Wednesday, April 24, 2024

THE CHEAP SEATS WITH STEVE CAMERON: Close, but with nobody to see it

| August 7, 2020 1:14 AM


Almost a golfer’s worst nightmare.

Two nights ago, I came THIS close to making a hole-in-one.

To appreciate the phrase “this close” in the context we’re discussing, put your thumb and index finger together so closely that you’d have trouble slipping a piece of typing paper between them.

But that tiny Titleist did not travel that extra millimeter to fall in the hole.

For which I am very, very glad.

See, it was 8:25 p.m., dark enough beneath our endless stand of pine tree that I couldn’t really see a thing.

And I was all by myself.

That, as any golfer might tell you, is the ultimate horror.

Making a legitimate hole-in-one without a witness…

Well, that’s when you just fall down on the grass and cry.

You’ll understand, I think, why I didn’t mind finding the ball almost peering into the hole — but not having taken that extra revolution to tumble into the cup.

I DIDN’T even see the shot when I hit it.

It was dark enough to be gloomy on No. 5 tee at Twin Lakes Village, where I live and play.

Technically, I suppose I shouldn’t have been out there, but all I’d planned to do was hit some chip shots from odd lies on the mounds around No. 4 green.

You can’t practice those kind of shots on a driving range, so I decided to just hit, oh, a dozen little shots or so near No. 4 — which is just across the road from my condo.

I waited until everyone was off the course, naturally, which meant it was already getting dark.

But you don’t need much light to hit a few chip and pitch shots.

So I lofted some balls onto the green, thought about going back home, and…

For no logical reason, I was lured over to the tee box on No. 5.

It’s a devilish hole, with a sand trap covering most of the left front of the green, and pine trees tight to the target all along the right side of the hole — which on this night measured 151 yards.

Look, I’m old and have had a couple of pretty ugly back surgeries, so that distance now means a 6-iron for me.

Remember, I hadn’t done anything but caress tiny chip shots for 15 minutes, so a full swing with a 6-iron might have produced anything at all.

Another surgery, perhaps.

Instead of catastrophe, though, I felt the sensation of a lovely, impossibly clean strike.

It was one of those shots where you don’t worry about the result.

You just know it was a wonderfully done — hit exactly on the club face at precisely the right moment with a smooth swing.

I HAVE terrible eyesight, so in the gloaming of near-nightfall, I had no clue where my shot actually landed.

I knew from the sound and feel that it should be somewhere very close to the green, or on the putting surface itself.

To give you an idea how dark it was by that time, I didn’t see the ball until I was about to the edge of the green.

After a couple more steps, my heart almost bounded around my chest when I realized that the ball and the hole looked like one single entity in my vision.

My friend Lin Ramsey and her granddaughters were out walking around there, someplace along Fir Lane (No. 5 runs parallel to it), so of course I started shouting like a wild man.

I wanted somebody, anybody, to see the result of a truly crisp 6-iron, a shot struck perfectly in the darkness.

Once the mini-excitement had faded away (no one REALLY cares about anybody else’s golf game), I started thinking about holes-in-one.

I have made just one in my lifetime of playing golf.

WEIRDER than that, I’ve played about a million rounds — some in celebrity tournaments, many with pros and other outstanding golfers — and I’ve never seen anyone else dunk a hole-in-one.

Besides my own ace (Las Vegas National Golf Club, No.11, 174 yards, 7-wood), that shot in the dark on No. 5 this week was the closest near-miss I’ve seen by anyone, ever.

The second-closest (about a foot away) was a shot I hit in Kansas City — on a par-four with a howling wind at my back.

But why hasn’t anyone else plunked one in the hole with me as a witness?

It defies logic.

Okay, that’s my story from the darkness today, but if you have a tale about a hole-in-one — or a ridiculous near-miss — give me shout, eh?

Golfers love to crow and whine at each other.

Be my guest.


Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns appear in The Press on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “Moments, Memories and Madness,” his reminiscences from several decades as a sports journalist, runs each Sunday.

Steve also writes Zags Tracker, a commentary on Gonzaga basketball, once per month during the off season.