Anybody who's ever entered a golf scramble at some point believes they can actually win it. Of course, it almost never happens. Well, I got as close as I've ever been last Friday at Water Gap Country Club's Friday Night Scramble. They host 9-hole scrambles that often bring around 100 golfers. Our group of three played exceptionally well that day. Everything was set for the pride-boosting, first place finish. But then, something strange happened, something that ended our chances right then and there. But let's start at the beginning. Our first hole was number three, a doable par four....
3 - A long, straight drive put us in good position for our second shot. We all used wedges and ended up using my approach, which ran about 25 feet past the hole. The greens were recently aerated so getting a smooth role was basically impossible. One putt went about inch off the cup but none converted. We tapped in for par.
4 - This is a short par three, downhill, about 110 yards. We used my ball which again settled about 20 feet away. I was last to putt and my Callaway stopped just one revolution too short. So close. Even through the first two. A slight ticking in the back left tire is all that is wrong with this start.
5 - With a good drive, this is an eagle hole. Fortunately, our big hitter put our first shot on the fringe. Once again, one of our putts came up tantalizingly close. We kicked in for birdie and went to the next uphill par four feeling like we missed some great opportunities.
6 - A tough hole, the green sits atop a high mound. Our drive is okay, our second shot is excellent. With a friendly bounce off the backstop, we were looking at an 8-footer for birdie. It only took one putt. The ticking tire is far from our minds now. Two under through four.
7 - This is a birdie hole, provided the drive is accurate. We used mine, which barely found the right rough. An approach shot by our eldest member left us with a 13-footer for our third straight birdie. It was straight as an arrow, and he drained it. The birdie train was rolling.
8 - If any hole can stop the train, it's this one. Uphill all the way, a tough par four. Fortunately, my buddy carried over his perfect approach swing and somehow landed a ball within approximately eight feet of the pin. We buried it, confident we just picked up one on the field. Our shouts were heard two holes over.
9 - Another par four eagle hole given a well-shaped drive. We used my safety shot off the tee and chipped on from there, close enough to nail the putt. Five birdies in a row! Two holes to go and we're feeling lucky today. I can practically see the pro writing my name on the gift certificate.
Now, remember that ticking we heard on our rear left tire? It's quite loud at this point, and the sloping hill is putting undue pressure on this wavering wheel. "I'm going to drive down to the flat part so we don't tip," my buddy says. "It's not going to fall off," I say confidently. No more than two seconds later and - "there it goes." It wasn't a disruptive jolt, more like a riding with huge passenger in the back left seat. The cart limped to a stop. We vowed that we wouldn't let this disrupt our unprecedented rhythm. We had to hoof it back to the first tee, about a hundred yards uphill, meeting up with our now laughing teammate. Time to focus again.
1 - This is a tough par 4 with an even tougher green. Playing in a group, par is a great score here. By yourself, it's magical. Our drives fly through the air like errant fireworks. All but one is lost in the woods, and the one that's not out of bounds is only about 110 yards in front of us. We play a decent second shot to get back on track and are left with a long approach to the uphill green. Things were unraveling right in front of us. How would we even save par now? A decent shot put is on the fringe, a good 20 feet away with at least 4 feet of break, a nasty right-to-left'r. I was last to putt and felt uncertain at best. I pushed the ball somewhere in between where the others had put theirs, it began collecting speed as it moved down the slope. Still on course, it seemed to be magnetized to the cup, but no one says anything. It's as quite as we've been all day. We all watch silently until - Bam! "Great save baby!" High fives for everyone. Still five under par with one to go.
2 - One of the easiest holes on the course and our last hurdle. My drive is exquisite, almost too perfect as it rests just beyond the fairway. We're left with 40 yards. However, there's a mound on the front of the green, where the pin is placed. I know I don't have this shot in my bag. All four shots fall either short of the mound or on it, and the balls filter back down in front of the green. "We just need to chip up and save par," I say. Our chips are unimpressive, the closest being about eight feet away. I see just outside right edge in the putt, and put one right where I want it. It crosses in front of the cup and I can only hope my teammates saw the line. Two more putts go begging and we have one last chance to salvage a perfect drive. The putt isn't close, it never had a shot as it storms past the right edge. Bogey. Heartbreak.
Handshakes and a trip to the bar can't hide the disappointment on our faces. We were poised for six under or at the very least five. Turns out our score of four under tied us for first place in the first flight. The tiebreaker was consecutive birdies starting at the group's first hole, which we of course par'd. It should be us holding those gift certificates. But hey, we didn't win. Five birdies in a row and we didn't win. We were doing so well and then, as they say, the wheels just fell off.