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Confessions of a Weekend Golfer: Playing with Ernie Els, Gary Player and Johann Rupert

Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Kurt Russell, May/June 2006

(continued from page 2)

At the end of nine, we are now "all even"!

We reach the 16th hole, a par 4, all even, when Johann hits a spectacular sand shot that lands six inches from the pin. He wins the hole. Two holes to go and Els/Shanken are down one.

Ernie, The Big Easy, again looks at me, this time with more concern in his eyes and says, "Shotmaker, we have work to do." On our 17th, Ernie pars and wins the 235-yard par 3. We are all even going into the last hole.

I now feel the pressure of the moment. The trash talking has become fairly harsh! The last hole is a par 5, 500 yards, dead into a strong wind. All four of us hit our tee shots into the fairway. Mine is about 80 yards behind the others.

I'm up to hit my second shot. I drill it (my best shot of the day) to about 140 yards from the green. Johann and I are sharing a cart and he goes ballistic, saying it was a perfect golf shot—"with a draw." The winds are gusting and swirling when Johann hits his second shot. It lands behind a wall of tall trees. Gary hits into a sand trap in the fairway. Ernie hits a huge second shot that lands just off the green in a sand trap.

It's my turn again. I take out my 6 iron and visualize hitting it on the green. The winds are swirling wildly now. I pause then I hit the ball toward the pin, but the wind grabs it. It still lands on the green and rolls to the far left, settling on the green 50 feet from the pin. Everyone applauds in amazement. On this very difficult par 5, Marvin is on the green in three. Ernie smiles and softly says, "The Shotmaker." Gary hits his third shot into the same bunker as Ernie next to the green. Johann's third shot flies over the green into the first cut on the left. Gary then hits his second sand shot onto the green, on in four. Gary then putts out for a par 5. Johann chips onto the green, then two-putts for six. Ernie chips on about 25 feet past the hole, then two-putts for five.

Only one player left. Shanken studies the long putt across the green. If I two-putt I am in for a par 5, and I get to subtract a stroke for a net 4. This is by far my most important shot of the day.

Ernie and I study the line and discuss the speed. The tension is huge. Johann is beside himself with anxiety. His caddy privately tells Johann, "No way. Shanken's putt will roll into the bunker."

The match is on the line. Can Shotmaker show up? I concentrate on the putt and hit the ball. The line is perfect. The ball comes to rest about 18 inches from the hole. Gary says "Great putt, Marvin, that's good." Johann looks at Gary and says, "No way, he must putt out." I do putt out. Dead center.

Els (73) and Shanken (96) win one up in dramatic fashion. And Shanken actually helped Ernie.

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