“Ain’t nothing there.”
James mumbled the mantra he’d used for years. The idea was to think all of the hazards away.
James opened his eyes, taking in the blazing sunlight in one gulp. In front of him a dimpled-orb sat on its little wooden peg—lofted scant millimeters above the finely mown blades of verdant Bermuda grass.
James raised his head, taking a long, slow breath. There, one-hundred and eighty-six yards away, was the green—an oblong pool of grass as smooth as the billiard tables back in the oak-paneled, cigar-smoke filled clubhouse.
James took another breath and blew it out—trying to focus only on the green. Hit the ball. Land it on the green. You can do this Jim. Nothing else matters.
James took a step to the ball, his eyes starting to take in the details he’d worked so hard to avoid, his brain beginning to do what it always did—process and analyze all of the hazards between his ball and the hole.
As much as he tried to ignore it, the pond was there—in all of its reed-surrounded, lily pad and frog-spawn filled glory. The scent of rotting vegetation reached into James’s nostrils, only partially blocked by a mild allergic reaction to the newly mown fairways and rampaging pollen clouds. He could see the pond clearly now and a familiar feeling began to grow in his gut. He hated that pond. Hated it. Fully one-third of his tee shots landed in that vile collection of muck and mire.
James closed his eyes again. Ignore the pond, Jim. Don’t hit your ball there. He opened his eyes and the pond was gone, replaced by yet another hazard he’d tried desperately to ignore.
Goddamn sand trap. It sat there, just shy of the green, big as the damn Sahara, a faint summer breeze playing in the white-hot sands. Another repository for poorly struck balls.
Damnit Jim. Ignore it. It ain’t there. Just you and the green.
James stepped forward, put the clubhead behind the ball. He blinked. He took a breath. He looked hard at the ball. Forget the hazards.
James drew the club back to the top of its graceful arc. Gravity did the rest.
The club hit the ball.
The ball skipped forward ten yards and stopped, nestled down in the rough like an egg in an Easter basket.
James stared at it.