short) rather than being the pro tees that are longer. So there are a lot of 300 foot holes uphill, through the woods. It’s a nice course, but it takes me a few holes to readjust my expectations. I’m starting to putt better, so I’m not playing bad, but there aren’t really any deuce opportunities when you are throwing 300 feet in the woods.

Also, I lose my Sidewinder.

Okay, technically I don’t lose it, I throw it in the pond. I’m mad because the pond really shouldn’t be in play, I can go well right and let it slope in towards hole, but I’ve been turning the Sidewinder just a bit, so I throw this straight at the hole, not thinking I’m going downhill and always get more fade when throwing from elevation. (Dan, if you’re reading, this is because fade comes at slow speed, so the higher you throw from, the more likely it is that your disc will stop spinning before it hits the ground.)

I’m bummed. The Sidewinder was one of my favorite discs on several levels. It had very nice glide. It was a beautiful, easy to find cherry red that showed up nicely in grass or forests. Also, it doesn’t have one of those names that suggests the thrower is phallically overcompensating (MONSTER! VIKING! ORC! BEAST!). When I get home, I use the Internet for Play-It-Again sports to see if I can get a replacement tomorrow. I shoot +2 on back nine for a 60, which I find odd because I thought I played better than I did at Druid Hills and I thought DH was a harder course. It may have just been longer and so I was driving better that day. On the bright side, I get a drop from a meter (since it crossed over before going out), and I nail a 25 footer uphill to take the rarest of all amateur scores—the circle 3. Later, as we play 18, Todd and I realize that we were actually throwing at the wrong basket; this is 18. So I figure I would have take a 3 anyway, but I wouldn’t have lost my disc. Then I would have had the Sidewinder and maybe been able to make a birdie on the signature hole (16) over water or the 240 approach on 17. Then I would have been in the 50s.

It’s a nice course, really, and I rather enjoy playing it. I was just too fixated on throwing a good score that I forgot to enjoy what I’m here for.

No problem with traffic returning and Todd and I have dinner at Cracker Barrel, which is inexplicably jammed at 9 on a Friday night. Our service is slow and Todd is grumpy. (The waiter asks him if he wants the cornbread that comes with the meal but doesn’t ask us if we want refills on iced tea and doesn’t show up with our check until we ask the hostess for our bill.) As we are waiting for the bill, we both say, almost simultaneously, that Lauren has spoiled us to bad service.

Back at the model, a tough day ends nicely as I get a load of laundry in (with the complementary soap) and 45 minutes of free dryer time when the person ahead of us takes two pool towels out that have already dried.

I now have clean underwear for my rounds tomorrow, which was a worry that I know was on everyone’s mind.

2-4-2 2-2-4 3-2-2 (23)*

3-4-4 4-3-4 3-3-3 OUT (31)
4-3-3 3-4-3 3-3-3 IN (29) 60

Day 7 Tally
Courses 10
New Courses 5
Discs Lost 2
Birdies Carded Today 6
Birdies actually Made 1
Dunkin Donuts Passed in Massachussets 4000
Outstanding Hotel Personnel Met 1
Outstanding Cracker Barrel Personnel Met 0
Money Spent on Washing Machine $1.25
Money Spent on Dryer $0.00

Friday, July 15, 2005

Day 6: Newark, DE; Norwalk, CT

Today was one of the longest driving legs of the trip, and so the day was full.

Our plan was to get up around 7:00 so that we could be out by 7:30 and go back a little on 95 into Newark to play White Clay Springs. That way we could stop at the motel before we checked out and take a shower and not drive all grunged up.

The first flaw in our plan occurred to me when the alarm went off at 7:00. Ugggh. Still, we got going and found the park fairly easily (I had played it before). We got there at 7:50, and although the park was not supposed to open until 8:00, they let us in.

Newark's course is not super long, but it has the worst rough of any course I've played, and a lot of it. The bush is thick, has stickers, and if you are off the fairway, you can very easily lose your disc.

Another flaw in our plan for the early morning play is to avoid the stifling heat, which we do, sort of. Of course there is dew on the ground, so feet and pant legs get wet.

Todd yanks a disc into the rougn on the first hole and we spend a good 10 minutes looking for it. I find it just as we are ready to give up. Then I throw one that is hard to find on 4 or 5, then Todd throws the used Gazelle I got him into the bush, and the stickers are so bad, we decide not to go looking for it. As we make the turn on 9, is is already 9:15 or so, and I suggest making a decision at 9:35 of whether or not we will finish. Then I throw my new Champion Valkyrie into the rough and we spend 20 minutes looking for it. Todd finally finds it stuck up in a tree at the very secoond I had turned my back to walk back to my bag and declare it lost.

