MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — It was a battle against the elements here in the second round of the World Amateur Handicap Championship. From what I saw, I'm declaring the elements the winner.
Heavy overnight rain, followed by more morning rain, delayed by an hour our 9:30 shotgun start at Wild Wing Plantation (renamed Wet Wing by more than one chagrined player). We got 10 holes in before another wave of showers hit. It was two hours of misery.
You know it's wet when you make a fist while wearing your rain glove and it wrings water like somebody turned on a faucet. Fortunately, the tournament officials were smart enough to put lift-clean-and-place rules in effect and move up some tees. Even in the championship flight, this was not a day to play from the way-way back.
When you're playing in the rain, you forget how far you can't hit it. It was a significant adjustment on club selection. With falling rain, and of course no roll, plus a little breeze, it was a two-club difference. At the par-3 17th, a 184-yard shot today, I normally would've hit 5-iron. But since rain was falling and my rain suit was wet (but I wasn't–thank you, ProQuip!), I'd already noticed how poorly the ball was carrying. I downshifted two clubs into a hybrid, choked up slightly and hit a nice shot pin-high. A guy in the group ahead of me–yes, they were still stacked up on the tee when we arrived–hit a sweet long-iron shot that kicked in close and looked like it might go in.
He expressed disappointment that it didn't find the cup for an ace, but then said he'd just had a hole-in-one a week ago. "Then you weren't due," I said. I bumped into him in the bar after the round and he said that shot was a leaner–his ball was actually leaning over the edge of the cup. "Nice," I said. "So, did you make the putt?"
I woke up with a really sore left Achilles tendon. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to play. And since it was raining early, I didn't bother warming up on the range. Don't get wet until you have to — that's my theory. It caused me to lose some shots to the right early because I
was loathe to finish on the left side, and then I over-adjusted and started
yanking the occasional shot. By the end of the round, it felt better, so maybe
I won't be too hobbled for the last two rounds.
All in all, I played solidly, hit a lot of greens in regulation, and was even par until the rain began. With three holes left in the round, I teed off on the 18th. We were drenched by then and my grip slipped just a bit, causing me to snipe-hook my tee shot into a diagonal lake in front of the fairway. It really shouldn't have been in play but bad shots happen in bad weather. I made a triple bogey there, parred the last two and posted 76. Nothing special, but by late in the round, all we wanted was to be done.
Other things I heard today:
– During the pre-round instructions and send off as we waited in carts, the club official announced there were only three holes with out of bounds in play at Wild Wing. "Thank god!" a voice from one of the carts said loudly, sparking uproarious laughter.
– Also before the round, a weathered older gentleman carrying a small cooler was headed into the bar area when he ran into a friend. "I'm going to get some beer," he told his pal. It was 9 a.m. The friend replied, "I wish you hadn't said that." The man with the cooler was undeterred. "Beer, don't leave home without it!" he said.
– During our round, one of us hit a shot that landed in a fairway puddle, and someone in the group said, "It's OK, I saw it splash." There's something you almost never hear during a round of golf.
– Wet Wing's Avocet Course was fairly pleasant to play, not counting the rain. Lots of big bunkers and big greens. I remember early last decade when Wild Wing was a hot spot to play in Myrtle Beach. It had four courses, I believe, and earned a lot of rave reviews. Now only one is still in operation. You could see some of the overgrown holes on the other courses here and there, apparently victims of the recession.
– One last nugget overheard in the dining area pre-round, where free donuts, juice and coffee were set up for World Am participants. Said one grinning, pudgy golfer, "When they're free, I try to stop at three." Yeah, I think that's the golf writer's motto, too.