Sitting there watching Sergio Garcia finally win the Masters on Sunday, I like to remember back to my High School years and all of the times which I won that tournament. It was many times, as I remember….
I switched from baseball to golf after I had a knee injury while playing baseball. Old Doc Clemens wanted me to walk…even while I still had a cast on my injured left knee. My Dad liked golf, so he bought me a set of “Kroyden” golf clubs from one of the supervisors he knew at the mill. It was minus a 3 iron…which had gotten wrapped around a tree. Thinking back, I guess that’s why he got them so cheaply. The guy was giving up the sport. I still have the nine iron from that set. I used it for years and years around the greens. I chipped a lot of balls in the hole with that club. I won the Masters a couple of times with it.
I had a hole in one on number four at the Trion golf course once. It was, however, a two. I was playing with old friend of mine Steve Hammonds. I lined up that five iron and took a mighty first swing…..and…whiffed the ball. Totally missed it. I tried to play it off as a practice swing, but Hammond wouldn’t let me. I changed clubs to a four iron and swung a little more gently and the ball took one hop and bounced right into the hole. “Hole in one” I yelled. “No, said Steve…it’s a two” Ah well, at least it was a birdie. The only hole in one in all my years of playing and it would have to be a two!
Being a solitary soul, I played many rounds alone. Those were the “majors” for me. I can’t tell you all the amazing shots which I made, all of the commentary from the announcers. (I didn’t know who they were back then…but they later turned into the voices of Pat Summerall and Ken Venturi) I made up all the acceptance speeches, held all of the “loving” cups with my name engraved into them. I won the “grand slam” many times over.
The golf course was my home away from home. I worked at the “pro shop” for a couple of years and learned a lot of neat new words from all of the older golfers, as the shop was just off of the first tee at Trion…with the river running right next to the fairway on the right. My friend Michael Brown and I dove into that muddy mess after a lot of tournaments and felt in the “gunk” with our hands, often coming up with dozens of balls which had found their way into the “wet” I mowed around the roughs and sloughs. (Lamar would NEVER trust me to mow the fairways or the greens) I caddied for the guys from Ware Shoals S.C., when they came down for their yearly match with the Trion supervisors. They paid better, especially as a caddy AND a player, I knew the course well.
My best tournament I ever played (with the exceptions of those imaginary ones) was in my Senior year at Trion High. There was a Fall tournament…a “Jaycees” tournament for the youth of the community. It was divided by age and I was in the “fourteen and over” group. I played excellent and consistent during this 27 hole day long affair. I had three 37’s for 111. Three over par. Some of the best golf I have ever played. The air was crisp and leaves were already starting to turn. The sun was gorgeous and temperature just loomed in the 70’s. The golf course was in immaculate condition. As I walked up onto the old clubhouse steps after my last round I just knew that I was going to finally get that trophy I wanted do badly. It would make up for losing the Region tournament low medalist by hitting my ball inside a 55 gallon trash can. I knew I could beat all the kids around town with my score. I hadn’t counted on an outsider from Savannah coming up and playing and shooting a final round 33 to post a 108 and win our age group. His Daddy Tommy had been pro at the Trion golf course some years back. Kid’s name was Andy Bean. He did go on to win a lot of money on the PGA tour…but that wasn’t any consolation to me at the time.
I haven’t played a round of golf since about 2004 or 2005. I think about playing from time to time but just don’t get out there and do it. Perhaps I’ll go play a round by myself someday soon just to get back into the “swing” of it. I can hear Pat Summerall’s voice now….”and Bowers chips the ball into the hole on the 18th, winning the 1975 Masters” Ahh the memories..both real and imagined.