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The quest for 100

I'll always remember Labor Day of 2005

Posted: Tuesday September 6, 2005 11:40AM; Updated: Tuesday September 6, 2005 11:40AM
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A few weeks back, early on a Saturday morning, I met fellow Scorecard Daily blogger Mark Bechtel at a Midtown watering hole to watch his favorite Premier League team, Sunderland. The Black Cats turned in a stultifying performance, and by the 80th minute, Mark and I were talking about golf. Mark asked if I played, and I just sighed.

Because really, a sigh is the best response I can give. I play as much as I can, maybe 12 times a year, and I've never been able to break 100. Even though I don't get to play as much as I want, I think about it all the time. Some people obsess on their careers or maybe their match.com profiles, but I think about shooting a 99 or a 97, anything under 100.

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Those of you who play golf understand where I'm coming from. It's addictive, but in a good way. I play golf and I spend six hours outdoors, screwing around with my friends, having fun, trying to knock a little white ball much farther than it wants to go. Some of Scorecard Daily's other columnists don't see the fun in this,  but that's fine with me, because the courses are crowded enough as it is. And with 100 staring me down like Warren Sapp lined up across the O-line, I need all the quiet and concentration I could get.

Until yesterday.

My friend Bruce and I arrived at Atlanta's Bobby Jones Golf Course just after 2 p.m. to find the place mostly emptied out, after a morning when the course was full of Labor Day duffers. We approached the first tee and were assigned two partners to give us a foursome. Who were they? A couple of teenagers. Immediately, I had visions of these 13-year-olds outdriving me, hitting pinpoint wedges to the flag. Luckily, they both teed off into a creek, ending that irrational fear. I got near the green in 2, then collapsed into a 4-putt to finish with a 7. Not a good start, obviously.

Then the strangest thing happened: it all came together. My drives were straight and long, my irons were accurate, my pitching wedge was great, my putter was reasonably close. Years of work were paying off, and I was feeling like D.J. Shockley out there. By the time we got to the turn, I was sitting on 48.

In the past, when I asked you guys for help and observations, many people noted that I should try to forget about the score, which I've always tried to do, thinking that ignorance would be bliss. But Monday I decided to obsess on it. I kept the card, and after every hole I recalculated our totals.

After 9 holes, our partners left -- while I was putting on the seventh green, I overheard one of the kids calling his mom and asking for a ride home -- and without them around, we sped through holes 10 through 13, as I posted a 4, 6, 5 and 4.

At which point it started falling apart. I notched a pitiful 7 on 14 after fielding a call from a coworker, and I could just feel it slipping away. When we finished 16, I had an 85. 100 was in range, certainly, but the 17th and 18th both require long tee shots and then second shots over water, which I knew would be tricky.

Then, amazingly, Bobby Jones smiled on me. We pulled up to the 17th tee to find the tee box taped off. A sign informed us that due to re-seeding, we would be teeing off from the 150 marker! A 356-yard par 4 quickly became a 200-yard par 3. I tallied a 5 and then scratched a 7 on 18. Add it up: 97.

So I did it. I broke 100, broke it with a solid 97. My burden was lifted, my bugaboo defeated. Strangely, however, it didn't really feel very uplifting or freeing. After thinking of nothing else but busting the century mark for a year, it was sort of a letdown to get past it. Is this what Lance felt like after winning his sixth Tour? Aren't meeting our goals supposed to be more of a cause for celebration?

Perhaps, but maybe it's because I realize that there's more to do. I probably could've shaved a stroke here or there with better iron play, and I know I missed some putts I should've made.

Which is why I love golf, and why I will always love golf. A shot from 250 yards counts just as much as a putt from one yard. My quest for 100 may have ended, but my drive to improve is just beginning.

And Jay Mohr? Let's get a tee time, homey.

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Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at http://www.SLAMonline.com.

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