WHITEHALL, WIS. -- I was never a great golfer. Forget about that MVP award at Whitehall High School. I was the only senior on the team. They had to give it to me, and frankly, it must have almost killed the coach.
But I still have fun trying. And I was back yesterday at Whitehall Country Club, where it all began for me as a kid with a cross-handed grip who probably should have taken up the game with left-handed clubs. I was cursed from the start.
Back then the greens were cinder instead of grass, and the caddies would have to "sweep'' them with oil tarps after the golfers putted out. We'd make 25 cents for toting a bag around nine holes and managing those blasted sand greens, and somehow feel rich for the experience.
Today Whitehall C.C. is lovely and picturesque 3,101-yard par 35 that will often bite you at the very start: It still has one of the most challenging opening holes in west central Wisconsin's Coulee Region. The 436-yard par 4 features a narrow fairway framed by majestic oaks and bordered on the right by the meandering Trempealeau River. The plateaued green doesn't come into view until AFTER you have hit your second shot. It's so easy to get into trouble on this hole that you are rarely disappointed to walk away with a bogey.
In fact, as Zach and I were making plans to play yesterday my nephew Carter predicated: "You'll both start out with sixes or higher.''
That's usually a given. But I should have placed a bet with Carter, because I somehow managed a bogey 5 after two-putting from 12 feet. Zach did settle for a double-bogey 6 and, with Jess driving the cart and managing the beer concessions, we were off to the races.
There is no real trouble to be encountered the rest of the way, unless you hit a tree (I did off the tee box on No. 5; it never came down) or slice your drive on No. 6 out of bounds over the old Green Bay & Western railroad tracks. Zach scored a rare birdie on No. 6, at a lengthy 516 yards the only par 5 on the course.
Jess replenished our cooler after Zach's heroic bird and we polished off the last three holes on a giddy high. A formation of honking geese glided overhead just before sunset kissed the old course goodnight.
Score: Zach 42, Dad 45.
We'll be back this afternoon to settle the score.