It is the ninth and final hole of a big match. My high school golf team is even with our opponent. My match, also even, comes to the final hole. I step up onto the tee and realize that my team and the outcome of the match rests on my play on this hole. I win the hole, I win the match, and the team wins. I am a bundle of nerves as I step onto the tee and get ready to play. Despite my racing heart and flushed face, I somehow knock the ball down the fairway on this 425 yard par 4 finishing hole. My opponent in the match does likewise. I am away by a couple of years. The wind is still in the late afternoon sun of late May. I size up my approach to the green, a back to front sloping affair with undulations and traps on either side of the front ready to catch errant approaches. I select my club, a five iron. I address the ball, breathe deeply and look up to see ALL of the teammates from each squad and coaches surrounding the green's back side. All those faces expectantly waiting for our shots - The nerves fired up anew and the clammy grip I had on the club seemed like I was holding a live snake! I addressed the ball, struck it and miracle of miracles, I landed the shot on the green, 20 feet from the hole. My opponent also hit his second shot on the green, just outside of my shot. We looked at our putts and I watched closely since my opponent had roughly the same putt and line as me and had to putt first. As I watched his line up his putt, I realized for the first time that he was sweating bullets and was as nervous and tight as I was! He hit his putt..and it missed leaving him three or so feet for par. He marked and it was my turn. Having seen how nervous he was standing over his putt, I realized we were in this spot together - I was not alone. And that thought put this moment into perspective - This was golf, a game, and a match - But not life and death. Enjoy it! I lined up my putt, drew back my antique Ping Anser and popped the ball - the roll was true and the putt found the bottom of the cup. A bit of perspective in the heat of the moment was all I needed to accomplish the task, meet the goal, and win the match.
The ball: Titleist - balata - compression 90. We got a new ball from the coach before each match. Somehow, that ball made it through the entire match, a rarity given my inconsistent ball striking and the tender covers of the balls in those days.
The clubs: Wilson Staff muscle backs - far too stiff for my game of the day. I still have those clubs, bought used for $25...Still cannot hit them very well!!