As the alarm went off on my phone, I contemplated remaining in bed. It was 6:30 a.m. on Labor Day, and for those who know me, there is only one 6:30 in the day that I am familiar with, and it’s not the a.m one.
What would get me up that early? It wasn’t the dogs. They were sound asleep like I should have been. It wasn’t for work. I would do that much later in the day. It was to torture myself with 18 holes of golf. As expected, my golf game was good enough to land me the earliest tee time possible for the second day of the 34th Kodiak Island Golf Championship.
Let’s rewind to find out why I had to wake up early.
As I explained in this space last week, I’ve covered the Island Championship — The Rock’s version of The Masters — since 2006. I’ve watched some pretty darn good golfers during that span, like James McCarthy posting a tournament record 138 in 2008, then returning a year later to lower the mark to 132 (remember that score). Then there was Mike Currier dropping a calm 150 in 2015 and Rick Kalil sporting a 151 in 2014. We will touch on this year’s winner — spoiler, it was not me — further down in this column.
I resurrected my golf career — I probably shouldn’t call it that but will for the lack of a better word — this summer. The last time I played consistently was in high school. Insert bragging sentence here — I represented the Elma High School junior varsity golf team for one season and was even promoted to a varsity match once. Please, hold your applause. I wasn’t a talented golfer who showed promise. The only thing I remember from that one season was when my teammates — while dining on an away trip — peppered my drink with Taco Bell hot sauce when I stepped away from the table. I never left my drink unattended again.
So after not golfing for more than a decade, what possessed me to sign up for a 36-hole tournament? The answer: I wanted to experience it at least once. And with the high school sports scene relatively quiet, this was the year.
My expectations were low — to stay out of the cellar. I didn’t think that was a realistic goal after carding a 10 on the opening hole. On the first day, I golfed with buddies who had seen my horrific swing this entire summer. However, the fourth member — Kip Hamilton — had not. With Kip looking like a ringer, I recommended he jump to another group. He didn’t take my recommendation and spent the next five hours watching me hack around the course.
Kip, a member of the Coast Guard, was super cool. He had game, booming drives and hitting high-arching iron shots that dropped from the sky to the putting green. He said he played every day while living in San Diego, and it showed. He commented that, although Bear Valley Golf Course doesn’t play long, it plays tough. Every hole is challenging. That made me feel better as my scorecard was getting filled up with ugly numbers.
Kip had the talent to challenge for the title but was hampered by my group’s slow play and our-not-so-serious approach. It was enjoyable to watch as he carded a 90 — 42 strokes better than me. That’s right. I shot a 132 over 18 holes — the same amount of strokes that it took McCarthy to cover 36 holes. I have a new appreciation for what McCarthy did.
When the first round was over, I was beating one person in the field of 38. And that is why I contemplated withdrawing from the tournament. Instead, I lumbered out of bed and teed off by 8 a.m.
The final 18 holes were better. Despite not being able to hit a drive in the air and nearly taking the head off my playing partner with an errant fairway shot, I still managed to shoot 11 strokes better to finish with a two-day total of 253. Even better, I only lost one ball and passed two people in the standings. I counted that as a win.
And as for the winner, Fred Barber became the first four-time champion with a 36-hole total of 157. For those counting, I only finished 96 strokes off the lead. Maybe next year.