My favorite round of the year

Golfer's Diary

I’ve been looking forward to this round since last summer — my annual outing with my brother-in-law, Matt.

Matt (along with my sister and nieces, of course) lives in Wilmington, North Carolina. We usually only see each other once per year because it’s quite difficult to travel with young kids, as we’ve both found out. But when we do finally get together, there’s always golf involved. In fact, I credit Matt with helping me fall in love with the sport.

This year, he came up to Dunkirk for my youngest sister’s wedding. Side note: All seven of the Gestwicki siblings and all 12 grandkids were together and it was phenomenal. Matt is used to playing some pretty nice tracks down in NC, so I wanted to take him someplace special. In my mind, that meant just one place — Tri-County Country Club in Forestville.

TCCC is everything a golf course should be. It’s unique — with every hole being packed with character. It’s stunningly beautiful and perfectly maintained. The greens are fast, but not unplayable for the average golfer. There’s elevation change, water, doglegs, fairway bunkers and anything else you could want in a top-notch golf course.

Here’s the thing, though: I have a long history of playing like absolute rubbish when I tee it up with Matt. I also have a perfect track record of struggling mightily at TCCC. It was the perfect storm.

Thankfully I was able to shake off a rough start and play respectably for most of the day. And you know what? It never even matters when I play with Matt. We always have a blast no matter how ugly the scores might get. Actually, the same can be said for TCCC. If you’re not enjoying yourself there, then where?

After a few holes it was evident that pace of play was going to be an issue as we were behind another twosome that was stuck behind a foursome consisting of some obvious new golfers. It’s easy to get upset at groups like this, but please remember that we were all new at some point. It actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise because Matt and I joined up with the twosome in front of us and had a wonderful time with them.

In an incredible “small world” moment, Nancy and Rick had all kinds of ties to Matt. They have a grandchild attending East Carolina University, Matt’s alma mater. I believe another grandchild was going to UNC-Wilmington, which is obviously right in Matt’s neck of the woods. They also winter in Myrtle Beach and were telling Matt where they live based on specific grocery stores and streets because he’s so familiar with that area. It was wild.

It got even crazier when we got to the turn and pulled up to the clubhouse to make a pit stop. There, right by the door, were reserved parking spots for both Nancy and Rick. We were playing with the TCCC women’s and men’s senior club champions, respectively. It turns out Nancy has been a member at the course since 1962! Needless to say, she was able to provide some valuable tips on how to play certain greens, etc. Both of them lived up to their billing, too. They made me look like a chump out there with their ability to consistently rip it down the middle of the fairway.

I did have some good moments, though. My first par of the day came on No. 4, which is one of my absolute favorite holes on any course ever, but also one that has given me fits in the past. I hit my best drive of the day on No. 6 and then didn’t even waste it, turning it into a par as well. The highlight of my round was probably on No. 11, which is actually NOT one of my favorite holes. It’s a long, uphill par 3 with a giant green. The problem comes from the fact that the entire front half of the green is severely sloped. Matt hit several yards into the green, but rolled right off the front. I only landed mine a few yards farther, but mine stuck like glue because I got up to the flat. I came within inches of a birdie, but it’s a hole on which I’ve certainly never recorded par, so I was pretty darn happy to write a ‘3’ on the scorecard.

There were some other good moments, too. I had a real nice out on a tough bunker shot. I hit a pretty long save putt after completely butchering the first look at it. Actually, there were very few three-putts at all, which is something I remember being a huge problem for me at TCCC in the past.

For what it’s worth, Matt played quite well, especially considering he wasn’t using his own clubs and was on a course he had never played before. He had a stretch of four straight pars on Nos. 3-6, which was fun to watch. Then he actually shot two strokes better on the back nine. He’s a good player, for sure. And he loved the course, which I knew he would. He especially loved the elevation changes, which is something that he doesn’t get a lot of in North Carolina.

In short, the round I’ve waited a year for absolutely lived up to the expectations.

I say it every week, but I truly mean it: golf is great. Go get some.