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Golfer’s Diary: Squeezing in some late-season rounds

Ah, Fall in Western New York. There’s nothing quite like it, is there? It’s the season when it can be 75 degrees and sunny one day and then 38 degrees, wet and miserable the next. It makes golf unpredictable at best.

As luck would have it, my buddy Ryan and I caught what might have been the nicest day we had left on the 2019 calendar when we headed out to Pinehurst Golf Course in Westfield. It gets dark earlier and earlier, so we knew we only had time for nine holes, but I will always choose nine holes over nothing. I mean, is that even a dilemma?

As I’m wont to do, I chatted with Pinehurst owner and course superintendent, Nolan, in the clubhouse before we teed off. I feel like I say this every week, but getting to know some of these course owners and their families has been one of the best parts of getting into the sport of golf. Yes, I’m technically “media” so it’s possible that I get special treatment, but I have no doubt that they treat everyone who walks through their doors with the same excitement, respect and friendliness.

Off the tee, things started about as badly as they could have for both of us. I yanked my drive way off to the left onto No. 2’s fairway. Ryan probably would have killed for a drive like that as he toed his and shot it directly into a tree on the right. First hole mulligans, anyone?

I followed my abysmal drive with arguably my best shot of the year. Because I was still about 275 yards away, I pulled out my 3-hybrid (which I’ve been hitting like absolute rubbish most of this season). It wasn’t just the distance that was an issue, however. There was also a massive tree between me and the green. Now, No. 1 is a par 5, so I could have played it safe and just punched back into the right fairway, but I was feeling gutsy. I hit that hybrid as cleanly as I’ve ever struck a ball. Then I got exceptionally lucky when the ball sailed right through the branches of the tree without making so much as a rustle of leaves. The end result? How about 10 yards short of the green? It was absolutely astounding. To cap it off, I had a nice chip and made my birdie putt. I can count the number of rounds I’ve started at minus-1 on one hand, for sure.

No. 2 was actually strikingly similar to the first hole. I again yanked my drive left and put myself behind a nice row of trees. Once again, I just went for it, though this time I deflected off a branch just a bit, and put my ball on the front of the green. Craziness. I should have quit right there and went to buy a lottery ticket. No one gets through two trees like that without some divine intervention.

A funny thing happened with the rest of my round. Well, it wasn’t so much funny as cripplingly depressing. I flat-out stunk. In the final seven holes I was seven-over par. The interesting thing was that my drives went from garbage to immaculate. I was lacing the ball 270-300 down the middle of fairways. The rest of my game simply vanished. I couldn’t hit greens. My chips were horrendous. My putting was okay, but I needed one-putts and those weren’t falling.

On the flip side, Ryan’s scores either stayed the same or dropped on each of the first seven holes. That’s not an easy task, even when your start is less than desirable. It culminated with a brilliant stretch of back-to-back pars on Nos. 6 & 7. We actually both were able to par No. 7, which meant I got to write a pair of 3s on the scorecard. That always feels great. I could tell Ryan was getting awfully frustrated during the first two or three holes, so it was nice to see him finish with a bit of a flourish. In fact, he chipped in from the fringe on No. 9 to cap the round.

During the aforementioned chat with Nolan before our round, he mentioned that the course was in the best shape of the season. I know what you’re thinking. That’s impossible, right? Well, let me tell you that he might have been underselling the course conditions, if anything. I’ve played a lot of golf at a lot of different courses. On this day, Pinehurst was practically perfect. I always expect the greens there to be wonderful because they always are. But everything from the tee boxes to the fairways to the rough to the fringes was simply awesome.

Listen, I pride myself on being able to find good things to say about courses even when they leave a lot to be desired, but believe me when I say that this wasn’t one of those times. Ryan and I couldn’t stop marveling at the beauty of the course. Go check it out if you can.

The weather is supposed to once again climb into the mid-60s with plenty of sunshine this weekend, so get out there and take advantage of it.

Said another way, golf is great. Go get some.

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

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