The Palm Course awaited us ' home to many, many birdie chances. I set three alarms this morning to make sure Id be on time at the Polynesian Resort to meet the boss Jay Williamson.
I settled on the Adidas basketball type shoe with hopes that theyd be a bit more water-repellant. New pair, hardly worn white which probably didnt make much sense with the soft, muddy conditions in the fairways from three days of rain ' but they worked great. And we actually settled on having a quick breakfast in the hotel before heading to the course.
The tee-time was 8:30 off the 10th tee on the Palm Course. As I waited on the practice green, the caddies came up one-by-one.or so it seemed. Some wanted to see how it went on Thursday, some wanted to tell me congratulations for surviving the toughest day a caddy could imagine, and some wanted to see if I had seen the telecast and the comments from Nick Faldo, Kelly Tilghman and the gang. Truth be told, I hadnt seen it in full. I was one tired pup on Thursday night and tried to hit the hay early.
No matter what was said or shown, it seemed to be good entertainment for all who saw the coverage ' and the Tournament Director Kevin Weickel said he was quite pleased with the coverage. By the way, thanks to Kelly for being the voice of reason from what people told me ' and actually calling me an athlete. Dont know about that but I felt like I held my own for a rookie.
Stephen Ames actually found amazement in the fact that I showed up.
Jay started his warm-up with a few putts on the practice green about 10 minutes. Then off to the range at the Palm Course where we were met again by GOLF CHANNEL cameras set to follow us and the tournament leader J.P. Hayes who has now become one of my very favorite PGA TOUR professionals.
Heres the surprise of the morning.the local Sheriffs who went along with our group for security. Seriously. Nothing like playing safe I guess.
So 73 on Thursday at Magnolia. We started on the 10th with an up-n-down par. But things werent going well. Like Thursday, our struggles continued on the par 5s. Jay bogeyed the 11th (par 5) which felt like triple. And when he hit it well short in the bunker on the par-3 12th, I thought we were doomed. That was until Jay hit a bunker shot we dream of but these guys see more often. He holed it from the sand from about 30 yards up the hill a terrific shot to say the least. He just laughed ' because thats about all that had gone our way in two days. He then hit it tight at 13 and made birdie to get the score to EVEN.
And then, after passing a note that Steve Flesch had text messaged me late Thursday while watching the telecast replay to tell him to free wheel it on Friday, Jay hit a poor tee shot at the gulp.. par-5 14th. It ultimately found the water on the right. Heres the real trouble.. while no marshal actually saw a splash and we figured it trickled in the PGA TOUR Rules Official determined that it could have plugged in the bank.
Since we couldnt find it or identify a ball in the water Jay had to return to the tee to hit his 3rd. Ultimately a double-bogey and we were back to plus-2 just like that.
So much for momentum and it was like that all day. He bounced back with birdie at 15 and at the par-5 1st, nearly holed a chip shot for eagle leaving it on the lip for birdie. We were back in business at EVEN once again. But then number 2. Another tee-ball off line and into the water. He made a miracle bogey after pitching from a tree root right of the green and making the putt.
From there, even with his wife Marnie and adorable daughter Whitney watching, it didnt get much better. I could tell Jay was out of sorts and I just tried to stay clear and give him yardages when needed.
He never gave up, however..and his best effort of the week came at the 7th a par 5 where he nearly holed his second shot from 250-plus with a 3-wood. Double-eagle would have been unbelievable but the ball rested 3 feet behind the hole downhill putt. that horseshoed right back at him. So much for eagle we were left with birdie.
All the while, J.P. Hayes was playing like a superstar. His caddie John had given me much confidence over the two days with comments about my bunker raking (he gave me an A) and the etiquette I apparently showed while doing it (A-plus.) I have to give Jay the kudos on that ' he schooled me well about when and how, and who puts the flag in at the end of play on a particular hole (the man with the shortest putt who finishes last.)
Hayes didnt miss a shot in two days until the last. And talk about unfortunate. While in his backswing on the tee with a 3-wood, the ice in the cooler four feet behind us settled and rattled around a bit. J.P.s 3-wood found water left and he made a double-bogey. Jays final approach shot of the week left him with a 10-footer that burned the edge ' fitting.
73-73 for Jay over two days on golf courses where birdies are supposed to be a given. During the practice rounds he seemed to hit it great, but when things got going on Thursday and we bogeyed the first hole momentum never went our way. Hayess caddie John, in fact, told me walking up the fairway with a couple holes to go that sometimes guys just have those weeks. And what really hurts he said, is when guys play their hearts out and get nothing out of it, missing the cut by a shot.
In our case, we missed by 5 shots. Jay thought 2 under would get us to the weekend when Friday began. I thought 3-under (guess I watch PGA TOUR leaderboards and ShotLink with a keener focus.) At any rate, were done.
My son is crushed because he wanted to come watch us on Saturday. Im disappointed because I wanted two more rounds and my buddy to make good on a week with me along for the ride. And Jay? He was really disappointed. It was obvious. These guys put in so much time and effort into this crazy game and when a big week (he said it was big) rolls around, you want to capitalize.
Still, I wouldnt trade the experience. I saw more in two days than I would have imagined. Sometimes I couldnt even look up to watch wanting so bad for the putt to drop or the shot to stay true to its line. But it was what it was. You cant win em all and you cant always have things go your way.
Funny thing ' Jay apologized which is crazy. He owes me nothing. He said thanks, which was the best thing he could have said. And someday I hope well get another chance ' Im actually feeling pretty comfortable with yardages to the hole right now.
Good luck to J.P. Hayes, who couldnt have been a better pro or a better sport over the two days and thanks to the tournament for supporting two buddies with different careers in golf.
Saturday, I lucked into a day off and some tickets to Disney World to celebrate my daughters 7th birthday next week. Ill be back hosting the Sprint Pre & Post Game shows on Sunday with a bit of jealousy that Im not out there in the middle of it.
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