In my 16 or so years playing golf I have played many unmemorable rounds, rounds most hackers would be embarrassed about and file away in some corner of their cranium, never to be seen again.
This past Saturday would qualify as one such round of golf for me, if not for a few very different aspects of the day. First, it was in Florida, the Sunshine State, where I was vacationing with my father and company in the sublimely beautiful Boca Raton.
Second, I was playing a very exclusive private PGA Tour course called Eagle Trace, the former home of the Honda Classic and a course I have known like the back of my hand since I started playing a video golf game some years ago that featured Eagle Trace.
Third, and perhaps most strangely, the person who had invited us in a roundabout way to play with him at this course was former Major League pitcher Steve Rosenberg, who, ironically, is a Queens native.
It was a truly bizarre day, blistering hot, but perfect conditions in which to play crystal clear skies, an immaculate track and my very unreliable lower back feeling in good form. I was ready to go.
As we drove to the course, my father and his friend Greg were talking about the stock market, a subject I tried briefly to involve myself in at my own peril. I then tried to focus on the round ahead, the opportunity to play a top-flight course, a track that without question would be the toughest I ever played.
But as I said, I knew the course already. I knew every hole, having played it on the computer dozens upon dozens of times. And I certainly was due for a good round of golf.
Since arriving in Florida the week before, I had butchered the course at my fathers development time and again. For some reason I could not find my game, which, at its best, is in the mid to low 90s. I am no great golfer, but I know that if I put together my best round, I can really score.
Thats what I was banking on at Eagle Trace.
I found out that Steve, the host of our foursome, was a former major leaguer only minutes before meeting him. At 37 he still is quite fit, but not as big as I would have thought for a pitcher. He is a lefty, however, and when he got a hold of a shot, the ball took off like a rocket.
Thats the one thing about my game that can really help or hinder me. I can hit it long, but Ssometimes I just cant get around with the driver. This was that kind of day. My drives were short and hooking left or long and slicing right. I was all over the place and downright embarrassed at my atrocious play.
But sometimes on the golf course, thats OK. My dad, Greg and Steve never gave me grief that I couldnt find my game. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere, but I was too pent up. Maybe it was the course, playing with a major leaguer or the weather that got to me, but whatever it was, I just could not strike the ball with authority.
As is common on a golf course, the conversation was stimulating. From everything from the stock market and what companies may or may not take a nosedive and the false bottom of the Dow Steve is now a stock broker with a well-known firm to baseball, of course.
Maybe it was the journalist in me, but being in such close proximity to a major leaguer in an atmosphere as relaxed as this, I could not help but ask a couple of questions I would hesitate to ask someone in a work environment.
In getting to know Steve, I found out he is married with five children and had hung up his playing spikes nearly a decade before, when after a four-year career, he hurt his arm in spring training with the New York Mets and was never able to bounce back completely.
While rehabilitating his arm, Steve tested the waters at becoming a broker and when his baseball dream finally ended, he had something to fall back on.
Steve also spent the first five years of his life living in Bayside before moving with his family to Long Island. He went to college for a few years before heading to the pro ranks. He originally was drafted by the Yankees, but was traded before he had a chance to play with the Bombers.
His baseball career was unremarkable, pitching with the White Sox for three seasons with less than stellar success. He played with San Diego for a season before catching on with the Mets. In the spring of 1992 he felt soreness in his shoulder and, in short order, his career was pretty much over.
Still, he had some good stories. I asked him if he ever beaned anyone on purpose. Yes, was his reply, but he obviously wasnt overjoyed about it. It was retribution, he said, after another pitcher plunked Harold Baines. He had hit Rob Deer in the elbow, it was his responsibility.
The furthest home run he ever gave up was hit by George Brett, the former Kansas City Royals third baseman. Brett, Steve said, tattooed the first fastball he threw at him. Steve also was quick to point out that he struck Brett out the next three times he faced him with sliders.
This conversation went on for about four hours, in between the golf. Well, they played golf, I played a different sport, if you can call it that.
In the match between me and my father and Steve and Greg, it was the latter pairing that won the round, as Steve parred the final two holes, nullifying a furious comeback by my Dad, the best golfer of the bunch who had to carry me for the entire 18.
Thats the thing I love about golf, I guess. I can play the worst round of my life but still come away feeling like it was a good day. Thanks to a great course, my dad, his friend Greg and a former major leaguer from Queens.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2002 Community News Group
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