The Loop

U.S. Open Contest Essay

February 07, 2008

If our U.S. Open Contest has done nothing else, it's produced some wonderful stories and "toasts" to fellow golfers, among the 56,000 entries. This one came in too late for the contest, but is worth your time. It's from Tony Selden of Akron.

Let me tell you about my best friend Bob. I received my January edition of Golf Digest today, I immediately was drawn to your US Open "What would you shoot" contest. To my disappointment, I discovered on the web site that I was too late to enter...but not because I wouldn't win.

I was disappointed because I missed a chance to tell you about my best friend Bob (in 100 words or less). When I met Bob, it was playing him in Firestone Tire's engineering golf league. It was 1973 in our Tuesday night 9 hole match, we came down to the last hole where I miraculously tied him with a challenging up and down. As the sun was setting, we stayed at that hole - in a 30 minute chipping competition. I don't remember who won except I ended up with a best friend...and I remember hearing the phrase for the first time " can get up and down from a garbage can..."

Five years later in one of regular EVERY Saturday morning rounds at the company's Firestone Country Club, I saw Bob make what I think was one of the best up and downs on the toughest par 4 holes on Firestone South. He holed out a 7 iron from the trees lining the right of the fairway from 195 yards...for a two. This was 1978, a steel shafted 7 iron (so he could clear a tree in his way) and definitely before Pro V-1's! I've been playing there for over 30 years. To my knowledge its the only eagle ever recorded on that hole, including among the thousands of pro rounds played there in annual PGA tournaments.

Bob died, too soon, in January 2002, about a month after he and I had played a typical Saturday round in freezing cold of a northeast Ohio winter...just a year short of our 30th year of friendship competing on a golf course. Our mutual friend Paul, a 50 year fixture working at Firestone Country Club, helped me dig up a little bit of turf from the place on the 13th where Bob made the miracle deuce. I placed it on Bob's grave in a little ceremony with a few more of our old friends who were members of the engineers golf league at Firestone.

Last year I had one of those miracle rounds that was guided by special hands. As a career 6 to 8 handicapper, I always wished for but never achieved a score in the 60's. On that remarkable day at Firestone, on Fazio West course, nothing remarkable was going on, and then I made a very tough sand save on the 3rd...then I made a miracle par four save, too bizarre to even describe, on the 8th. I finished the front nine under par.

Now it starts to get interesting. My cart partner is the aforementioned Paul (who had caddied on the PGA tour in his youth). A couple birdies and the rest pars on the back nine, until the my tee shot is in the trap on the par three 14th. Instead of coming back to earth, I holed out the sand shot. Where did that come from?

All I could think of was Bob telling me "you can get up and down from a garbage can."

Three under, four to go. The rest is a blur, but the final score...69.

While I'd love playing at Torrey Pines - a guy who can get up and down from a garbage can will break 100 anywhere - I'd still rather have one more round on a Saturday morning at Firestone with Bob.

If you read my story, thanks for listening. I started typing, so I could tell someone else, but turns out, I wrote to remember it myself.>

Thanks Tony, can't think of another essay that's more in keeping with the contest's spirit.

--Bob Carney