Before boarding a plane to fly to the Birkdale linksland for the British Open, I got in a run-around afternoon game on my leafy home track, the A.W. Tillinghast course at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. I played with a fellow addict, Dick Flannery, and as we came off the 13th tee on a still and hot day we talked about the genius of the great man. It can't hurt, to praise the course architect, for reasons of golfing karma, right?
Dick hit a B- drive on the gentle par-4 a pop-up that went straight and maybe 210ish, coming to rest on a gorgeous piece of tightly mown fairway. Pretty much nobody praises the Cricket's 13th, a connector hole between two holes with far more drama, but Dick was pointing out its quiet excellence: trap here, trap there, green just right, the whole thing bending gently.
He choked up on a 3-wood, made a tight swing and caught the ball flush. We both watched intently as the ball made a beeline for the flagstick, which was about 205 yards away. It pitched just short of the green, climbed a little hill and dropped in. Dick's not the hooting-and-hollering type and I gave him a little high-five and asked if he had ever holed out a longer one. He hadn't. He had one career ace, on a short par-3, and as a kid holed out with a 3-wood from 170 yards, but now there would be a new entry in his record-book-of-the-mind.
"You make a hole-one-one, and you get your name on a plaque and you buy drinks for everyone and it's a big deal," Dick said, after spanking a tee shot on 14. (No post-eagle screw-up here.) But the eagle from the fairway, he noted, gets no such treatment. The double-eagle -- the albatross, for our British readers -- yes. But not the lowly eagle from the fairway. Doesn't seem right, or logical, for that matter.
Anyway, Dick shot 79, and he doesn't do that everyday. Karma-city.