We decide we care more about getting back and getting a shower before a long drive than we do about finishing. I've played the course before and I don't remember it being this frustrated (I'm not playing badly, it just seems like anything not down the fairway is another 10 minute search.) Perhaps it is just a course that one needs to play at a more lesiurely pace.

Anways, we get back to the motel, shower and pack up.

Todd is driving today and I'm thinking about just staying on 95, forgetting that I usually get on the Garden State Parkway around Wilmington. This isn't hugely out of the way, but it adds 20 minutes by skirting Philadelphia on the west side of the river instead of east.

Todd wants to get gasoline before we go, but I suggest getting it when we stop for lunch because we can't find a gas station by the hotel in Delaware before the interstate. (I notice this is becoming a trend in the trip--lots of gasoline stations when we want food, and lots of fast food when we need gasoline.) Anyway, we try to stop right as 95 is going to take us into New Jersey, because NJ has a law that there are no self-serve gas stations, and that really bugs me. I don't want to give my credit card to some 16 year old getting minimum wage to pump my gas.

So, of course, we have a hard time finding a gas station by the exit. Lunch is fast food at Wendy's and the line is busy, and it's a sign of how anxious I am to get going as this leg is dragging that I don't take the Classic Single back when they mistakenly put mustard on it; I just scrape it off.

New Jersey is a long uneventful drive. (We don't play here because I've played the state before and we will be stopping on the way back.)

As we are getting ready to cross the Tappan Zee bridge (and ain't that a cool name for a way cool bridge?) I wave hello to Nyack and thank it for offering me a job once. I also note that the first exit once we are over the bridge is only 3 miles from Sleepy Hollow. Well this is just too much for a pair of English professors to pass up, long leg or no.

We go through Tarry Town and eventually find ourselves at the Bridge that inspired Washington Irving's story. Todd wants to take a picture (Todd got a new digital camera and likes pictures of everything; more on that later.) I get this funny idea that I can pull my shirt over my head to be the headless horseman on the bridge and then send the picture to Dan Buck to see if he wants to post it on the A&F thread.

That detour done, its a short plop down 287 to pick up 95 again (having skirted NYC) and into Connecticut.

For the first time all trip we hit traffic jam and I amuse myself by trying to figure out which is the lamest state motto listed on the atlas:

Maryland: "Manly deeds; womanly Words."
Delaware: "Liberty and Independence
" New Jersey: "Liberty and Prosperity"
Connecticut: "He Who Transplanted Still Sustains"
Maine: [I am not making this up] "I direct."

I've heard New Hampshire has the worst Disc Golf courses in New England, but at least they are the only state with a cool motto: "Live free or die."

Norwalk is a nice course, though I make a mistake in thinking that it is shorter than it is, which will bite me on the back 9. I thought the PDGA said only two holes mover 300 feet (actually there are 4), so when I pull some nice shots in the wooded front 9 and make the turn at -2, I'm thinking under par. (Todd's laboring a bit with the humidity, but that's not why he's a geek.)

Unfortunately, I lose one stroke back to par with a lazy pitch after a decent drive, but I'm thinking that I don't have any more long holes, so I'll be okay. Unfortunately, there keeps being a few more. I make a good drive on a longer hole (14), but get a tough lie behind a tree line and have to lay up for bogey. I'm hanging on to par by a thread.

Then it happens, hole 16 is marked as three hundred (another one?) slightly up the hill, in the woods. I get good distance, but a late fade, and when I check my lie, I'm with 50 feet, but I just having nothing...the trees give me no alley, and the curve of the green is away, so there no way to pitch out.

I am despondent. I am the worst disc golfer who ever chucked plastic.

I check my lie. What's the distnace to the hole if I pitch out? What is the distance if I hit a tree on my way out. Eventually, I see a sliver of an alley between two trees up high (maybe 10-15 feet off the ground), curving right. If I turn the Champion Stingray almost vertical and gently spin it, I might...just might...sneak it through and leave myself a putt. I clear my mind, I line it up. I visualize. I let it go. The disc snakes through the tree line like Han Solo driving the Falcon through an asteroid field, it flattens out as it comes out of the treeline (too much and I would have risked yanking it into a dive away from the hole) and glides to rest past the tree line and 10 feet from the hole.

