BHM has sponsored the Gold Beach High School boys’ golf team the last four years, so I get the major perk of getting to play golf with some of the players quite often during practice rounds. Since they outhit me from the tee by 40 to 60 yards, it’s a challenge for me but my game has steadily improved by trying to emulate their picture-perfect form.
I tend to be a talker during our matches, imparting the wisdom of my years. And I occasionally throw out a challenge to them. During one of their pre-shot routines on the par-4, 277-yard Hole 8 at Cedar Bend, I’ll sometimes blurt out, “”Twenty bucks cash if you can reach the green!”
I like to put pressure on them this way. I think it helps focus their minds. They always respond with excellent shots, although a 277-yard shot to a small green definitely favors me keeping my money so I seldom have to pay out.
The other day I decided to team up with a former high school player and current employee of BHM, Toby Stanley Jr., and we challenged GBHS’s two best golfers, Matt Anderson and my son, Robby Duffy, to a nine-hole contest. It would be a five-dollar match-play scramble, that is, we’d each use the best shots of our team for the next shot, and we’d win holes rather than keep track of our overall number of strokes. I asked them to give us a stroke on the three hardest holes to make up for my obvious lack of length off the Tee and relative lack of accuracy with my wedges. They agreed.
On the day of the scheduled match, Matt, the number one seed, said to me, “Dave, we want to sweeten the bet. If we win, you let us take a half day off of school tomorrow to watch the girls’ final day of play at District (the girls’ team’s League championship), and if we lose we’ll work a day in your yard.” I agreed, although I cautioned them I couldn’t officially sanction them skipping school for half a day.
On the very first hole of the match, a par-3, I topped my Tee-shot and it bounced up in the air two feet, then landed an inch behind the tee. Toby’s tee-shot went left of the green and Robby and Matt put both of their tee-shots on the green. They won that hole easily to go one-up.
On the second hole, a par-5, one of the holes where we were getting a stroke, I sliced my tee-shot way right across an adjacent fairway, and Toby hooked his left behind some trees. Robby and Matt both hit the ball 270 yards down the center of the fairway. It didn’t look so good for Toby and me.
So I huddled with Toby and told him that this was our time to strike back because Matt and Robby thought they were in a cake-walk. “We can get into their minds right now,” I said “if we can at least split this hole.” I suggested he try and hit his second shot to the right near some trees, which I knew were about 60 yards from the green. “That’ll make our third shot a back-yard shot for me,” I said. “We’ll have a chance to ‘up and down’ it from there.”
By a back-yard shot, I meant it was a shot I practice every day in my back yard. I hit hundreds of balls about 60 yards to a horse trough off my back deck. I’ve got that shot down pretty well.
Toby delivered a perfect shot to the designated spot and I chipped the ball to the green, about 8 feet from the pin, just like in my back yard. We made the putt for a birdie. The boys put their second shot on the edge of the green and needed two puts for their birdie. Since they were giving us a stroke on this hole, we won the hole and evened the match. We were back in it, and the boys suddenly realized it wasn’t the cake-walk they were expecting. I told Toby, “Now we’re inside their heads.”
From then on, Toby and I ‘Mutt and Jeff’ed’ it, meaning that he would hit a good shot, especially from the tee where I lacked length, then I’d follow with a good chip. We complemented each other just about perfectly, each coming through when the other one faltered. We set up a couple of more back-yard shots and one of us would deliver on the chip while the other delivered on the putt. On Hole 8 we won when I made a short chip that was identical to a shot I practice every day over a small pond in my back yard. Instead of a pond, I had to hit over a mound and let the ball trickle down a sloping green to within a foot of the hole. They conceded the putt and match.
Today Robby and Matt are working for free — and Toby for pay — digging up Lenie’s big garden in a drizzly rain. A victory made possible by the wisdom of age is very sweet.
I’ve proposed another match to them. This time they would not have to give us any strokes, but they’d have to let me hit from the forward tees to make up for my lack of length off the Tee. They are considering it.