NEVER UP - NEVER IN!
SETTING: Pahrump, Nevada
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Hey, my name is John Masters Jr. and I have a story to tell:
My Dad took me out and taught me how to play golf when I was eight-years-old. I was, and still am, very left-handed. It was my father, John Sr., who insisted I play golf right-handed. He got me a set of those shorter clubs for kids to learn to play with. He even told me that left-handed clubs cost four times as much, which I believed at the time.
Between my dad, watching TV, and Golf Digest Magazine, I became pretty good. Six months later, I wanted to play golf all the time, much to my father’s chagrin. My seven-year-old sister Corrine, I call her Cory, caught the bug as well, but I knew that she wouldn’t get a set of her own clubs, so I asked her if she would be my caddy.
The smile that came on her face was brilliant, so now we would get dropped off together, and using my parent’s club membership and dad’s credit card ... we would play all we could.
Little did I know that my sister would become more than just my caddy!
Starting immediately, Cory was keeping meticulous track of what club I used for the different distances and circumstances.
With a bit of talent on my part and her record keeping, I went from a 20 handicap to a 5 ... by the time I was 11 years old. That was also when I graduated from the ‘dinky clubs,’ to the standard sized.
Another year later and I was a scratch golfer getting stronger and becoming something of a long driver.
Cory had grown up as well, from being cute to becoming pretty, and she was also really good at helping me read putts.
Nobody my age wanted to play me anymore, so I got into every threesome needing a fourth I could. I quickly got the reputation of being a good partner, and another couple of years passed by.
Now a freshman in high school, I went out for the golf team. We all went to a county golf course, where I wasn’t allowed to have a caddy ... I had to carry my own clubs.
They did allow Cory to follow and watch. We’d developed hand signals. Cory and I’d predetermined that to make the team ... I had to break 90 on a course that was a par 73. She mentioned I shouldn’t show up the seniors too bad, so I shot an 84, which got me on the team.
Cory ran up to me and gave me a big hug, including a smack on the cheek. She gladly picked up my clubs. We got in the school van and went back to the school. She got the OK from Mom and Dad and her school, to go with me.
Some of the guys on the team were looking at her like wolves preparing for their next feast.
Some descriptions are now in order ... I am fifteen, 5ft10 and Cory’s fourteen, 5ft6 ... both of us have brown hair and blue eyes. I don’t know her measurements, but she’s already got tits, along with a really cute butt.
She leaned into me, on the trip back to the school and asked, “When will you show them how good you really are, Johnny?”
“At the first tournament, Sis ... there are twelve guys, and I am rated number sixth because of my score today. I have to play somebody higher up than me to advance,” I explained.
“When can I be your caddy again? I really missed you today?” she asked curling her lip.
“I don’t know, hopefully soon!” I replied.
“Coach?” I said to Mr. Rockway.
“My sister is used to being my caddy,” to which the other boys all laughed. “I am a lot better when she’s able to caddy me, I can prove it anytime. I will play anybody ahead of me, including you, Coach ... if I have to.”
“Calm down everybody!” coach said. “Let me check the rules first ... I will let you know if she can be on the bag for you or not. If you want to prove yourself, challenge anyone ranked above you, and I will schedule it, OK?”
“Thanks, Coach,” I said.
“Thanks Coach,” Cory said ending it with a giggle.
I said, “Mark Rains, Number Three ... I challenge you ASAP, straight up with no shots!”
Mark turned around in his seat, “John ... you have got yourself a match, and bring your sister along. You will need every bit of help you can get!”
“Does anybody need to get home any time soon? Good!”
He turned around, screeching the tires, and headed back to the golf course we just left.
I asked, “Mark ... Medal or Match Play ... you pick?”
“Match play, John!”
“Sure John ... whatever you want?” he chuckled.
We got back and Cory was grinning really big, as we went to the Golf Shop to ask to play again. She cleaned all the clubs. I bought a new set of Titleist balls, and some tees, handing them to my sister.
Hole #1 – Par-Five – 544 yards
I bogeyed it the first time through. Mark being ranked higher had honors. He hit it pretty well although it rolled into the first cut of rough.
The team all gave him a big yell.
Cory handed me my two-wood ... I aimed over the trap to shorten the distance to the green. A mighty swing and it sailed 40 yards over the trap, over 300 yards. Mark looked at me and smiled, “So, you’ve been holding out on us?”
“Lucky shot,” I said.
We all got to Mark’s ball, and he’d have to use a four-wood or maybe even a one-iron. After studying it, he took his four-wood and laced it about 25 yards short of the green ... again the team went bonkers for the shot.
