Often, when I get a spare moment, I log on to thegolfchannel.com discussion boards to see what people are saying, or thinking, or just to steal a good line or two. About six months ago I saw a thread title that I thought was interesting. What I Like About The Game, was started by a poster with the screen name Holuta. I loved his first post. It was a list which included the sound of spikes on a cart path, and the smell of fresh cut grass. Holuta seemed like my kind of guy. His list went right to the heart of the game and made me think of all the things I loved about it.
After we exchanged a few posts I found out that Holuta was a freshman in High School named Brad Holuta. I liked his attitude so much I invited him to play at Shinnecock with me. I told him to bring his dad and a fourth and wed set a date in the spring, which turned out to be the Wednesday after Bethpage, when U.S. Open drama was fresh in our memories.
I met the Holutas at the airport when they arrived Tuesday night. Brad brought his dad and uncle Chris to play. His mom, Cindy and little brother, Brent were there just to have fun. They were all nice, gracious and happy. I saw immediately that the young man had inherited wonderful genes.
We got underway at 8:10 the next morning. Three balls in the first fairway, Brad and Frank were on the green in regulation. Three pars and a bogey had our group feeling good headed towards the second tee. I didnt have the heart to tell them that wed just played the easiest hole on the course.
The second hole is a long par-3. We made a couple of bogeys and some unmentionables and Brad turned to me and said, Wouldnt it be great if one of us made a hole-in-one and got on leaderboard report? I wanted the kid to get an ace at Shinnecock to cap off his trip.
The weather was perfect, we were cheering our pars, and ignoring the blemishes on the card. Brad was being introduced to the fescue grass and lightning greens from the U.S. Open tees (his idea, not mine). He was also introduced to a birdie at No. 5. That number will be sought after 100 weeks from now, for sure. The next hole is the most difficult on the course and Brad fully realized how nice that birdie was, after his travails at No. 6.
Legend has it that Ben Hogan called the 11th at Shinnecock the shortest par-5 in golf, though Trevino usually gets the credit. Its actually a par-3 with a wicked green surrounded by trouble. Hit it long left and youll pray for a five. The hole was 160 yards, uphill without any wind. The air was a bit muggy and heavy. The pin was cut back left near the drop-off to treachery.
I was first on the tee, and took a 5-iron, intending to find the fat part of the green (note, thats like looking for the fat part of Calista Flockhart). Id flushed a 4-iron on the last hole so I went back to the bag and pulled a six. I made good contact but pulled it just a hair. A big bounce and Im long left. Double. If it landed short on a narrow runway, Id have an uphill birdie putt, 20 feet or so. The green would feed naturally toward the hole, so I stood still. It took a bounce and began tracking. It was a good shot, but theres one heartbreaking spot on the green which gathers balls and hides them from the tee, making it look like youve holed out. My ball moved towards the pin and disappeared right at the bottom of the stick, near that hollow in the green.
My caddy, Anthony, said, I think its over. The other caddy, Arthur, has been at Shinnecock for six decades. He climbed on to a bench on the tee for a better vantage point. He was silent. My playing companions were excited, theyd never seen one and were having a lot of fun imagining that they just had. I assured them I was short and the ball was hidden.
They all hit their tee shots, quickly I might add. As we walked from the tee we were all silent. Halfway to the green I said, I feel like the guy whos throwing a perfect game and no one will talk to me! They laughed. I said it was short, in the hollow, but Frank got to the green and said he didnt see anything. I told them that it must have gone over. Anthony quickened his stride towards the hole and yelled, Its in when he got there. We let out hoots and hollers and hugged and high fived and took pictures and laughed. I repaired the ball mark which had made the green by six inches. I had wanted Brad to make one on that day, but was happy with my first.
I put the ball away and walked to the next hole thinking I would have that card for a while, I needed to post a score I could be proud of. I knew that if I made two pars, I could bogey in for a 79. Chris said, Who has the tee? and we all broke out laughing again.
When I birdied 18 to shoot 76 the Holuta family became my official good luck charm. High fives and hugs and back slaps continued all the way up to the veranda for lunch. Chris turned to me and said, Sometimes good deeds bear fruit quickly. I told him that without Frank and Cindy raising such a fine son, I would never have read the post, wouldnt have been playing that day, and still wouldnt have a hole-in-one. Again I was thankful for Brad and his take on golf.
Such is the serendipitous nature of our game. Sometimes, through a combination of errors, good intentions and destiny a person can experience wonderful moments and people can bond in the blink of an eye. I experienced one of those moments on June 19, 2002 on the 11th hole at Shinnecock with a family of people I now count among my friends.
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