Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Definition of a 'Mudder'

Generally speaking, we've been pretty fortunate with the weather thus far in the Niagara Region in 2010.

My home club had its earliest opening on record, with play beginning on March 18th and temperatures have actually been unseasonably mild for the most part this spring.

I say for the most part because this past weekend we got hit with a brutal cold spell that kept most of the golfers off the course. Temperatures dropped to below freezing and we had rain and even some hail at different points during the weekend.

But as usual, I soldiered on. That's just what I do.

I get two days a week, for the most part, to play golf and that's Saturday and Sunday morning. If they allow play those days, I'll be out there hitting that little white ball around.

It's really that simple.

On Saturday, we had to deal with temperatures hovering just above freezing and winds that, I kid you not, were gusting up to 100 km/hr.

Six of the regulars braved these conditions and teed off around 7:30am on Saturday morning. I decided to hang back and play with new members Wes J and Ryan M instead of my regular partners in crime Harry and Cal. I kind of figured they might not make 18 in these conditions, as both would prefer to be bundled up under the covers instead of outside when it's less than 10 degrees, let alone 2 or 3 degrees.

So they went out first with another new member, Mike F and we followed one group behind. The wind was crazy and it took awhile to get some feeling in my hands but I struck the ball well enough on the front nine to go out in 39 shots.

We got to the 10th hole and Mike was waiting for us with club in hand. Harris was there too but his clubs were conspicuous by their absence. Cal was nowhere to be found.

Well, I'll give them credit for playing nine anyway!

So Mike joined us for the back nine, or I should say back two, as the storm siren went off as we were about to putt on the 11th hole. We finished up and made our way back to the clubhouse as it started to absolutely pour.

We were pretty much soaked from head to toe upon reaching the clubhouse and Mike bid adieu, saying he was going home to warm up and dry off. We went into the pro shop to see what the radar looked like and our associate pro Cam indicated that this cell should be passing by within a half hour.

So Wes, Ryan and I went inside to grab breakfast and see if the rains would stop long enough for us to get the round finished.

Well, just as Cam predicted, the rains ended less than 20 minutes later and the sun briefly made an appearance! The winds were whipping even worse than before but the pro shop gave us the okay to head back out, even giving us carts so we could try to beat the next storm cell that was rapidly approaching.

Before heading back out, we were told by another assistant at the club that Mike had called in from home, saying that he would drive back out to the club to finish the round if we were crazy enough to do the same.

"Tell him to meet us on the 12th tee!", I shouted as we tore off down the fairway.

Mike did finally catch up to us on the 13th and I can honestly say I don't remember having as much fun playing golf at St. Catharines as I did during those seven final holes. The wind was absolutely fierce, easily up to a four-club wind.

I almost aced the par three 14th, which was playing about 175 yards that day into a quartering wind blowing from right to left and into us. Wes threw out a bet as we teed off on the hole, saying he'd offer five bucks to anyone who could stop their ball right of the flag, which was cut only about five paces off the right fringe.

I was last on the tee and hit a piercing 4-iron that started on the fringe line and hung tough against the wind.

"GIVE ME THAT FIVE DOLLARS WES!", I screamed as my ball finally started getting pushed toward the hole.

The ball hit the green and rolled right over the cup, stopping about four inches away as we all just about fainted.

It may have been one of the best shots I hit in my life but the highlight of the day was Wes' comment as the ball finally came to rest:

"It's LEFT OF THE HOLE! No five bucks for you!"

I'd kick in the satisfying birdie there and by the time we hit the 16th hole, the next storm was blowing in bigtime. I hit a full 8-iron approach from about 120 yards into the gale force wind and my ball almost spun back into the pond that fronts the green there.

Just crazy stuff!

We got pelted with rain the last two holes but there was no way we weren't finishing after all we had gone through to get this far. We finally tapped in on the 18th and got the hell out of dodge, all of us with smiles on our faces a mile wide. I somehow managed to shoot a 78 (+6) from the tips in that weather, a score that certainly felt closer to a 72.

I *love* playing in crazy weather, especially harsh winds. Just so much fun to hit low and creative shots and watch the ball move all over the place.

Things weren't much better on Sunday but again, we braved the cold and were lucky enough to avoid the rain that would come later in the day. Harry got through the entire round but Cal was a no-show. Still, we had nine guys total show up, a pretty decent number all things considered and again I lived up to my 'Mudder' moniker, playing likely my best golf of the year in a round of 76 (+4), where I hit 12 greens in regulation, won $45.00 in skins money and various games and generally struck the ball beautifully.

My confidence was soaring at just the right time, as I prepared for one of the most anticipated rounds of my year - a date at the #2 ranked golf course in Canada and a place I had been hoping for years to get an invitation to play:

Hamilton Golf and Country Club!

Get ready for a very long blog post, my faithful readers! This one will likely be split into three parts, as Hamilton is a 27 hole facility and we were fortunate to play all three nines during our visit yesterday.

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