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Golfer’s Diary: Can I get a mulligan, please?

We’ve all been there. You’re looking forward to a round of golf at a course you love on a beautiful evening. You’re feeling confident after scoring well each of the past few times out. There’s no reason to expect anything less than a stellar round.

Then you hit your first tee shot out of bounds. Normally my response would be, “That’s why God invented first-hole mulligans,” but I was playing in a league when this happened to me on Thursday night at Cassadaga Country Club.

Because I know there are plenty of non-golfers that read this article (thank you, by the way), a mulligan is basically a free re-hit. When you’re out playing with your buddies, mulligans often come freely, but because a league is a more competitive environment, obviously they’re not allowed. That said, I sure could have used one.

As bad as my tee shot was — in the creek for a one-stroke penalty — the second shot actually hurt me far more on the scorecard. I hit the ball about as thin (very low off the face of the club, never lifting the ball very high off the ground) and it sailed right off the back of the green. There’s a private driveway right there and so the out-of-bounds markers are pretty close to the back of the green. Sure enough, I was OB for another two strokes worth of penalties. A chip and a putt gave me a triple-bogey ‘7’ to start the day. That’s…bad, for those of you keeping track at home.

No. 2 didn’t get a whole lot better. In fact, it was just as bad but without the penalty strokes. My tee shot was decent, but caromed to the right and stopped directly behind a tree. I had to waste a shot punching it back out to the fairway. Off the back of the green, chip onto the green and three putts later and I had yet another triple-bogey. Yeah…can we just start over? Where’s the reset button?

The worst part of the whole ordeal was that I finally had a real handicap after subbing in this league enough times. Not only that, but I was playing scratch golf against Bob, who incidentally was a great guy to spend nine holes with. Scratch golf with a horrendous start didn’t bode well for my ‘team’ (which isn’t really my team since I’m a sub).

My partner for the round was Ron, who is a twin, and has three sets of twins in his family. Having just had twins myself, I found that to be a fun talking point (and also a little terrifying). Not only that, but Ron is exactly the same age as my dad, so it reinvigorated my desire to get my dad on the course for the first time ever. The fourth member of the squad, Joel, was playing scratch golf against Ron. Joel seemed to be the most similar golfer to myself. He had a bunch of pars and would have had a great score without a couple blow-up holes. I certainly know that game.

Thankfully, I remembered how to play golf. Three straight pars on Nos. 4, 5 and 6 got me back on track. No. 6 came with the added benefit of winning closest to the pin, so that was a fun little ego boost.

My mom actually called me because she saw my name in the OBSERVER’s ‘For The Record’ section among the golf results for the second straight week. Last week it was for winning skins in this same league. She wasn’t sure, however, what ‘skins’ actually meant so I promised her I’d explain it in my article.

Skins is a common side-contest in leagues and tournaments. Everyone who wants to be eligible throws a few dollars into the skins pool. To win skins, a golfer needs to get the single lowest score on any hole. For example, I carded a ‘2’ on No. 5 last week. No other golfer had a two or lower on that hole. Ties don’t count. It has to be one and only one golfer to record the low score. Theoretically, there could be nine skins winners (one for each hole) who would all split the pool. They’d win next to nothing, of course. I believe there were two skins winners last week when I won, so I got half the pool.

Closest to the pin works essentially the same way. Anyone who wants to compete puts a few dollars into the pool. One specific hole is chosen (No. 6 at CCC) and a measuring tape is placed by the green. Golfers track their tee shots throughout the league or tournament and whoever has the shortest distance wins the pot. There’s only one winner of this one, so the payoff is greater. My buddy CJ and I agreed that there’s weirdly more pride that comes with winning the closest to the pin, too.

I’m sorry if that was a boring section for people who really know golf, but I hear every week from non-golfers who still read this article regularly. The way I figure it, the more information people know about golf, the more likely they are to try the sport we love. They’ll love it, too, of course. How could they not?

I’ll have an exciting addition to the golf bag to discuss in the next article, so be sure to come back next week.

Until then, golf is great. Go get some.

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