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Ah, how we labor, but if we can get past first day...

Other than as the grand finale of the summer golf season, it is appropriate that this is the weekend for club championships all around.

It’s Labor Day weekend. Ah, how we labor on Labor Day weekend.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday, we plunge into battle with other hopefuls, with the golf course and with ourselves, the most formidable of these being ourselves.

All summer we’ve been playing the course but we schedule a “practice” round the day before the tournament opens, as if we’d never seen the property. We check our clubs, we shine our shoes, we lay out our best shirt – the one with an impressive logo – and, in the quiet of Friday evening, we lie abed plotting how we will attack the course, the way Hogan used to do it.

On the practice range and the putting green on game day, we joke about our chances of taking home a prize. But for most of us, it’s gallows humor. We’re a little nervous. I’ve had touring pros tell me they’re nervous all the way around. I myself can usually relax a little after my first triple-bogey.

It’s a scientific fact that on Labor Day weekend, golf courses grow longer, the rough reaches for the sky, the hole shrinks to the size of a black-eyed pea and the wind nears hurricane force.

Unless you’re contending for the championship on Monday, the first day is the toughest. After you have shot something that glowers at you from the scoreboard like a gargoyle, you have nothing to lose, including your dignity. It makes it easier.

Sometimes, getting the embarrassing one out of the way early can pave the way to the championship of the fourth or fifth flight, whichever your obese handicap dumps you into.

There are beverages waiting at the end of each day’s round, salving some of the wounds.

Finally, after three days, 54 holes and countless bogeys, winners emerge – the club champion and the flight winners. They are acknowledged by a light patter of applause, interspersed by a few moist cracks about sandbagging, and then we go home.

On Tuesday, we go about our daily business, pausing to ponder the imponderable – where’s my @#$% game when I need it?