President’s Prize Putt…
Composing himself, he takes a long deep breath into his lungs, and then exhales slowly, pursing his lips. His face is thoughtful, strained even, his brow furrowed. He vainly tries to calm his nerves, to keep his heart from fluttering, to ease the tremor spreading in his hands and fingers. This is it now, the moment of truth, he thinks to himself, one good putt here could make all the difference, could even decide the outcome…
Slowly, stealthily, like a cat stalking its prey, he prowls across the verdant manicured closely mown area of the green, looking for each little fall and rise of the surface, each subtle variation in slope and gradient… the grass, short as it is, can be seen to be lying towards him here, but against him a foot or so beyond. He can almost hear his brain whirring as it makes the necessary estimations – the putt should start off straight for the first foot or so, then go slightly left, and then straighten again at the hole. Just three feet from glory in total.
He carefully removes his glove from his left hand, thumb first, then finger by finger until he can ease the faux-leather clear of his palm, and carefully tucks the glove into the rear right pocket of his Oakley chinos. Reaching into his right front pocket he withdraws the round shiny dimpled Titleist, and places it carefully just in front of his half-dollar silver marker. Placing the ball delicately on the velvety surface, he very carefully aligns it on an imaginary line, drawn straight between the marker and the hole, just as he had when he marked it – It wouldn’t do to mess up now, would it?, to perhaps draw a penalty on himself, no not now, not when he is so close, so close he can feel the little beads of perspiration begin to form on his forehead. Ever so gently he turns and rotates the white dimpled surface until the short red line he had drawn on the surface that morning is pointing directly along the line of the putt he must make, pointing to a point perhaps a half cup outside the hole. He knows on so short a putt, gently downhill, he should not give the hole away at all, but he doesn’t trust himself to strike the back of the ball firmly enough, afraid that that he might leave himself a nasty one back…no, better to trust the line, play it soft, and let the ball die slowly into the open cup – yes, that’s the best option he thinks to himself. Happy with the decision, and with the line for his putt, he picks the coin and places it in his pocket. Then he stands erect, gripping the trusty old copper Anser in his left hand, and becomes acutely aware of the feel of the leather- like handle, worn and slippery almost with wear.
This is it, he tells himself again, placing the putter head gently on the green manicured surface, about one inch directly behind the ball and he bends over and makes himself as comfortable and stable as he can, spreading his feet a little, slightly bending his knees. He withdraws the putter to about 6 inches inside the ball. Looking along the intended line of the put, he makes one slow practice swing of the instrument in his hand, then a second, and then a third, trying each time to the feel for the pace he must impart from his arms to the putter, and from the putter to the ball, to allow it to fall gently into the hole. It does not matter how often he’s heard it before, just now he cannot believe the hole is two and a half times the diameter of the ball. Carefully, gingerly, he again places the Anser behind the ball and giving one, two quick looks towards the hole, gazes intently down at the ball, settles, and finally pulls the trigger…..
Keeping his head down, he does dare to look to see how the putt is tracking. It is only a three foot putt, three and a half at most, but time seems to stand still. He allows his gaze now to follow the line, and sees the ball move from outside the perimeter of the hole to part inside, watching as the white orb catches the inside of the rim, dipping ever so slightly within the confines of the hole, he sees it turn, to begin to horseshoe back towards himself…”too hard, too hard” he thinks as the ball slowly comes to an apparent stop, and then, finally, incredibly, gloriously disappear from view……..
YES YES YES, the thought screams through his mind and he barely resists the urge to punch the air. He takes one stride, and bends to pick the ball from the hole. He can’t be sure, how could he, yet he feels sure this putt could be so very important, perhaps even be the difference between winning and losing John Hunt’s President’s Prize.
Gently, lovingly almost, he replaces the soft putter cover on the Anser, and transfers the putter tenderly to its own little station in the golf bag on his trolley.
With a broad smile on his face, and a spring in his step, hardly waiting for his playing partners, he begins to make his way from the green…… across the laneway ……and onwards towards the second tee-box, his mind is already busy planning for the treacherous drive ahead.
To be continued………..