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Friday, March 5, 2021

Editorial: Thoughts from the 6th Hole

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The Kinzua Hills Golf Club is a little slice of heaven. My dad was raised in Kinzua and I learned how to golf on the course. I remember attending reunions in the early to mid-80s and watching Ronnie Bowman, Mark Jellick, Jim Hulett, John Wall and other good Kinzua golfers crush drives off of the elevated first tee. It was a rowdy bunch who would gather at the Kinzua course and it was fun to see people who had grown up in Kinzua getting together. Even though the town was gone, Kinzua lived on at the golf course.

Later, I loved the times that we brought the camper to the course for a few summer nights as I grew older.

I’d practice pitching and putting in the evening on the first hole, close to where we setup camp by the creek. My sister and I would hunt for fancy golf balls in the creek. Golfing all day, playing board games at night and living the unplugged life before that was a thing. Those are great memories.

Moving home just over a year ago, I’ve been to the Kinzua course as often as I can get there.

Even in the hottest days of summer, the course never disappoints.

The heat over the past week has been intense but I couldn’t stay away. On the hottest afternoon of the summer on July 30, I made the trip. The heat scared away all the golfers, which was OK with me. As I meandered up the hill, I met the new Superintendent of the Kinzua Hills Golf Club, Mr. Travis Ferguson (who also does BBQ on the smoker at the Dig-In Diner in Fossil). He made sure I had plenty of water and wished me luck.

Having the course to myself is about as good as it gets. It felt worlds away from pandemic and civil unrest that is gripping much of the world and much of our attention. It didn’t take long for it all to fade away.

Having not played much this year, I was a little rusty on the first hole. The second was better and on the third hole, I hit a shot that will keep me coming back for years to come: a great shot off the tee that landed just four feet from the hole and I birdied for the first time in 2020.

The heat was really setting in as I finished the fourth hole with a nice little chip onto the green and a putt for par.

I took an extra-long break on the big oversized bench between the fourth hole and the tee for the fifth. The game of golf can put one in a heightened state of mind and in Kinzua, it is easy to get to that elevated plane.

Some people don’t like to golf in the heat of summer and in Kinzua, the grass can start to turn a little brown and the ball can travel on the hills. But that can be tilted to one’s advantage. A good roll on a 363-yard hole 5 is not a bad thing. Sure, it can get away from you but if you take your time and not dwell on the negative, you can use it to your advantage.

Life can be like that sometimes and golf can help to unpack many of life’s quandaries. We can get overwhelmed with how things are supposed to be and are ruled by status, how people see us, always wanting something better. Put away loathing that breeds negativity and unhappiness. Grasp the moment. “The grass is always greener on the other side,” the old saying goes. But when the grass isn’t as green as it was a couple months ago, that really isn’t anything to worry about. Everything comes back around eventually.

When plotting the course, remember that it can go fast and it might get away from you if you aren’t careful. Dial it back a little bit and don’t think about ideal conditions. Concentrate on the here and now. Don’t get overzealous or try too hard. Let it come to you. Nice easy grip. Keep your cool.

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