MURRELLS INLET, S.C. | How about we just get the obvious out of the way. I shot a 111.
I don’t shoot in the triple digits.
But I also don’t normally play TPC of Myrtle Beach under the same conditions as the elite golfers who competed in the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship, either. This time around, just one day after Nicholas Dunlap won the top boys honor, I had the honor of teeing it up before everything was re-set to normal.
We played the tips, meaning we had to traverse 6,950 yards. But that wasn’t all. We also had super-fast greens and ultra-difficult pin placements.
It makes sense, then, that Dunlap bested me by 36 strokes. He’s a real golfer with real potential.
I’m sitting here feeling like a hack.
Doesn’t matter that I usually add a few strokes to my card at TPC, or the fact that due to some health issues I hadn’t swung a club for seven months until the day before the round.
Why a 17 handicapper like me got the beat-down of a decade can be summed up into three specific reasons. The distance, the greens and an inability to recover.
“DON’T LOSE ME”
Last year for Father’s Day and again on Christmas, my wife picked up a 12 pack of my favorite golf balls and had my kids write some awesome messages on them.
The Volvik Vivid matte finish balls have become my go-to choice. Their highlighter color schemes are easy to track. My youngest draws cute pictures, and the two older ones get a bit more creative.
I spread out opening the packs One of them read “Don’t lose me.”
Spoiler: I lost it.
On the second hole.
Standing way back in what felt like another zip code, the the black tees at TPC are 547 yards away from the green. All you have to do to get to the putting surface is fly one pond into a fairway, maneuver your way onto a second fairway and miss another pond while getting around a dogleg left. After all that, “Don’t lose me” was gone, and I was having my cart partner scratching down a 10 on my card. It was the first time that had happened in at least seven or eight years.
At least as far as the missed fairways, that was my par for the course in this round. I connected on three all day, two fewer than the number of tee shots I sailed into ponds, deep tree lines or marsh areas. No. 3 was especially brutal, as was No. 12.
We were squeezed into narrow windows and had to avoid random trees.
When I got the invitation to try out TPC under the World Junior settings, no one mentioned until we arrived that the greens were apparently watered with WD-40.
Because as difficult as some of the looks off the tee boxes were, getting onto the green cut to a stimp levels of 11 or 12 and staying there was a much bigger ask. Three times, I hit the green in regulation. Or so I thought. Instead, my green and red Volviks – yes, I mixed in some non-sentimental ones – would bounce, roll and scoot right on through to thick rough and a few steep drop offs on the back side. So instead of putting for birdie or par, I’m scrambling.
All told, I had two par putts in 18 holes.
Oh, and did I mention that pin placements were set to Mega-Impossible (it’s a technical term).
Throughout the round, those white flags were tucked into the furthest corners of the greens. We discovered how little the staff at TPC was messing around bright and early. However, the comical nature of No. 17 perfectly summed up the entire approach.
It was there, on the 193-yard Par 3 that requires a long carry over a pond from an elevated spot, that players were asked to aim for a pin that was less than 7 yards from the right edge of the green. To the right of that, a not-so-subtle slope leads you into water.
Even if you found the left edge of the green, you were looking at a 30-yard putt.
We all shank from time time. Maybe we’re rusty or cold or the club slipped out of our hands or you swore that turkey vulture flying overhead was finally ready to feast on the carcass that is your game.
When it comes to the longer distances, tighter windows, an already difficult terrain, fast greens and wicked flag stick placement, everything is heightened. One mistake becomes two or three in a hurry.
I already broke down how that happened on No. 2. It felt fitting to wrap up my day with another woefully painful experience. On the 538-yard 18th, my tee shot initially bounced to the right of the sliver stream that cuts up the right side of the fairway. It dribbled down, halfway across one fo the green bridges and plunked into the water.
Luckily, I was playing a red ball still, so I was able to at least save a couple bucks by fishing it out. I’m dropping into my third shot, pull out a 5-wood and after gauging the path of lease resistance, topped the ever-loving $#%^ out of it.
Fourth shot, same club, I get to about 140 yards. At least I’m moving in the right direction.
Fifth shot, eight iron to pin high just off the green between two bunkers. Whew, at least there’s no sand. Sixth, and since I’ve got to go all the way across the green, I muscle up the putter and knock it four feet beyond the hole.
Seventh, I miss the putt by three inches.
Eight, tap in. Snowman badge achieved.
Oddly enough, that was the only time that happened all day, outside of the aformentioned 10 on No. 2. The rest of the way, it was a slow death of sixes and sevens, a bevy of mediocrity without the full on Richie Tenenbaum meltdown.
I picked up my ball, gave a couple of fist bumps and felt like I had no business even giving this a go. I also gained a healthy respect for what the young men and women did under these conditions in the three days prior.
Guess I’ll take solace in knowing I wasn’t getting an invite to next year’s World Junior.