Warning: this is a longer-than-usual blog entry, but hopefully entertaining enough to keep your attention.
Our first full day around the Boston area was one I had been looking forward to for weeks, the moment my good friend, Will Lynham, mentioned he had a friend who was a member at TPC Boston and could get us on. One of my passions is to play as many golf courses used for the PGA Tour, and this was my third. I played Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, OK, during the NAIA National Championship my sophomore year of college. I played TPC Sawgrass back in January when I interviewed Jared Wolfe for our podcast, Bathrooms & Bunkers, and now TPC Boston.
The girls had a lazy morning before starting laundry, and I got some work done before heading out around lunch to join Will & Joey at the course. Tammy & the girls did about six loads of laundry, which is a weekly occurrence on the road. You can only pack so many clothes in an RV, and with the different climates we’ll be experiencing on this trip, we were forced to bring even less of everything. Tiger always loves laundry day, as he finds a way to get right in the middle of the warm clothes as they come out of the dryer.
Tammy drove me over to the golf course around lunch time, and I hit the practice green until Will arrived. We then hit a few range balls before his friend Joey, a member at TPC Boston and our host for the day, arrived and called us to the first tee. I’d never met Joey, but based upon his introduction, I knew he was a no-nonsense kind of guy. No hitting the range. No stretching. Grab a few beers and hit the first tee. Not surprisingly, he piped one down the middle, as Will & I hit it in the rough after our warm-up range session. We decided to play the back tees to get a small sense of what it was like for the pros, and let me tell you, it’s a long course from back there. However, it was fun to hit the same tee shots you watch the guys hit during the Barclays in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. I hit a few good shots and a few bad ones, and I turned in 41, which wasn’t bad from back there.
Joey is a typical successful, confident guy on the golf course, which means he kept challenging Will & I to play for money. It started on the 3rd or 4th hole when Will was standing over a 5-footer for par. Joey bet him $500 he wouldn’t make it, but Will didn’t want the smoke. He went on to miss that putt, so probably a good decision. however, the bets kept coming. “$300 this hole.” “Nah”, Will would say. Finally, Will said yes for $100 on a hole, and they tied that hole. The next time around, on the 7th hole, Joey asked me to join them and play for $100 on the hole.
Now, I like to play for something on the golf course to get the competitive juices going, but it’s usually not for much money, maybe just for lunch or a beverage, as all my money goes to piano lessons, dance outfits and horseback riding lessons for my girls. I don’t make enough money at this point to have, as they say, discretionary income. But Joey kept pushing, so finally I said okay. $100. Not the worst thing to lose, but, of course, I was playing to win. Joey & I tied the first hole, so no harm, no foul. We took a hole off, and then Joey was back for another $100.
On the par-4 ninth, I hit a really bad tee shot and ended up in the junk on the right side of the dog-leg left. I had to take a drop, and after a 3-iron, a bad chip and a missed putt, I was in for six, and out of the hole. My only hope was that Will would be able to tie Joey to push the hole. They both hit poor approach shots and marginal chip shots, so it was down to a putting contest. Joey two-putted for a bogey and Will did the same, so another push, and no harm, no foul.
We decided to move up one tee box on the back nine to have a little more fun, as the back tees was work! We ate some lunch as we played the 10th hole, and then the bets were back on. Another $100 hole, but I was feeling a little better about my chances, so I said yes. It was a long, uphill par-3, around 223 yards from the back tees, and I smoked a 3-iron just off the left edge of the green about 25 feet past the hole. It was a solid shot and definitely kept me in the hole. Will struggled and ended up in his pocket, but Joey striped one right over the flag, but a little strong, and he ended up on the back fringe, some 40 feet from the hole.
As we approached the green, I realized I had a pretty difficult chip/putt coming up, and with $100 on the line, and Joey now 10 feet past the hole on his lag putt, I chose the putter and ended up four feet above the hole with a little tickler down the slope. Joey started talking trash about my putt before he ever hit his putt, a true master of the mind game. He ended up missing his putt to the left, leaving the door open for me if I could negotiate the four-footer, which had a little left-to-right break in it. I took my time, took a few extra breaths, followed my routine and drained it. Up $200. Now playing with house money. Joey wasn’t happy.
The next hole was a fun par-5, and Joey was ready to win his money back. $200 this time, and, with $200 in my pocket, I said, “Let’s go.” I hit a bad drive into the left rough, but was able to find it and get it back into the fairway. My third shot was solid, about 20 feet right of the hole, and after two putts, I was in with a par. Will once again struggled, but Joey had a putt for birdie that just barely missed, so we tied again, saving Will from another loss.