I am overjoyed. I am the best disc golf player never to have won an A-Tier tournament. I am a disc golf stud. I turn to Todd and say, "You won't see me throw a better shot this trip." It was short, yest, but sooooo difficult, and under pressure circumstance. (Needing it to save par for the round, and I make it.) I'm the king of the world.

I miss the putt.

I am despondent. I am the cr---iest disc golfer who ever cr---ed cr-p.

I par out the last to holes.

I metioned in my descripton of Valley Springs on the web page that there is a special sort of pain for the Amateur golfer who shoots a double nickel, but at least in Valley Springs I think, there are lots of birdies here. Norwalk would have been a nice par to notch in my belt. It's not super hard, but at 5180 feet, it would be a respectable par.

Instead, it is a 70 mile drive to the hotel in New London.

Here, I must insert a commercial for Priceline. While it is true that, after 27 holes of golf and 300 miles of driving, I only really need a Motel 6, it sure is nice to pull into a Radisson. Two quick showers later and we are ready to scour the neighborhood for food. Todd wants something more sit town, and there is supposed to be a Thai restaraunt within walking distance of the restaraunt. Outside, you can smell the salt air--it is almost enough for me to want seafood. (Todd claims he will get lobster before he returns to Ohio, but that is not why he is a geek.)

The street looks deserted, but we're counting down the numbers to where the restaraunt is supposed to be, and finally see a lit window and go in. The restaraunt has a nice ambience, and it is good to sit and unwind after a long hard day of work. Todd orders a sushi appetizer and a Samurai roll; I get a Korean chicken dish with chili sauce which, for some strange reason takes 15 minutes more than Todd's to appear. I invite Todd to go ahead with his dinner, but he wants to wait for me to get my food, which I think is very polite and not at all why he's a geek.As we are waiting, Todd mentions (and I concur, though it hadn't occured to me) that this is the strangest Thai restaraunt we've ever been in. It's really more fusion. The wallpapers have prints of Tokyo. The menu has two types of tempura but no Pad Thai. I guess that maybe it is because the proximity to Block Island Sound means there is more seafood.

While we wait for my food, Todd pulls out his newly bought (for this trip) digital camera and takes a picture of his Samurai Roll.

That is why he's a geek.

My chicken shows up eventually, and its good, though the chili sauce is hot, hot, hot. We decide to walk up the street and go back to the hotel the other way, and two doors down after we leave, we run into...the Thai restaraunt.

Turns out we had dinner at Little Tokyo.

To quote Billy Bob in A Simple Plan: "I observe things."

4-3-3 5-3-3 4-3-3 OUT (31)

3-3-2 3-3-3 2-3-3 OUT (25)
4-3-3 3-4-3 4-3-3 IN (30) 55

Day 6 Tally:
Courses: 8
New Courses: 3
States: 4
Discs Lost: 1
Discs Found: 1 (A DX Gazelle with no name in the thicket)
Discs Saved by Eagle Eye Todd: 1
Tanks of Gas Bought in Full Service New Jersey Stations: 0
Jai-Alai Arenas seen in Connecticut: 1
Thai Restaraunts that Don't Serve Pad Thai: 0

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Day 5: Druid Hill Park; Baltimore, MD

Wednesday gets off to a tough start. I'm scheduled to pick Todd up at the airport at 1:04, so I think I might play Calvert on my way (College Park), but the traffic between 66 and 495 is horrid, so it takes me about 40 minutes to drop off the house key, and I figure I don't have time to rush it.

Todd's plane gets in on time and there is almost no wait for his bag (although it takes me a good 15 minutes to find the car in parking garage). Todd delivers a message from Sherry (please no killing and burying of bones)--no worries there, I think. I usually have only one homicidal impulse per trip, and Todd was blissfully absent for it.

We discuss whether to go straight to Newark, DE and play the course there or whether to play Baltimore, go to Newark, and play that course in the morning. Todd suggests that we play Baltimore so that we know we'll have plenty of light and time, and I concur. The downside is the directions are in the trunk, so I figure I'll get them out as we stop for lunch. This turns out to be a trickier propositon than it sounds like, because once out of the airport, the highway wants to put us in the harbor tunnel which is going to pop us out on the other side, so we have to get off by Oriole park and, fast food is hard to find. We tool around a bit, eventually find a McDonalds (Ken--fruit and walnut salad; Todd--1/4 Pounder with Cheese [or Royale with cheese as they say in Paris]). Todd gets the map figured out and we arrive at Druid Hill Park in good shape.

