Even so, we gentlemen weren't giving up much advantage to the ladies. Laid out back in 1964 by Dick Wilson, the original architect of Doral's Blue Monster, Bay Hill and Royal Montreal, Royal Oak is a par seventy-one that runs 6,709 yards from the blue tees and 6,257 yards from the whites. Replete with doglegs in both directions, lined by oak trees dripping with moss and punctuated with water hazards in play on at least ten holes, the course rewards accuracy and power in almost equal measure.
The opening hole at Royal Oak is a sharp-dogleg-right par four with Bermuda-rough mounds, a thin stand of trees on the inside corner and a pond looming on the outside flank that can drown tee shots that are too long and too straight. On the fateful morning of our match, the hole was playing 367 yards from the blue tee markers and 352 yards from the whites.
Lorie led off, ripping a power fade across the inside corner of the dogleg. The crowd of fellow Canadians responded with a round of rousing, if obviously unsurprised, cheers. Linda and Danny followed with somewhat safer tee shots down the left and middle sections of the fairway that prompted more cheers. Having battled a balky driver all season long, I felt a powerful urge to run to the rest room and throw up. But I somehow managed to keep my stomach and my too-quick tempo in check and launched a respectable bunt fade toward the inside corner on pretty much the same line as Lorie's drive.
"Thank you very much, enjoyed it," I said, as the crowd responded with a quite obviously surprised chorus of cheers. "See you guys in the bar."
Instead of packing it in while I was more or less ahead of the game, however, I plopped down in the shotgun seat of Lorie's golf cart and rode with her down the fairway. Upon arriving at the landing area, I made the regrettable error of walking directly over to the longest ball. It turned out to be Lorie's. She had eighty-nine yards left to the middle of the green, which meant that she had hit her drive a tad over 260 yards. I, on the other hand, had 119 yards left to the middle. After subtracting the advantage Lorie had back on the tee, I realized that she'd still outhit me by fifteen yards. I silently swore that would not happen again.
I swallowed my wounded male pride and punched a three-quarter nine-iron shot about fifteen feet from the pin. Lorie complimented me with a smile and a nod, then fired a wedge straight at the flag. From the fairway it looked like she had a gimme birdie, but when we reached the green, I saw that she had actually come up about thirty feet short.
I did my best to stifle a smirk when Lorie misjudged the speed of her approach putt, leaving herself a six-footer to save par. Feeling certain of snatching a quick one-up lead if I didn't get too aggressive, I cozied my approach putt to six inches and tapped in for par. Lorie calmly proceeded to drain her six-footer for a halve. "I consider myself a very good putter," she informed me as we returned to the cart.