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Time to take a few swings



Published: Fri, April 5, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



I stare down the 18th hole on a sun-splashed summer day.

I know where I have been and where I still need to go.

Where I have been is a place almost indescribable, unknown as far as I am concerned.

It is one of those places in golf that you rarely find because the game is so mysterious, so complex.

But when you find it, you will never forget.

I will never forget how things unfolded that day.

Falling into place: Long drives landing in the fairway and carrying even farther off the dry turf.

Long putts, in which you hope to just get them close, finding their way into the cup.

Critical chip shots setting up makeable finishes.

Yes, my partner and rival that day was frustrated because I never played that way before, and he was losing his bet.

But in this game, on these days, I'd like to think we all enjoy these type of outcomes, when all logic is thrown out, and anything goes.

Late in our round, we came to a narrow par-3 hole that dips into a valley and is settled within a deep group of trees.

The tee shot is blind. You can see the ball take flight off the tee and the path that it will take on its way down. But you can't see the end result. Sometimes, though, you can hear it.

My 9-iron shot was high and straight, and when the ball disappeared over the hill, all that was left for our senses to pick up was the sound of ball meeting green.

The upcoming sight was even better -- 8 feet was all that stood between a birdie before it became a reality.

Maybe it was then that I knew this round had the potential to be special, to be put away in the family scrapbook.

One hole remains: I stare down the 18th hole on a sun-splashed day, knowing I must par-out to complete a personal best nine-hole round and reach into an unknown realm for me -- the 30s.

I have been limited to four shots.

Already, an awkward drive has left me in danger. I barely cleared a stream, and the ball is resting on a slope. No one said this would be easy.

The second shot has put me in position to make one final run at my record.

With two shots to spare, the ball rests 80 yards from the green, in the rough to the right of the fairway, nearly in the path of a bunch of overhanging branches.

"I need to put this chip close enough to give me a good chance at a one-putt," I tell my partner.

I go to my bag, take out my favorite club -- the pitching wedge -- for a shot that will help decide the fate of this round.

The ball is in the air, headed toward its target when it lands and comes to a stop 3 feet from the hole.

Minutes later, the ball is in the cup, the round of 39 is complete and it's so hard to believe that it happened. But boy is it fun.

Aura: There's an aura of suspense in anything we look forward to.

It motivates us and pushes us until we get to that final point.

After that round, I made a call home to tell my dad, a longtime golfer.

What did I discover? He shot the exact same score that day.

With baseball in full bloom now, we tend to hear stories about how the game brought along the relationship between father and son.

In my family, it was golf that brought us closer.

Baseball's beginning coincides with the start of golf season in Northeast Ohio. I look forward to the time with family and friends, discovering the mystery of the sport and enjoying those rare rides to 39.

Play ball? By all means.

Play golf? Without a doubt.

XBrian Richesson is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write to him at richesson@vindy.com.




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