I thought the only good thing to come out of this pandemic was that no live sports meant I would have a little more time to hit that little white ball around.

I was wrong.

How can someone who used to be a decent golfer now be so bad?

I’m afraid there are too many factors that go into my demise. Some are probably fixable. Most aren’t.

I now know how Charles Barkley feels when he tees it up. Things look so simple on TV when I watch, but when I actually go out and play, I am—in the words of Sir Charles—”turrible.”

It’s hard to believe that as a ninth-grader, I finished third in the Janesville Junior City Golf Tournament. Of course, with only four entered in the field, that considerably helped my chances of bringing home a trophy. I believe it’s one of only two trophies I still own, the other being from winning a pie eating contest in 10th grade at Parker thanks to a Herculean effort by my classmate and teammate, Bill Flynn. If memory serves me correctly, Mr. Flynn wolfed down a cherry and chocolate cream pie by himself, leaving me to only inhale a delicious banana cream pie.

I gave up golf competitively after an uneventful campaign at Franklin Middle School. My only claim to fame was cheating on my final two holes of a practice round in order to be able to get to play in a match at Abbey Springs in Fontana. The coach was only taking the top three scores from the previous day’s practice round to Abbey Springs, so my 52 miraculously became a 47. Needless to say, whomever coined the phrase, “Cheaters never win and winners never cheat.” had me in mind. I don’t think I even broke 60 for nine holes that day—thus allowing me to enjoy the van ride home with some egg on my face.

Baseball over golf, sort of

I decided as a sophomore at Parker to play baseball instead of golf, which turned out to be another brilliant decision on my part. I was 1-for-20 that fateful season and probably the only junior varsity player in school history to get thrown out of a game. The worst part about it all was having to face Coach Madden—one of my father’s best friends and for whose wedding I was the ring bearer—and being told I wouldn’t be making the trip to Sun Prairie for the next game. I could handle the one-game suspension, but what I couldn’t handle was missing the bus ride. That’s when all the shenanigans happened.

I played golf here and there in high school for fun, and I spent many nights sneaking onto the Janesville Country Club course because it was a short walk from my house.

I could tee off No. 2 and make my way around the course without anyone knowing. Former club pro Ken Hulen chased me off the course a few times after I had snuck on, but he was usually pretty good about it because I had taken his daughter, Colleen, to Homecoming. Unbeknownst to him, we also occasionally had parties at his house when he was away for the weekend.

I didn’t pick up a club much in college at Wisconsin because I was too busy trying to pick up something else. I started taking the game serious again once I moved to Dallas in 1991. I played quite a bit in the Lone Star state and actually had my handicap down to around a 13 or 14, which for me wasn’t too bad.

Golf in Texas is nothing like golf in Wisconsin. You can play probably about 10 months out of the year there, but you also have a lot of county courses where maintenance checks occur about once a year. Fairways, especially in the heat of the summer, would be like hitting your drive on I-90. The ball just rolls and rolls and rolls before finally coming to rest behind a tree or in a sand trap.

I haven’t golfed much since moving back to my hometown. Sports have gotten in the way. My only days off before the pandemic hit were Mondays, and the majority of my friends were working like normal people or had just come off four straight days of golf and didn’t feel like watching me chop around a course.

In the last two years, I believe I played four rounds of golf, but three of those involved outings. I don’t do much at outings other than supply the music on my phone and flag down the beverage cart girl. It seems my foursome never uses MY drive, second shot or third shot in a scramble format. About the only thing I ever hear is, “Hey Bare, it would be nice if you could make this putt. You really haven’t done much else today.”

This year, I’ve already got four rounds in. Two of them were outings, including one with NBC Sports Executive and Janesville native Greg Hughes, who proceeded to hit his tee shot over the Par 4, No. 8 green at Bass Creek Golf Club while I, on the other hand, proceeded to almost take out a window on an adjacent house.

I got one 18-hole round in at Riverside last week and shot 99. What? I’ve never not broken 100 at Riverside, and yet there I was needing a bogey on No. 18 to keep me from triple digits.

My swing is bad. I have no touch. My clubs are fossils and I play Calloway golf balls that look like soccer balls. Good thing I’ve got a sweet looking University of Wisconsin golf bag to carry all my troubles in.

I’ve thought about taking lessons and upgrading my equipment but can’t make the move. I want live sports back and my life as a Gazette sports reporter back.

Mark Twain once said that “golf is a good walk spoiled.”

Not for me it’s not. I ride in a cart.