She had played in scrambles and nine holes here and there — once leaving a New Orleans course after spotting an alligator on it — but the one thing Marissa Clark never had done on a golf course was play her own ball for 18 holes.
Two weeks ago today, she was determined to change that and told her playing partner and husband, John, that she didn’t want to stop after 15 holes and walk to their house behind the 16th tee box at Lawrence Country Club. That was before she played the 15th hole.
“I blew up,” she said. “And I was so tired and kind of grumpy. I was like, ‘I’m not going to make it.’ Our house is right there, and I wanted to go home.”
John stepped in with words of encouragement that she remembered as, “You can do it. You can do it. It’s only three more holes.”
Their son Trevor, 16, joined them.
“That’s the gift of golf, right, when your 16-year-old still wants to hang out with you?” Marissa said.
She was grateful for John’s encouragement when she advanced her ball over the pond on her second shot, quite an accomplishment for a golfer playing her first full round.
“I have hit so many balls in the water, I want that pond named after me,” she said.
As dusk began to gather, the evening took a step from a pleasant family gathering to a journey into the surreal. John and Trevor hit their tee shots on par-3 No. 17, where the pin was back left, the cup’s view obstructed by a sand trap.
Marissa loves her 8-iron, but that’s not enough club for a beginner on a 120-yard hole.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to run up there and hit the bejeebers out of my 8-iron before John talks me into a 6 or a 4,’” Marissa said.
She recited her par-3 mantra: “I love my par-3’s, and this could be the day I get my hole in one.”
Her swing was so spot-on, her contact so pure, she wondered if she had missed the ball and even looked down to see if it still rested there. It didn’t. It got over the trap and took a big bounce forward.
“In the hole,” Trevor rooted.
“Go,” John said at first and then, deflated, “looks like it went over.”
They all looked for the ball and John eventually said what all golfers say: “Let’s just look in the hole.”
John: “There’s a ball in the hole.”
Marissa: “Yeah, right.”
Trevor: “There’s a ball in the hole.”
Marissa: “That is so mean. You guys are so mean. Knock it off and help me look for my ball.”
She finally looked in the hole and began screaming, “I just got a hole in one!” Young men on a nearby balcony waved beer cans.
Watching every Golf Channel “Haney Project” show had paid off. Already, Marissa Clark had gone where so many great golfers never will.