Photo: 2011 Kansas Fore State team–front row: Krista Peterson, Katy Nugent, Letty Watt, Lauren Falley, Jennifer Clark, Alexa Osborn; back row: Becky Tetrick, Hannah Martin, Kelsey Jensen, Michelle Woods, and Capt. Julie McKinnis.
This past week I had an opportunity to play some of my greatest golf shots and to enjoy and follow up on many awesome shots played by our youthful Kansas Fore State team. I am also fortunate to have the opportunity to play golf at Prairie Dunes Country Club (Hutchinson, KS) and to be acquainted with the cleverness of Perry Maxwell’s golf course architecture. His par 3’s can humble the best of players either with gaping bunkers lining the front and sides of the holes; lakes beckoning the golf ball to cool off; tall prairie grasses that offer permanent shelter to wayward golf shots; winds that blow the balls off course; or trickling creeks and out of bounds stakes defining the direction the ball must fly to reach the undulating greens.
My last hurrah at 2011 Fore State came on the par 3 hole 15 at Hardscrabble Country Club (a Perry Maxwell design). I was one down and Sidney’s tee shot was sitting pin high on the green to the right. I inhaled the humid Arkansas air, smiled at the beauty of the hills, the trees, the lakes and green grasses then starred down the par 3. “Perry Maxwell,” my focused words spoke, “you can’t scare me.” My tee shot took dead aim at the pin and dropped eight feet short of the hole leaving me a simple uphill putt to win the hole and go even. Sidney missed her birdie putt. With focus and confidence I stroked the ball toward the hole. My head stayed down listening for the rattle of the ball in the cup, that didn’t come. My birdie putt strayed slightly to the left and sat there peeking at the empty cup. I thought I heard an old man’s voice chuckle, “You didn’t see that tiny touch of an uphill break did you?” “No, I didn’t,” I thought in reply, “but it was a hole well played.” And then my 63 year old bones and back began to quiver with exhaustion. Hole 16 passed in a blurry tie.
Next, I found myself on 17 still playing and thinking I could win. After dunking my tee shot in the water to cool off, my next shot landed on the green pin high to the right. I needed to make the putt to tie. For one brief moment in time I tied the match on the 17th hole, but the putt had been hit with too much authority. I saw the blood drain from the young Oklahoma player’s face, as she, too, thought I’d drained the putt. “Hit the HOLE, ” I yelled. And it did, hitting the bottom of the cup and then bouncing out. In that hop the hole and the match were lost.
I could only smile, proud that I’d played as well as I could. She beamed with delight as we shook hands, and I congratulated her on the win. Her Oklahoma team eventually won Women’s Fore State 2011 that day. Our Kansas team returned the trophy from last year’s win and walked away standing tall, with pride, spirit, grace, and youthfulness, knowing we’d all done our best.
Twenty-four hours later I was sauntering through the field north of our house with Lucy, when a cool gentle breeze stirred a vivid memory.
The Women’s Oklahoma Golf Association State Championship was held at Oakwood Country Club (a Perry Maxwell design) in Enid, Oklahoma in June 1967, and I was a competitor for the championship that week. In an early round of match play I played against an “old gray haired lady” who nearly beat me, a youthful strong determined 19 year old golfer. We tied our match at the end of 18 holes which meant we had to continue on until someone won the match. On the 19th hole of “sudden death” I finally chipped in to beat her, doing what she’d done to me all day–chipping and putting like a pro. She smiled and walked toward me with pride and grace that day. In her firm handshake of congratulations she let me know age was not a hindrance for a determined mind.
I could never image at age 19 that I would be standing in her shoes on the 17th hole at Hardscrabble Country Club at age 63 shaking the hand of a 19 year determined college student.
So to those who’ve gone before; the golf course designers, the dreamers, the club pros, the parents, the coaches, and especially the women amateurs and professional golfers who’ve given us their best, who’ve laid the groundwork for our programs and tournaments today, I bow my head in silence and say thank you. My hope is that through our continued dedication to the game of golf that some young girl golfer may write the sequel to this story in another forty to fifty years.