No Substitute For Talent At 7:30AM

April 24, 2008

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Nerves, rust and a good old-fashioned talent deficit were a potent cocktail at 7:30 Wednesday morning. The first day of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf pro-am began with a shotgun start, but I had a water pistol that wouldn't shoot straight.

I had gotten up early and eaten oatmeal for breakfast, worked my way through the bag on the range and left the practice green bursting with confidence having made two six-footers in a row.

Two holes in, I was wondering if I eventually was going to have to poach a couple of golf balls from our pro, Lonnie Nielsen.

Fortunately I found a temporary tourniquet for the mess I was making. At least on occasion, my swing tempo slowed to something approaching the legal limit. I two-putted from 100 feet on the 12th hole. I chipped nicely. I stayed out of everybody's through-line.

Besides, it was a team game and I had some good partners. I thought Leo Story, a 2-handicap local banker, had taken a wrong turn on the way to a long-drive contest, so formidable were many of his tee shots. After one of my better drives, Leo's ball was still a Ray Guy punt beyond mine. At 71, Jim Smith, a fixture in Savannah golf circles, was amazing. Just two weeks ago he had gotten dizzy on the course and gone to his doctor, who discovered a blocked heart artery. He had a stent put in. All Jim did Wednesday was shoot a neat 76, making 4-for-3 on the par-5 fourth hole to well-deserved applause from a few friends who followed us around. Kim Iocovozzi, a Savannah art dealer and tournament volunteer vice-chairman, struggled a bit on the greens but hung in there and had his moments.

Thanks to those guys and a couple of early birdies by Nielsen, we were eight under through our first nine holes before cooling down. Our 12-under best-ball net 60 beat a few of the 48 teams, but we can barely see the leaders (R.W. Eaks' team of Fred Shapiro, Bruce Shapiro, James Green and Kevin Guernsey), who carded a 51.

Tough crowd.

*-- Bill Fields *