Druid Hill Park suprises me on several levels. I can't recall playing in a park in a city's downtown area before, so I'm surprised at how big the park is. Also the PDGA web site said the course was created in 1980, and normally courses that old predate the Innova plastic and are, hence, shorter. Perhaps Druid Hills was at one time too, but most of the holes have alternate pin placements and tee shots, and DHP is listed as 5980 feet long. (In comparison, Dorey Park is 4169; Burke Lake 3363).

Normally, I don't enjoy longer courses as much, but I kind of like Dorey. Perhaps I'm basking in the glow of Todd's arrival; perhaps I'm just driving better. I miss some 2 putts I should have made, but I make one longer one and several good drives to make long holes easy threes. (DHP has 7 holes over 300 feet long and 2 holes over 400; on the longest hole [11], I have a makeable putt for a par three that I shank.) There are not too many birdie opportunities, but there are a lot of old growth trees and some aesthetically interesting holes. One hole (6?7?) is an longer downhill where you have to throw over an access road below you, miss a tree for another slope and move get to the third tier, with the pin tuck in a corner by a road that is OB. Not too many biride opportunities here, and I miss my best chance which is on hole #1, but I don't take any 5s, and I manage to shoot a 59.

Odd music synchronicity story #2--as we were leaving the park and driving through Baltimore, Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" came on which mentions Baltimore. I hope it is not ominous, since the next line is "I took a wrong turn and I just kept going..." I think it could be, since my sense of direction sucks, but Todd's a good naviagator and helps us get out of the downtown maze that is Baltimore.

I was reading de Caussade a bit yesterday, and he writes:
"There is a time when the soul lives in God and there is a time when God lives in the soul. What is appropriate to one of these conditions is inappropriate to the other. When God lives in souls, the must surrender themselves totally to him. Whereas when souls live in God, they must explore carefully and scrupulously every means they can find whic may lead them to their union with him."

Golf, for me, (or any discipline) is like that. There is the constant need to balance being in the moment and not over-analyzing when things are happening, to give yourself to the moment that you are in and be in it, not directing it but participating it. Then there are times where it is hard, where things are working, and you have to break it down, figure out what is happening and do the work of getting back to the place where things are happening naturally. My putting was not happening naturally today, but the drives were, and I was able to not ruin a pleasurable round by focusing too much on the one mode to the exclusion of the other.

Druid Hill Park:
3-3-3 3-4-3 3-3-3 OUT (28)
4-4-4 3-3-3 4-3-3 IN (31) 59

Day Five Tally:
Courses 6
New Courses 2
States 3
Friends now sharing the journey 1

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Day 4: Burke Lake Park; Fairfax, VA

As I head out to Burke Lake, the book on tape that I’ve been listening to (Portuguese Irregular Verbs) clicks off the six-CD changer in the rental car and on pops Rich Mullins.

The music suits my mood. The trees are in bloom, the sun is shining, and I’m going to play the greatest sport in the world.

As Rich sings:
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom power and love…

I think of Screwtape chastising Wormwood for allowing his patient two very real “pleasures,” calling God a hedonist, and complaining that they can’t make pleasures of their own, only corrupt God’s.

My relationship to Burke Lake is a sweetly nostalgic one. It was the first course I played, and my friends and I often came out two to three times a week in the mid-80s to throw our Whammo 165s and laugh at all the weird guys with the “Frisbee purses” full of oddly shaped discs.

Burke is a course that would be hard to love (heck, hard even to like) if it did not have deep reservoirs of good will. Here I made my only two aces (now over two decades ago) on hole 2 (before the left side was cleared out) and hole 7 (which is now hole 4) before the tree was taken out.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become a bit more attentive to places (Cindy’s influence, I think), and despite its being as antiquated as a wooden tennis racket, Burke’s course has some good feng-shui.

Burke is a very busy course so no warms ups, and despite the fact that the first three holes are 144, 146, and 172 feet, I go par, par, par.

Then some very weird things start happening.