We walked about 50 yards closer as I had about 225 yards to the green.
“Cory, what do you think?”
“Johnny, you can rip a two-iron, and it should roll up ... pin high,” she said.
“Yeah...” coach said, “a two-iron ... from 225?”
This was my chance ... I took a couple of practice swings, addressed the ball, and stroked it ... it landed 15 feet from the pin.
“Holy Shit!” coach said. “Where was that shot four hours ago, Johnny?”
“I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I sort of ... held back, Coach. I also have my caddy with me. She helps my game by two or three shots.”
We all walked up to Mark’s ball. It had rolled into a divot. He got out a sand wedge, expecting it to go straight up and land soft. He hit a very good shot leaving it 30 feet from the pin.
Cory got behind me and helped me look at the putt, while Mark was getting ready for his birdie putt. He hit it and it wasn’t hard enough. There’s an old adage in golf, ‘Never Up ... Never In.’ He made his par putt, and I lined up my eagle putt and put it in the bottom of the cup.
“One Up, after One Hole,” said my sister, “Nice putt, Bro!”
Coach walked alongside as we all walked to the next tee. “Mister Masters, have you played this course before today?”
“No, Sir ... I have been playing exclusively at Riverside Country Club, but I have had this cutie-pie helping me since I was eight years old.”
“That’s a long course, what’s your best score there?”
Should I tell him, or not... ? I looked at my sister and said, “72, Sir!”
Coach asked, “How many times?”
I looked over at Cory, and she said, “Eleven, Coach.”
“Mark, I believe you have got no chance in hell, but if you want to keep playing, it’s your call?” Coach remarked.
“Yeah, Coach ... I think you are right, but let’s play through number four ... that puts us back at the clubhouse,” Mark said coming over and shaking my hand, “Between your natural ability and your sister, we may just win the Valley Championship this year. Coach, put her on the team, then she can be anybody’s caddy!”
“I am only going to be my brother’s caddy!” Cory said rather assertively.
“OK!” Mark said.
Forty minutes later, I’d beaten him four-up, by six total strokes. Everyone got in the van again heading back to school.
As we pulled up to the school parking lot, I said, “Mitchell Strong, Number One ... I challenge you ASAP, straight up with no shots!”
The van burst with laughter, as Mitchell quietly said, “Sure!”
Three days later, at Riverside along with the whole team, along with Mom and Dad and some of our club members, Mitchell Strong and I started a round of golf to determine who would be the top seeded player on the team.
Dad walked over to me and quietly said, “You know this course better than most, so take it to him ... No Mercy!”
Cory came over and asked, “Did Dad give you his old ‘No Mercy’ speech again? He needs new material.”
Riverside, as Coach mentioned, is a long course ... at close to 7,700 yards when playing the Championship Tees. Deferring to Mitchell, who is a Senior ... he went first.
Hole #1 – Par-Four – 458 yards
The hole is nearly dead straight and he hit it about 250 to 260 yards out.
Cory handed me the driver. I took a ball and tee from her and took some practice swings and hit it right on the screws. My adrenaline added 30 yards to my usual drive. The crowd made some noise, as Dad said, “That’s my boy!” causing the crowd to chuckle as we all started walking to the next shot.
Both Mitchell and I put our second shots on the green. He was about 10 feet away, and my approach shot rolled about 40 feet past the hole.
Cory was always careful to watch how the ball is rolling ... its relative speed. We got to the ball and looked it over together, with her giving me the spot to aim as she held the pin. After a practice stroke, I hit a roller, and she pulled out the pin as it was almost going too fast, but it dropped ... for the birdie.
The crowd gave an appreciative applause as Mitchell stood over his putt, missing it because he had seen more break than there was.
Hole #2 – Par-Three – 281 yards
After the second hole, we were dead even again.
Hole #3 – Par-Four – 505 yards
There is a term in golf called ‘dogleg,’ which I never asked its beginnings, but when a hole isn’t straight, it’s termed a ‘dogleg left’ or a ‘dogleg right,’ alluding to which way it turns to get to the green. This hole is a ‘dogleg right.’ Sometimes it’s ‘slight’ and just as often they can be ‘severe.’
With the honors back, Mitchell put a nice shot to the left of the trap that signifies the turn to the right.
Knowing this course, as well as I do, Cory handed me the driver ... before I was even sure, I wanted to use it. As she handed it to me, she said, “Do it, JM!” That always motivates me.
I aimed at the trees to the right of the trap and swung as hard as I may have ever swung in my entire life. The ball went exactly where I aimed, and we all started to walk. I heard people saying, ‘Isn’t that OB over there?’ and ‘How does he hit it so far?’
