Monday, December 5, 2016

Reading The Greens

Photo by Charles PTown
After many unsuccessful attempts at breaking the under-30 barrier, I finally posted a magic number at the Putt-Putt Golf & Games location adjacent to Military Circle Mall in Norfolk. The 7-under-par round of 29 was achieved on a moistened track caused by the previous night's steady rainfall. Leafy debris and strong winds measuring 25-30 mph on the Don Slater Scale also contributed to the difficulty. Regaining composure, I registered only two bogeys in follow-up scores of 34 and 33. The 54-hole total of 96 (12-under par) also set a career mark on that historic afternoon in early 2000.

Six weeks later, I bettered the initial record by one stroke on the same course facing Virginia Beach Blvd. The 28 was made possible with a lucky bank off the back rail that cupped for an 18th-hole ace. I exchanged numerous high-fives with the family of five who had kindly let me play ahead of them. Never again would I match these accomplishments, for the Putt-Putt franchise decided to abandon its three Tidewater Virginia spots without so much as a thunderstorm warning from its famed Buster Ball mascot. Since I only adhered to the standards set by the Professional Putters of America (PPA) on official layouts, my miniature golf era came to an abrupt end. No more conversations with fellow enthusiast Keith while he refreshed his Thermos with vodka and Diet Dr. Pepper. No more dreams of moving into a house directly across the street from Aragona Village's convenient setup. No more losing ten-shot leads via one-hole playoffs in tourneys. No more challenging employees to try their hands at impossible-to-ace maze holes within striking distance from the VB Oceanfront. No more penciling the alter-ego John Daly, Jr. on countless scorecards. Like a dusty relic in a forgotten museum, my once-trusty putter sat untouched in a dark closet corner for nearly fifteen years.

While checking out yet another 30-count CD stack from Chesapeake Central Library's phenomenal music inventory, I took note of a curious flyer for the Chesapeake Masters event that would be held on said premises come March 12, 2016. Quoting the leaflet: "A challenging 18-hole indoor golf tournament benefiting the Smart Start Chesapeake Early Literacy Project ... which funds 2,500 literacy programs for 50,000 kids in Chesapeake." Rather than participating in the main fundraiser replete with an impressive cast of Chesapeake-linked celebrities, I opted for an earlier open-play exhibition amongst unknown duffers accompanied by their guardian caddies. Despite terminal delays brought upon by dozens of dipsticks lacking proper etiquette and forbidding smaller groups to skip ahead in line, I managed to squeeze four competitive rounds and one practice session in the allotted frame. Did I retain enough course knowledge from my stint at the Military Circle complex to make a serious run at a green book jacket and raise my arms in a 21-putt salute? Was my bad judgment and worse behavior more embarrassing than John Daly's freakish trousers? Did I go AWOL in Aragona Village courtesy of a "rented" bookmobile? It's time to tee off.

The opening chapter's front nine stained its pages with four unforgivable bogeys amid routine pars. A deceptively benign butterfly-and-flower arrangement should've attracted sweet chirps from beautiful birdies, but the trash created by repeated misreads made unexpected meals for hungry vultures. The surveyor loop measured its gimme putt several inches too far. Bowling pins strewn about the surface yielded multiple open frames. Owls on logs disturbed the calmness by wildly hooting during ball strikes. Holes 10-18 were far more forgiving. An upstairs-to-downstairs lane gifted aces to all contestants. Green shamrocks and wrapped candies treated would-be Rory McIlroys to red figures. Creepy zombies greeted Arnold Palmer's ghost after a Pennzoil-embossed orb quickly went into hiding. The ace down an oval stretch rounded out a respectable two-over score of 64.

Taking a break at the water fountain, I envisioned going lower in the final 54 holes. The double-bogey on #9 had been the only instance close to a disastrous blowup. If I could somehow tame the owls, perhaps I'd have a decent chance to fire an under-60 round. Withdrawing immediately from the Chesapeake Masters would've been the wisest move. Respective marks of 74, 70 and 67 translated into the salty tongue of 25-over par. Those damn hooters were solely responsible for an out-of-bounds stroke that shoved an egregious eight into the narrow potty mouth. An unsecured railing on the rubber-duck perch sent two balls off the grid for terrible triples. The four-aisle hole with a (Great) bridge lift stalled traffic for inches and nixed every attempted crossing. Once-friendly glamour bears morphed into Jack Nicklaus looking for golden hash browns at an empty buffet table. Among the few highlights in the latter stages were "sparing" the bowling section, tucking tough pars into the T-shirt area and breaking into the gated community through the unlocked slither.

My results in Chesapeake might've mirrored the Mark Twain rub about golf being "a good walk spoiled," but I'm already awaiting the announcement for next year's gathering. Should I erupt into a series of John Daly-esque tirades, it won't necessarily be to my detriment. Bad sports are often the stuff of great literature.

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