We set out on a Friday morning instead of Thursday night. There would be no driving until midnight on this trip. It was time to make our journey back to La Grande. Following the lightning strikes that kept us from playing in early June. The tournament was rescheduled for the middle of August. This trip would be shortened to just the weekend. Where our usual trip during the early part of June lasts three days, this would be quick. Going in on Friday, to play the tournament on Saturday, and leave early Sunday. The experience would have a different feel from years past. Something I was cautiously looking forward to would be the different weather. La Grande can still be carrying a bit of a chill in early June. Though we often have temperatures calling for shorts, it has never been hot. August was likely to provide us with a different situation. I often think of Eastern Oregon as similar to Eastern Washington. Where the air is, dry and feels more like the desert. Without the trees and greenery, we have on the western side of each state. One of the aspects of the eastern parts of these states has been the farms. Usually spreading as far as the eye can see, tucked between the rolling hills. Sights we were able to enjoy this time, on our daytime drive down to La Grande.
We started out the tournament on Saturday morning, ideally. The brother of my buddy, who has always been our great host, birdied the first hole without help. Then, scorched a drive off the second tee, landing just right of the fairway. He was off to a great start. Giving our team the best start we had ever made. The sun was warming up the day, as we battled through the front nine holes. Making a couple more birdies and some bogies to balance the day. When we moved to the tee-box of the tenth hole, I believe we stood at even. Three birdies and three bogies, continuing our best tournament to that point. For me, the brilliant sunshine made the day hot. In the upper 80’s for most of the tournament. Though, they had started us an hour earlier than we usually start in June. The 9:00 start time would have us off the course prior to the hottest portion of the day. Still, the dry heat could be felt and water was at a premium. Traveling to La Grande in the middle of August and playing golf was concerning. I had the idea in my head around the heat being overwhelmingly bothersome. Remembering summer days in my childhood and teen years, when high temperatures really took a toll. Leaving me feeling horribly uncomfortable. So, before we traveled to La Grande, I wanted to test myself. Try to get a feel for handling the kind of heat we might encounter. The temperatures can reach into the triple digits during the La Grande summers. I found a day a couple weeks prior to the trip and played golf in the heat.
I found a day in the later stages of July and headed up to Suncadia. The temperature was going to be in the mid to upper nineties that afternoon. The goal was to gain the feeling of playing in that kind of heat. I packed enough water and the plan worked perfectly. When I pulled off the freeway, my car told me it was ninety-eight degrees. Getting out of my car in the parking lot, the temperature had fallen to ninety-five. I felt like the evening would be a good representation of what we might see in La Grande. With water and a Gatorade inside the cart, I set out onto Prospector. The round of golf that day revealed something unexpected. There was never a feeling of discomfort during the entire afternoon/evening. I checked the temperature on the eleventh tee, which read ninety-one. By the time my round of golf had ended, just about at nightfall, the temperature was at eighty-nine. I had continuously sipped at my water jug and gone through one Gatorade. Never did I feel any discomfort from the heat. In fact, my body felt better than it often does. The heat had loosened the muscles, allowing me to make better swings with the golf club. I drove away from Prospector that night feeling confident about the upcoming trip to La Grande. Keeping in mind my solution of water and Gatorade to help me in the heat.
Following the plan, I had derived from playing Prospector. I grabbed a Gatorade with the lunch provided us after our ninth hole. My water intake had been consistent and the body felt good. The dry heat of La Grande was having a similar impact to Prospector. Loosening the muscles, making it easier to swing. We drove up the steep embankment and arrived on the tenth tee-box. Where, similar to the first tee-box, which sits higher up on the hill, we had a great view of the course below. Much of the course at Buffalo Peak sits in a kind of bowl, providing great looks out over the course from the higher positioned fairways and greens. A sight, I look forward to seeing again, throughout the year. We started through the back nine with a steady pace. Making just one bogey in the first few holes of the back. We rebounded with a birdie on the par-3 fifteenth. Which, like our host executed on the first hole. I was able to contribute our birdie of the fifteenth on my own. With a solid tee-shot that just carried the pond. Bounding up the hill and onto the elevated green. We walked off the green having gotten our score back to level par. With three challenging holes to navigate on our way to the clubhouse. We stumbled on our way in, making bogey on two of the final three holes. We finished our tournament with a two-over par 74. Which, was the best score we have posted in the four years of playing the event.
The tournament is put on each year to benefit the veterans in the community of La Grande. Something else for us to be proud of, besides our 74, was being one of only a few teams that remained intact through the rescheduling. I was excited we all made it back down to play in August. The extra heat helped my body to make more complete golf swings. Leading to some of the best golf I have ever played in the scramble format. We left the golf course satisfied, on that Saturday afternoon, looking forward to playing again in less than a year. The afternoon was spent running some errands around La Grande. After four years of traveling to the town, there become items we want to take home with us each year. We spend time gathering those things from the stores in town. Then, it was off to a nice dinner, surrounded by family and friends. Before, rising on Sunday morning for the six-hour journey back to Western Washington. It was fun to see the town of La Grande in a different light. In the middle of the summer heat, instead of the beginning of the season. I got to experience the heat of their summer days in August. Along with much warmer evenings from the ones we experience during the summer at home. There was never a chill in the air or the feeling of needing anything warm. I even think I got to see what is referred to as a “harvest moon.” So, bright in the sky, one could almost work under its glow. It gave me chills, as I thought of my late grandfather, a farmer. The August trip to La Grande will go down as positively memorable.