Brief spring fling signals return to links

Something resembling spring paid a visit to Chicago this week. The temperatures hovered in the 60s and the sun even shined. For a few brief moments, our town almost looked, well, pleasant.

I considered my options Thursday. I could continue to work and pretend like it still was 30 degrees outside. I could take a break and watch the NCAA tournament. There’s nothing like the first day of the tournament. Or I could go out and play golf.

Considering I’ve been waiting nearly five months for tolerable weather, I headed to the course for a quick 9.

There really is nothing like the first round of the season. You feel excited to be swatting at the ball again and anxious because you know the rust is going to send that ball flying in directions you don’t want it to go.

When I arrived at the course, the sun disappeared–naturally. And the wind was howling–again, naturally. But it still was warm enough to wear short sleeves. So off I went.

I paid my fee and went off alone as a single. I preferred it that way for the first round. You don’t want to subject yourself to embarrassment right off the bat.

Then it was time for that first tee shot. No matter how hard you try to relax, it always feels awkward and rushed. Tempo is just a rumor.

With the wind at my back, I hit a low runner. Of course. But at least it was straight. No. 1 is a par 5 and I had a 7-iron into the green for my third shot. Not expecting anything, I was stunned when the ball landed on the green and stopped 8 feet from the cup.

The prospect of making birdie on the first hole of the year almost was too much to take.  I didn’t complain too much after my putt skidded left. I gladly took my par.

I walked to the second hole hoping my par was an omen of good things to come in 2011. Perhaps it showed that this year would be different.

Alas, I promptly pushed my drive into a nearby tree. The ball careened backwards and landed short of the women’s tee. The golf Gods were quick to send me a sobering reminder. They hadn’t forgotten me over the winter.

I wasn’t too upset. With the grass resembling yellow straw, and remnants of snow and ice still visible around a pond, it felt a little bit like stealing to be playing golf when the calendar still says winter.

It’s still a long way off until we see green grass here; temperatures back in the lows 40s this weekend. You have to take advantage of the opportunities when you can.

The first swings are in the books. Onward and hopefully upward from here.

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