Remembering the first time I broke 80 in a tournament round …

April 3, 2020
zephyr melton as high schooler

I was terrified as I stood on the tee box of the par-3 16th hole of Greentree Country Club.

I had not yet broken 80 in a tournament, but here I was on a cool February day in Midland, Texas with a chance to finally breakthrough. The year was 2012 and my scorecard showed six over for the day, the product of a hot putter sprinkled with a few fortuitous bounces. I needed to play the last few holes no worse than one over to post my first round in the 70s.

Easy enough, right? For me, not so much.

I’d been in this situation before; on the cusp of posting that elusive scored that started with a seven. Every time I’d come up short. An ill-timed shot out of bounds leading to a triple bogey. Dumping a shot in the water at the last to miss by two. At this point in my career, I was getting quite creative with how I shot myself in the foot to ensure my score never started with a 7. But this time, I was going to make sure it was different.

I looked at the green from the tee box 170 yards away and sized up the shot. Water short and right of the green. Wind off the left. Pin in the middle of the green. I knew holding a draw into the wind would be the ideal shot. Take dead aim at the pin and turn one over into the biting west Texas wind.

In the abstract, this was a simple shot. In real life, it had me shaking. Starting a ball over the water and hooking it back into the breeze takes some gusto to attempt, let alone pull off. But sometimes you just have to pull the trigger and hope for the best.

I pulled a 7-iron from my bag and got into my pre-shot routine. I teed the ball up, stepped back behind the ball and tried to think of anything other than the aquatic penalty area guarding the green. I stepped up to the ball, rehearsed my takeaway and let it rip.

I knew it was perfect the second it left the clubface. It was the kind of shot you dream about while sitting in your cubicle longing to be on the course. If I had a little more sauce at that ripe age of 16, I would’ve club-twirled. But being the awkward and lanky kid that I was (and still am), I merely admired my work as it penetrated the dry breeze.

The ball finished five feet right of the hole. Some 10 minutes later I rammed in the birdie putt and walked to the 17th tee box. To be quite honest, the details of the final two holes are fuzzy, but I do know this: when the ball settled in the bottom of the cup on No. 18, it was my 78th stroke of the day.

The round wasn’t pretty — mine usually aren’t — but that didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was my name on the scoreboard and that accompanying score. I enjoyed it so much that I matched it with a 78 the very next day. Two in a row! After how hard I’d made the game look over the years, it felt easy that weekend.

Rest assured, the feeling didn’t last long.

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