Hole 5 (formerly 8) has a dog-leg mando about 30 feet from the tee box and I miss it once (bounce the Roc off it and the wrong way) and hit it once, taking a circle five! On hole 7 I hit a tree and take a four. On hole 8 (formerly 11) I overshoot the hole. This was a par 4 in my youth. On hole 9, I have a good drive, leaving me a 35 foot approach. I try to throw the putter and something sticks and it actually goes the wrong way, leaving me a 45 foot approach. A good drive on twelve skips way past the hole (off of grass!). A chip shot to a blind pin on 14 reveals that the hole has been moved since last I played. and in the last few holes I get stuck behind the Brady Bunch learning the sport. (That junior was averaging a 17 on each hole and I was not asked to play through, I don’t mind so much. That mom and dad sat there with a scorecard [at the basket] to figure out scores with someone waiting on the tee was irritating.

Well, I shoot a 59, and I reflect for the umpteenth time that it is a good thing that I’m not a gambling man, because if anyone had given me an over-under of 58 (my low round at Burke is like 46 from my youth), I would have bet the IRA and now be broke. I reflect for the first (and hopefully only time) that it is a good thing Todd didn’t fly to Raleigh, because if he was here, I would have to kill him and bury his bones to make sure this was NEVER, EVER spoken of again. And since the number of true friends I have is even less than the number of disc golf courses I consistently shoot under par, I’m not sure whose loss would have been greater, mine or his. It’s not the worst round of disc golf I’ve played in the last ten years, but it might very well be the most embarrassing.

Back at the club house, I debate the wisdom of playing another round. On the one hand, it’s hot. As in shirt-clinging-to-biceps-hot. As in glasses-fogging-up-from-the-steam-rising-off-my-face-hot. On the other hand, I just shot a 59 at Burke-frigging-Lake (and no, I didn’t use “frigging”) and I have to go home and blog about it, so hell, yes, I’m playing another round. I shoot a 51 (missing two putts inside 10 feet) just to validate that I’m not the athletic equivalent of Inspector Clouseau. (For those who wish to reflect on the fact that I've gone from praise chorus to chorus of curse words in just under an hour and a half, I can only plead that the jury is still out on whether or not Screwtape's master actually did have a hand in creating golf [in all its forms] of just managed to get his grubby, corrupting paws on it for a little while as he has most of God's other great inventions.)

On the way home, I make the pilgrimage out to my brother’s tombstone that I try to make whenever I’m in town. On some days there are flowers there, but today there are only encrusted bird droppings on the marble and a year’s more fade on the gilded letters.

As I try to spend a respectful amount of time (it’s the going, not the staying, that’s important), I pass the time reflecting, as I often do here, on the things he might have experienced if he were now 49 rather than forever 19. Would he play disc golf? Would he have liked Fantastic Four, I wonder, as I think about the Marvel comic books I inherited from him. As I see the 1976 on the tombstone, I reflect—oddly enough for the first time—that he never saw Star Wars (I only saw it myself for the first time in Bogota in ’76, the summer after his death), he never had the joy of watching the first three films nor the perhaps greater joy of trashing the last three. Later, I’m scheduled to go to dinner at the house of a new friend I met on the Internet…would my brother have liked e-mail, or would he think it a nuisance? Would he, in his love for electronic gadgets, gone straight to web cams and streaming video?

As, I get back in the car, Rich is singing, “Let Mercy Lead,” and I think this is so odd, because it is the song that most makes me think about my brother, and its timing on the CD (and that I was playing that CD) was strictly accidental. (Freud would scoff at that claim, I know.)

Let mercy lead
Let love be the strength in your legs
And in every footprint that you leave
There'll be a drop of grace
If we can reach
Beyond the wisdom of this age
Into the foolishness of God
That foolishness will save
Those who believe
Although their foolish hearts may break
They will find peace
And I'll meet you in that place
Where mercy leads,

And that place where every drive pops out of your hand with true spin, where the shiny coating of the new candy-plastic disc reflects an always brighter sun, and each moment has the invigorating hope of the first drive off the first tee—where anything imaginable can still happen, and everything you can imagine is only good.

Burke Lake Park
3-3-3 3-5-3 4-3-4 OUT (30)
3-3-4 3-4-3 3-3-3 IN (29) 59
Day 4 Tally: Courses 5
New Courses 1
States 2
Friends Killed 0

Day 3: Dorey Park; Richmond, VA

Wouldn’t you know it; I couldn’t sleep last night. So day three, the first travel date, got off to a late start. It didn’t help that I ended up going to the library and then taking Route 1 up through Raleigh and then 85 to 95. Didn’t get to Richmond until 2:40.

