August 20, 2006

Euro Trip - 'The Open' and the close.

It's Saturday morning, the day of the Open. I'm tired, I need a long hot shower, a large hot meal and a bed, sleep…..

The amateurs started on the Ancient Course (easier of the two, if only slightly). I find my way out the 8th hole where I am paired with two chaps in the "Advanced Am's", Dan (a Brit) and Rutger (from Holland) and Kev (another Brit) who is also competing in the am’s with me. Dan and Rutger were pretty good, Kev had only played a dozen or so times before the Open. I threw an awesome first drive, followed by 71 other shots that were not so good. My putting was horrific. I blame it on exhaustion. While I had shot a 51 in KC the day before we departed, hitting putts from all over the place, I probably left 6+ strokes out on the course today due to poor putting. By no means would I have done as well as Pete's 57 (par), but if I could have hit a few putts, a round in the mid sixties was easily possible.

Like the Modern Course that we played on Friday, this course offered a challenging layout; uphill, downhill, long, short, hyzers, anhyzers, woods, fields, nettles etc. The best part of the round was when Dan offered me the use of his one-man tent on Saturday night. Additionally, he was able to also scrounge up an air mattress as well! Ah, sleep!!!!

After they regrouped the players based on our first round scores, I was paired with the three Brits; 'Richard the 5th' (one of the chaps camping next to us), Tom and Sharon. Richard played better than the rest of us proving his first round score was an anomaly. I shot one stroke better than this morning but continued to struggle with my putter. A perfect example was the long par four 7th hole; I threw a long drive that rolled just into the infamous briar trees. I was able to get off a good second shot and then left my approach about 15ft left of the pin. Doink, and my putt hits the rim of the basket and falls short for a bogey 5. I bogeyed the Hypotenuse, the 8th (800ft, 150ft drop), birdied the 9th, and 12th but continued the Jeckle and Hyde golf that had plagued me since Sweden.

Like ball golf, a large part of this game is mental. Remain positive, think positive, forget bad shots etc. I’m just going to keep repeating the exhaustion excuse. It's my own fault and in the end it didn’t take anything away from the trip, after all how lucky am I to even be here in the first place!!!

At the end of the second round I found myself in 18th out of 25 players. Pete was still holding on to second! I was able to get partially cleaned up using the cold water spigot and the soap and shampoo Mary insisted I take (I'll have to thank her for this as well!!) Dinner was a BBQ (I broke down and had about 6oz of pork before Thomas alerted me to the veggie burgers!!). Thomas was a friend of Joe's from Germany. Born and raised in Long Beach he graduated from UCLA and moved to Germany in 1999 to do support work for the Airforce. He was a pretty cool dude; he raised bee's and harvested honey, was a vegan etc. A free spirit or modern day hippy would be the best description I can come up with at this point [included here with the utmost respect]. We chatted quite a while, he asked about the bracelets and I tried to give him the details. It was the same result as when I tried to talk to Joe in Sweden, I couldn’t get the words out. I told him enough that he understood what was going on but it was again way to emotional for me to talk about it.

By 10pm I've had enough, I can barely stay awake. I find my way into the one-man tent, take off my shoes and slide onto the air mattress. I think I fell asleep in less than a minute (just like home, right Mary?). 6 1/2 hours later I'm awoken by the sound of rain. It was light, more importantly peaceful like you could not imagine. I rolled over and slept three more hours finally getting up around 7:30.

As we rose Sunday it continued to rain. Fortunately I brought a nylon wind jacket that repelled most of the moisture. I made my way to the 14th tee. Actually we stood under the trees by thirteen with the sheep and the chaps that were playing in the group behind us. This group included Joe’s friend Matt. We teed off at 9:00am and as we played the first hole the rain stopped. By the time we finished our 5th hole we were playing is shorts and t-shirts again. It turned into a beautiful partly cloudy day. For me, the sleep paid off, I carded an eight over 65. This was good enough to move me into 10th place. Pete, played good enough to retain fourth place.

