A measley short three feet ...
Three feet, it was. Maybe less.
So why did the distance between the golf ball I stood over and the place I wanted it to go seem so far?
Miles, I’m talking. A marathon distance.
I breathed deeply.
Slowly the blade of my putter began its backward movement. The ball and the hole remained silently still.
The putter reached the apex of its pendulum motion and turned 180 degrees in direction. It moved toward its target, confident of making that little white ball do the same.
The sound of metal on urethane was almost inaudible.
Perhaps because the silence of the entire setting was deafening.
It lurched forward, this spherical object no more than 1.62 ounces in weight and no less than 1.68 inches in diameter.
It began on a straight path toward a 4.25-inch round chasm on perfectly manicured turf grass. Nothing stood in its path.
Three feet, remember? That’s all it was between the ball’s original place of rest and its intended destination. Thirty-six inches, give or take a few.
I held tightly to that deep breath I had inhaled what now seemed an eternity ago.
“Good putt,” I heard one of my playing partners say in a hushed tone.
Basketball has its free throw.
Football has its placement kick.
Baseball has the sacrifice bunt.
Hockey and soccer have penalty shots.
Each, I submit, is easier than golf’s most elementary stroke. The putt.
I hear your scoffing tone.
Next time you step to the free throw line, 15 feet from the rim, go ahead and read the break.
Oh yeah: not any. It’s a constant. Always mind-numbingly mundane.
Sure, weather can affect kicking a point after touchdown or field goal. But those uprights are the always in the same place. Dead center on the line at the back of the end zone.
The guy 60 feet, 6 inches away obviously has some influence on a batter’s ability to bunt a baseball. And, I will suggest, bunting, in this day of 450-foot home runs and metal bats, is a dying art form.
But it’s still rudimentary simplistic. “Catch the ball on the bat,” baseball coaches around the world advise.
As for the penalty shots of hockey and soccer … don’t even go there. Anything with a success rate in the 90th percentile cannot be overly difficult.
The factors influencing a putt are myriad.
Contour of the green. Pin placement. Weather conditions. Speed of putting surface. Smoothness of same.
Size, shape and stability of the club striking the ball.
And the abilities of the putter.
Not the “putter” being used, mind you. From Bulls Eyes to Zebras to Pings to Odysseys, they are mostly the same.
As different as may be Scotty Camerons, TaylorMades, Cleveland Classics and Guerin Rifes, all, in essence are the same.
Metal object with ate least one smooth, flat side attached at an “L” angle to a shaft.
That those shafts can vary so much — long, short, belly-length; centered, heeled, offset, doubly bent — perhaps gives us insight into the difficult of the task.
As golfers, we will try anything and everything to get that damn ball into the hole.
Distance control an issue? Use a conventional length putter.
Struggling with posture? The belly putter might be for you.
Got the yips? Try tennis.
Few things can produce the gamut of emotions more than can putting.
A low-handicapper can go out, stripe it all day, make nothing and storm off the 18th with half his putter in each hand.
Joe Hacker can hit it all over the lot, take a bundle to get to the green, can a 40-foot snake on the last and go giddily to the 19th hole.
Personally, I’d rather get a job giving Sasquatch his monthly enema than be faced with a 7-foot downhill left-to-righter.
I prefer cleaning pigsties to being forced to make a dead straight 5-footer to halve a $2 Nassau.
Whoa! Let’s back up a bit.
As a dear friend who was the world’s worst-dressed golfer would tell you, ain’t no such thing as a dead straight putt.
“The world is round,” he always said. “Aim it right and pull it.”
Of course, he’s the same one who said every round of golf begins with a three-foot putt.
Split the middle and suck back a 9-iron to a tightly tucked pin. You’ve got a three-footer.
Go Oscar Bravo off the first tee, reload and finally chip up laying five. You’ve got a three-footer.
Get in a world somewhere between the two and lag from 25 feet. Yep, that next putt is three feet.
“Never cuss a moving ball,” one of my goofiest buds insists.
“After it has come to a rest, you can call that SOB every name in the book,” he suggests. “But never — EVER — cuss it while it’s still moving.
“As bad as it might look, after you cuss it, it’s going to do something to get even with you.”
In this case, I wanted to cuss my playing partners.
I whirled around to see which had put the eternal curse on my putt. Sheepishly, they tried to look away from the carnage.
No sooner had the words “good putt” been spoken than did that three feet stretch to 13. And that straight, concise arc my putter had prescribed followed through on a long path to nowhere.
As my ball approached the hole — “it’s your home!” I heard Happy Gilmore shout — all things conspired against me.
It went airborne after grazing a pitch mark poorly repaired about three weeks before. It careened to the left before caroming off that oversized marker Tommy Two Down insists on using. Miraculously, it returned to a path headed for its final resting place.
The cruelest cut of all: it lipped out. Not just any casual lip out, mind you. We’re talking one of those 300-plus degree spins around the cup. Slow mo.
Taunting me all the while before reaching into my chest and ripping out my heart.
An oxymoron if ever I’ve heard one.