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HOW I BROUGHT OREGON GOLF TO ITS KNEES

(or was it the other way around?)
-By Jim Moore, the “Go 2 Guy,” for Oregon.com

In the interest of complete disclosure, I must point out that I’m a Seattle guy. Which, alas, makes me a Washingtonian. And it is under only the mildest duress that I have to admit that, just like your coast, your golf courses in Oregon are better than our golf courses in Washington. As a Washington native, I shouldn’t say that. I should stick up for my own state, but the layouts in Oregon are more impressive and plentiful than ours. So there, I said it.

Maybe someone really important will read this and have me banished to Bend. Or Redmond, or Sisters, or Prineville. Please do. I’d go there yesterday. I’ve been in the area frequently, playing in every Pacific Amateur since its inception and in several Central Oregon Shootouts.

I’ve found that playing tournament golf in Oregon is like playing tournament golf everywhere else – I have an amazing ability to choke no matter where I am. Just two weeks ago, playing with fellow hacks, I managed to pull a T.C. Chen for the umpteenth time in my career, double-hitting a pitch shot.

With all of the chunks and skulls, I’ll still take Oregon golf. So if you must, force me to play Gearhart and that cool little 9-holer at Manzanita for the rest of my life because both are funky fun. That would be heaven, a rather wet heaven, but heaven nonetheless. Plus I’d never have to pump my own gas again.

All of which has nothing to do with the topic of this story, which is my favorite Oregon golf experiences. Unfortunately, my editor specifically barred me from including drunken escapades – did I mention that your beer in Oregon is better, too? --which is why this is a very short list.

It’s too bad. I was on a plane once, and the woman next to me was a teaching pro who said that men are typically tense on the first tee. Besides working on their swing mechanics, she tells men to have a drink before the round to loosen up. God, how I loved that woman.

I’ve never forgotten that advice and follow it religiously – probably too religiously. It’s Genesis in my golf Bible.

Oh, yes, and Oregon golf. Let’s get started with…

My least favorite Oregon golf experience: It happened two years ago in the Central Oregon Shootout, a two-man team event held at Eaglecrest’s Ridge course. My partner was Joe Slye, a fellow Washington State Cougar who swings right-handed, putts left-handed and carried me around for 54 holes of the 54-hole tournament.

We played with another twosome, and on the par-5 fifth hole, one of their guys smacks a beautiful drive down the middle. I was playing Army golf on my way to the green while his second shot landed 10 feet from the hole. Naturally I missed my par putt, and he drained his eagle putt.

All of which was reason enough to send daggers of jealousy in the guy’s direction, but I try to chalk it up to him having a good hole. I’m okay, you’re okay, even if you just eagled in my face. And then the guy really throws gas on the fire: On the way to the next tee, he tells us that every guy’s fantasy is his reality – he married a beverage-cart girl. And yep, just like you thought, it’s a great marriage.

An eagle from an opponent who married a beverage-cart girl…that was an in your face times two. Does this kind of thing happen all the time in Oregon?

My strangest Oregon golf experience: I was on the driving range covering the Fred Meyer Challenge at The Reserve Golf Club in Aloha for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1999.

Peter Jacobsen was conducting a clinic and asked Fuzzy Zoeller to tell a joke. Zoeller, if you’ll recall, was known as one of the Tour’s cut-ups, but he had just made racially insensitive remarks about Tiger Woods’ dinner menu at Augusta that got him into a lot of trouble.

Zoeller proceeded to tell what he thought was a joke, but it was far from funny. It was worse than the remark he made at The Masters but didn’t get as much publicity. You wanted to respond to his punch line with a punch to his mouth.

“You know what JFK Jr. missed most about Martha's Vineyard?” Zoeller asked the crowd. “The runway.”

The reaction was one of disbelief and uncomfortable silence.

“What's the matter?” Zoeller loudly wondered. “It's a joke.”

John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife and sister-in-law died in a small-plane crash on their way to Martha’s Vineyard earlier that month. JFK Jr. was the pilot. Get it? That’s pretty funny, huh? Not.

I sought out Zoeller later that night and caught up with him at a Huey Lewis and the News concert.

I asked him about the joke, and he still didn’t get the negative reaction or why anyone would have a problem with the punch line.

Ever since that day, I’ve rooted against Zoeller and consider him a bona fide idiot. I’ve always appreciated that Oregon crowd for not laughing at his crude attempt at humor that day.

My favorite Oregon golf experience: We all have them, friends who tell us about their best shots and give us a play-by-play of their entire round.
None of us care about their best shots. We nod our heads for awhile then tell them to shut the hell up and buy us another beer.

But we’ll listen when they tell us about their bad shots or when they’ve done something really stupid or unusual.

I’m no exception. I’d bore you if I recited the stroke-by-stroke details of how I twice qualified to play the final round of the Pacific Amateur at the Sunriver Resort’s superb Crosswater course. To put this in context, it means that I’ve played on the last day of the tournament twice in 13 years. Two-for-13 is un-Ichiro-like but very me; I’m about as amateur as amateur gets.

The last time that I qualified for the final round was two years ago. What an unforgettable day that was, and not because of a single shot I hit. What I remember best about that day at Crosswater was the two-hour snow delay and playing partners who very nearly exchanged blows. With each other.

This wasn’t exactly the Hawaiian Open: I wore seven layers of clothing in a futile attempt to stay warm. On my second hole at Crosswater, I hit three consecutive tee shots into the water. That’s always nice, especially the walk back to the cart to grab a third ball. The guys in your group never know what to say so they don’t say anything at all.

I took an 11 on the hole. Nice, symmetric number, 11. It reminded me of a round I once played at Canyon Lakes in Kennewick, Washington, when I carded two 11’s but also had a hole-in-one. Which caused me to wonder if anyone has ever had five 1’s on his card. Everyone at some point has taken double-figs on a hole, but in the final round of a respectable amateur tournament? I mean, we had a small gallery following us along with a man who carried around a sign with our names and scores on it. There were never any red numbers next to my name – I believe I kept the man busy, fishing for black numbers that escalated with every hole.

But an 11 from a 12-handicapper? That’s just not supposed to happen. In Oregon, it did. Don’t let this happen to you.

My most amazing Oregon golf experience: Last year at the Pacific Amateur, again at Eaglecrest’s Ridge Course, I shot a final-round 77. Which isn’t such a big deal – if you’re Phil Mickelson. But as a 12-handicapper, it was pretty darn exciting for me.

But what about this? I got so sick of my left wrist breaking down every single time I stood over a putt that I decided to try something radically different that day. For that entire round, I putted one-handed. Lag putts, tap ins, crucial nail-biters to save par, all one-handed. I even eagled No. 9 from 25 feet – one-handed.

What is the sound of one hand clapping? That pretty much sums up my brilliant golf career in Oregon.