Coming Up Short Again... And Again

By John Hawkins Illustrations by Leigh Haeger
November 03, 2008

I drove 250 miles to play in a scramble last week, got out of the car and realized the weatherman had triple-bogeyed the forecast. Those temperatures in the low 60s were a lot closer to 45, but all that cussing and shivering was for an excellent cause—a longtime friend and his brothers hosted a tournament to honor their father, an avid golfer who died in 2006.

That's right, 250 miles. If you're looking to wreck your swing in time for the holidays, spend a couple of hours in the left lane on the New Jersey Turnpike.

My favorite part of a scramble is when the foursome reads a putt together. One guy has it on the left edge. No way, says his teammate, it's three millimeters outside that. Somebody then points to a spot six feet from the hole, which only makes me more confused. Is that where I start the putt or am I trying to roll the ball over that mark?

Our leadoff batter, who doubled as the director of Overthinking and Line Lock, started coming up short on everything, which, in a scramble, is like committing treason. Now I'm no genius, but I'd be a 10-handicap if I couldn't putt, and I knocked two or three stokes off my number when I figured out that you have to get it to the hole to make it, but I don't suppose I'm breaking any news there.

Frank Lickliter was on the practice green at Champions early one morning, and he was rolling them in from downtown Houston on the dew-covered grass. Jackie Burke, who owns the club, noticed all the different paths Lickliter's ball had taken through the moisture en route to the hole, then challenged Lickliter to make one while duplicating the exact same line on a particular 15-footer.

Thirty minutes passed. Frankie couldn't do it, and neither can you.