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Columnist takes on Duke Golf Course, loses miserably

After watching Greg Norman choke during the last round of this year's Masters, I was reminded of the many times I had held a large lead in a major (well, sort of major, at least in my mind) tournament, only to have it snatched away at the last moment due to forces out of my control. And then after reading about the women's golf team capturing the ACC Championship, I began to reminisce about the time I won the... no wait, that wasn't me... well how about... well, wait a second, I guess that was actually my brother. So okay, I don't have a lot of victories under my belt, but the sun was shining and I had a paper due the next day, so you guessed it-it was time for a round of golf.

Luckily, this was earlier in the week when my mind was still functioning, so I was able to figure out that if I claimed this round was necessary for the writing of my senior farewell column I would be able to charge this one to The Chronicle. (Justin, the expense account is in your box. Thanks.)

So anyway, this is the first, and probably not annual, review of the famous Washington Duke Inn Golf Course. My guests for the round were editor-elect of The Chronicle, Brian Harris, and guest star Dan "The Man" Stetson.

It was a particularly harsh winter so the greens were rather solid and the fairways weren't too green, but overall, I must say that the course is in excellent shape. And you can trust me because I was all over that course. Not one piece of rough, sand trap or large body of water avoided my swing. I didn't see a few of the fairways because I was so buried in the trees, but Brian told me they looked nice.

The course gives you a nice even warmup since the first three holes are all par fours going from 409 yards to 383 yards to 357 yards, if you are using the white tees. We attacked this part of the course in a split wing formation with Brian hitting down the middle of the fairway, Dan exploring the trees on the right side and myself skirting down the left side. I'd like to take this moment to complement course architect Rees Jones on his use of the cart path in his redesign of the course. Young kids at home, take note, use the golf cart to your advantage. In all seriousness, it can turn a 20-yard duff into a 150-yard roll.

Even with my expert use of the cart path, I was only able to muster a 27 after the first three holes. Dan stayed in the trees long enough to card a 20, and Brian was masterful with his short game going 6-4-4 for an early lead at 14. This was the point in the morning where Dan and I got tired of hearing Brian say, "Hey guys, I got par. How about you?" so we tuned him out completely which is why you will hear very little from him from here on out.

The next three holes were pretty short on the distance with a 131-yard par three followed by two par fours, both under 375 yards in length. Brian had two pars or something kind of good here, but more importantly, Dan began to catch on fire. He was consistent as he carded three straight sixes. I know double-bogies aren't normally considered being on fire, but when you had the kind of day we had, you revel in any sort of success.

Hole No. 7 is brutal, a long par five which I got me winded from simply looking at it and thinking about how much walking I would have to do. I don't like to talk about holes where I score in the double digits, so we'll skip this one entirely. Hole No. 8 highlights an interesting feature of this course-the sand traps. Unless you've played golf in Nairobi or Egypt, you're probably not used these conditions. Not only are they enormous, but they place them right in front of the green so that you constantly have to chip over them. I know that getting the ball in the air is a basic tenet of golf, but it's one of those skills I haven't mastered yet. Forty-five minutes after I started No. 8, I was able to find my way out of the trap by following the course of the sun. Brian and Dan both said something about narrowly missing putts for par.

No. 9 is where we things really turned around for our threesome. My rules of playing involve using a low-iron and a putter 98 percent of the time. For this round I picked my four-iron and used it despite what distance, terrain and simple logic would have called for. About this time, though, I found the soft spot. Despite shanking my tee shot, I was putting for par and ended up grabbing a bogey on the par five with Dan, while Brian slunk in behind both of us with a seven.

At the end of nine, I sat in third place with a solid 71, Dan had a 58 and Brian was obliterating both of us with a 44. Not too bad for three guys who hadn't played a round of golf in nearly a year, if you ask me.

The back nine went about the same except for a few special moments. One was my par on No. 12 and Dan the Man's par on No. 15. On these par threes, both of our tee shots came within a few feet of the pin at one point, but unfortunately neither of us can putt straight to save our lives, so making a birdie was a little out of the question.

Also, I'd like to give two other lessons to our children reading at home. One, grip the club tightly. I know all of the pros will tell you to have a relaxed grip and all of that, but you could be on the 17th hole one day and you could be tired and your hands are sweaty and you could end up accidentally letting go of your club at the end of your followthrough and fling your club 50 yards away, nearly killing one of your partners. Not that it happened to any of us, but people should be aware of the possibilities of accidents in this game.

One such accident would be if you were trying to hit over a creek that was 10 to 15 yards ahead of you. The Washington Duke Inn lines the inside of these creeks with rocks so that if your shot was to go down at the creek instead of up and over it, the ball could hit a rock and bounce back at you at a great velocity, narrowly missing your head and end up in the pond behind you for a penalty stroke and a drop even further from the hole than where you started.

Once the lessons in safety prevention were over, we finally arrived at the 19th hole, where we have grabbed a burger and some beverages if any of us could have moved our arms or back. When am I ever going to convince these juniors to just relax and have some fun?

Anyway, Brian was unstoppable all day, flubbing only two tee shots. He grabbed a 45 on the back nine for an 89 on the day, despite lipping out five different birdie putts. Dan had some tough moments, but he finished out with a par-bogey-bogey-bogey on the final four holes for a 110. I lowered my score from a 71 to a 61 which showed nice improvement, but unfortunately when you add it together, it still comes out to be a 132 which didn't really care if I showed improvement or not.

William Dvoranchik is a Trinity senior and associate sports editor of The Chronicle. He would like to thank all the little people for getting him where he is. If it wasn't for them, he would never have had enough to eat at lunch.

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