June 29

The eagle has landed…or hasn't.

7  comments

hole-in-one.jpg
Rebsamen Golf course, 14th green, tee box 211 yards back in the dark spot in the woods.
I don’t think I’ve ever had as wide a temperament swing as I had in the 24 hours between this past Monday and Tuesday.
On Monday afternoon I played golf with my son Dan, MD’s nephew Chris, and a friend of Chris’s. We played Rebsamen, a public course in Little Rock where I played some of the first golf I ever played. It was hot and humid – a typical Arkansas afternoon in the early summer. I wasn’t used to the greens, which were kind of shaggy, but I was still playing pretty well. I was 6 over par as we came to the 14th hole, a 211 yard par 3. I used a 19 degree utility club and smoked the ball right toward the middle of the green. This particular green is elevated a little, making it difficult to see where the ball actually hits, so I didn’t actually see where it landed.
We drove our carts up to the green (one would have to be insane to walk and carry a bag in that kind of heat) and I didn’t see my ball. I figured I had knocked it through the green and off the back side. I jumped out of the cart with my sand wedge to chip it back on with and my putter. I looked around the back of the green in the rough, and when I couldn’t find a ball anywhere, I walked to the flag and looked in the hole. My ball ball-in-cup.jpgwas resting on the bottom.
I had made my first ever hole-in-one and hadn’t even gotten to see the ball go in the cup. As you might imagine, I was pretty excited. Many people play golf for years and years and never get a hole-in-one, so I was ecstatic.
I was so ecstatic, in fact, and my adrenaline was pumping so fast that I bogeyed the next three holes and finished with a par on the 18th, which is the most difficult hole on the course. I ended up with a 79.
As those of you who are golfers might imagine, I was in heaven. As dictated by tradition, I bought drinks for everyone after the round, and was glad to do it.
The next day, at just about 24 hours after the hole-in-one I was standing in a long, long line at the Little Rock airport dealing with a canceled flight. Based on my last several experiences flying I’ve begun to think I’m maybe snakebit where the airlines are concerned.
MD and I showed up in plenty of time for our 4:10 American flight to Dallas only to be told that the flight was canceled. In fact, all the American flights to Dallas were canceled because – as is typical for that hellhole – there were thunderstorms all around the airport. We had a connecting flight to Santa Barbara leaving Dallas at 6:45 arriving in Santa Barbara at 7:50, which we were obviously going to miss.
We got into the line for the American counter to see what other flights we could get. As we waited in line, I called American on MD’s cell phone. I used hers because most everyone calls mine, so I figured mine would be available if a call came in. MD is bad about forgetting to charge her cell phone, a fact that has left us in the lurch more than once. Before I called, I asked her if her phone was charged. She said yes, which I later discovered meant that there was a line or two on her battery icon, not a fully charged phone.
I reached the American reservation line as was told that the wait would be 14 minutes. A full 40 minutes later a human came on the phone. A very nice lady was trying to find us another flight out on any airline that we could get, when suddenly the phone went dead. Out of juice. Needless to say, I was slightly agitated.
We ended up waiting for THREE HOURS in the American line – which is unconscionable that they couldn’t get more staff to deal with all their customers from three canceled flights – only to be told that we couldn’t get out of Little Rock until Thursday. MD got on with our American Express concierge agent and found a flight through Kansas City to LAX. We bought the tickets and headed to the gate.
We knew we were going to have to get from LA to Santa Barbara somehow, so I pulled out my trusty Mac, fired it up with the Verizon Broadband and logged on to Hertz to see if we could get one of their compact cars for $19.99 per day. The least expensive thing we could find cost a little over 100 bucks. I called a friend who travels a lot, and he told me that there was a shuttle that ran from LAX to Santa Barbara for about $50 per person. I figured that I would rather pay the $100 and let someone else do the driving.
As we went through security, we got the full search and patdown treatment. The TSA went through all our carry on bags, pulling everything out and swiping it with the bomb detecting pads. They told us that it was because we had switched airlines. They stamped our tickets so that we wouldn’t have to go through it all again, or so they told us.
We flew in a tiny prop plane that carried about 12 passengers to Kansas City. We got off the plane out on the tarmac and headed to our next flight, which was Midway Airline. The Kansas City airport is laid out in such a way that those passengers arriving where we arrived have to go out of security, through the main part of the terminal, then back through security again. Since we had switched carriers, we went through the whole thorough search and patdown yet again despite having the stamp on our tickets that was supposed to get us out of it.
We finally got through and got on the plane, which was very nicely set up. All leather seats with a lot of legroom. Nice attendants. And a pleasant but turbulent flight. We landed in LAX at 11:35. As MD waited for the bags, I headed out to find the shuttle and get us set up. Unfortunately, the $50 per head shuttle quit running at 11:30. It was about midnight by the time we got off the plane and got down there, so we had missed it by half an hour. I found the other shuttle to Santa Barbara and was told that it cost $250. The guy said that usually there were a bunch of people going, so the $250 divided by five or six people ended up at about $40-$50 each, but since there were only the two of us at that hour, it would cost $250.
I was steamed. I went in and helped MD with the bags and decided to opt for Hertz and the $100 car. We hogged all of our bags, my large box of birthday presents, and my golf clubs out and onto the Hertz shuttle. We rode to the Hertz lot and I went in to the counter only to be told by one of the most rude, unhelpful, bored people I’ve ever dealt with that the only vehicles they had left were vans, and that these vans rented for $220 per day.
We sucked up, rented the van, put all our crap in it, and drove the two hours to Santa Barbara. We were originally going to get home at 7:50 PM; we ended up getting home at 3 AM, about a thousand dollars poorer given the new plane tickets and the outrageous car rental.
So, I had a major emotional swing in a mere 24 hours from the epitome of golf glory to the abject bottom of air travel despair. We’ve got a major flight coming up to Europe, and given my past recent airline history, I’m already starting to sweat.


