It was around 8PM Wednesday night at Stone Creek golf course. It was getting dark and Tony and I decided to make the 14th hole our last one for the night. The 14th at Stone Creek is a short par 3 with a huge ravine separating the tee from the green.
I selected a 7 iron from my bag and let one fly. I used a yellow range ball I found earlier thinking I would be able to see it better but it disappeared from view the moment it left the tee. I heard a promising thump from across the chasm and peered across to find my ball about 20 feet right of the pin. Not bad.
While hawks cried in the background searching for the night's first meal Tony took his turn with a familiar thud of the ball on the green at the end. Although the sky continued to darken, I could still find his ball to the left of the pin and near the front of the green. Not bad as well.
We hiked down the cart path, across a small foot bridge, and up the hill on the other side to the green. The cries of the certainly enormous birds of prey struck fear in our hearts. Even as we steeled our minds against the threat of death we wondered how close our shots were and what we would face once on the green.
As we approached the green an ominous scene was laid out before us. Tony's putt would be an uphill 15 footer with a slight break. Mine would be a daunting 20 footer with a huge right-to-left break. I took a cleansing breath and sized up the task before me.
Recently aerated greens had been causing problems all day. I had come about an inch from birdying a hole earlier in the afternoon and I still can't help but think that it the ball would have gone in if it had not been slowed down by the bumpy surface. The birdie potential was threatening to overcome my nerves as I observed the distance and the uphill break.
I gave a doubt-filled smile to Tony from across the green and straightened up for a couple practice swings. One swing (don't hit the grass), two swings (that might be right), and I think I am ready. I take one last look across the darkened green and address the ball. The night air feels good. I take a deep breath and bury the doubt and pressure of the birdie. Painful memories of mis-hits and stuttering putts ruining par attempts echo in my mind. Striking the ball firmly and with confidence is the important thing. Just take a swing and see what happens, changing your mind halfway through will only make things worse, I think.
The vibration of the ball transmits through the shaft of the club and I watch the little yellow range ball roll across the dark-green towards the pin. God speed little ball, God speed. I wait for the break, holding my breath. It would have been hard to misread this break but I could have miscalculated the severity. It rolls toward the cup, if I got the speed right, I might have a shot. It slows near the hole but keeps rolling. Right on line. Two feet, one foot, inches, and (please!) in. That joyous sound of the ball rattling in. Yes! Birdie!
Overjoyed, I half-skip, half-run across the green with a flying high-five for Tony. This is the shot that brings you back. This may be the shot that brings me back for life.