Back in July, I had a blog post about my favorite golf course. Not to brag or anything, but it played to rather rave reviews. However, that post didn’t tell the story. There a lot of other stories to tell about Youche, but that post was getting too long to tell all of my stories about the course. I meant to get back to it, but the family vacation got in the way and I never got back to it. With the weather cooling down and the local golf season winding down, now seems as good a time as any to tell some of those stories. Just like a round of golf is broken down into the “front nine” and the “back nine”, these stories and memories will be the same way, the front nine will be today and the back nine will be Thursday.
#1) The Old First Hole
A few years back, Youche decided to build three new holes and get rid of three old holes. Except for the fact that they didn’t consult with me before they decided what holes they were getting rid of. Unfortunately, the decided to get rid of two great holes. They eliminated Old #1, which was a great hole to start on. Sure it was a par 5, but it was short and straight and it was not inconceivable to reach the green (or almost reach the green) in 2 shots. Not that this made much of a difference in my score, mind you. Invariably, I would find a way to screw things up so that rarely did I ever actually get a good score. The fact that it felt possible to start with a god score was all of the comfort I needed when starting off a round at Youche.
The other hole that I really liked that was marked for death, was Old #8, but we’ll talk about that in a bit. They also mercifully got rid of Old #9, which was a par 5 that probably should have been a par 6 or more. That hole seemed to be about 3 miles long and no matter how hard I tried, I always seemed to be in position to have to hit a long, difficult shot the length of the pond that ran up the right side of the last third of the hole. Let’s just say, I rarely made it over. Don’t ask me why I didn’t ever try to hit a shorter, but safe shot. Let’s just say for being a smart person, I used to play golf rather dumbly.
#2) Two-time winner
For as long as I can remember, the Youche Invitational has been the epitome of cool in my mind. Part of this is because it is often during part of the weekend that the extended family heads up to Door County for a week of vacation. This then necessitated “the men” (depending on the year “the men” was some combination of my dad, my grandfather, and some number of my uncles) to not be able to come up to Door County until late on Saturday. If this event made “the men” come to Door County late, then it must be important. Add in that everyone would talk about it like it was super-competitive and it became hallowed ground in my mind.
On year, my dad in passing said that we (my brothers and I) should all get official handicaps, just in case one year we needed to fill in and play in the Invitational. As soon as I got back to Indianapolis, I ran to my local course and got myself a handicap, just in case. Fast forward two years. The four of us are out at Youche for the family tradition of playing on Father’s Day. For one of the only times I can remember, it is raining horribly out and there is a delay. So, we sit in the clubhouse eating breakfast and talking. Somehow, the conversation turns to the Invitational and handicaps. I casually mention to my dad that I have had a handicap for awhile now. He then mentions that maybe we should be partners for the Invitational (which was about 2 months away.) I play it cool and say that sounds like a good idea, but inside I am doing cartwheels, back flips and some kind of crazy African-Anteater Dance. My ultimate Youche Dream is coming true.
Sure enough, my dad and I make it official and we played together in the Invitational that year and for the next two years. I am very proud to say that we won our group in 2 out of those 3 years and definitely had a great time every year. Now that my brothers have been playing golf more consistently and have also gotten themselves registered handicaps, started with this year’s event we are trying to rotate playing with my dad. It is still one of the things that I look forward to the most every year. July 2013 can’t come soon enough.
#3) The Three Brothers
As I mentioned in the original post, Youche’s biggest draw for me is family. A little bit of why this is will be explained in #6, but most of it comes from the fact that for a few summers, my brothers and I would play there most Wednesdays throughout the summer. Wednesdays were Junior Golf day. Lessons would be in the early morning and then after that we were allowed out on the course before anyone else. There is simply nothing better than being the first group out on the course for the day. Knowing that there is no one ahead of you to hold you up. Watching your ball be the first one to mark its path by rolling through the pristine layer of sweet dew on the fairway. The feeling is indescribable.
I still think about those rounds of golf. We would play in under 3 hours, even though we were walking the course. Right after the lesson was up, we would run pell mell to the first tee, because we didn’t want to get stuck behind a group of younger kids (aka Worm Burners, because of their tendency to not be able to get the ball off the ground when they hit it) because that would severely cramp out style. Weren’t old enough or good enough to play against each other for money, but as you will soon see we still tried to make it a little more exciting.
#4) St. Mathias
The old fourth hole (now the 13th hole. I am getting better at calling the holes by the new names. That only took me 15 minutes to figure out!) had the unique feature of going straight towards the local Catholic Church. Now, this church was at least a mile away and there is a lot of trees between the two, so hitting it was not possible. But, from the teebox you could see the steeple just barely peek up over the treeline. One day, when I was playing poorly as usual, I came up to the fourth tee. And teed off with yet another crummy drive. This was mostly because I was trying to hit the ball way to hard and took my eye off the ball because I jerked my head skyward. My dad asked my what I was looking at (implying that he already knew that I had pulled my head out and trying to remind me that this was the cause of my problems off the tee.) I told him the truth (and also tried to be a bit of a smart aleck) and said “The Cross” (on top of the steeple). He asked me why. Continuing the smart aleck line of responses, I replied that I was “praying”. Juvenile? Yes. Sacrilegious? Possibly. But every time I see that steeple, I think of that story.
