Golfer’s Diary: Annual birthday round and a bonus!

This was arguably the best week of golf all year for me. I got to play not once, but twice!

In years past, that would just be the norm, but as I’ve mentioned in many articles in the past few months — twins happened.

My first round of the week was my annual birthday round. My wife asks me what I want to do and the answer is always golf. Not only was it a birthday celebration, but it was a class reunion of sorts, as well. I was joined by fellow Dunkirk High School Class of 2004 graduates Matt, CJ and Al. It was really cool to have all those guys together again.

For the first time ever (and hopefully the first of countless times), I played all 18 holes of The Vineyards Golf Course in Fredonia. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. I did the clubhouse side earlier this year and each side individually last season, but to put it all together was a treat. There just aren’t a lot of 18-hole options for regular Joe Schmos like me.

The front nine didn’t go particularly well in all honesty. I struggled to hit the ball off the tee virtually from start to finish. I used a first-hole mulligan and even a birthday mulligan. My best hole was definitely No. 8, which traditionally has been one of my better holes. I unloaded on a drive and then hit the green in regulation before two-putting for par. I recorded par on No. 5, too, but it wasn’t quite as pretty. I was on the green off the tee, but a thousand miles from the pin. A decent lag putt set me up for a makeable par putt, which I made. Other than those two holes, it was a struggle.

It was a struggle for all four of us, actually. Perhaps we were more focused on just catching up than we were on golf because normally we’re all at least passable golfers, but frankly, we stunk it up.

At the turn, CJ and Matt had to split, so just Al and I headed across the street. Suddenly I found my groove. That’s not unusual as I’m used to playing in a twosome and that’s more my speed. The game of golf is about rhythm and I definitely found mine on the back nine. Al did too, for that matter.

I missed the easiest par putt anyone has ever seen on No. 10. Seriously this ball was two feet from the cup and I pushed it right. Gimme, you say? Nope. I earn anything par or better. After that, however, it was four straight pars — including No. 14, which is one of the banes of my golfing existence.

The final couple holes were a little rougher, but I still finished the back nine at 39 for a 46-39-85. Have I played better? Absolutely. But I got to play 18 holes with good company at the course where I played my first career round. That’s a good birthday in my book.

Round No. 2 for the week was yet another in the Thursday league at Cassadaga Country Club. It was my third time as a sub, which means I now officially have a handicap! I’m fairly certain that I’m a real golfer now.

I knew from the start that I was going to have a great time because CJ and I were paired up against my high school track coach, Mr. Cook. He told me to call him Jeff, but I found that exceedingly difficult to do. Mr. Cook’s partner was Rusty, who was also an absolute joy to spend the evening with.

The unquestioned highlight of the round came on No. 5. Before teeing off I was telling the guys that this hole was the site of one of my two career eagles. That will be an important point later in this story. I had never driven the green on this par 4 before, though it’s certainly doable. Sure enough, I sent my ball screaming up that hill. It bounced once or twice and then appeared to shoot up and off the back of the green. Still, not a bad place to be. When we got up there, I wasn’t off the back at all. In fact, I was no more than five feet from the pin!

Rusty was a few feet off the front of the green while lining up his third shot. He paused, stepped away from his ball and said he thought he had the wrong club. I thought for sure he was headed back to the cart to switch clubs, but he stepped back up and hit it anyway. Well, I’ll tell you what, it definitely was NOT the wrong club. It rolled up, plinked off the flag and fell into the cup for a birdie. Normally that’d be the moment of the round, but alas, I still had my eagle putt.

Now that I’m writing about it, I realize that there wasn’t actually much drama. It wasn’t a super easy putt as the pin was on a slope, but I definitely made sure I took a few extra seconds and absolutely buried it for my third career eagle — two of which are on this exact hole. I assume I won skins, but I had to skip out before all the other groups came in (kids’ bedtime, after all).

All four players in our group had some good stretches of golf. CJ’s final tally was marred by four penalty strokes. My own included two penalty strokes after I was about 10 inches out of bounds on No, 9. Mr. Cook found the pond on No. 7. Yet our scores were all in the low 40s. Not too shabby, fellas.

So yes, it was a fantastic week of golf. Hopefully there are more of those for the articles ahead.

As always, golf is great. Go get some.

Stefan Gestwicki is an OBSERVER contributing writer. Comments on this article can be sent to golfersdiary@gmail.com.