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A futile dream

RYAN SLABAUGH

Maybe this time. Swing. Thud. Roll. Silence.

OK. Maybe next time.

Sigh.

Each time I approach a par 3, I stare down the hole ” that little dot in the earth 150 yards away ” as if it and I are lined up for a gunfight at high noon. I pull a club I know won’t fail me. I swagger. I practice-swing as if millions are on the line. I even shut my eyes and imagine that magic moment, the one I can see but not do, where the ball lands softly on the green and rolls into the cup, as if destiny would not allow any other result.

One. It’s the score on the card I’ve never had. I’ve had 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s and a few other numbers I’d rather not mention. I’ve even had an 11 ” two ones ” but that didn’t get my name in the local paper. If Three Dog Night had it right ” 1 is the loneliest number ” then 11 is the ugliest number.

I’ve even tried cheating. In the quiet evenings, I’ve stood on a par 3 and machine gunned the green with rapid-fire shots, breaking every USGA rule in the process. Below, the green and nearby rough becomes filled with my collection of old Titleists, yet that little hole remains empty. Is this a religious thing? What god must I pray to?

Or maybe, it’s just not meant to be. I know 40 handicappers who have multiple hole-in-ones, who frame the game ball and place it above their home computer. It’s there to remind them of that moment of perfection, that day where the stars aligned and that little hole invited them in like the cornfield in “Field of Dreams.” Poof. It must be magic. Meanwhile, I’m standing there like Kevin Costner, hearing the voices in my head beg me to “Ease his pain.”

A hole-in-one is also a story to share on the teebox. Many times, I’ve sat speechless like a virgin at an orgy and listened to harrowing stories about lucky bounces, kicks off trees and the spectacular joy one gets from recording that ace. “I’ll never forget it,” they say. “It just seemed so easy.” Ease this guy’s pain? Screw him.

Deep down, I know this is how golf works, and it’s one of those great life lessons we can gather from, as they say, a great walk ruined. One day, when I least expect it, I’ll step onto a green expecting a putt and find the ball settled into the hole. I’ll look around, raise my arms, and order someone in my foursome to buy me a beer. Maybe I’ll frame the ball. Maybe I’ll lose it three holes later in a water hazard. At that point, with that 1 darkened into my scorecard like a tattoo, I really won’t care.

And I know, if it doesn’t happen this summer, it might happen the next … God willing.

Oh yeah, did I mention that I’m a Cubs fan? †


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