#5) The McKenna 5
In general, when I think about the number 5, my mind always jumps right to my family because we were a family of five: Mom, Dad and 3 brothers. Of course the extended family is much bigger than five, but as I have mentioned before, family is an important part of all of my memories of Youche. Because I live 2+ hours away and I now have a family of my own that is always running in a handful of different directions, I don’t get to just play at Youche on a whim anymore. There needs to be a special reason. And what better reason than the fact that a wedding shower or baby shower is happening and the guys are going to go golfing? In fact, the moment I find out someone is getting married or having a baby in the family, my first thought is “I hope that the shower is during golf season so I can play at Youche.” At some point later I consider how this occasion is also good news for the family members involved, but that is usually much later.
#6) Father’s Day golf
Even in years when no one is getting married or having a baby, the family invariably finds a reason to get together and play at Youche. Father’s Day is perfect for such an occasion, because the fathers get to decided what they want to do. Do I feel a bit guilty that I spend Father’s Day away from my kids? Maybe a little, but this is balanced out by the fact that I am playing with my dad. Plus, this is why I am going to try to start teaching Hannah how to golf. The Father’s Day event is a great time to get brothers, cousins, uncles and fathers out together to enjoy a beautiful day on a beautiful golf course. Plus, if you can use this gathering of super-competitive family members to make a few side wagers, then all the better.
#7) 007 – A License to Kill
The junior golf lessons were almost exclusively on the driving range at the course. The old driving range used to a have a small country road that ran along side of it. Rarely if ever was there any traffic on the tiny road. Until one morning, we noticed that there was a beat-up old van that was parked about 200+ yards up the road, blaring crappy, loud music. It wasn’t particularly bothersome to me, but it apparently bothered our instructor. At the end of the lesson, he gave each of us a chance to try to hit the van with a golf ball. The excitement built higher and higher as each of took turns teeing up a ball and launching towards the van. Unfortunately, none of us even came close to hitting the van. In retrospect, I am a little scared at who would have come out of the van at us. I guess we would have been okay since we had metal sticks in our hands, but I am glad we never got to find out.
#8) The Official Bomb-Dropping Hole
As I mentioned earlier, when my brothers and I would play, we wouldn’t bet on the round. But we would still pretend it was a competition. We would come up with a name for that week’s “event”. I remember playing in The BOCT Open (BOCT stood for Boys of Central Teaming. We came up with a name for a union that we could belong to when we worked for the family business in the steel mill.) The Backwards BOCT Open (we played the back nine first one day because for some reason we weren’t allowed to go out on the front nine.) The Mrs. Frank Castillo Open (This was a running joke between us. Frank Castillo was a crappy and unattractive pitcher for the Cubs who had an inordinately attractive wife, which Harry Carey would frequently mention.) I am pretty sure that we also had a Robyn Lively Open as well.
Rarely did we have any corporate sponsorships, but we did have one die-hard supporter, Mountain Dew. (Ironic that my brother Matt now works for Pepsi, no?!) I can’t remember if there was ever a Mountain Dew Open, but there was definitely the Official Bomb-Dropping Hole brought to you by Mountain Dew. It was the old 8th hole, which was a somewhat short and non-descript par 4 such that if you hit the ball really well you might be able to drive the green (not really, but we were relatively delusional high schoolers when it came to our golfing abilities) plus there was really no dangerous areas so you could just try to smack the stuffing our of the ball with little regard for repercussions.
As mentioned above, the Official Bomb-Dropping Hole is now no longer a part of the course, which is probably just as well for me, because despite being the oldest brother, either Matt or Brian would always outdrive me. But it sure was fun to try.
#9) Regret Setting In
In a typical round of golf, I spend the first few holes very excited and can’t wait to get to the next hole and then the next and then the next. Either I played a horrible previous hole and I need to put it behind me or I played well and want to continue to ride the hot streak. Then, somewhere around the 9th hole, I realize that the end of the round is almost near and this experience that I have been looking forward to is soon to be coming to a close. The end made to come even sooner by constantly looking forward to the next hole and to some small degree I regret my impatience and foolishness.
There is very little regret that I ever truly have in golf (or in life for that matter.) Sure in a give round there are any number of shots that I wish I could have back or could redo, but I have so much fun and enjoy my time playing golf that there is little to regret. However, when I think back on Junior Golf, I do have some slight regret. I regret not taking it more seriously.
Back then, I didn’t play golf all that often, so who knows how much of a difference it really would have made. I am sure my parents don’t want to hear this (but since it has been almost 20 years, I think they will let me off easy) but at the time, I mostly saw the lessons as a means to play a round of golf at Youche. I remember a lot of muddling through, looking forward to the end of the 45 minutes so that I could head out onto the course. I also remember purposely disregarding a thing or two that they were trying to teach me because I thought I knew better and I didn’t want to ruin the round I was about to play by having to go out there with a new swing or stance or way of holding the club.
I suppose that I probably retained a lot more than I think I did and I am sure that some of the regret is just wishing I could go back to those days of being able to play a quick and undisturbed round of golf with my brothers as well as wishing that I would have learned a lot more about how to properly swing a golf club before so that I could be a much better golfer by now.
Finishing the 9th hole is a good time to pause and reflect on how the round is going so far and what corrections need to be made. It is also a great time to hit the halfway house and get some refreshments. So let’s break for now and come back together soon for The Back Nine.