The View from 2:22…The Best Round of My Life

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I have been a member at Shadow Hills since 2009. I am not retired, but being self-employed, and having clients hailing primarily from the East Coast and Mid-West- I am often free to golf in the early afternoon. In fact, so frequent were my regular rounds at 2:22 (the soonest I could break free each day) that the pro shop started calling 2:22 “Miller time.”

I often play alone…but also leave the tee sheet open, in case anyone wanted to join me. And many people do. Also, as a single, I often end up running into the group before, or being forced to join a group who catches me from behind, if the group in front is lagging (rare at SHCC). But the result is that I get to play with a large variety of members, and enjoy hearing about their lives, their interests, and their experience as members at Shadow Hills.

I love the purview from my slot at 2:22. There are days when I can blast through 18 in just over 3 hours (my record is 2:45). And there are days when the pace of play allows me to use the time to take in the surroundings, enjoy the animals and natural beauty that share the course with us, and ponder life.  These things will be the topic of future “View from 2:22″ offerings.

So…now…on to “The Best Round of My Life

I need to preface this by saying that I have been playing golf for a little over 7 years. I was a very good baseball player, so I thought golf was going to be “easy.”  You can figure out the rest of the story from there.

I have been in “hover-mode” for the better part of 3 years, between a 10.3 and my current 14.6 handicap (this has been a tough year with my short game). I came to golf late in life, because I played baseball in my youth and young adult life, and my little sister Molly was an LPGA teaching pro. So, it only makes sense that I made fun of the game as being “silly” for the better part of 35 years.

No. She has never given me a lesson. Yes, she is very competitive. Yes, the annual “Miller Family Golf Tournament” has become the golf event of the year, especially since my “team” has started winning.

It is also important to note that I come from a family dominated (and I use that term in the nicest of ways) by the female gender of the species. At one point, counting all of the nieces and nephews, there were 16 females to 4 males in our family. Luckily for me, I was the oldest of four kids…big brother to three younger sisters. I was not allowed to hit them, so my skills of psychological torture were finely honed.

My Dad was not a golfer, but was an excellent athlete who never gave up trying, once Molly took up the game. Golf was expensive, and required expensive equipment. On a teacher’s salary (pre-super-PERS days) it just wasn’t in the cards. When Molly took up the game,  it became “her sport,” and the subject of secret admiration by her big brother. I thought it looked fun…but could never really admit it without blowing 35 years of taunts from the sidelines.

Jump ahead to the year 2002, when the genetic pendulum in the Miller clan began to move the other direction. Andrew, my first grandson was born, followed two and half years later with Zach, both to my oldest daughter. In the years following, between adding sons-in-law, and nephews and more grandsons (with one granddaughter, just to make sure to keep the odds makers honest), we have moved the Miller Tree Gender Pendulum far closer to parity…now sporting 12 males to the 17 females.

In 2007, after being cajoled into a scramble at a High School reunion, my golf “career” started in earnest.
Soon thereafter, The Miller Golf Tournament was born. And after a couple of years, and much to Molly’s chagrin, the “boys” started winning the Miller golf tournament.

I wish I could claim my golf prowess as the primary factor in the recent run of wins. But the fact is, all of the credit goes to the youngest players…which finally brings me to the real reason for this piece, remembering my “Best Round Ever.”

The Date?  July 31st, 2014.

‘Hold on!” you might yell, if you know me and have been skulking around GHIN online to look at my posted scores over the past few years. “Didn’t you have your first hole in one on hole #4 at SHCC back in February of 2010?” you would continue. “And didn’t you actually break 80 last year? Surely those are your Best Rounds Ever!”

You would think so, but no. Because I have been waiting for July 31st, 2014 for what feels like a lifetime. It was the first competitive round of golf played with my grandsons, on my home course, with no other reason to play, except the sheer joy of playing a game that we all love.

Andrew and Zach are baseball obsessed. They are exceptional “all Star quality” Little Leaguers (yes, a bit of Grandpa pride is showing through) who have honed their swings to perfection…for baseball. Their Dad, Chad, who also started playing golf around the same time as I did, is equally “baseball obsessed,” and is always in “coach mode.” I get it. He is a great Dad, and a good coach, but sometimes, you just have to let kids be kids, and play…even if it might “mess up their swing.”

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No worries there. And even though they play little golf, and certainly not on a regular basis, they have the swings of kids who make me wish I would have started earlier in my life. Those perfect, arching, wrap your arms around your body at the finish swings that were never in my wheelhouse after I turned 50, and 20 years of contact sports started creeping into my body.

So what made this the “Best Round Ever?” The New Family Tees at Shadow Hills.

Andrew is bigger, and stronger, and can stripe the ball down the middle between 160 and 200 yards (he parred #3). Zach is much smaller, and at 9 ½ years old, hits the ball consistently down the middle, but more in the 120-140 yard range. And for this single reason, that chance to be competitive with his “big brother” was out of the question…until now.

The New Family Tees, were the great equalizer.  I played an “adequate 9 holes,” posting a 43. Andrew and Zach were trading holes for the first 4, and then Andrew got into trouble in the trees on 5, and again along the 7th fairway.  But then Zach, and an over-zealous putter on the 8th tee, let Andrew back in the match.

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Watching the concentration, the little set-up rituals, and the joy of hitting a pure shot and looking back at the other brother with a smirk, made the round special. Seeing a 12-footer bang against the back part of the cup and drop, when it could have kept going another 8-10 feet if missed, and the shared high-fives between us was priceless. Seeing my own “best shot of the day” bested by my grandson, then exchanging knowing smiles, knowing that it won’t be long before Grandpa is hoping to be able to win once in a while, made my heart ache with joy and pride.

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And never far from my thoughts, I silently wished that my own father and I had been able to share a round of golf together before cancer robbed him of his athletic body. Dad was there…because he is part of all of us. His blood is in our veins.  His love of sports, his love of family, and his ability to relish and appreciate each moment, clung to us like the ever-present warmth of sunlight throughout the round.

The final score doesn’t matter. In years to come, it may, as bragging rights are established, or the “remember when you used to beat us Grandpa” conversations unfold. However, on this day, it was all about sharing a day at Shadow Hills with two of my favorite people in the world, on a beautiful summer day, and watching them play a game that will hopefully be part of their lives far beyond my own lifetime.

This is the wonderful thing about the game of golf.  It is a game of honor and tradition. It is a game that is handicapped to allow competition of all ages, genders and talents. And yesterday, because of the new Family Tees at Shadow Hills country club, the celebratory ice water and cup of Cheetos (we didn’t want to ruin our appetites for the Ems game later that night) never tasted so sweet!

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Patric Miller is in charge of Digital Communications for SHCC
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One response to “The View from 2:22…The Best Round of My Life”

  1. Paul Gornick says :

    Another great story and fabulous piece of writing, Pat!

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