Those were the words of my generous and patient caddy, Eric Hoxsie, as we surveyed my 35-yard approach to the 18th green. My 2012 Erie County Amateur experience was ending, not with a bang, but with the potential for another missed putt or three. It had been that specific type of day.
On Saturday, the putter saved me. Despite a double-triple start, I ground out a score good enough to make the cut into round two. Sunday was the polar opposite; from tee to green, my game was strong. If I missed a green, I was a good bet to not get it up and down. If I left an approach putt longer than 2 feet, I was a good bet to lip it out. Those are the struggles of this eternally-mystifying game. When I signed the card, though, I had improved by one stroke from the previous day, a small triumph.
Somewhere, in that Heaven where all patient grandfathers rest, Stanley Hadyn is smiling. Not because his wife, Jean Hadyn, has stopped nagging him for a time, but because two of his grandsons played in the inaugural Erie County Amateur. One of them (this writer) had the honor of hitting the first tee shot in the first edition of the tournament. That’s an honor. The other had the distinction (note the change in tone here) of actually winning the first Erie County Amateur. That’s right, I can claim second-best golfer status in the clan, as Stanley’s youngest grandson, Ryan Hawkins, outlasted the field to win an event that no one else will ever win: the first of its kind.
I had the great fortune to play on Sunday with Joe Bialek and Sione Akauloa. Two finer gentlemen are not to be found, as they (along with Eric) tolerated my putting spasms with smiles and encouragement. Joe, for example, answered to “Bob” for about eight holes. I summarily conceived, in my tangled web of thoughts, that his name was no longer Joe, and called him Bob for a fair two hours. Sione, I found out later, had held the course record at 63, until Cuz nipped him by one in round one of the championship.
Despite my having grown up nearly literally on the grounds of Grover (I lived a driver away from tee number three, down Cornell Avenue, for 18 years) both men know the course better than I did as a youth, and showed it with their mastery of the nuances of slopes and their knowledge of where to miss shots. That’s right, where to miss shots. That’s a great lesson for all of us, one that I’ll address in a future instructional article.
By the way, I did hit that approach on 18 to about 10 feet below the hole (what a great Sunday pin position it was.) My caddie said, “it’s straight up the fall line, so hit it.” I hit it, it went in, and I wondered, why hadn’t I asked for his advice earlier?