Surrounded though I was by more than 4,000 fellow contestants at the DuPont World Amateur Handicap Championship in Myrtle Beach, S.C., I found myself yearning for the company of a couple of buddies who couldn't make it. A virgin when it comes to tournament golf, I had no idea how lonely and frightening the game could be when one is forced to play without Messrs. Mulligan and Gimme.
How badly did I miss them? After shooting 101 on Monday, I came back to earth in the three remaining preliminary rounds, with a trebly grotesque 119-108-110. Having dispatched me to the planet's largest delegation of duffers precisely because I am the sorriest golfer on SI's masthead, my editor nonetheless seemed a trifle alarmed upon learning that I was bringing up the rear of my flight.
"You're not gonna end up DFL, are you?" he asked.
"Dead last," he said, or words to that effect.
He seemed concerned that I retain at least a shred of honor for our magazine. But if I learned one thing at the WAHC, it was that there was honor in the scrupulous counting of all one's strokes. Sure, we hackers spent a lot of time kvetching about alleged sandbagging in the ranks, but for every inflated handicap, there were 10 examples of heroic honesty. Take, for example, the man who disqualified himself after playing a round with 15 clubs—even though the extra, illegal weapon had been mistakenly placed in his bag by his playing partner.
Or take 37-handicapper Diana Brown, who charged out of the gate in Friday's championship round, in which the winners of the WAHC's 44 flights fought for the tournament's overall title. Brown had a six-under-par net 30 on the front nine of The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, but on the back nine she was unceremoniously expelled from the Zone—and contention—after a snowman, two hangmen and a Laurel and Hardy (an 8, two 9s and a 10). She could have taken an 8 on 18, but she unhesitatingly busted herself for having struck the ball twice while blasting out of a bunker.
Brown's noble collapse flung open the door for Dennis Connors, a three handicapper from Miami Lakes, Fla., whose lights-out net 66 earned him a two-stroke victory. The last person to have a crack at Connors was retired Army sergeant Henry Scott, a 23 handicapper who needed to drain an uphill, 22-foot par putt on the 18th'hole to force a playoff. Succumbing to the pressure of the moment—he lined up the putt in the shadow of an electronic leader board, just like the ones they have on the PGA Tour, and before a gallery of nearly 100, just like the ones they have on the Nike tour—he left it a good nine feet short.
Asked if he had ever experienced such pressure, Scott reflected for a moment, then said, "I guess having artillery fired at you would have to rank right up there."
Having faded from contention rather early in the week—I finished 90th in my flight of 92 (Jack Chapman and Ronald Fisher: You don't know us, but my editor and I are grateful to you)—I hadn't been feeling much pressure since...