"You go first," I say. It's my honor, but Shu seems ready to experiment. He hits an all-world five iron to fifteen feet.
My turn. Back left pin. The bunker looms big as a beach. That water behind looks like an ocean. Then again, it is an ocean--- The Pacific.
I pull a four iron and tee the ball low. Take a stance, find the target, adjust, relax. Balance, exhale, take away, finish the backswing and then, as my club finds the slot, it hits me. This is the 17th at Pebble Beach. It's my tee, my hole, my moment. Don't think, play the shot, not the name of the course. Thwock---sweet, black dot disappearing high with a draw. Too little??? Too much??? Who gives???
Never underestimate the significance of playing through history. You have read about this hole and seen on television.
The17th. Site of Palmer's 'Miracle From the Rocks' in the 1964 open. Or Jack Nicklaus, hitting a one iron to one inch in 1972. Or Tom Watson's chip-in birdie from the rough ten years later.
I watch the ball dropping...down, down, down, plop, spin, toward the pin. It stops at twelve feet. I'm numb.
"Great shot," says Shu.
"Dude, we're livin' large." On a pristine afternoon, in golden light, on a rare, balmy day with no breeze, wearing only shirtsleeves, I'm strutting down the 17th at pebble with the only club I'll need...my putter. I've birdied #'s 3, 8, 11, and now, as the course winds to its infamous, spectacular conclusion, here's another chance.
Ostensibly, they call this a public golf course, but not the kind of public who wear flip-flops and Def Leppard tee shirts. In tourist season, Pebble attracts more than a few 'Vinnies' from the Garden State...guys with gaudy gold watches dripping off themselves and their trophy wives.
Then again, they if they have the cash, they get to play, assuming they can get a tee-time. A round at Pebble costs more than a new driver, now. Frankly, that goes against my fiduciary sensibilities. But then, I'm a frugal guy who said all those things before tracing the footsteps of golfing legends. I said them before that near-perfect shot and this triumphant walk.
And now I'm about halfway down the fairway. In tantalizing fashion, the dazzling coastline of Monterey Bay reveals itself. Are those sea lions barking? Was that a whale spout? Smell the salt water. It really is transparent turquoise. I'm on the edge of the continent and this is a timeless, TTGGM (touching the golf god moment).
At the green I look back to the tee, then at the surf-sculpted stone, and at the pristine bay on three sides of me. This place is bigger than life. There's the eighteenth tee. Deal with that later.
We pose for a picture. Shumann lights a fresh cigar, like a proud papa. "You're away, Michael," I note with a rising eyebrow. His putt rolls true and curls away at the last second.
Now it's my turn. His putt broke early so I take a smooth stroke to the high side, feed it down, not too firm. It's tracking, tracking, turning left, left, left, slowing?and stopping, two inches away. Tap. Stay cool. Show nothing.
Call me a sentimental sap, but at this moment, the 17 at Pebble Beach is as close as any golfing mortal can get to heaven on earth. Consider the combination. A gorgeous hole on humbling beautiful coastline, and we're interacting with it. . If you love golf and you also love the ocean, this is perfection. May it happen for you one day.