After taking the next hole off, we faced another par 5 and another $200 bet. We all hit decent drives, although mine ended up in the rough on the right and I hit a solid 3-wood 40 yards short of the green, but with an awkward stance on the edge of a fairway bunker. My long chip shot was well judged and ended up 15 feet below the hole, while both Will and Joey hit poor second shots and poor chip shots to the green. After two putts, they were both in for bogeys, and my two-putt par was good enough for another $200 in my pocket. Now sitting on $300 from each player, although we agreed that Will was only playing for fake money at this point. The only real betting the rest of the day would be between Joey & me as he worked to win his money back.
The 15th hole was a short par 4 up the hill, and Joey upped the ante to $300. Again, playing with house money, and hearing the new rule that if you’re winning, you can’t say no to a bet, I agreed to the bet. Joey hit a bad drive, punched out and hit it to 20 feet with his third while I hit a solid drive and a 9-iron to 45 feet. My lag putt ended four feet short of the hole, so after Joey’s two-putt bogey, I had a putt to go up $600, and I drained it. I freaking drained it, and that was one of the biggest adrenaline putts I’d hit in two decades, back to my college days when we were trying to qualify for the national championship. It felt so good to see that putt drop and know I had, for the moment, $600 in my pocket.
We played the 16th hole for $600, but we all tied with pars, so we moved to the 17th and another $600 bet. After a poor tee shot into the left rough and up on a knob, Joey smashed one down the fairway, about 50 yards in front of my ball. I caught a decent lie, 145 yards from the hole, and I hit one of the most solid 9-irons in recent memory that landed 15 feet short and right of the hole and stopped 20 feet past for a relatively makable birdie putt. Joey followed by hitting his 90-yard wedge shot two yards over the green. For the moment I was in the driver’s seat, but remembering from my match play days in high school and college that you always expect your playing partner to make the next shot, so I didn’t get ahead of myself. Joey missed his chip, but tapped in for par, so I had a 20-footer to go up $1200. I hit a poor putt that ended up 10 inches short, and the par pushed the hole to the 18th.
As we arrived at the tee on the 18th, I realized we hadn’t taken any pictures of our day, so we stopped and posed for a shot on the tee box, and then Joey proceeded to ask me to give him a stroke on the 18th hole, to give him a chance to win his money back. I wasn’t too happy about that since it was his home course, but I also didn’t want to seem heartless since he was the reason we were playing TPC Boston in the first place. So I gave him a stroke, and proceeded to hit my drive into the woods on the left. I set up to hit a fade, which is a left-to-right shot for a right-hander, and I ended up hitting a solid baby draw, which is a right-to-left shot for a right-hander. No good. I was already a stroke down and now in the woods.
Joey responded by hitting a poor driver to the right, in the rough, but not in the woods. I was sweating bullets as I drove up to where I was hoping to find my ball. After a quick search, and finding a few Pro V1’s, I found my ball in a decent spot, pretty close to a tree that would hinder my swing. I did have a window back into the fairway, so if I could get a 9-iron or an 8-iron on the ball, I had a chance to get back into the hole. While I was surveying my shot, Joey hit his second shot, which was probably his worst shot of the day, and it hit the overhanging trees 40 yards in front of him and dropped straight down. I was able to hit a solid 9-iron about 20 yards behind where his ball ended up. We were basically tied, but I was still down a stroke. I had 208 yards to the hole over a marsh of junk that, if I hit a poor shot, would swallow my ball and the $600 in my pocket.
I hit one of the purest shots of the day, right at the flag that peeled slightly right as it approached the green. I thought I had striped it right up on the green, but unfortunately it hit the top lip of the greenside bunker and rolled back in. I was near the green, but I had a tough bunker shot to try to save par, which was essentially a six in this bet. Joey followed by hitting a really bad 8-iron that ended up in the marsh short of the green, and he would say afterwards he thought I nutted my shot and was up near the hole, so he felt a little extra pressure. After a penalty shot and a drop, he chipped up onto the green, about 15 feet under the hole for a bogey six. If I could get up and down from the bunker, I would guarantee a tie, which was huge after my tee shot.
