Truth and Democracy

Inviting those who live in the right-wing alternate universe to join the rest of us out here in reality.

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Location: Hackensack, New Jersey, United States

Thursday, April 28, 2011

PGA Playing Ability Test; April 25, 2011 Concordia GC

Monday morning was dreary and overcast as I arrived at Concordia GC, about 6:40am. There were already a few assistant pros (PGA hopefuls) on the putting green. When Victor, Concordia's manager, arrived around 7am, he informed the players that the driving range would be closed due to significant rains the day before. Chris Hunt, known affectionately as "The Bus" (for obvious reasons if you saw him), the New Jersey PGA Section's tournament director, followed shortly thereafter. Hunt arranged for players who chose to do so to use nearby Rossmoor CC's driving range and delayed the PAT's start until 8:30am (originally 8). But since this would require a fast dash over to Rossmoor to hit just a few balls, and then a fast dash back, I chose to stay at Concordia. Rushing around does not instill the proper frame of mind.

Facing a delayed start, Hunt decided to pair the players up in groups of only two for the morning round (instead of the usual three), thus speeding up pace of play. I was paired with a player named Colin Thomas from Westchester County, NY, and we were sent to start at hole #2 in a "shotgun start", where all players begin on different holes at the same time, also to expediate play. The 2nd hole at Concordia is a 480 yard par 5, short by our standards. The hole bends slightly to the left about 220 yards from the green, where two large fairway bunkers guard the left side of the fairway. Carry your drive over these, about 255-260 yards, and you are left with about 200 into the green.

Thomas drove first and hit a mediocre tee shot down the right hand side, leaving himself a longer second shot. At the moment you place your tee in the ground, and the ball upon it, you can experience a bit of panic. "This is it, this is what you've been building toward for months". "Don't screw it up", Thoughts tend to race, muscles tense. I had not played in a PGA event in over a decade as well. To counter this effect, I closed my eyes and made a few short, compact practice swings, then set up to the ball and let 'er rip. I ripped a long, high, perfect drive over the fairway bunkers, I did not even need to watch it fall from the sky. I knew where it would be. Having just over 200 yards to the middle of the green (the hole was "cut" in the difficult back left portion), in the cool morning air and with a somewhat downhill lie, I chose to hit a 3-iron hybrid club, which I mishit slightly, leaving myself about 15 yards short of the lefthand side of the green. To my deep chagrin, I found my ball in a ditch connected to a drainage area, but with no relief by the rules. The ball was 6 inches below my feet, nestled in deep grass. I did my best but could not advance the ball to the putting surface, eventually making a bogey 6 on the hole. A disappointment after a perfect tee shot.

Ultimately, I played fair in the first round. I found a lot of unlucky lies and the holes were often placed in the most difficult parts of the putting greens. A "hard luck" 78 was the result. Meaning I would need 77 ot better in the afternoon in order to pass. Thomas shot 86, including several penalty strokes for shots hit "out of bounds". For the second round, we were set up in the traditional threesomes. A player named Jeff (forget last name) joined Thomas and myself starting again at number 2. The sun had come out. It was warm and humid, and the wind, nonexistent in the morning, had begun to blow a little bit.

My second opening tee shot was less perfect but not harmful. I drove the ball up the right side of the fairway, leaving myself about 210 yards to the middle of the 2nd green. This time, a better hybrid shot, from an equally downhill lie, ended up just a few yards off the left side of the green, near the hole location, and in a decent lie in the rough. After choosing to "pitch" the ball onto the green with my sand wedge, I proceeded to hit the exact shot I had envisioned, and watched as the ball landed on the green and rolled directly into the hole, clinking against the flagstick as it dropped in, for an "eagle" 3. My verbal response, "You gotta be kidding me". For the first time all day, I now had to consider the very real potential of passing. Expectations began to enter my mind and body, to the tune of tension.

Having the "honor" (lowest score on the previous hole) on the next tee, I sent a perfect 5-iron over a lake into the middle of the fairway of the par 4, 3rd hole. I then waited endlessly as my two playing partners deposited a total of three balls into that same lake, "Jeff" having to play two balls through the hole due to a rules question, which gave me what seemed like forever to think about my chances, rather than focus on the here and now. I did make a routine par at the third, but began to struggle after that. My swing began to get shaky. My ball started finding lots of bad places and I began leaving myself difficult putts for pars. Since putting had been a struggle recently, even during casual rounds, the results were predictable. I hung on as best as I could for as long as I could but ultimately surrendered the strokes necessary to pass, finishing just a couple above the target score. As a matter of fact, I stood in the 1st fairway (our final hole) with about 135 yards in, knowing that if I holed out from that point, I would pass right on the number. A slim chance in the extreme, but not impossible (I have done it before). However, my ensuing pitching wedge came up a little short, despite the shot being downwind.

I am not too disappointed in the aftermath. I gave the best effort I had under some very difficult personal circumstances. Just three working assistant golf professionals, most in their 20s, played a better 36 holes than I. In my group, I was the only player with any chance whatsoever of passing. This after 11 years removed from serious play, and almost 7 years without playing at all, having started again just last September. If my play under pressure improves as rapidly as it did when I was in my early 30s, the potential will be nearly limitless. I thank Chris Hunt, for running the event on his day off. Ray Bridy, PGA Professional at Concordia, for hosting, the members of Concordia, for allowing us to intrude on their lovely course for a day, and, most of all, Dana, Mom and Dad, and everyone else who has supported me through my crazy, crazy, life. Here's hoping this is just the beginning of a new, old career.

Paul Roth, Jr.
April 28, 2011


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