As we all got to Mitchell’s shot. Cory and I walked ahead on the right as he was preparing to hit.
He got a four-iron to land softly and just make it on the green to applause from the growing crowd. We all walked over to where I’d expected to find the ball, but it wasn’t there.
Somebody said, “There are two balls on the green!” so Cory and I walked up and found my ball 60 feet past the pin, but it was on the green. I marked it and saw a flat red spot on it, meaning it must have bounced on the cart path to end up on the green.
“I need a ruling, Coach! The ball looks damaged,” I said.
The Club professional, Jeff Jablonsky, came up and saw the ball and said, “Mitchell, come here, please? To be considered unusable, all players must agree it is.”
He said from where he stood, “I don’t have to see it, Sir ... I believe John!”
“OK, Johnny, replace the ball,” Jeff said. “Oh, I have never seen anyone put the ball on the green on this hole off the Championship Tee ... May I keep this ball and display it at the golf shop?”
“Certainly, Sir,” I said as I very carefully put the replacement ball exactly where I picked up the damaged one.
I asked Mitchell to play first, and he two-putted for par.
Cory got behind me as she usually did to help me line up the putt; a two-putt from this distance is all I could expect.
“About halfway there it moves right, JM,” my sister said.
I practiced a swing, and she said, “‘Never up ... Never in,’ hit it hard enough.” I got behind the ball and visualized, as she would often tell me to do, and stroked the putt. It never had the chance ... after three-quarters of the way there it went right as she saw ... but started to roll again picking up some pace and to the surprise of everyone there, except Cory ... the damn thing went in the hole ... a natural eagle.
The crowd, now up to about fifty or so people all went crazy, even Mitchell gave a fist pump, as Cory picked up the bag and got alongside me.
“I would never have seen or played that putt that way without you, Sis ... I love you!”
She slapped me on the shoulder saying, “Don’t get all mushy on me, there are still fifteen holes to go ... you are two shots up!”
Hole #4 – Par-Five – 600 yards
Mitchell came alongside me and said, “If you drive this green, I am giving up golf completely and will be content to watch you win a shitload of professional tournaments.”
“If the wind was behind us, and the fairways were harder, my brother could do it really easily,” Cory proudly said.
Of course, I didn’t drive the green, but I birdied the hole to Mitchell’s par ... Three Shots up!
Hole numbers five and six were Par-Four’s, which we both had pars on.
Hole #7 – Par-Three – 303 yards
I have never even birdied this hole. It’s tough! I walked to Cory and asked, “What do you think, Beautiful?”
She did a double take and got flustered for a second, but said, “The wind is coming from behind us a little, long is OB ... I think a two-wood, tee it low and aim left of the green.”
“From your lips to god’s ears,” I said as she handed me the two-wood.
“Choke up a little on it, JM,” she said backing away as I practiced a swing or two, after re-gripping.
I addressed the ball moving my feet a little left, and took an easy swing, causing a low fast runner rolling to the first cut of the green, but was still 55 feet from the hole, with the pin cut way back.
Mitchell laid up about 50 yards short and left. He put his second shot right by the pin for an easy par.
My ball was below my feet, so the putter wouldn’t be smart. Cory handed me an eight-iron, saying, “Accelerate through contact, so it will land and release.”
She hasn’t steered me wrong so far, so I took a practice swing, and she went over to the flag.
I hit it, just as she had suggested, and it went up, dropped, and released going into the hole. I raised my eight-iron proudly with my first ever birdie on this monster Par-Three.
The crowd roared in response.
“I want 20% when I am your caddy on the professional tour JM?” she said with a meaningful-looking smile. “You called me Beautiful, why?”
“Silly girl, you are very pretty ... it’s too bad we’re brother and sister,” I said.
“Are you perving on your little sister?” she said, now grinning at me.
“Maybe,” I said as I walked to the next tee.
When the day was over, Mitchell had a three over par 75 ... and I had my first under par 18-hole round of golf ... a 66, a Junior record for the course.
Mom and Dad gave both Cory and me great big hugs and left. Mitchell came over and said, “Wow, John ... that was fun watching you play so well, I gladly give up my number-one ranking to the best golfer I have seen since I watched Tiger at the 2001 Masters!”
“You went to see the Masters? Holy Moses ... Wow Mitchell!” I said.
From that moment on, he and I became good friends. We won the Valley Championship all four years I went there, getting a Golf Scholarship to go to UNLV, which was only an hour from where we lived. I got off-campus housing due to Dad giving them a large endowment for the Golf Program. It didn’t hurt that Jeff Jablonsky had gone there.
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