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For my birthday in July, I planned to play some golf, so I asked my partner, Stephen Weed, to pick me up a box of Nike Ones. When I opened them, out rolled a platinum-colored ball with the Tiger Woods logo on it. As instructed I registered it online, entering a drawing for a free trip to play golf with Tiger. Wow!
I felt lucky to have the ball but figured that'd be the end of it. More than 1,000 platinum balls had been found, and only 24 would be picked. But I won.
The trip was set for Sept. 18, 19 and 20. We'd be entered in a scramble during which we'd play a par-3 with Tiger. Then he'd tee off for us on the following hole. On the first night at the Ginn Reunion Resort in Orlando, all the winners attended a welcome reception, and we spent much of the evening sharing "How did you find your ball?" stories. My favorite was the one from a guy who came to a 190-yard par-3 over water, dunked his first shot, then casually pulled out the platinum ball and hit it onto the green before anyone could tell him what it was.
The next day we were split into foursomes according to handicap (I'm a 15), and my group started on the 5th hole. Tiger was camped out on the 3rd. We played decently through the round, but you could feel the tension mount as number 3 approached.
"How you guys hittin' 'em?" Tiger asked as he teed up a ball. "O.K.," we responded. Tiger punched a little seven-iron directly over the pin, the ball stopping about eight feet away.
It was our turn. We froze. Finally, I stepped forward. "What'd that feel like, Tiger?" I asked. "Yep," was his reply. "About that." It was quiet for a moment, then everyone burst into laughter. "It's playing about 150," Tiger said.
I hit a good seven-iron but ended up in a greenside bunker. Approaching the green, I was feeling good about my sand shot. I practice them often and had been hitting them well all day. I entered the bunker and took one last look at where I wanted the ball to land. I noticed I was eye level with Tiger's shoes, and with that sight the weight of the moment struck all at once. I could literally feel my shoulders tighten.
Naturally I bladed it. Badly. Right across the green, where it crashed into Tiger's golf cart. "Did that hit the cart?" I asked him. "No, you're good," he replied, showing the good manners and patience he had displayed throughout. I finished up with double bogey and moved on to the 4th tee.
Tiger again hit first, and I have to admit that being on the tee with him swinging driver all out was a nearly religious experience. Being from Columbus, Ohio, I'd seen Tiger play at the Memorial many times, but I wasn't prepared for what I can only describe as a gust that came from his direction after the ball was on its way. The sound was extraordinary, pure and unlike any I've ever heard. He was disappointed in the slight push, but we were happy to benefit from the 315 yards of travel (my team tied for third). After Tiger said goodbye, we made our way to the ball in silence. As I stood over the result of Tiger's drive, preparing to hit, I turned to my playing partners and asked, "Was that cool or what?!"
Riedel, 40, is a
network administrator at a law firm and a member of the Rainbow Golf League at
Mentel Memorial Golf Course.