It was a downhill par three, number six at Mimosa Hills, probably playing 160 yards or so. The green was wet from rain, which had just started to slow down. I choked down on a mid-iron while my playing partners chatted up a pretty college girl monitoring the hole for the insurance company. The swing went by without much forethought. My ball – an off-white CLASSIC we’d received at registration – flew straight and true. In fact, it flew far straighter and truer than my usual iron shot.
Ohh!! That’s right on the pin! Look at this!
There was a moment of stunned silence as the ball descended dead at the pin. In those few seconds, I noticed some friends standing on the ninth tee also watching my shot, dumbfounded at the trajectory. Right then, it dawned on me…if I win a car, how will I get it home?
The ball landed on the green maybe two feet in front of the pin. It rolled back and just when I thought it might drop in the hole, it wandered off a bit to the right.
One of the amazing things about golf is even though you are 160 yards away from a situation, you can tell instantly what just happened to a tiny white orb 1.68 inches in diameter. My ball was close, but it wasn’t in the hole. There would be no free car for me today.
Luckily, I made the putt for a birdied and that helped my partner Bill Engleson (Captain of the Carolina Hickory Golfers) and I take home honors for Low Net on Day 2 of the Inaugural Fall Hickory Classic. The event was played on the fabulous Donald Ross-designed Mimosa Hills Golf Club in Morganton, NC, organized by the US Hickory Players Club, which is kind of an organizational alias for Brian Schuman when he creates hickory golf events.
Brian said from the start this was event was about FUN and he kept his word. Every Par 3 had a hole-in-one prize including a new car, a trip to Scotland and some lesser stuff like modern clubs and a flat screen TV (which apparently is included with the insurance required to pay for winners of the big prizes). Other contests included closest to a very crooked line down the first fairway and closest to the pin on another par three, which I won, since I was RED HOT on par threes that Saturday. I made the birdie there too.
Rather than boring old stroke play day after day, it was team stableford competition on Friday, followed on Saturday by a Best Ball/Alternate Shot (nine holes of each) with two-man teams. Sunday wrapped up with four-man teams playing total team scores. Teams were always randomly drawn, so you had the possibility of playing with different people every day (strangely, I played with Bill Engelson on every round). The Mimosa Hills staff treated us like royalty and took care of all the scoring (which was a huge relief as it allowed us to hit the bar instantly). They also took care of all the meals, including delivering us warm soup on the cold wet Saturday for mid-round lunch.
The Awards Lunch was a medal fest. Did I mention Brian likes BIG medals? They are the size of those medals given out at marathons. Many were distributed. I think a guy in the kitchen received one. So many medals were issued in fact that Mike Hillbilly Henderson looked like Mark Spitz with a few pounds of gold hanging off his neck. Best of all, Brian welcomed a few players new to the hickory world with special gifts — big Bobby Jones coffee table books. It was a nice touch (Brian tells me I thought of that idea, but I don’t remember exactly. I mean, he brought the books. Anyway, even if I did suggest it, it was a nice touch).
The event was capped off with a surprise announcement. Brian decided to honor everyone’s good friend John Greene, hickory aficionado and the Morganton local who helped arrange the event (and whose car dealership provided my almost free car). Rather than the same old plaque or an extra medal, Brian went for something more permanent. He announced that in recognition of John Green’s many contributions to hickory golf and unfailingly great attitude, staring next year, the event will be formally known as the John Green Fall Hickory Classic. John was suitably touched and made a heartfelt speech thanking everyone for coming out.
Morganton was a treat to visit. They have excellent restaurants and a cool little downtown where you can lose yourself in the evenings. I will be back next year and hopefully, my little off-white ball will find the hole for my first ever hole-in-one as well as free car.
I can dream, can’t I?