This will be the PG-17 version of the stated title above. Besides playing in the inaugural Big Stakes held in Nevada many years ago, with a $2,000,000 first place prize, I have never played golf for big money before. My typical games are $20 3 ways, or sometimes even $200 three ways.
With the upcoming weather report finally showing some rain for 7 days in a row in the Bay Area, I decided to bolt to Palm Desert for some golf in prefect weather. I have an old friend that I’ve not seen in 17 years that is always extending me an invitation to come and stay with him. I finally took him up on his offer, and hopped a United flight from SFO to Palm Springs, not knowing that Southwest flew from Oakland non-stop to Palm Springs for half the price.
Upon my arrival my long lost friend of 17 years scooped me at the airport, and off to his 3/4 acre estate in Indian Wells we went. I had my own amazing casitas to my disposal, and one oof his Mercedes to drive during my visit. Since our dinner plans were coming fast he suggested we have a glass of white wine before heading to the restaurant. The interesting thing was that I had never seen him drink before, when I knew him 25 years ago, he was off the booze for ten years. I respected his restraint and ability to resist drinking as I heard it was a problem. in his past. However now, he was in full tilt back drinking. I do enjoy an occasional glass of wine, or some good whiskey.
After a few glasses of white, we headed to a great place in Indian Wells that had just reopened the day before. We had two of his friends join us and quickly we were drinking some amazing pink champagne, followed by two bottles of delicious red wine. Our after dinner drink was sambuka which I probably spelled wrong here.
He was a gracious host and picked up the tab, probably $600-$700 range. We headed back to his place feeling no pain, and started in on the Tequila mixed with some sweet mixer, and that went on for 4 hours and through two bottles of Tequila. The music and dancing around the kitchen was fun, until I realized I had my first of many money games lined up at the Hideaway.
Throughout the night my cotton-mouth hit me hard, I had not been drinking anything close to this in 30 years. I felt terrible upon finally waking and trying to walk in a straight line to the bathroom. My game was in two hours and I needed to find some balance and equilibrium.
At the Hideaway I met up with some old friends I had not seen in many many years, and 5 of us played a game that had two players agains the other three paired up in teams. We had a point game and other things I didn’t pay attention to. I was in great fear of losing more than what I had in my pocket and felt like Lee Trevino playing for $100 with only a $5 bill in his pocket. The difference of course is I don’t possess Lee’s game.
My saving grace was that one player that never was on my team, had one of the worst games of his life and threw the party. My horrible 79 playing as a zero I thought was going to cost me $2K-$5K. But once it was all tallied up, I won $1970. I was shocked and more relived than anything. Unfortunately that was the last game with that group of guys.
What I then quickly learned was don’t head into a golf gambling town with a +2 handicap and play unfamiliar courses for big money. Yes the drinking continued for a few more days, and it was costly. The next big game was held at the Palms, were legendary games for big money are played. I was playing with a good friend of mine vs 3 other players, all getting lots of strokes in a match play style game. Keep in mind, when playing match play, you can never give a player all his handicap shots, as each par he makes on a stroke hole needs to be matched by a natural birdie.
My hangover of a week was not helping my putting, and I missed 2 footer and 2 footer, each costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars. After 18 holes at the Palms, we found ourselves down $12,000. An emergency nine was played getting us to +1 with one hole to go, the tough par 4 ninth hole with a drive over a creek out about 240 yards. All we needed to do was ONE of us to fly the creek, as we were playing a scramble format. Just making a par on the hole would earn back the $12,000 plus get us an additional $3000. But NO, we both hit our tee shot in the creek, and made a scramble bogey to let them off the hook.
The next day we had a 3 up lead with 5 holes to go with a match and stroke play bet of $1000 5 ways. We again lost 3 holes in a row, lost the gross bet and tied the match bet going deeper into the hole.
At this point I was thinking what the hell was I doing here, playing these sharks on their home turf with a handicap that clearly I cannot play too. I decided that if I had a chance to make a comeback I needed to stop drinking all together, and get some good rest and focus on playing good golf. After getting scalped the strokes given came down and slowly we notched some wins against the same guys we’d been playing.
Another new friend of mine got us on The Plantation another great course with lots of great players that will scalp you on their home course. We had a game with three guys I didn’t know, and quickly they looked up my handicap and said, “oh Randy is a plus 2, so we will play off his handicap” what that really means is a 5 handicapper get 7 shots, and then he said “oh we are playing the back tee combo, so I get two more strokes or 9 shots”. Well guess what, if you are a plus 2, you don’t get that adjustment of two extra shots for playing the back tees. And the beatdown was on. We played Wolf, and it was an utter joke. My friend that invited me played to a zero and got ZERO points in a wolf game, which is almost impossible. Me, I got a whopping 2 points, and they emptied our wallets, with no remorse at all. The guy that was a 5 handicapper that got nine shots actually beat both of us scratch with a 73. I would guess that score will never be posted.
Complaining about this will get you no-where, the handicap system is a joke, as you can be what ever handicap you want by posting fictitious score on the GHIN website. Tournament players cannot do that, as then they will have a handicap that’s two high to enter the top amateur and open events. So a sand bagger typically does not play in scratch events, as that would expose them.
After my ass whooping at the Plantation it was Super Bowl time, and I’ve made the mistake of betting against terrific Tom in the past, but not this time. I had Tampa Bay and the under in this one, and enjoyed a nice W that helped move me out of the deep hole I was in on the golf course.
Since I didn’t buy a return ticket home, I decided I would stay in this perfect 80 degree weather with light winds and try to fiddle down my deficit. Three more games occurred, and on the last hole of the last round I played, I had a 6 foot birdie putt for $6000. By now, this was starting to be the norm, but still challenging for a guy that doesn’t know if he’s putting with eyes open or eyes closed right before the putter goes back. I missed the putt, but still ended my 18 day trip dead even. It was a brutal rollercoaster and taught me many lessons.
Number one, I did finally post all those high rounds I played and my handicap has gone from a +2 to a 1. It actually should be a 2 right now, but I have events that require a 1 handicap or less to enter. Number 2, never play someone for big money that you don’t know well, or that your playing partner doesn’t know well. Number 3, always allow for an adjustment after nine holes, or have time for an emergency nine. Number 4, never play for more than what you have in your pocket (or in the bank) as it will cause additional stress and pressure. And finally Number 5, playing a guy on his home course is a mistake, at least do a home and home to equal the playing field.
Not sure how many people will provide such graphic details of an ass whooping, but the hope is that I will now be better for it going into my 4 tournaments, which I will post on soon.
I have finished the first one in Tampa Florida at the Gasparilla held at Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club. Caught the tough weather side of the draw playing late on day one, and then early in the rain on day two. I grinded my guts out trying to make the cut. I made a late birdie on my 16th hole and then made a 10 foot par save on the 17th hole. I knew I was right on the cut line, and hit a prefect tee shot on my last hole, the short 15th hole. I had 90 yards left to the pin, but noticed I was in the middle of a huge sand filled divot. I took one extra club and hit the shot fat, onto the front fringe, and then watched it roll back down the hill and into the Lake. At that moment I knew all the grinding, the flight across the county, the hotel bill, food and travel expenses were for not. This can be a cruel sport, and that bad luck on the final hole cost me the opportunity to play the next day in perfect weather and advance my WAGR ranking which is currently 28th in the world (for seniors over 55). The top 25 WAGR ranked seniors will get an exemption into the USGA Senior Am, which is the goal. However that one chunked shot will move me backwards.
Stay tuned for the JONES CUP in beautiful Sea Island GA