Darkness falls on Pickering Valley. The nuclear cooling towers, which had cut a striking contrast against the blue sky earlier in the day have faded into the shadows. One car remains in the parking lot. The employees have left for the day. Any cart returned at this point will be done under the famed Pickering “honor system.”
Four men, gladiators bruised and buzzed after 5+ hours of intense competition, roam the hillside adjacent to the 18th fairway. One of them, who bears a striking resemblance to D.M.C, cannot find his golf ball.
What if the World Series went into extra innings in game seven every year? What if every football game ended with a Music City Miracle? What if there was a sporting event that made Justin Leonard’s putt at the 1999 Ryder seem mundane?
For those of you that know the history, for the ones who eagerly await the 10th anniversary full length documentary feature that will hopefully win Sundance in 2019, it will come as no surprise to you that the JSO came down to the 20th hole. For those of you who are idiots, a golf course is 18 holes. How did we get to this point?
A lot of credit is given to Coors Light for its role in this event, but I’d like to take a quick moment to offer a stern tongue-lashing to the beer distributors of Pennsylvania. After surviving a skunked 30 on JSO day several years ago, the beer situation hit a tenuous new low this year when it was discovered a mere hours before tee-off that our cooler pack had been compromised. Thirty six silver bullets that would never leave the chamber? Enough to bring a tear to your eye. Luckily, JSO headquarters is only about a mile from Phoenixville’s only drive-thru beer distributor, and we moved on with our preparations, but we expect the same level of excellence from the distributors as we demand from ourselves. Let’s keep the Coors cold, OK people? Blue mountains. That is all.
We had a great pre-game meal thanks to Lancaster Brand meats and it’s probably time to mention the weather. Easily the “nicest” day in JSO history, the temperature checking in at a frigid 78 degrees with glittering sunshine.
So, while we prefer to sweat uncomfortably through our jorts, the rest of the area was busy jamming Pickering (relatively), which is always a good news/bad news scenario for the event. We love the eyes, but also tend to prefer room on the course to operate under our unique rules and outlook. Luckily, we’d booked a tee time. ONLINE! And, believe it or not, online at Pickering does not mean showing up and getting “in” line. They have a computer in the pro shop now. Saw it with my own eyes!
On the first tee we found out we’d be running a rematch of last year. DMC’s partner, filling out the rosters this year would be: JnCo
When you play 9 JSO’s you still get nervous, but there is a rhythm that develops, a familiarity with the scenarios. You understand that you will probably hit the first green and then 3-putt it for bogey. This happens every year. The hole will probably be someone’s back yard before anyone makes a 2-putt par there.
The first unexpected twist of the day came on two, when the defending champs both 3-putted, allowing us to halve the hole with a bogey. The traditional closest/furthest shotgun had to be performed on the 3rd tee, because the Pick was just so crowded we had to keep moving. Haven’t these people heard of Kimberton? Unreal.
Over the next two holes JnCo got it percolating like he tends to do on the front nine with a net birdie win on #3 and then a hugely clutch par snake on #4 to maintain a one-up lead. I would say in 9 JSOs, which is over 650 holes of combined golf for the four of us, we’ve probably made less than 10 putts over 15 feet. This was one of the most momentum sustaining that I can remember.
We went ahead a lost the 5th hole despite a perfect drive and arrived at the fabled putters only 6th in desperate need of the shrubbery if you catch my drift and staring at a 2-hole deficit. This is where we let the first group of the day play through us. They were relieved, but then one member of the group hit a cold top off the tee that couldn’t have gone more than 10 feet. We all laughed heartily. Imagine getting laughed at, on a golf course, by the JSO crew. Clear low-point for that guy who probably stopped on the way home and bought a bowling ball.
JnCo got into a bit of trouble off the tee and that allowed us to nip back a hole on 6 despite making just a double bogey. A hole later on 8, we impressed some local fisherman with a birdie and squared the match. But, on 9 DMC threw a dart in there “water tight” and made a birdie of his own. Onto the turn and the halfway house order one down.
We spent an inordinate amount of time at the turn this year. One member of the group was waylaid in the locker room for some time. Don’t think he took a shower, but needless to say, another group played through us here. They also were very bad at golf, but you know, sober and possibly slightly terrified. A new halfway house employee posited, “You guys aren’t from around here, are you? I can tell by the way you dress.” Well, yes, and no.
Always a great time to thank Lance as an official sponsor of the JSO.
The 10th hole requires you to play your worst shot off the tee and if you want to feel pressure, have your partner hit the green first. Before we teed off, our mantra was “two balls on the green,” kind of an obvious rallying cry along the lines of, “boy I hope this parachute opens.” Well, the ugliest and most nervous 9-iron of my life found the putting surface and we easily won the 10th hole (gets more narrow every year) to pull back to even. ALL SQUARE, EIGHT TO GO.
You ride the Coors Light like a wave all day. It’s hurting you, it’s helping you, your results are plotted on a coordination/intoxication/confidence three axis graph and good luck deciphering that, but the point is, there are ebbs and flows to the level of play. Our opponents definitely experienced an ebb around this time and without much great golf we actually took the lead after the 12th hole with a routine par. But, like alcohol through the liver, shots would emerge through the trees on 13th and the tide turns again. Back to ALL SQUARE FIVE TO GO.
We introduced a beer mulligan this year. Each player, during the first 15 holes was allowed to redo a shot if they drank a beer. Maybe we forgot about it, maybe the opportunities didn’t present themselves, but everyone took their beer on the last hole and I believe the only one it helped was….
Male Romper was able to redo a chip on 15 that allowed us to stay tied and then both teams opted for beer par on 16 which left things ALL SQUARE TWO TO PLAY.
I was talking about Coors Light tides earlier and by this point I was out to sea. No lifeguard on duty. Someone with a tennis racket could have beaten me on 17 and we were unable to salvage a halve. At this point I am starting to think about taking another loss and I’m in a general bad mood, thinking about holes I blew earlier in the day. ONE DOWN ONE TO GO.
It’s amazing to me how much the 18th green is like the 1st. The 18th is a much longer, much tougher hole, but the green is the 1st’s savage twin. It’s enormous. You usually three putt it. You get the idea. The idea of having to make par on 18 to stay alive is a daunting thought, but we got a ball in the fairway and Romper took over from there, making our most clutch putt of the day to put the pressure on–when the matching putt didn’t drop, it was just another JSO with extra holes.
We tied the 16th with pars, after another nervy 2 footer by Romper and that circles us back to the beginning. In the dark, hole 20, looking for DMC’s ball to keep them alive. We never found it, or maybe we did and didn’t realize it? But the penalty was too much overcome and when we made par again on 18, the buckles officially changed hands. What’s better, the feeling of winning or the nervous excitement on the 1st hole when you don’t know if you’ll win or lose? I’m not sure.
Monster post-game shout out to my wife who drove us into town for our post-round dinner at Pepperoncini’s as usual. Though, personally, I’d be open to changing locations. I did not have it, but the pasta served with the chicken parm looked in a word–unfortunate.
Thanks to Brown’s Cow, the owner of which we met and learned about his story as we coaxed some ice cream down to line the stomach. Thanks to our Uber driver Kenya, who picked us up in a beautifully appointed ’05? Tahoe with cozy leather seats and then talked Game of Throne theories for our 5 minute drive.
Thanks to Graceyyyyyy for showing up at the 1st tee, Pickering, Coors Light, Levi’s, our new friends at VANS, 80s hip-hop and of course, Adidas. We’ll see you next year. TEN.
Post was not proofread. Please alert me of all typos through the US Mail.