When the forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of thunderstorms, you don’t get up at 6 a.m. to go play golf.
Unless you’re playing in a Golf Channel Am Tour event.
I made the mistake of calling the Tour director at 7 a.m. before my 8:24 tee time at Monday’s South Houston Championship.
“Are we playing?” I asked.
“Yes, I would have called you personally if we were not.”
“Gotcha… I’m leaving right now.”
In tournament golf, always assume you’re playing until the event is officially called off. Rain doesn’t cancel tournament golf. Lightning does, but that part of the forecast didn’t hold true. If it rains a lot, and it’s been doing just that here in Houston, the course might be unplayable. But Bay Oaks Country Club, which was missed by Sunday’s rain the day before, held up extremely well. In fact, on the front nine, we could even drive carts on the fairways.
That part was nice, of course, but what wasn’t nice was constant rain for the first 14 holes. I had rain pants, thank goodness, and a couple of towels. But since I was 95 percent sure that this tournament wouldn’t be played, I wasn’t exactly mentally prepared.
I got up in plenty of time, then I thought to myself, “Gees, I’d hate to battle all that traffic for an hour or so across town in the rain, only to turn around and have to come back. Surely, they’ll cancel.”
So I waited. And waited. No email telling me to go back to bed. No phone call. I looked on the GCamtour.com website. No announcement there either. So I waited some more and finally called and got my answer. Then I hurriedly gathered up my stuff and headed out.
Traffic was heavy, as I had predicted, and my freeway exit to Clear Lake City Boulevard (that’s down by NASA, folks) was closed and delayed me 10 additional minutes, and I arrived 19 minutes before tee time. That left just enough time to buy some rain gloves, put them on and promptly lose my opening tee shot to the right. A double bogey start – just what I needed.
From there it was a matter of trying to hold onto the club on drives, figuring out the speed of the greens in wet conditions, hitting some challenging pitches made more difficult by the unpredictability of the wet grass and extracting the ball from the wet rough. Out of the entire field, only one player broke 80 and that was only by one.
I won’t bore you with my play-by-play except to say I made five 6s on my front nine. That’s hard to overcome, but at least I have one record intact: All my rounds have at least been in the 80s. Barely.
Anyway, this one was good enough for sixth place, which is an improvement over my first two tournaments.
Better yet, I played with a couple of good blokes (that’s an appropriate term, considering the British Open type weather).
One of my playing compadres was Fred “Two Gloves” Rich. He didn’t have any raingear at all, including rain gloves. So he changed out conventional gloves about every two holes. And since he was wearing two at a time, I think he went through about a dozen or more gloves. Still, he was good enough to beat me by four shots and finish third in my flight — Senior Palmer (4.0-7.9).
The other guy in my group was Ernie Dyer, who reminded me a little of Wade Phillips, currently the defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl Champ Denver Broncos. Dyer and Phillips are from the same neck of the woods, extreme Southeast Texas, home of perhaps the slowest drawl I’ve ever heard. Dyer’s a refinery guy. “I’m still working,” he says, “so I don’t get to play that much.”
“Go ahead and get that birdie,” he told me on one of the rare occasions where that was a possibility. He did the same with Fred. He was always encouraging.
That’s what I love about this tour – the people you meet. They come from all walks of life, but almost all of them love the game, play it the right way and with consideration for their playing partners. Nobody is rooting against other players. We just love the competition.
Rain or shine.