When I arrived at Chambers Bay Sunday morning at 5 a.m., and even though I “trained” for this event, I wondered if I’d be able to finish 54 holes of continuous golf on this hilly course in 83-degree weather.
But more than 15 hours and 265 strokes later, at around 8:30 p.m., I walked back to my Honda Ridgeline after completing the Chambers Bay Solstice, a tournament benefiting First Tee of Seattle and South Puget Sound.
I went from feeling like a fool for entering the tournament to feeling a sense of accomplishment after beating my goal of 270 strokes with scores of 85, 90 and 90 in the three rounds.
I played with three other “Super Seniors,” all of us in our 60’s – my longtime buddy Jack Carlson, tournament director Dean Davison and his buddy, lefty Jim Madonna. We all averaged in the 80’s for our three rounds, and I’ll say this about the mid-to-late-60’s guys I played with, they can all still hit it 280 yards and longer on some of their drives, giving youngsters like me who are still in our early-to-mid 60’s hope that we won’t be bunting our drives anytime just yet.
I thought it would just be a survival test as the temperatures rose, but it was more fun than grueling. Tournament organizers did a great job of having free fluids and energy-boosting snacks available at several spots on the course.
And right when I was starting to feel the wheels really coming off with a 49 on my next-to-last nine holes, my three kids showed up to walk the final nine holes with me.
I parred the last three holes and should have been 1-under were it not for the worst read by a caddie in the history of caddie reads on the 15th hole, a downhill par-3. I hit my tee shot to 8 feet past the hole and really wanted to birdie it in front of my kids. So I took extra time and asked my caddie, Dave Hall, for a read on the putt.
Dave pulled out his caddie greens book, looked at all of the little arrows pointing every which way and told me to play it two cups outside the left of the hole. When I sized up the putt, I thought it was going to break the opposite direction, from right to left, but I took Dave’s word for it because he’d been a caddie at Chambers Bay for years.
I hit the putt left of the hole as instructed and it finished farther left as it got closer to the hole. I naturally ripped Dave for misreading the putt, and on the next hole, he came up to me and said: “Hey Jim, sorry, I had my booklet turned upside down.” I wasn’t mad about it, I just had to bust his chops. It was all in good fun anyway.
I won’t bore you with many more details because it’s just the worst when anyone gives you a play-by-play of their round, but there was one other incident that I’d say was self-inflicted on the 14th hole in the first round. It’s a beautiful downhill dogleg left par-4 with a sweeping view of the water and a huge bunker on the left.
As we were walking down the fairway, I mindlessly decided to let my push cart go off on its own and I’d catch up with it down the fairway. Well, that was a pretty stupid thing to do. After about 20 yards, the cart started picking up speed and veered to the left. I jogged after it, then ran after it and didn’t catch up to it, watching as it made a beeline into the trap, taking a header as it came down.
I suppose I should have been more embarrassed than I was, but what the heck, it’s not the first time I’ve screwed up on a golf course, and I got what I deserved. On Monday when I tried to collapse my collapsible cart, it wouldn’t collapse anymore because it was jammed from the header it took on the 14th hole. It still works just fine, it just won’t collapse, and I could tell that my daughter, Brooke, was disappointed that I didn’t treat my Father’s Day present with more respect.
Thanks to some sort of app on my phone, I have the final stats on the day of golf: 53,497 steps, 382 floors climbed and a total of 36 kilometers or 22.369 miles.
Would I do it again? Probably, and I would encourage you to join me next year. If you’d like to donate this year, you have until Saturday to do it. Here’s the link to my pledge page: pledgeit.org/gocougs-cbsolstice.
Thanks for reading and considering a donation. First Tee is a great organization that impacts kids’ lives by providing educational programs that build character and instill life-enhancing values through the game of golf.