In my last post, I mentioned that I'd be having major heart surgery. The operation (a triple heart bypass, no less) was on 18 January 2016 and was a complete success. The recovery was long and difficult and not something I'd want to ponder on too much. Suffice to say that after 15 long weeks I'm almost back to full fitness. The physios cleared me to start playing golf after week 12 and I should be OK to get back to caddying by the end of May.
So, it was back to the golf at long last, starting with a few holes at the Glen GC and Dunbar GC, the 2 courses where I'm a member. At the Glen, we're about to open a new 9-Hole course, using the first 4 holes of the existing course, a new tee half way along and adjacent to the existing Par 4 14th hole to create a new 165 Yard Par 3 and finishing with the last 4 holes of the existing course. We'll also have a separate score card so under our definition of what constitutes a golf course, our new Fouranback Golf Course has to be added to our list of Scottish golf courses. It's not officially open yet, as the new tee still has to bed in but it's just about possible to play the new layout by dropping a ball beside the new tee. I did just that a couple of weeks ago, for my first 9 holes after the operation. I went round in a very rusty 45 strokes, but on 3 May 2016 I managed an encouraging 37, only 2 over par. I'll do a full report once the course is open.
The big test of my recovery progress was to be a full 18 holes at Dunbar GC on 4 May. Polly had been playing nearly every day for the past week so decided she'd just walk the course with me. To set the scene fully, there was a group of 11 visitors immediately in front of me. The 1st Hole at Dunbar is a gentle 460 Yard Par 5. Hit a decent drive, lay up in front of the stream that cuts across the fairway 20 yards short of the green, hit any kind of pitch onto the big green and an opening par is there for the taking. Having done that, the first 4-ball of visitors let me play through on the 2nd tee. The 2nd is also a Par 5, and far more demanding. I rushed the tee shot, found a tricky lie in the rough and needed a good 3 wood to make the green in regulation. Another par on the card and the 4-ball of visitors ahead of me waived me through on the 3rd, after playing their tee shots and reaching the side of the green. The 3rd is a 152 Yard Par 3, played from an elevated tee to a long narrow green that's completely surrounded by deep bunkers. The flag was at the back left of the green, but the green is right outside the clubhouse windows and is also overlooked by golfers walking to the pro shop, on the practice putting green and the 1st tee. So, the 3rd is by far the most intimidating of the Par 3's at Dunbar and there's usually a crowd of casual observers - and the occasional ghoul in the bar watching for errant shots and bunker trouble. Not a hole to trifle with or play badly! This is a view from the tee, taken immediately after my round.
I'd forgotten my Skycaddie so Polly went back to the car - the car park is also adjacent to the 3rd, just to add to the pressure. With the wind behind, I reckoned the hole was playing short, so I opted for an easy 7 iron. The greens were running pretty fast so I thought that a ball landing on the down slope beyond the front bunker would run another 30 yards or so. I didn't really take long over the shot. I just hoped I'd hit the green and avoid making a fool of myself in front of the guys who'd waived me through and I was ready with the excuses - first game back after surgery, rusty swing etc. However, I hit the tee shot very well and the ball went almost exactly where I'd wanted it to and after running 70+ feet on the green, it went into the hole for my first hole in one. I've been playing golf for around 45 years so I suppose it's about time I got lucky. Polly missed the ball going but arrived well before I did, so hugs and handshakes all round and 2 bottles of whisky on the bar counter afterwards (and just where did all of these golfers suddenly come from?) Luckily, I had my phone in my pocket, so here's me and the ball (now retired!) that did it for me. I hope it takes me another 45 years to repeat the feat, but somehow I think I'd need to get lucky again long before then.
The rest of the round was pretty unremarkable and I needed that 1 on the 3rd in order to break 90 (i.e. 89). However, this round was all about personal recovery and the closure of a very difficult chapter in my life's story. I was pretty tired going up the last and I needed some strong painkillers to ease the various pains in my legs, arms and ribs. I'd been very fit immediately before the operation so it was a huge shock to find that after it I could barely walk a few steps without needing a rest. This round proved to me that my recovery was effectively complete. OK, I still need to get stronger and fitter before re-joining my caddying buddies, but I feel I'm no longer the recovering heart patient, I'm back to being the guy that loves playing golf and pursuing the ambition of playing every course in Scotland, just for my own satisfaction. Next stop Carnoustie, where there's a wee course I've not yet played. I'm also playing the excellent course at West Kilbride GC next week with some old golfing buddies, so I suspect that more celebratory whiskies will be purchased!