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  1. Congratulations Doc! Nice to see you had your son in your foursome. My brother and I happened to be in my dad’s group when he bagged his first ace – at age 71. It was a special moment, I’m sure yours was too. Way to go.
    Thanks.  It sure was fun, and I’m glad my kid got to be there.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  2. Hole in one: Congratulations! That’s fantastic. Your happy story made me smile.
    Air travel hell: The pi**-poor service one receives for almost every segment of travel, from dealing with people on the phone, clerks at check-in or for rental cars, treatment by air personnel, canceled flights, etc., is the main reason I have not flown anywhere for over 5 years. I’m very happy to have been able to make other arrangements for the travel I have done in that time.
    All aspects of air travel “service” are atrocious and I wish something could be done about it. I realize not everyone can make the same choice I have, and I know I’ve missed a couple of opportunities to go places. (If I ever want to go to Europe I’ll have to get on a plane.) But for the most part, especially when I read about your & MD’s woes, I’m happy with my decision.
    FWIW, it was a string of bad experiences with American Airlines that led me to decide not to fly anymore. I see AA has not changed much since 2002.
    –Anne
    Hi Anne– 
    I wish I had your option not to fly.  Unfortunately, I don’t, so I suppose I will be subject to these travails for the foreseeable future.  
    Best–
    MRE 

  3. I’m just learning how to play golf, Dr. Mike, so I can understand the thrill of that hole-in-one. I’ll get me one someday! CONGRATULATIONS!!!
    I hope you do, but they’re scarcer than hen’s teeth.  My golfing buddy in Santa Barbara has been playing for twenty years longer than I have, and he’s never gotten one.
    Good luck.
    MRE 

  4. Mike
    In its own way, watching you deal with your day of airplane ticketing, car renting, and especially cell phone dying would probably have been at least as entertaining as watching you make a one the day before. And speaking of your ace, had I been there I hope I would have had the presence of mind to trot out one of your favorite lines, “nice shot you pri*#”.
    Seriously, all kidding aside, that was a hell of a shot during a darn good round of golf –79. A hole in one from that distance is indeed scarcer than hen’s teeth and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked in the cup on a par 3 when the ball isn’t in view and I’ve never found one looking back up at me. That had to be really fun.
    James
    Hey James–
    It was great fun.  I wish you could’ve been there, the “nice shot you pri*#” notwithstanding. 
    Cheers–
    Mike 

  5. Congrats on hole in one! As a duffer, I can’t wait for my first…let’s hope I get at least one before I die.
    Reading your description of the one highlight of your return trip, the flight from KC to LA, I suspect you flew on Midwest Airlines, no “Midway” as you state in your post. As a long time flier of Midwest, the description certainly matches the hundreds of flights I have taken on this wonderful airline.
    Cheers, and keep us posted on your next hole in one!
    Dusty
    Hi Dusty–
    You are right.  It was Midwest Airlines, not Midway.  I’ll make the change in the post.
    I came within 4 inches of a second hole-in-one  yesterday on a 167 yard par 3.  At least it was a nice tap-in birdie.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  6. If you should ever find yourself in a lurch like that again, take the Santa Barbara Air Bus http://www.santabarbaraairbus.com
    it would have only cost you 80$, nice big bus, friendly people, and they even give you a free piece of candy (yes, useless for us, but it’s the thought that counts)
    Used them all the time when I was down there. Excellent deal and service.
    Hi Colin–
    The Santa Barbara Air Bus was our first choice, but it makes its last run at 11:00 PM. We arrived at LAX at 11:35 then had to wait for bags.
    Best–
    MRE 

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