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from 120 to 71 in 4 short years

I remember these two scores vividly yet not much about the rounds. The 120 came at Whittier Narrows Golf Course when I was 13 and the 71 came during my 17th year and last year as a junior golfer at The Griffith Park Golf Course. The 120 was a blur but even after 45 years I still remember some of the round I played with my good friend Jeff Holmes.

It was the annual Junior match play championship at Griffith Park Golf Course in 1969. Jeff and I had been playing at GPGC along with Tony for a few years and we all lived in Highland Park. I don’t remember much about the 1st round other than I went out in 37 and Jeff and I were tied at the end of 9.

On 10 we both hit our drives and Jeff could not find his ball. We looked and looked and eventually I found his ball 2 inches deep in the mud in a free drop zone. I had thought to overlook it and just walk by but I could not do that so I called him over and agreed with him that he could have a free drop. We both par’d the hole and went to #11 a par 3.

The next 8 holes were glorious as we played out best shots. I hit a long iron into #11 8 feet from the pin and birdied to go even or 1 up and we began to strike the ball like never before and score pars  along the way. We came to 16 which is a dog leg right and I bogied the hole to go 1 down and since he was the longer hitter than I he had the advantage the next two holes.

We teed off on #17 and even though he was 25 yards farther we both birdied #17 and we were having the time of our lives. He teed off on 18, a par 5, where in my very early days I used to use a tee on my 2nd shot, and it was straight down the middle. I teed off and hit the ball in the same direction but again short. I was up for my 2nd shot and hit a clean 3 wood within 20 yards of the green, Jeff hit a screaming wood or iron onto the green about 30 feet from the pin and was putting for an eagle.

I came to my ball and lobbed it up within 5 feet of the hole. He was 30 feet out for eagle, I was 5  feet out for birdie, he hit is putt and it traveled 4-5 feet past the hole. For a moment I thought we would tie and have to play sudden death and that was exciting. I knocked my birdie putt into the hole and watch him putt his in for birdie.

I was not disappointed at all. We both birdied 17 and 18 and I shot 34 and he shot 33 on the back nine. It would be a long time before I would score a 34 again. What an experience. Jeff, Tony and I would get a ride from one of our parents to GPGC (there are two courses there – the Harding and the Wilson) on a Saturday morning and we would practice all day and watch the golfers come in to 18, usually on the Harding course and then get out by 1:00 to play. It was a time when I had a couple of friends who loved to play golf, we were young and would hang out at the course all day long. One of our parents would  come at dusk to pick us up.

In 1970 before my 18th birthday I played in the Los Angeles City Junior Championship. I’ll talk about that some other time.

I never had one lesson from Gramps during these times. I don’t know why but my Dad and Gramps had a falling out and Dad only once took me over to the Fox Hills range when I was young but in 4 years I managed to put together a swing and a game that could play well. Gramps did give me little lessons at Christmas but it wasn’t until I was 21 and decided I wanted two careers that I called up Gramps and asked to start coming out to the range to take lessons.

One of the things I remember when I playing really poorly, was that I was always getting tips. I remember one fellow watching me hack at the ball while in a bunker telling me to do this or that but it didn’t help a bit. As I look back before my days with Gramps my lessons came from practicing with my friends who also wanted to play well, we would talk about our swings and give each other advice. We were all on a path to play good golf not just to play a round in the 90’s but we all had a deep desire to score as low as possible. Jeff and Tony are the two people I remember most, we played lots of matches, always competed against each other and never made bets, it was the true meaning of amateur golf,  “for the love of the game”

I do remember my bedroom walls covered in score cards of my rounds. I think about it now and remember vaguely that I would compare the scores and think about the rounds I played and what I needed to do to score lower and how to do it.

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