Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Club championship weekend upon us

To many golfers, especially around here, Labor Day weekend means club championship weekend.

Many private clubs devote the three-day weekend to determining the best player in the club and, in the process, reinforcing what most members already know – which members have the most ridiculous handicaps.

Beyond the free beer that’s usually included, club championships can be great fun if you like playing competitive golf where there’s no such thing as a gimme. Putt ‘em out, boys and girls.

That means, sooner or later over the course of 54 holes, you’re going to miss at least one that makes you blush. Maybe two. Maybe more if the inside of your brain starts sounding like a Metallica concert.

If you’ve ever played tournament golf, you know it’s a different game than the one you play most days. It’s not for everyone. Tournament golf will expose you quicker than ’60 Minutes.’

Make a couple of bad swings and suddenly things start to go bump in your backswing. Pitch shots over bunkers look like something from Indiana Jones’ nightmares. Fairways look as thin as Charles Howell III’s calves.

But there are days – so I’ve been told – when it all comes together and when it happens in the club championship, you have a fleeting sense of how Tiger must feel at Firestone.

OK, that may be an exaggeration. The closest you get to feeling like Tiger is pulling on a red Nike shirt on Sunday. Your private jet is actually a 2001 Camry with an ‘I’d rather be driving a Titleist’ bumper sticker on the back.

Golf is the ultimate tease, as anyone who’s ever chopped it around for 17 holes then holed the 35-footer on the 18th green already knows.

But once the game gets its hooks in you – symptoms include checking out your takeaway in the reflection of a window and being able to recognize Briny Baird from 200 yards away – it never lets go.

The weird thing is, no matter how many hosel rockets you’ve hit, you still believe the next shot, the next round, the next tournament is going to be a good one.

That’s why club championships are so much fun.

Until the guy with an 11-handicap shoots 74 and ruins it for everyone.