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
New Courses: 8
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