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Golfing in South Bend

Bill Brink | Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My last round of golf of the season was nothing short of epic.

My partner Rob and I made it to the Interhall championship along with three other twosomes. It was a scramble format, meaning we play the best ball of the two hit, so should I shank my drive to the left on the first hole (which I did) Rob could pick me up.

Only problem? South Bend weather.

We tried to play before fall break, but midterms and torrential downpours kept us off the course. So we played Monday. Anyone who was on campus Monday sees the inherent problem.

It was about 39 degrees out, beautiful golf weather. Laden with Under Armour, gloves and some pre-match spirits to keep us warm, we were, in our minds, at least, championship-bound. But the weather would not cooperate.

The hail started as we approached the second green. That sentence right there demonstrates the anti-golf nature of this poor-weather town. Trying to putt with hail driving into your face at a 45-degree angle makes a normal 20-footer feel like a tap-in at the local putt-putt course. Any ambitions of channeling our inner Tigers and Phils evaporated up into the dark storm clouds. The links in Scotland had nothing on this.

I couldn’t feel my hands after the fourth hole, except when I hit the ball thin; then it felt like hitting a baseball off the handle of a bat. The hail cranked up again on the sixth hole, this time bigger and harder. The green turned white, and the ball picked up the hail and sleet as it rolled – nay, bounced between pieces of hail – across the green, as if we were making a snowman.

Here’s the kicker: Rob and I both missed a 13-inch putt for par on the sixth. We’re not bad putters. We make those putts. We have ice in our veins (and not because it was freezing out). The balls kicked off frozen rain and edged left of the hole. We stared, speechless. There was nothing to say.

Darkness fell prematurely, so we resorted to guessing where our balls may have landed. On the ninth hole, in near pitch-black, we hadn’t a clue.

Thwack. “Anybody got anything?” one would ask, hoping that between three sets of eyes someone could follow the inch-wide ball 250 yards away. “Nope, I got nothing,” was the chorused response.

We formed a search party, four-wide across the fairway, literally taking shots in the dark at where our balls stopped based on how they felt off the clubface. When Jim found his ball, the same process took place. Any time you have to use the spotlight on the side of the Rock as an aiming point, you know the round has been shot.

We lost by two strokes. Championship hopes dashed until next year. But thanks to some heads-up thinking from Rob, who called our friend Jason from the eighth fairway, we had hot chocolate waiting for us, a warm tonic that washed away our pain and put the round in perspective.

The elements frowned upon us; I felt like the golfer from ‘Caddyshack’ trying to squeeze in nine holes during a monsoon. But the heavy stuff came down, for quite some time.