FORE! Surprising myself at the game of golf

HYDE – What does a longtime distance runner do when he’s on the shelf with a season-ending injury?

How about playing 18 holes of golf in a four and five-man scramble?

That’s what this sportswriter, who’s battling tendonitis in the back of his left leg, did July 11 after being invited to play a round in the Highland Golf Club Men’s Senior League.

After being introduced to many of the members, enjoying coffee and rolls and an hour of socializing, it was time to hit the links.

On this sunny and mild day, I was placed on a team with league vice-president Dave Nordin, golf coordinator Bob Stenfors, Pinky DeCaire and Mike Needham.

I also set a goal for myself.

I wanted to at least keep the ball on the fairway, which is something I had a hard time doing in my only other round in 1976 at which was then the Lake Bluff Golf & Country Club (now Terrace Bluff Golf & Country Club).

After all, I shot a mighty 117 for nine holes at a time when I was a much better runner than golfer.

Well, I managed to stay on the fairway this time. But the rust from a 37-year hiatus really showed, especially on the early holes.

But the guys took me under their wing, gave me pointers and helped me gradually improve through the day.

Make no mistake, there were times I really struggled with all phases of the game.

There were also times I surprised myself. For example, my tee shot actually cleared a swampy area on hole No. 8, one of the few times I got some elevation on the ball.

Then on No. 11, aided by a few pointers from Needham, I even sank a three-foot birdie putt. Something I probably couldn’t have done without his help or in 1976.

I found the approach shots to be the most difficult and my tee shots are where I probably made the most improvement, although none of them were of great distance.

Hole No. 16 went quite well. Then came 17, where I didn’t play well at all. Good thing this was a scramble.

I started 18 with my best tee shot, which set the tone for a better hole than 17.

The main highlight, however, is our team won on this day with a seven-under-par 64, a stroke ahead of runners-up Jake Chaillier, Don Anderson, Gil Bittner, Orv Lantagne and Ralph Rivard.

Third went to Bob Ward, Willie Lamarche, Ken O’Neil and Len Skrobiak at 69.

“We made a few putts,” said Skrobiak. “We also had some good second and third shots to get us on the green and give us opportunities for birds (birdies). We had beautiful weather conditions today. There wasn’t much wind and it was just the right temperature (low 70s). The course was also in excellent shape.”

Although there was really no pressure on anybody, it was still fun to win. Had we not won, it would have been fun anyway.

I learned a lot that day and appreciate just having the opportunity to play.

At this point, I have no idea when I’ll play my next round of golf. But I have feeling it won’t take another 37 years to get me back out on a course.