How One of My Worst Rounds of Golf turned out to be One of My Best Rounds

My first experience with golf came when my brother Gary and I put a hole in the cow pasture behind my house and marked it with a dish cloth on a broken broom handle. We used our only club (I think it was a seven iron) to try to make par. It doesn’t sound like much fun now, but to a couple boys who didn’t know better it was fun.

A little later my friend Mark Bates took me and a couple friends Tim Gravitt and Eddie Gamble out to the Haleyville Country Club in my home town. It was an extraordinary place and I fell in love with the beauty and manicured landscaping of golf courses.

In college and thereafter I would play a few rounds a year and I spent as much time in the woods and hazards as anywhere. I wasn’t very good. No, I was quite bad. I had friends who invited me to play and business associates too, and as my business grew the opportunities for better courses and better competition grew too. I considered myself an athlete, so the my lack of game was becoming an embarrassment.

The golf bug hit me when I was on a business trip in Maui, Hawaii. We were playing the Kapalua Plantation Course, which is a beautiful senior’s tour venue. It is truly a magnificent course and hole number 18 had a breathtaking view of the ocean. It was on that tee box that I hit my drive square in the sweet spot and I launched the ball straight and true. It felt wonderful. It didn’t really know what had happened to me, except that I kept replaying that shot over and over in my mind.

Number 18 at Plantation Golf Course in Maui

When I got home, I started going to our local municipal course. It didn’t matter if it was raining or snowing, and for the next several years I played. I got better too, but never became much better than a bogey golfer, even though I did once have a round in the 70’s. Most of the time, I can have a great time playing bogey golf and feel estatic if I can score in the mid 80’s. I have also become a great fan of watching professional golf on television and love to watch the drama unfold during the major championships.

However, my favorite round came this weekend. I shot a lousy 97, but the drama was amazing.

Chandler Moseley and I met in 2002 when he was nine years old. We met through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. In 2002, John Croyle, Brodie Croyle’s dad and founder of Big Oak Ranch had encouraged me to get involved in the lives of kids. I chose the Big Brothers program as my way of giving back and getting involved.

Chandler and I have spent the last eleven years seeing each other at least once a week. This spring he completed his freshman year at Faulkner University, where he is studying to be a minister. Chandler has become as much a part of my family as my own flesh and blood brothers and sisters. We certainly spend more time together.

When Chandler was about twelve or thirteen, I took him out to play a round of golf. It was a painful experience. He would swing and if the ball went anywhere, it was usually a slice into the woods or in a pond or dribble a few feet away. Chandler finally gave up on the fifth or sixth hole.

One thing I learned about Big Brothers and Big Sisters is that kids like spending quality time with someone who will pay attention to them. So, even though Chandler didn’t like golf too much, he liked being with me enough that he was always ready to play or at least try when I invited him.

One thing I loved about Chandler is that he always underestimates a challenge and overestimates his abilities. The next year as an eighth grader, with a couple dozen rounds under his belt, he goes out for the varsity golf team. Fortunately there was not a cut and for a year Chandler is able to wear the Mars Hill High School golf team apparel and experience the excitement of competition.

To my chagrin, Chandler decides to go out for the track team his ninth and tenth grade year and the Basketball team his junior year and give up the golf team. We still continue to play of course and I continue to beat him handily, even though he can now hit his tee shot further than me. When he turned eighteen, I told him that I didn’t think he would ever beat me. I told him that hoping to make him mad and inspire him to concentrate and play smarter. It did make him mad, but I could also see that he believed that I might be right.

I can tell something is different with Chandler after coming home from his first year in college. He has grown up. I hired him to do some odd jobs around my farm for college money. His work ethic has improved. He is more mature. I liked what I saw.

Saturday, he and I went to play a round of golf. I said,

“ I figure that I will beat you by a couple of strokes. “

“We’ll see,” he said.

I am hitting the ball good, but instead of my natural push, I am drawing the ball and I am having a hard time getting in place to score well. He is playing well off the tee, but more importantly he is playing smarter and making good decisions.

At the turn after nine holes, he is up on me four strokes. He smiles at me as he tallies our scores on the front nine.

“I expect you to fall apart on the backside and I predict that I will beat you by two strokes,” I said.

“We’ll see,” he said.

We tie on hole number ten and I drop another stoke to him on number eleven.

“I am digging a hole for myself, but a feel a charge coming on,” I said smiling.

He smiles back holding his tongue.

I pick up a stroke on twelve and am four back again. We tie on number thirteen. On number fourteen I birdie and he bogeys, and that makes me just two back. We tie number fifteen. I pick up a stroke on sixteen and seventeen. We are tied, but Chandler miscalculates the score and thinks he is one ahead. I don’t correct him and let him think he is one up going into the last hole.

He hits a better tee shot than I do and hits his second shot on the green about 90 feet away from the hole. I hit in the sand trap. I get out of the sand trap about ten feet away from the hole. He three putts and I two putt to make us even for the hole.

Chandler lets out a big yeah and gives a fist pump as he celebrates what he thinks is his win.
“Tally up the score, I think we tied,” I said.

“No way, I won,” he said.

“Just tally up the score,” I said.

Chandler re-tallies the strokes and his eyes get big as he realized we tied.

“Oh no, you are right, we tied.”

“Ok, that means a sudden death playoff. We go to the first hole and keep playing till someone wins.”

We tee off on hole number one and I hit a great drive to about 100 yards to the pin. Though I have a blind shot behind a mound, I should be able to hit on the green and two putt for a par.

Chandler tees off second and hits a big slice into the rough about 150 yards from the hole. I think to myself that I should easily win the hole and the match.

Chandler is to hit first and his vision is also impaired by the mound in front of the green.

“Do you want to ride up and get a visual of the pin,” I asked

“Nope, I know about where it is,” as he confidently addresses the ball.

With little hesitation, he lets one fly and even though I can’t see the pin, I know he has hit a very good shot. Together we ride to take a look before I hit my ball and I was right that he hit the ball on to the green and about twenty five feet away from the pin.

Now it is my turn and I know that I have got to hit a good shot to win or even tie. I pull out my pitching wedge and think to myself that I need to trust the club and just make a normal swing. I make a normal swing and it feels good but I hit a little right of the green and a sand trap lays between me and the pin which is only about ten feet on the other side of the trap.

If you are golfer, you know that I have a very difficult flop shot. It is a shot that is rarely done and I have not had to make one the entire round. The shot is so short, I can’t decide whether to use my lob wedge or sand wedge. I choose my lob wedge and open the face of the club wide open to shorten the distance the ball will travel. I am not experienced enough with this shot to know how far it should travel, so it is mostly guess work. I take a big swing trying to throw the ball up in the air and land it softly on the other side. I hit the shot and it falls short of the trap.

I am pretty sure that Chandler will be able to two putt, so I know that the only chance I have is to hit a great shot that either goes in the hole or close enough to add pressure to Chandlers putts. I flop the next shot and it goes into the sand. I know I have lost and Chandler two putts for his victory.

I played bad and I lost, but seeing Chandler grow up and come through in the clutch made this my best round of golf so far.

  • Joel Mize

    Atta boy, Chandler.

    • Clay J Mize

      Hey Joel, I am proud of him too, but now he is taunting me. Oh well, I guess I deserved that.

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