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Bosco’s Corner: Ego takes

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I have been fortunate in my life in that seldom am I required to get my lazy bones out of bed during the pre-dawn hours. Of course there have been exceptions and this past weekend was one of them.

With the weather finally leveling out to a point where the ground isn’t frozen solid and rain is not an everyday occurrence, my friend Greg and I decided it was time to break our sticks out of hibernation and play our first round of golf in the year 2001.

The kicker here is, while we usually play at his parents’ club upstate, a tee time was not in the offing this past weekend, forcing the two of us to make a decision: Play a public course at 3 p.m. or try our luck with the early birds and still risk not playing until 3 p.m.

We tried our luck.

In preparation for all this the two of us got together last week and went to the driving range in Douglaston. We got a bucket of balls apiece and started hacking. I believe we each took 68 swings, an experience which left both of us ready to keel over in exhaustion.

We retreated to a local restaurant to rebuild our strength — all the while wondering whether or not we’d be able to make it through 18 holes in that kind of heat if we got on the course at all.

A few days later I jumped in my car for the hour-long ride to my buddy’s abode. I planned to sleep at his house that night so we could wake up at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. and jet over to the local golf course.

I explained to my friend that the last time I saw 5 a.m. was while coming home, not going out. He had little sympathy.

So we got to the course before the sun appeared above the horizon, me dressed in a polo shirt and shorts, Greg in pants and a sweatshirt. It had been near 90 for close to a week and I, banking on my experience at the driving range days before, was planning on a warm day, while my buddy came prepared for a cooler climate. My friend was right, I was wrong.

About the only thing that didn’t go Greg’s way all day was his brilliant plan to guarantee that we got to play at a reasonable hour, that being the purchase of a box of chocolate doughnuts. He graciously offered these treats to the man behind the counter, the all-powerful person who decides which poor souls unable to get a tee time using the phone reservation system got to play.

Greg presented the box to the starter sheepishly, an obvious ploy which the man did not fall for. Instead he looked at Greg, smiled, shook his head as if to say, “What are you kidding?” and declined. My friend’s brilliant plan had backfired. If anything we looked like two pathetic schnooks whose best idea was to bribe a man with pastry.

It should be noted that the last time I saw those doughnuts they sat unopened on a window sill about four hours later.

Whether he knew it or not, all this played out perfectly for Greg, my golfing partner for years who has had to live with my superior play with unbridled envy. The early morning hours are nothing new to him. Actually, getting up just before 5 a.m. meant he got to sleep 10 extra minutes. He also slept in his own bed and got to pick out a nice warm wardrobe.

So we waited, letting a good four hours pass before that same starter finally called on us. This also played into Greg’s favor. The four-hour wait — which I know seems insane to those who don’t play golf — gave my chronically bad back ample time to tighten up.

At about 9:45 a.m., we finally teed off. Cold and aching, my first shot bounced about 10 yards from where I struck it. The round would hardly get better from there.

For years I have always enjoyed holding the upper hand on the course with Greg, but last week the tables were turned. And let me tell you, he would not let me hear the end of it.

As he confidently struck his brand new driver — a gift from me on his last birthday — and strutted about like the cock of the walk, I was busy wondering if maybe I should have just stayed in bed.

Things could not have been more different from the last time we played at the tail end of the 2000 season. Greg’s game had completely deserted him and in a fit of frustration, he finally put his driver to some use, bashing his bag and destroying four clubs in the process.

At that point he had simply had it with golf, even going so far as to say that he was giving up the game for good.

Of course he was singing a different tune this past weekend. As I labored to keep my shots straight, Greg was cruising along, smiling and occasionally noting his widening lead.

Midway through the front nine I finally started to play a little better, thanks in large part to a beautifully hit 3-iron from about 200 yards that found its way to the back of the green. From this point on I was at least threatening to make a comeback, something Greg was sure not to let happen.

After completing the front nine Greg announced that he had to cut the round short and that he could only play two more holes. I found this strange only because he was leading by three strokes, but what was I to do?

Since then he keeps asking me how I feel and if the butt-whipping hurt too much. He is in love with golf again all because he was able to humble me a bit.

But there will be a next time to be sure. And I will be damned sure it’s not at 5 a.m. and that I am dressed properly. Then maybe the universe will seem right again and Greg will hate golf.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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