I just love stepping up to the first tee straight from the car at eight in the morning. No warm-up on the range, no putts on the practice green. Love it. You don't even know whether or not you'll be able to make contact, let alone hit the bloody fairway.
It wouldn't be all that bad if I was just out for a fun round, but today was a little different. I was invited to join Canucks all-star defenceman Ed Jovanovski and four others for a casual round at the stunning Furry Creek Golf and Country Club on Tuesday (May 4).
Rounding out the fivesome (we had to play five, the other three didn't show up) were Furry Creek's head professional Mike Zuccolin, sales manager Paul Nijjer, and Jovanovski's agent - a smiling English bloke by the name of Alfie.
I met the man they call "Jovo" on the first tee and could tell that he was one of those guys you could like right away. Firm handshake and a friendly smile, and just an easy-going aura.
So I stepped onto the first tee, which is at least a hundred feet above the fairway, hoping to find the short grass. I wasn't nervous, but you still don't want to embarrass yourself and dunk one in the water to start off the round.
So what did I do? Yep, you guessed it. Pulled a five-iron straight left into the hazard. Proceeded to make double. Nice start buddy. Jovo made a good par and I was already two down. I felt like dropping the gloves right on the green, but quickly decided against it. Jovo's a bit bigger than I am. On to the next hole.
Because we were on the golf course and not in the dressing room, I steered clear of any questions related to a guy named Bertuzzi - and definitely didn't ask him how he felt pulling his clubs out of his trunk instead of hockey gear.
I did ask him about Brian Burke, who only the day before our round had been let go by Canucks brass as GM. He shook his head in mild disgust and rolled his eyes before answering.
"I'm pretty disappointed," said the 6'2" blueliner from Windsor. "Brian's a great guy and he's always been really good to me. I think he got a pretty raw deal."
Then I asked him about the Calgary Flames, who the night before had pulled off yet another upset, beating the Detroit Red Wings in OT to advance to the final four.
"They're definitely on a roll," he said. "They took us all the way to seven games and played hard - I think they could go all the way."
As the round progressed, I forgot more and more about my assignment for the day and what I was going to write, and tried to concentrate on golf. For those of you who play, you know that four-letter words fly faster than a John Daly bomb when you're playing badly. And I'm not talking about the word fore. It was one of those rounds. I had a serious case of the pull/snap/duck hooks going on - so needless to say it wasn't pretty.
About the only thing pretty was the golf course itself. Standing on the 12th tee, hundreds of feet above the beauty of the Howe Sound, it's pretty easy to get swept away in the scenery of B.C.'s most scenic golf course.
"Wow, this is pretty awesome up here," said Jovo. "This is what it's all about. I just like coming out and relaxing - you're free and clear for four hours, and get to enjoy company of your friends."
Jovo played pretty solid all day. Like most hockey players, he gripped it too tight and tried to rip at it pretty good, but had a great set of hands for a big guy - which helped him get up and down a few times to save par.
As for myself, I pulled it together a little bit on the back nine but still wound up a little disappointed with the round. As we approached the 18th tee, sighs of relief filled our group. It's like that when nobody's having a stellar round, you're just happy that the punishment's over. After the round, I asked Jovo about the season. "It was a pretty successful year up to the playoffs - which ended in disappointment," he said. "But you've gotta look at the bright side."
I thought about this and then about the way I played. It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't raining either. I was getting paid to play. And the company was fabulous and the scenery was unbelievable. Then I thought about golf and hockey, and how Jovo must have felt when their playoff dreams died that night in Calgary. You may not always play your best, but you've always gotta look on the bright side.