Not all Jean Short Opens are created equal. They’re all held at Pickering. They are all exclusive as hell, but sometimes the participants raise their games to previously unseen levels. I don’t want to use the word, “complacent,” to describe last year’s JSO, but there was a certain comfort level. A bit of the awkwardness had worn away. It didn’t feel QUITE as special. Then, the 2012 JSO happened. We had spandex. We had record Coors Light consumption. We had two holes of nail-biting sudden death. A quick wrap-up…
We have now proven, through repeated real-life experiments that there is no dress code at Pickering Valley. You can’t get a reaction out of the employees there. They are hardened. They have blank facial expressions. It doesn’t matter if you walk in wearing an Andre Agassi tennis outfit from 1991 (that’s 2 sizes too small), or if you order a quick case of beer–these people just go about their business. Of course, I was horrified by the tribute to Agassi. I feel other people’s shame. And, the JSO originated as a way to get me to Pickering Valley and embarrass me as much as possible. Mission accomplished this year.
Yes, those are denim. No, they aren’t shorts, but for the entire round a pair of scissors resided in the back pocket of these jeans threatening to turn these sweeties into cutoffs. That level of commitment, plus any time you can incorporate the double black glove gives you a lot of leeway. If the JSO was held in the worst European club you can imagine, I’m pretty sure this is what everyone would wear.
The Amazing 2nd Hole: A large portion of the holes in the JSO have special rules/scoring. On the 2nd, a devilish, downhill par-3 with the 3rd largest green on the Eastern seaboard you have to drink a beer if you are closest to the hole and also if you are furthest away. Generally, at least one person hits the ball out of play, either into the right trees or down the hill into the abyss. Well first I stepped up and hit a little smooth, pokey 9-iron to about 25 feet. Not bad. Then the mystery man hit a towering ball that should have gone into the right trees, but somehow drew back onto the putting surface about 35 feet away. Thank you PING game improvement! Next, Agassi hit one of his 3 solid shots of the day to about 12 feet. When Haas’ ball landed on the green as well we decided it may have been the 1st time that all four of us hit the same green in regulation. Not just in the JSO, but ever. Conclusion: More Coors Light.
Great Shot Bonuses: One of the oddities in the JSO scoring system is that at any moment you can hit a shot that is bad enough to get a stroke taken off your team score. The opposing team must be in agreement, but it’s all done on a honor code that is taken very seriously. The problem is, through the years, we’ve seen so much that it is tough to impress us. A simple top is not going to cut it. A snap hook into the water? Boring. This year we only had 1 “great shot.” Someone did hit their own cart, but there were no witnesses. Someone also hit a ball out of bounds that rattled around under a passing car, but we didn’t have a confirmation on that until the time to award the “great shot,” had passed. The only great shot came when a ball was skulled off a stake holding the traditional awful public course yellow “no carts” ropes and bounded into the trees. The real truth is, the match was just too close to be awarding bonus shots.
So, it became apparent pretty early on that this was going to be an epic, close battle. The mystery man and I were down for much of the front nine. We got one back on the “putters only” par-3 6th hole. A double bogey was enough to get the job done thanks to some unusually high fringe at Pickering this year. That stuff ate-up even the most aggressive putts. We were all square headed to the 9th, but Haas’ ability to put down his beer, set aside the heat rash that had to be spreading on both legs, and hit career level shots was remarkable. He won the 9th single-handedly and we went to the back nine–after getting more beer, six packs of crackers, a bag of chips, some kit-kats, and a handful of hot dogs. Just the usual.
Any fan of the JSO knows that the back-nine is full of swing holes. The 15th is 1-club. You must play the entire hole with only one club. It’s about a 350 yd par-4, down hill. I chose 7-iron and parred the sumbitch “Tin Cup,” style. How’d you like that putt on 15, which was a 7-iron as I recall? My par, coupled with Agassi and Haas’ 13x* got us back to even once again. Onto the 16th. The 16th is a par-3, and it’s driver’s only. The 16th is also the “beer par,” hole. If you drink 3 beers on 16–you get a par. A three was a valuable score in a tight match and Haas decided to go for the beer par. Our team decided we couldn’t make beer par, so we baited Haas into doing it (since he was carrying their team golf-wise) and hoped he’d be too “full of life and Coors” to contribute on 17 and 18.
Well, things went according to plan on 17. We easily won that hole and then stepped up to the 18th tee all square. At this point Haas hit perhaps the two greatest shots ever struck by someone whose blood Coors level was someone around 50/50. The best my team could manage was a tie and then there was a moment where we didn’t know what to do. Tied? The JSO? The first year we might have all gaily slapped backs and accepted the draw. The Waitzkin, if you will, but now the buckles are on the line. We decided on extra holes.
Again this is why Pickering is amazing, because we just drove down the 9th hole and played it again. NO BIG DEAL. We probably could have pulled up to the clubhouse and said, “We tied, the first person to punch a 4-iron through that window from the 1st tee wins,” and they probably would have said, “Sounds fair.” So, on nine Agassi finally woke up. He won a buckle in 2011 and wanted to keep it in the family. After being told by Haas that he, “wasn’t good at playing golf,” Agassi responded with his 2nd and 3rd decent shots of the day. I had to hit a running 8-iron under a tree from about 40 yards up to 20 feet just to stay in the match. After the 19th hole, Agassi said, “I’m completely sober.” There was about 10 Coors Lights worth of sweat in his spandex drawers, so maybe that’s the truth.
So, it was onto the 20th hole. Back to 16. No drivers. No beer par. No handicap shots. Just golf. I rode the mystery man pretty hard all day, luxuriating in his high, butterball fade, but with darkness coming upon us, I gathered myself enough to hit an easy, breezy, guess that PW down there to about 10-feet. It was again Haas who stepped up knocking a chip to about Agassi short-length. We had two 10-footers for the win, and obviously didn’t scare the hole. That left Haas with a treacherous 2-footer. It’s hard to describe how you can have a hard putt at Pickering if you’ve never been there, but this hole was cut on the side of a hill. It had a good 6 inches of break and was comically slow. It dove low, and I got to keep my buckle. Haas said, “I’m sick to my stomach.” Not sure if that was because of the putt, or early onset heat exhaustion.
Oh, we were playing yellow Pinnacles. Did I not mention that? Also, never wear rayon from Bangladesh in the heat. So, that was it, the 4th Annual JSO. Will it be topped? Next year is the big 5-year anniversary. Everyone was in great spirits after the round. We felt like we had revived the JSO. Breathed fresh life into it. Haas wanted to celebrate the occasion,”with a cool dessert.” We shot into Wegman’s on the way home and as you may know, they have a Pub in the store. So classy. You know what else is classy? Walking up to the unsuspecting bartender and saying, “Give Me Your Strongest Cider.”