Fallen Oak: Wind wasn’t a factor but talent surely was

Pro Tim Thelen, left, with un-pro Rick Cleveland on the first tee at Fallen Oak. (Photo by James Edward Bates for C Spire)
Pro Tim Thelen, left, with un-pro Rick Cleveland on the first tee at Fallen Oak. (Photo by James Edward Bates for C Spire)
Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland

BILOXI — I was cruising along through seven holes in the Mississippi Gulf Resorts Classic Wednesday Pro-Am at drop-dead gorgeous Fallen Oak.

I made two birdies, one for a net eagle, and an up-and-down par out of a deep bunker. More importantly, I hadn’t lost a single ball. That’s how I usually measure my golf game. That way, I don’t have to count nearly as high.

And then my group, including pro Tim Thelan, came to our eighth hole, the treacherous, par-3 17th. I took out my 3-hybrid for the 185-yard shot into the wind. I swung. I hit it about 100 yards, into the swamp. The wind was not a factor. Talent was. The ball never got three feet off the ground.

Then came Fallen Oak’s signature hole, the par-4 No. 18. My drive exited stage right, gone forever. My next shot hooked left into the water. That’s three lost balls on three straight shots, if you are keeping score.

Also if you are keeping score: Fallen Oak 3, Me 2. It got decidedly more one-sided.

But we had a blast. We shot 14-under and that and three bucks will get you a Grande at Starbucks.

Thelan helped me with my swing and told me about playing college golf at Houston Baptist with Colin Montgomerie.

“He was the worst putter I had ever seen when he first got there,” Thelan said. “Obviously, he got a lot, lot better.”

Thelan says Montgomerie first came to the U.S. to a military academy in Arizona, expecting to play on the golf team. They shaved his head, and when he asked about golf team tryouts, his fellow plebes said, “What golf team?”

So Montgomerie transferred to Houston Baptist where he learned to putt better and helped Houston Baptist become a small college golf power.

“We had a heckuva team there for a couple of years,” Thelan said.

We didn’t have such a great team Wednesday, but we did have fun. Fallen Oak would be fun to walk without clubs.

“You will never putt better greens than these,” Thelan said.

He’s right. I never have.

Those greens and the gorgeous golf course are likely to get soaked over night. Already, Thursday’s C Spire Pro-Am has been shortened to nine holes. Coaches Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen are expected to participate Thursday.

The 54-hole Mississippi Gulf Coast Resorts Classic Presented by C Spire will begin, weather permitting, Friday morning.

A not so classic finish. (Photo by James Edward Bates for C Spire)
A not so classic finish. (Photo by James Edward Bates for C Spire)

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