Just Missed Pinehurst

Will on 13
Will on 13

Team Portfolio was this close to qualifying for the US Amateur – we were right there through 32 holes – and then, nuclear meltdown.

I have to take some responsibility. In my many years of caddying, with so much riding on the line, I have never made such a boneheaded recommendation as telling Will that 5 iron was the club on the 15th hole.

The problem was my notes. See, Will had almost missed his practice round by driving to the wrong Trump National – he went to the one in New Jersey instead of New York, and so he ended up getting in only 14 holes that day. Hence I was filling in notes during our morning round because it was clear we were going to be around in the afternoon – unlike last year when we got cut at lunch and I went back to Hackensack and caddied for Jim McGovern who shot a heavenly 61 that day.

So when we came around to the 15th that afternoon, just coming off a birdie at 14 and just 2-over for the tournament, club selection was crucial. We were looking at a par-3 playing about 176 with water on the right. Looking back, it’s obvious that 6-iron was the club. The problem was, he had hit 5-iron in the morning and ended up on the fringe a little back of the pin. I was looking at the notes, thinking, we hit 5 this morning, let’s hit 5 again. Well, either there was some wind in the morning, or Will didn’t get all of it, because the 5 in the afternoon sailed over the green, hit some branches, landed on a cart path and jumped out of bounds, effectively ending our run.

Will then hit a provisional ball into the water. We went and looked for the ball and found it OB. He dropped in the drop area and hit a bad chip. Then he 3-putted for an 8. Then he was so pissed he lost his drive right on the next hole. Then he went for the green with a 3-wood and hit it in the water. It was awful to watch. He took another 8. How many back-to-back eights do you see out there?

The funny part was that he had makeable birdie putts on the last two holes and missed them both. He took an 83 for the afternoon, signed his card and we went directly to the parking lot. That was that. We later found out that +3 made it into the US Amateur. He was +2 through 32 holes! We were crestfallen.

The whole drive home we were thinking: what were we thinking? Why did we hit five from 176 out? One reason was the notes. Another reason was that Will was hitting five into almost every green, and he was hitting it damn well. So when we thought it was 5 on 15, we were like, we love 5-iron. It was groupthink on a small scale.

I mentioned to Will that eight is a lucky number in China, and that two eights together were especially auspicious. He said, “Really?” with a note of optimism…

On the Saw Mill Parkway, driving home, we saw a terrible accident involving a burned-out, flipped-over car and miles upon miles of people backed up in traffic. I don’t know about Will, but I was thinking there’s more important things than golf, even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes.

And we still have the club championship. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be club champ at 20? First match, 9:08 tomorrow morning.

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