I hit one of the purest bunker shots of my life, the kind of bunker shot that had that recognizable thump in the sand, and my ball landed four feet from the hole and stopped on a dime. It was such a great feeling to hit the shot I needed to hit, the moment I needed to hit it, with so much on the line. Joey two-putted for a double-bogey 7, net 6, so my par putt was for $1200 and a moment I would probably tell to everyone I met for the next year. I read the putt to be a little left-to-right, took my time, went through my routine and hit the putt. I kept my head down to ensure I made a good stroke, which I did, but the putt didn’t break, and I missed. I missed a four-footer for $1200! Not only that, but I had a 2-footer coming back, which definitely wasn’t going to be conceded considering the situation. I steadied myself and knocked it in to tie the hole and walk away with a cool $600. It was one of those bittersweet moments, as I would have really loved to have made that putt, but I couldn’t complain about the day being paid for, although I now thought about how I was going to explain this one to Tammy & the girls. Let’s just say it was a good thing I won!
For meeting someone for the first time, Joey was such a great host and made me feel welcome, making sure I had a great time. Even though the betting made it a little intense, it was one of the more enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had on a golf course, and it was all because of Joey. Looking forward to getting out on the course with him again someday in the near future, and I’ll have that $600 ready to go, as I’m sure he’ll want to win it back.
After getting a picture with Will in front of the clubhouse, Tammy & the girls picked me up, and we headed across the border to check out Providence, Rhode Island. Our goal is to stop in every state at least for a meal or to see something, and with Rhode Island only 20 minutes from the golf course, it made sense to head that way, scope it out and maybe grab a bite to eat. Providence is the capital of Rhode Island, a quaint little state with just over a million residents sandwiched between Connecticut and Massachusetts, and we made our way down to see the capital building, which is one of the smaller state capitals we’ve visited.
We made our way down to the riverside where there were several little shops & restaurants in colonial-era buildings, as well as the first Baptist church in America, founded by in 1683 by Roger Williams. The actual church building that exists today was built in a two-year span from 1774-1775 and is a beautiful building that still hosts weekly worship services, concerts and other community events. As someone who grew up in a Southern Baptist church and still attends one today, this was a nice surprise to stumble upon, and it had a noticeably bigger impression on me than I would have anticipated.
Denominations among Protestant churches in the United States all began out of subtle differences in matters that are not what we call “Essential Doctrines of the Faith”, meaning there can be different interpretations that don’t fundamentally change the doctrine of the Christian faith. Baptism is actually one of those non-essential differences that distinguish some churches from others. Baptists believe that the act of baptism is to be performed by full emersion, meaning the believer is to be fully dunked under the water, a symbol of the death & burial of Jesus Christ (going down into the water as in being buried after dying to sin), as well as the resurrection of Jesus Christ (coming up out of the water). However, this belief in how baptism should be done is not essential, as baptism is not a requirement to be saved and to receive eternal life, as is seen by the thief on the cross in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John). The thief understood who Jesus was and believed He was the Son of God, and Jesus said to him before they both died that he would be with Jesus in paradise that day. Since baptism is not an essential, churches have different interpretations of how it should be done and when it should be done, and that’s okay. As the saying goes, “In the essentials we have Unity, in the non-essentials we practice Liberty, and in all things we give Charity.” It’s a solid way to understand and respect the different interpretations of Scripture without compromising what’s important, which includes believing that God exists, that He is the Creator of all things, that He exists in three persons – the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit, that Jesus came to earth in the form of a baby through a virgin birth, that He lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, was resurrected three days later defeating sin and death, and that He provides forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe in Him and call upon His name.
After a slow drive through the quaint riverside district, we decided to have dinner at Harry’s Burger Bar, which was a little tavern with limited seating, a small bar, and an even smaller dining area for guests. We were one of three parties in the dining area enjoying dinner, which was unique in that everything was served slider-style. We selected a few different types of burgers, and a buffalo chicken sandwich with some sweet potato fries & regular fries on the side. We thought about getting desert, but were were all stuffed, and the waitress gave us some tips on dessert places up the hill, even though they had milkshakes at the Burger Bar.
We decided to make the trek up the hill in a slowly falling rain, which was kind of fun. Just enough to be noticeable, but not enough to get very wet. As we approached the top of the hill and feeling that we had put in enough work to warrant dessert, we realized without knowing it that the waitress had led us right up to where Brown University sits on the top of the hill on the East Side of Providence. It was a beautiful campus in the heart of a cool little village with shops and restaurants all around. After walking the streets to see what was available, we decided the milkshakes were what we wanted, so we headed back to the riverside area, ordered a few shakes and then hit the road to get back to Tiger and the RV.
On the drive home, I commented that Providence was one of my new favorite cities – one I could definitely live in if I had to – and one I hope to visit again in the near future. This was one of the fullest days we’ve had on the trip so far, which is saying something after being in D.C. & New York.