Dorey Park in Richmond is a huge park, land wise. There is a lake at the end and many ball fields. My directions say to park on the left and that the course is beyond the pond. I follow the signs for a long walk around the pond and eventually find a warm up basket.

Since it is around closing in on 3:00, I’m tempted to run into playing, but I remind myself that this is my vacation, so I stretch and putt a bit. I realize, too, that there is a field next to the pond, so I can even warm up with a few drives.

Finally, I duck into the forest and follow the path. It goes on a way, and I wonder if I missed the first tee, but I see a golfer coming out who assures me it is ahead. Eventually the trail leads to another clearing with a message board, and I head into the woods, and it is still another walk. I decide that Dorey holds the record for the longest distance between parking and first tee.

The first hole is pretty short (under 200 feet) with a decent anhyzer, so I throw the DX-Stingray and my vacation has officially begun. My putt is about 25 feet, and I nail it (hey, I knew I warm up for a reason), and now I feel like my vacation has really begun.

My new bag pays dividends on hole #2. As I approach the hole, I feel a wet spot on the back and realize I have sloshed Gatorade over myself. This happens about 50% of the time I golf and is one reason I needed a bag with the water bottle holder on the outside. There is something about 16-20 ounce Gatorade’s that makes you feel like the tops are screwed on but if they are not exactly flush they just go over everything. So I get a little on the outside of my bag and shirt, but at least my discs are not soaked.

On hole #4, I hit a tree, take my first four, and now I feel like my vacation has really, truly, begun.

The front 8 is a lot of uphill, and a lot of right turns. I kind of wish I had worked on my flick more. I’ve notice one way short course designers try to make course harder is by having a lot of uphill and right turning holes. I’m not driving fairways too well, but the holes are short enough that I ride the 3 train to hole #9.

Number 9 is basically about 220 and then a right dive into the woods. I throw the Leopard, but not hard enough to turn it and it fades parallel but away from the hole. My approach is one of those where I have a 40 foot approach and sort of lazily toss it, and the next thing you know I have a 20 footer to save par. I get it, but a reminder to not have concentration lapses.

Hole 10 is my saving grace. It’s about 330 elevation to elevation, and although I only 3 it, the extra length makes me bear down to get more snap, and I get a good 280-290 and the muscle memory starts to kick in. I just need to focus on pulling across my body rather than making an arm loop.

Hole 11 is 180 something with a left hook and downhill. This is an easy shot, except for three trees that you have to miss. There is nothing to do but throw the Valkyrie, let it turn and hope it misses the trees. It does, stopping 5 feet from the hole, and I’m back on the happy side of par.

Now I’m under par for a short course, and I’m mostly just thinking “course management.” Hole 14 is about the only hole that I think could get me in trouble. There are a few trees on this downhill shot that are close enough that if I hit them, my approach would not be a chippy. The Leopard does its thing, and even though my 18 footer for birdie clanks off the tip of the basket, I’m happy that I stayed out of trouble.

Hole 16 is a straight, short, downhill that’s all about splitting two trees like goal posts. This is not a hard shot at all, so I basically only need to think before I throw, “Is there anyway, other than hitting those trees (which are close enough I shouldn’t) to mess this up. Perhaps throwing a too having disc and not having enough on it, so I throw the tie-dye Stingray (which has a little fade after its turn, right down the center. It turns a little, fades a little, and easy putt for birdie.

I manage another birdie on 18 by throwing the Leopard flat and letting it turn just a nudge.

Dorey’s a short course, true, but any score under par for the first round, I got to be happy with.

By the time I’m leaving the park, I have a call from Steve and I let him know I’m running late. Still, the traffic is not bad on 95 and I’m able to get to NoVA in good speed. Tali’s delightful (almost walking, already), and it’s good to see old friends.

Dorey Park:
2-3-3 4-3-3 3-3-3
OUT: 27
3-2-3 3-3-3 2-3-2
IN: 24 (51)
Day Three Tally:
Courses 4
New Courses 1
States 2

Monday, July 11, 2005

Day 2: Buckhorn; Holly Springs, NC

My last day of warm up and preparation before setting off.

Today got off to a rocky start. I got to Buckhorn and realized I had forgot my sneakers, so I had to play the round in my loafers.

Perhaps there is something about the morning or late afternoon that gives me a little more energy, I should keep that in mind when playing.

