This column nearly died on the first tee box at the Coeur d’Alene public golf course.
It was somewhere around 30,000 feet on a flight to a destination I can’t even remember during the Gonzaga basketball season that I hatched the idea of trying to play one golf ball for as long as I kept finding it and chronicle the agony I inflicted on my dimpled companion.
After patiently waiting for the snow, hail, rain and wind to subside, I finally trotted out my Nike PD Straight No. 4 about a month ago. I’ve never been too picky about what I play. If I have a nice Pro V1, I play it. If it’s not in the first three or four balls when I reach into the pocket and I end up with a Callaway or Precept, so be it. That’s how the PD Straight made the cut.
The majority of my golf balls come from a five-gallon bucket in the garage where I tend to put the pearls at the top and the bruised below. I admit that I can’t remember the last time I bought golf balls, other than a couple of sleeves here and there with winnings from men’s league. Nearly every ball in that bucket has come from countless forays into the trees, bushes, weeds, rough and ponds to hunt for a misguided shot.
Secretly, I was hoping the Nike ball would live to see 100 holes. I informed my playing partner, Luther (name changed to protect his identity in the shank relocation program) of my intentions – and promptly smother-hooked my drive off the cart path on No. 1.
The Nike started out in reasonably good condition. No scuffs, with a little pink ink on the lettering. That lasted all of one swing. I received a fortunate bounce off the path and the ball came to rest in the rough about 35 yards from the green. I had a clear view and coaxed a lob wedge within 12 feet. Above the cup with a left-to-right break of more than a foot, worlds collided and the resulting seismic activity sent PD straight into the hole for a birdie. Never mind that it would have probably gone 6 feet by if the hole hadn’t been in the way.
I was starting to like this idea, especially after a wedge left a makeable 10-foot birdie putt on No. 2. Missed it.
Then I returned to normalcy with another low screamer left that flirted with the O.B. stakes on No. 3. I hit a provisional, but found PD safely inside the white stakes. I eventually took double bogey and registered my first three-putt on perhaps the second-easiest hole on the front side. For good measure I skulled a lob wedge that left a permanent green smile on PD.
Those three holes alone are a fairly accurate snapshot of my game. By the fourth green, I had already hit two cart paths and PD’s exterior appeared to have had an extended session with 80-grit sandpaper. By No. 8, I had hit three trees, including one half-dead sapling that I didn’t even see while punching out of the forest left of the seventh fairway.
All the considerations that I casually overlooked on that plane trip started seeping into my brain. I completely spaced out that I would have to play this ball, warts and all, in league. I usually play in one Monday pro-am a year and I would have to do so with a battered Nike.
After three shots and eagle on No. 9, those thoughts pretty much were gone.
I ended up playing 53 holes with PD. It would have been 54, but I absent-mindedly played a Titleist on the first hole of a pro-am. I remembered on the green and promptly put PD to work for the remaining 17 holes. The ball rewarded me one hole later by dribbling a good 6-7 feet after I topped a drive. One of the members of the group had a SkyCaddie, but was either too stunned or too kind to get a precise measurement. I made the most of the nice lie on the tee box and rallied for a par, which still didn’t completely erase the visual of that mighty drive.
PD and I made it to the 18th at Hangman Valley, one of my favorite courses, when I sensed the end was near. Driving-range water right, creek left. I had played well that day and enjoyed the company of Hangman pro Steve Nelke and S-R golf writer Steve Bergum, whom I fill in for on occasion.
I surveyed PD. The middle of the swoosh was gone, probably eroded by repeated contact or ball-washings. The smile was intact, as were the patches of discoloration from collisions with 10 trees, six sand traps and four cart paths.
I thanked PD before sending it to a watery grave. Make that 11 trees, but not even a large tree at the left edge of the 18th fairway could save PD this time.
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