Went to MCAS Miramar for to whack the little white ball around this morning. Was driving it like a champion, and the putting game came along in time. Never really got the short irons dialed in, but I did manage to eke out a quasi-respectable score of 80. My playing partner was a young man named Ryan who never missed a fairway and had a rock solid long iron game to go with his utter fearlessness around the greens. He beat me by three strokes.
Ryan was 11 years old, and finishing up his 5th grade year. Pushing a golf bag on a cart that was nearly as big as he himself. Olive skinned, square shouldered and preternaturally quiet. Focused.
How long have you been playing, I asked him at the fourth tee.
Oh, he replied. Scrunching his eyes. Since I was young.
Now in my own defense I was playing from the blue tees while he was off the red. That notwithstanding, I was fully fifty to eighty yards past him on each drive. The difference was that I when I missed my approach I missed into trouble, while young Ryan missed away from it. I tried slippery flop wedges to get close while he played straightforward chips that settled by the pin. I had a case of the yips with the flat stick early on, but Ryan – eschewing the driving range – had spent a good ten minutes on the practice green and sank just about everything he looked at. Kid was a demon, and I – perversely – felt my competitive juices flowing.
Until we got to the ninth green, that is. I was away for the putt for birdie while Ryan was marking his ball. By the ball mark was a lady bug, and Ryan – lacking all self-consciousness – laid down upon the green and cupped it in his hand while waiting for me to putt out.
Eleven years old, and his dad is a hospital corpsman chief just departed for a seven month deployment aboard USS Dubuque. Which, enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend, kid.
Am I smarter than a 5th grader? Maybe. Better educated certainly.
But Ryan was the better golfer.
I should have gotten his autograph.