It was my first time. I was nervous. Afraid I was going to be judged. My palms were sweaty. It was the first time that I was actually going to use this monstrous tool. Deep down I knew I was not ready for this. I take my position. Take a deep breathe. Ready to go for it.
Everything after that was a blur. All I could see was a big divot behind the tee peg and the ball had landed just 30 yards ahead of me into a flowing canal.
My world came crashing down! I wanted the earth to swallow me right there.
"Who is this guy?" , "Who allowed him on the golf course?", "Has he ever hit a golf ball before?", "He can't even hit the ball when it's tee'd up. How will he hit it when it's lying on the ground?". My mind was flooded with such thoughts on what the others watching me must be thinking.
And well that my friends is how I began my golf journey on a proper golf course. All that practice at the golf range for four months, did not prepare me for this and for what I was about to face that day.
I distinctly remember it was a Saturday, 20th of October 2018. Waking up early in the morning at 5:00 am. Actually I was so excited that I barely slept that night. I had to reach Kharghar Valley Golf Course (KVGC), which is about a one and a half hour drive during the wee hours, for a 7:30 am tee off. This day I will never forget, the day when Golf baptized me with fire. And just to put things in perspective, this is a 9 hole course.
After the first ball going down the drain, I did not have the courage to tee up another one. I was not going to use the driver 'ever' again. I walked back in shame with my head down. Not ready to make eye contact with anyone. What hurt even more was that I tee'd up from the White Tees and someone had just told me the junior golfers (read Kids) tee up from there.
What followed after that was a procession of miss hits. Shanks and Hooks. The uneven lies. The ball above my feet. The ball below my feet. The thick rough. I had never seen the rough so thick. Well it certainly never looked that bad on the television when watching the PGA pros play.
I remember taking my Rescue for the 2nd shot (well my third shot actually since I took a drop), and topped it. And again it went barely 40 yards. Decided to use all my might with a 4 iron for the next shot and shanked it into the rough, again barely 20-30 yards ahead. Took my 7 iron to hit it out of the rough and completely mis-judged the shot and again topped it and landed 6 yards ahead, again in the rough. Finally a couple of good hits and manged to get on the green where I might have four putted, to end up with a score of 11 on my par 5 first hole. And that's when I thought to myself, "I could have been nicely sleeping on a weekend, and here I am embarrassing myself."
The next couple of holes weren't that great either. Again struggled to get out of the rough and also the bunkers. All these extra shots were taking its toll on me. With the sun getting higher, I was dripping in sweat already by the end of the 3rd hole. My walk of shame continued.
At the fourth, I again managed to land the ball into the canal. After some agonizing shots I managed a score of 10 on another par 5. "Well, one shot better than hole one", I told myself, just to keep me going. At hole 5, I again landed just 30-40 yards ahead, in the rough, off the tee. I started telling myself, "Savio, just stop teeing the ball. Maybe you should just pitch the ball from the tee box and hope it travels 90 yards." After a not so good score at the 5th hole, I head to the 6th.
The 6th hole is on the other side of the course, so there is a golf cart shuttle that takes you there. On my way to the 6th, I was thinking that I should just give up and head back to the range. Get better at the game and then come back. I was building my own strategy on what I need to work on and how I need to practice henceforth and so on. Well as I was planning my "becoming a Tiger Woods" strategy, I realised that we were already at the 6th.
The 6th hole at KVGC, is a stroke index 1. A long par 5, dotted with hazards all around. I decided to try the driver again. Tee'd up the ball. Swung. Sliced. Into the pond. I said, "No! I am gonna hit this drive straight, no matter what". Tee'd up another ball. Swung. Sliced. Same result, into the pond. Quietly picked up the tee peg, and walked down to the drop zone. This game was bringing me to my knees. Tiger Woods?? What was I thinking? Right now I'll just be happy to be better than the worst golfer in the world! Ended the hole with a score of 12.
Holes 7, 8, 9 were nothing different. Lost 2 more balls. Quadruple bogeyed the par 3 final hole. I had played enough golf. If I can call what I was playing as golf. 82 on a par 37. That's what one is supposed to score on an 18 hole course, not on a 9 hole course. I was ready to end my golf journey even before it started. Here is where I come to my senses and learn that golf is not for me!
Below is the score I made on my first round.
In the words of the great Arnold Palmer himself, “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”
Savio Almeida is a fond golfer from Mumbai, where he plays regularly at Kharghar Valley Golf Course. For more from Savio you can follow him via instagram @living.under.par