We had planned on leaving about 2:00pm in order to get Joe and Matt back to Heathrow for their flight to Paris. The top five players in each division go on to play a 9 hole final, this was to begin at 1:30. Pete was about to inform the tournament Director that he was unable to play when Joe garnered a ride with an English bloke he’d played with earlier in the day. A quick good-bye to Matt and Joe and Pete and I made our way out to the 10th tee for the final 9 holes.

Except for a few long delays for ‘rules’ determinations, nothing eventful happened in the finals. Pete was able to hold his own and finished quite impressively in 4th place!

Pete and I returned to Heathrow taking a route that took us through South Hampton and about 15-20 miles north of the southern coast of England. It was a relaxing drive as we listened to the BBC broadcast of Tiger Woods winning his 11th major, the other British Open. There was a lot of weekend traffic headed back to London and we were parked on the M3 on several occasions for 20-30 minutes. By the time we returned the car and got back to the terminal at Heathrow it was after 9:00pm. Pete found us a place to stay but by the time we dropped our bags and walked to the Pub/Tavern they had stopped serving food. A few pints of Guinness, a quick shower and it was lights out by a little after 11:00pm. The bed could have been made of nails, it didn’t matter. 8 hours of sleep later and I felt a little more like my old self.

We arrived at Heathrow by 10am even though our flight didn’t leave until 2pm. We found an internet terminal and used the time to catch up on email and I believe I even posted an entry here? Our flight was 2 hours late departing because they had to return to the terminal and allow a sick woman off the plane. New rules require that is a passenger departs, so must their luggage. Being that we were on a 747, this took quite a long time to complete. So even before we took off Pete and I are freaking out. Were we had built three hours and forty minutes time in order to get from JFK to LaGuardia, we would now have about ninety minutes. We would also now be required to go to luggage area after the rude female drill sergeant from Virgin made us check our luggage. I did my best to find things to occupy my mind; ‘King Kong’ and ‘16 Blocks’ took up almost 5 hours. The former was terrible on a 7” seatback screen, the latter was your typical Bruce Willis flick, though slightly more entertaining.

Our flight departed LaGuardia at 7:40, we got off the 747 at 6:00. Immigration was a breeze and we were at the luggage carousel by 6:10. At 7:00 our bags final came off the conveyor belt! Forty minutes left….no possible way we would make it. However, thanks to a great cabby, Pete’s impersonation of OJ through the terminal and the wonderful folks at Midwest Airlines we made it.!!! I walked in the house at 10:59pm, did some laundry, took a shower and was off to the Lake 7 hours later. The Lake…..well that’s a whole other story!

And so, this journey like all journeys, must come to an end. Was it worth it? That’s a hard thing to try to evaluate at this point. From a disc golf sense, hell yes it was! We played almost 200 holes of golf in 6 days, on three spectacular courses, we met some really, really good people that we all hope to see again here in the states one day soon. We saw so many things that many people are never fortunate enough to see at all; I thank God once again.

From a personal sense it was good to get away from Cancer. I thought about it a lot less than I normally do and for long periods of time not at all. There were several times when it came up and as I mentioned previously, it was too emotional to discuss. Looking back, it was the thoughts of Mary and Brad that weighed so heavily on me at those moments. I missed them; I wished that they were with me. I really think we were so busy all the time and so taken in by our surroundings and the golf that I was able to forget, if even just for a little while. That alone made it worth it.

Finally, Pete – I could thank you a million times for allowing me to tag along, to intrude and that wouldn’t be enough. Fate brought us together 7 years ago, it’s hard to believe a lifetime of memories can be stuffed into seven short years. While at Rockhurst, each Saturday morning on the course, through all the other BS that has happened in your life and mine and finally while on this trip. Mary is my soul mate, you are and will always be my friend, compadre, my mate (in the British sense) and I love you like a brother. I thank God this evening for your friendship. Let’s do it again next year, but perhaps this time we can stay stateside….I read that Wisconsin has 88 courses, the same number as Sweden!!!

1 comment:

John Wagner said...

I have enjoyed reading each of your posts detailing your trip. I am so glad you had a chance to experience this. It is something you will always remember. Thanks for sharing the experience with the rest of us. I think I even felt myself getting tired (well, even more tired.)