By Ryan Ballengee
On a cold October afternoon, I drove up to New Jersey to play in an American Express cardholder event featuring two USGA champions - Morgan Pressel and reigning US Open champion Lucas Glover. After being in Boston the day prior thanks to an insane $20/each way fare from JetBlue, I was a little tired.
The morning of the outing, I went over to Trump National Bedminster to get warmed up to play. Warming up wasn't possible. It had to have been 20 degrees that day. Kind of windy, really cold, and rainy is no way to play fall golf. I would be damned, though, if I was going to give up an opportunity to play Trump's baby and have a showdown with these two players.
Fifty balls, some 30 putts, and a $100 Trump National logo-embroidered Adidas fleece (fleece is the right word in multiple ways), I was ready to go. Well, as ready as it was going to get. My partner from AmEx and I got off to a rough start. Starting the round on a par 3 is never fun, but those are the breaks in a shotgun. That first hole was a total wash, leaving my partner and I just one hole to get our act together before the Lucas Glover hole.
The next hole was a par five whose fairway doglegs left enough to bring a pond into play. I was short of the green in three, but with no feeling in my hands or with my wedges, I made seven. Awesome. Getting into the cart to cross the street to the Glover hole, I hear a loud medal "BOOM!" that only a quiet forest, a 460cc driver, and a US Open champion can create.
My partner and I make our way down to the tee box, exchange formalities with Lucas' people at the hole while G. Lover finishes playing out the short par 4 with the group in front of us. The plan is to each hit a drive with Lucas and then play out the hole with the best ball. There was no question whose ball that would be. Mine.
I was going to outdrive Lucas Glover, wow him and the ten or so people on the tee box, and drive the 320 yard hole. After all, during the summer, I was routinely crushing drives 310 yards. In a scramble tournament, I averaged 330 off of the tee. That was in 80 degree weather, though. This was a cold Jersey morning with wet hands and sleet in the forecast (which would come just two holes later).
Lucas Glover hits the tee box, done with the last group, and shakes our hands. Like a man who has done this a thousand times before, he grabs his driver, tees up the ball, and swings in the span of maybe 30 seconds. He crushes it. This is undoubtedly headed for the green. He misses ten yards low and right. Quickly, someone gets him another ball. I guess the first one was a mulligan. Second time - five yards low and right.
My partner and I draw for which of us will try to impress first. I lost. I tee up the ball and take a practice cut. I should have taken fifteen of them to get my head together. Seriously? Drive the green in the fall? What kind of *** am I?
Sure enough, I swing too hard. I hit a decent drive, but not by my standards. It went maybe 265 yards and into the left fairway bunker. My partner, admittedly not that great at golf but likes to play, does pretty well and puts the ball in the fairway, though short of my drive.
With bruised pride, I hop in the cart, drive up the left side to pick my ball out of the bunker and head up green side to the long drive contest winner. Arriving at Lucas' ball, we see that the ball has come to rest on a mowed area about pin high. We play from here. Ok, losing the contest isn't so bad.
Lucas steps up and chips the ball maybe 37 of the 40 feet to the pin. Good effort and he would've nailed the birdie putt.
My chance for redemption. This is clearly a simple bump-and-run. I got this. Two practice chipping strokes to calm the nerves, and then the real deal. It's up, hits the green maybe three feet on, and rolls out to within a foot of the cup.
I beat Lucas Glover. I beat him. If the universe relied on me winning that contest, humanity has been spared. Clearly it didn't, and Glover probably could not have cared less. It wasn't even really a contest on that hole or in life. He has the US Open trophy. I have a Chevy Equinox. Still, Glover told me "great shot!" and I went on my merry way.
I could not hold a candle to him or any professional for that matter. 99 out of 100 times, I would be bested by a pro in any scenario I could devise. This isn't HORSE with Jordan, where luck might take over and a random guy could prevail. It isn't Rich Eisen futilely running the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine. The skill that these guys possess makes them so good that they could beat me at almost anything golf-related.
The only place where I think I have them is hitting a putter off of the tee. I can crush a good Wilson 8802 about 220 yards. Beat that.