During warm ups I tried adjusting my stance a bit (less straight on line with the basket on my front foot) to help my balance and encourage me to get more arm speed on the putts. I had been trying something where I warmed up 5-10 feet beyond a comfortable putting range to "lossen up" my putting, and I have been making runs at more long putts lately. I haven't been working on normal putts, though, so that's suffered.

The front nine was a bit of a disappointment. I didn't get a birdie on either 1 or 2, and I'm still struggling with trying to break in the new Leopard. (Note to self: the Sidewinder still feels heavy coming out of my hand--THROW the damn thing if you want it to spin!). I had to make three 20-25 foot putts to save a bogey on 3 and pars on two other holes.

When I hit a short tree off of the tee on 8 (162 feet to hole) and had to scramble to make par, I realized that I've been having a lot of concentration lapses this week. There is no reason I should ever be having to make a long putt for par on a 162 foot hole.

It's like I find myself back in that rut where I play the first two-three holes and if the round doesn't look spectacular, I go on autopilot. Perhaps I should take de Causade with me--The Sacrament of the Present Moment has helped my golf game more than any other book, oddly enough.

Hole 8 is by the lake's shore, and I've noticed twice in the last two weeks a concrete hourglass structure blowing massive amounts of steam. How could I have missed that before? I assumed it was a nuclear power core, and, sure enough, an Internet search shows me that Carolina Power & Light runs the "Harris Nuclear Plant" in this area.

My mind wandered first to the three-eyed fish in The Simpsons, then to the famous Slim Pickens shot in Dr. Stangelove. There is something ominous about the way the core dominates the skyline over the lake, so aesthetically beautiful (and mysterious) in form yet so ominous in meaning. Still, if it were to blow this instant, at least I would die doing something I love, and how many people can say that?

In the long path between 9 and 10, I'm watching the ground more carefully than I normally do, and I see a black snake slithering from beneath a log into the brush. I remind myself (for the umpteenth time), that I should carry my cell phone in my bag rather than leave it in the car, especially when I'm playing alone in the woods. (Which reminds me that they just diagnosed that Florida State quarterback with Lyme disease--boy my thoughts are pleasnat today, aren't they?)

Well, I park my drive off 11 within ten feet of the hole for an easy birdie, and I wonder what it was about this hole that I disliked when I first played it. The fact that it is over water makes me concentrate and reminds me to throw hard; I wonder if I just assumed when I first saw it that I couldn't make it, but the scorecard says the white tee is 258, which is very reachable, especially with a downslope. That reminds me, though, that I threw the Sidewinder HARD and it still went only 258, so I shouldn't look at some of these 220 feet holes at try to finesse them.

I mange to get a 3 on 12 (my hardest hole on back 9) by just trying to keep it in the fairway rather than driving to far. The approach is a hard anhyzer, but the really beat up Valkyrie turns worse than the Stingray (just no distance), so it's perfect for that lie. I try a flick on 14 and, like the flick I tried on 7, it's short. So no birdie there, but 15 is elevation to elevation and, at 228, very reachable, I slam the Sidewinder into the side of the hill directly beneath the basket, leaving me a 12 footer uphill at a steep angler for birdie. My putt hits the yellow Innova band ring but still has enough momentum that the bottom continues forward and it flips in. All of a sudden I'm only +1 with 3 to play.

I don't get enough on the Sidewinder for 16, and 17 is that 351 feet over water, so I have to lay up on the short side of the pond and go over. I get good speed but hit a tree, so no putt for par. I par out 18, and viola, 56 from the white tees. Nothing that will put fear into the heart of Ken Climo, but better than yesterday.

Once again I remind myself that sometimes good rounds come if you let them--they don't always announce themselves on the first three holes any more than good movies announce themselves in the first 10 minutes. I was +3 after my front nine and nothing told me that I was going to tie my best overall score. Stay in the moment. Play this hole. Yeah, definitely go by the office and get de Causade to put in the suitcase.

Bad news is that I stop by the Books on Tape store and they are closed on Sunday (grrr). I do remember to go by Wal-Mart and get new shoe laces for the hightops. I'll have to decide though, whether to go by Cary on way out of town tomorrow. Not quite on my way, but I'm still not sure if I'm on a timetable.

So, my tally is 2 Days, 1 State, 3 courses.

Scorecard: (Buckhorn white)
Out: 3-3-4 4-3-4 3-3-3 (30)
In: 3-2-3 3-3-2 3-4-3 (26)
Total: 56