What in the world just happened? | VailDaily.com
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What in the world just happened?

Daily file photo Chris FreudStill dumfounded
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There is terror, and then there is the utterly terrifying.Leon Fell invited me to Thursday’s Cotton Ranch Member-Guest Horse Race Tournament. Now I’ve worked with Leon for many years now, and he should have known that I’m not exactly an ideal partner, if you have any intention of winning a golf tournament.But sheer terror comes over me when the rules official states at the 10th that the guest of each team would tee off.Guest? Hey, wait a minute. That’s me. One finds religion pretty quickly on a golf course.OK, Chris, please just please don’t swing and miss or duff the ball a whopping 20 feet. Never mind that the club pro is there and will never let you play at Cotton Ranch again if you chunk your driver a full 6 feet before the ball.To my astonishment, and likely Leon’s relief, I actually find the short stuff. To my greater astonishment, as the afternoon progresses, Leon and I keep playing as one team after another are eliminated after each hole.

By day’s end, the utterly terrifying has happened. Leon and I have won the tournament. In all fairness, Leon definitely did most of the heavy lifting Thursday with long drives and sweet approach shots. I had some good moments, yes, and those will be listed in great detail in 27 chapters of my memoirs to be published in the future.But the concepts of “Chris Freud” and “winning a golf tournament” just really shouldn’t happen. The highlights of my athletic endeavors include a walkoff home run in fourth-grade P.E. and a ribbon for fourth place in the seventh-grade football throw at a track meet. I peaked athletically in 1985.There’s a reason I write about sports instead of play them.Honest, I’m a 36A horse race is a tourney with an alternate ball format – I mangle a shot, then Leon hits a nice shot, then I do something unspeakable with the next shot and so on – and the team with highest score on each hole gets knocked out.Even with a well-deserved high handicap between Leon and me, I felt like our fate would be similar to that of Barbaro at the Preakness at this horse race.After a nice start, I prove worthy of my 36 handicap. Leon puts the ball perfectly on the fairway on the 11th and I oblige by putting our next shot right into Gypsum Creek. On the 13th, Leon simply crushes a drive into submission, and I follow by finding the drink – naturally.By this time, I’m hoping for one of two things – that we can get knocked out so I can go to 19th hole and drown my sorrows or that there’s an earthquake and a hole in the ground opens up and swallows me.

Despite my desire to be in some place like Katmandu, Leon keeps us floating and a finally prove my worthiness with a lovely 9-iron (if I don’t say so myself, and I do) which sticks the 14th green. Leon and I manage a two-putt for par, and thanks to our handicap, we’ve all of a sudden won our flight.Don’t you have anything better to do?Now Leon and I find ourselves in a two-hole playoff with two other teams – Valerie Gordon and Bobbi Hagerman and Rollie Kjesbo and Scott Gordon. I’m proud to report that Valerie and Scott are still happily married after this playoff.Not only is it surprising that we’re in the finals – or more specifically that I am a part of a team that is in the in finals; Leon actually knows what he’s doing here – but people have actually gathered to watch the final three pairs.So to review, people are actually watching me play golf. This is when you know the Earth is spinning off its axis. I know a lot of people down at Cotton Ranch and they’re fine folks, but honestly, don’t you have anything better to do that watch me play golf?How about rearranging your sock drawers? Cleaning out the garage? Watching the grass grow?Guess not.

Despite my best efforts, we all bogey 17. My tee shot is way over the green. Once Leon is nice enough to pitch our ball onto the green, I overcook a putt which thankfully comes trickling back down toward the hole off a slope on the putting surface. Leon thinks I did this intentionally. Now I’m even questioning Leon’s sanity.So it’s off the 18th – and I’m teeing off. And I thought I was freaking out during my first shot of the day. I really don’t know how the pros do it. I’m definitely going to be less critical of Phil Mickelson. I am nearly having a heart attack on the last in front of 25 or so people – and I’m pretty sure the U.S. Open wasn’t at stake.Someone’s looking down on me as my driver goes safely left away from the water. Leon promptly drills a 6-iron pin high onto the green. (Note to self: Name one of your children after Leon.)It’s my turn for the putt, and, well, that felt good. Birdie. Win to Team Fell (and Freud). That putt will grow longer with each telling.After a few pops (real ones, not handicap strokes), the terror has subsided. As for the terrifying concept that I helped win a golf tournament, that’s not going to go away for a while.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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