By Stefan Gestwicki
Star Contributing Writer
Over the course of the past five years, I can’t recall a time I was more excited on the golf course. Not the first time I recorded a par. Not the first time I birdied a hole. Not after my first and only eagle. No, not even after either of the 38’s I shot this season. Folks, I’m pumped up.
Let’s back it up a bit. Last week, I recapped my season goals. One of those goals was to birdie more par 3s. I failed miserably. I recorded exactly zero birdies on such holes this season. Zero. Zilch. Nada. It wasn’t exactly the season I was looking for.
Well that all changed this week as I was able to golf with my brother at Cassadaga Country Club on an absolutely pristine fall morning. Steve and his guys still have the course looking immaculate. It was a pleasure just being out there.
The round started out innocently enough. I hit a dud drive that laid up in front of the creek on No. 1 before missing a pretty easy par putt. I then turned a long birdie putt into a bogey on No. 2. My old arch enemy No. 3 got the best of me to the tune of a triple bogey. Another ho-hum bogey on No. 4 had me at six-over par after four holes. Not exactly up to snuff for me, but I was feeling the rust and just having a good time being out there.
Then a little magic started happening. An amazing shot over one of the bunkers on No. 5 set me up for an easy par. A great chip on No. 6 bailed me out of a bum drive for another par. A perfect layup and near flawless approach shot gave me another par on No. 7.
Next up, No. 8. If you’ve played at CCC before, I can almost guarantee you’ve had your day ruined by this hole. If not, let me set it up for you. It’s a long, uphill par 3. It says 193 yards on the card, but I’d say it plays more like 220 with it being on such a hill. Then there’s the green, which is the most unforgiving I’ve ever played on. If you’re behind the green, there’s no way to get your ball to stop. You might as well just pick it up and set it on the fringe in the front.
My drive was perhaps the best I’ve ever hit on the hole. I pulled out my hybrid and crushed the ball onto the front of the green, but way left of the pin. That left me with a putt that PGA pros would struggle with, I’m sure. As soon as I hit it, though, I knew it had a chance. I started it about 10 or 12 feet high of the hole and watched it arc its way down, down, down and in. I dropped a 50-foot putt earlier in the season, but this was absolutely my best putt of all time. If you gave me 100 more chances at it, I bet I don’t make it again.
Writing a ‘2’ on the scorecard is exciting enough, but when you’re used to taking 5s or even 6s on the hole, that ‘2’ seems even more sweet. My brother Mark is a novice golfer, for sure. He only gets to play once a year or so when he comes to visit, but even he understood the magnitude of me getting a birdie on No. 8 at Cassadaga.
In golf you have to put both the good shots and the bad shots behind you. Usually you’re trying to forget about the bad, right? But in this case, I had to reset and play a very scoreable No. 9. My drive and second shot set me up for birdie, but my chip was weak and I had to two-putt for par. I still have never put together back-to-back birdies. Maybe that’ll be a goal for next year.
A score of 40 at CCC is tied with a few others as my best ever at the course. Those others have come when I was at the top of my game, however, not while I’m knocking off rust playing for the third time in two months.
The weather doesn’t look great over the next week or so, but you can bet I’ll try to get out again before the snow flies.
Until then, golf is great. Go get some.