The first hole at Airco Golf Course gave me the creeps. It was a straight-ahead par 5 with a few trees down the left and right of the fairway. But a chain link fence down the right side separated the course from the road and hotels around the course adjacent to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport.
The fence didn't look like it was in play, but as a junior golfer with a terrible slice, it was always in play for me. When people brought up Airco, my first image was that hole, with the ball sailing over the fence, hitting the road, bouncing 40 feet in the air and landing in a retention ditch.
The course had much better holes, but I remember only the first one. With the course less than an hour from closing forever Sunday, it was time to grab the sticks and play it one last time.
The fairway looked like one of the giant runways at the airport. I told myself not to look right and swing away. The drive had a slight fade, but it landed right in the middle of the fairway. The next shot was a 3-iron that bounded under a tree about 20 yards from the hole on the left side. The left side! There was no way I was going over the fence this time.
As I grabbed my clubs to walk to the next shot, my inclination was to fix the fairway divot. What did that matter? Tomorrow the course would be just another plot of land in eastern Pinellas County. Divot, schmivot.
After my third shot rolled to within 6 feet of the hole, I grabbed my putter and sat my clubs down on the green. That's another golfing no-no, but again, what did it matter?
The birdie putt lipped out (some things never change), and I tapped in for par. Now when somebody mentions Airco, I'll think about that first hole, making par and walking back to the clubhouse as the sun sank below an airplane hangar.