Giving away strokes is fine form of charity

October 14, 1999|By Kevin Cowherd

IF I SEEM a little down today, it's because I just finished stinking up the course at The Sun's charity golf tournament, which raised a ton of money for the United Way but did not do a whole lot for my confidence.

The tournament was held at a wonderful course in Pennsylvania called The Links at Gettysburg, which has an amazing seven water holes in a row on the back nine. (I should know; I left Top Flites sleeping with the fishes on three of them.)

Newspaper people are not noted for their golf games, but there were some terrific players in the tournament, including the team of ringers that won the whole thing (not that I'm bitter).

These were mostly young guys with perfect suntans and perfect teeth and perfect swings borne of perfect shoulder rotation, swings that consistently launched the ball into the next ZIP code (OK, I'm a little bitter).

But you could also see some of the most hideous swings imaginable at this tournament, many of which came from yours truly.

Fortunately, the tournament was a scramble/best-ball format, which takes the pressure off anyone having a truly ugly round.

If you're not a golfer, this is how it works:

Everyone in the foursome tees off, OK? Then we determine who hit the best shot, and everyone plays their second shot from that point. Then we all play our third shot from wherever that best ball ended up, and so on, until we sink the putt.

My partners were Rick, Dan and Cheryl, Rick being our low-handicapper and best player, and we rode him like a rented mule.

Rick had an amazingly consistent round, and time and again he bailed us out with a great drive, or approach shot, or touch shot around the green.

Me, I had the touch of a blacksmith around the greens. After screaming putts past the hole all day, I was just glad I hadn't gone into diamond-cutting for a living.

Midway through our round, our foursome conducted an impromptu experiment on the therapeutic effect of beer on one's golf game.

I have enough problems playing this game sober, so I stuck to a Pepsi. But Rick, Dan and Cheryl each had a beer and, in Cheryl's case, an amazing thing happened.

Up to that point, she'd been putting wonderfully, but she hadn't been hitting the ball very well off the tee.

But on her first drive after cracking a Miller Lite, she hit a rocket that went straight down the fairway.

"That's the best I've ever hit a ball in my life!" she gushed.

Her next few drives were tagged, too, and then she had another beer and proceeded to hit the ball even farther and straighter than before!

At this point, of course, the rest of us offered to get in a car, drive to the liquor store and bring her back a keg, which, by the time she drained it, would probably have her on the women's pro tour.

More importantly, it might have moved our team ahead of those ringers in the final standings.

But Cheryl said, no, she was content to sip a couple of light beers and not get blotto just for the sake of winning a plaque.

Not that you asked, but my personal Chernobyl occurred on the No. 3 hole, a scenic but nasty 160-yard par-3 with a narrow bunker and red-rock cliffs behind the green.

First I screamed a 5-iron so far into the woods Daniel Boone couldn't find it.

Unfortunately, Cheryl chunked her tee shot and Dan and Rick both flew the green and landed in the bunker.

So we ended up playing from Dan's ball out of the sand, which is where I tried to pick the ball with my sand wedge and proceeded to move it a grand total of, oh, six inches.

At this point, I felt the best thing I could do for my team was to return to my car, hook up a thin rubber hose from the exhaust pipe to the driver's seat and sit there breathing deeply with the engine running and the windows rolled up.

But Rick hit a great shot out of the sand, and even though we two-putted from there, his shot gave us new life, and I forgot all about that rubber-hose business.

Anyway, we finished 2 over par, which isn't great for a best-ball tournament, but we had a lot of fun. The sky was blue, and the sun was shining, and it sure beat the heck out of work.

Did I mention there were seven water holes in a row on the back nine?

Funny how you remember these things.

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