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David Wu, a first time golfer, chips the ball out of a sand trap during the Annual Turkey Shoot, at Desert Winds Golf Course Nov. 18, 2011.

Photo by Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

Greenhorn on the green - One Marine's story of his first time taking a swing

28 Nov 2011 | By Lance Cpl. D. J. Wu

I don’t hate golf. It’s just that I’d never tried it before. Recently, I was asked if I wanted to compete in the Combat Center’s Annual Turkey Shoot last Friday. Sure. Why not? It’s not like I’m completely oblivious in the world of golf.

I can use Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in a sentence. I even caught myself watching a PGA Tour event once or twice. So, I at least knew what I was getting into.

Or so I thought.

Now, I love sports, just about every sport. Playing, watching, basketball, baseball, and hell, even curling, I love it. The feeling of competitive spirit drives my passion for it.

I would have jumped into golf earlier in my life, but inner city Boston and country clubs don’t really go together.

My first foray into the world of golf is not an experience I will soon forget.

I don’t know why, but the first thing that popped into my head when I realized I was playing golf the next day was, “What am I going to wear? And the following thought was, “Do I need to buy and argyle vest?” I was advised to wear a collared shirt and some shorts.

So, we get to game day, and it is a cool, crisp Friday morning.

“It’s a perfect day for golf,” said my golf partner for the day, I’m granting him anonymity, so we’ll call him“J.”

I looked to J. for most of my golf advice that day. He did admit, though, that he had thought about backing out of the tournament that morning.

That, compounded with the fact that he hasn’t played golf in a year. Didn’t help my situation.

I think it was safe to say that it was going to be an interesting day.

The hour before the tournament, at the driving range, my first swing of the day was a complete whiff.

It was a sign of things to come.

J. and I were paired up with these two gentlemen, one of whom is preparing to go to the golfing academy after his enlistment. I, looking on the bright side, saw it as an opportunity to learn.

That didn’t go as I planned it, either.

About five holes in, J. and I were playing considerably slower than the rest of the field.

The course marshall asked our partners to leave us behind. A few other groups behind us moved ahead of us.

J. felt bad about this, and about his bad play. I almost didn’t care. I just wanted to have a good time and learn a little bit about golf.

It was about this time that J. said, “It’s time to start playing.”

I chuckled and agreed whole-heartedly.

It was time to start trying.

When we were again asked to step aside and let the faster golfers play through, J. decided it was a great time to snap a few shots of us in our golfing outfits. GQ’ing it was a refreshing change from the oh-so-speedy pace of our game.

We got back to the links, and what do you know? We were actually staring to play better.

It wasn’t that much better, but it felt better. At least we were starting to putt for par instead of approaching for a bogey.

We’re about half way through now, and all we want to do is hit par, just once.

That was our only mission now. We came close on some holes, but our short game was terrible.

Hey, at least the weather was nice.

The par we were searching for was in our sights, and it was starting to wear on us.

I didn’t think a round of golf would be this tiring. We even drove carts the entire course. We found our par on the green of the 17th hole.

Earlier in the day, I remember thinking this achievement would be the defining moment for me in the tournament.

It turned out to be quite a subdued celebration just because I was just plain tired by then. With three holes left to shoot, we were mentally out of the game. J. was on his phone, talking to his girl, and I was just trying to shoot my way through it all.

It didn’t matter anyway.

That hole turned out to be our last. As we were on the green, the course marshal rolled up to us in his cart and informed us that everyone else had finished. It was best if we packed it in.

I looked at my ball in the green and back at the marshal and then to J.

I was done. I was upset I couldn’t go the distance. But, I wanted someone to put me out of my misery.

 We went back to the club house and the rest of the golfers were just milling about, waiting for us.

At this point, I didn’t care.

They gave the winners a gift card for a free turkey, hence the classification of “turkey shoot.”

Looking back now, I hesitantly want to play golf again. Maybe.

It’s just too bad I won’t get to win a free turkey for my troubles the next time I play.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms