Forget Mother Nature — Fred Mullins brought spring to Schenectady’s Municipal Golf Course Thursday morning.
At 9:04 a.m., Mullins sent a golf ball on a 150-yard flight over the grass at the Oregon Avenue layout. “It’s out there,” said Mullins, 64, who lives in Schenectady and received positive reviews from golfers who watched the first drive of the new season.
“Is that Freddie Mullins?” asked a man standing above the first tee, on the cart path. “THE Freddie Mullins?”
Mullins just smiled. Even though temperatures were still in the 30s, the sun was high and winds were low — nearly perfect spring weather as Muni opened for its first day of 2014.
Golfers, like other spring athletes, have been vexed by a long winter. Municipal, which opened last year on April 8, had to postpone Wednesday’s inaugural because of snow. Guys like Mullins and his partner, Dan Cole, say they have to make up for lost time.
“Two years ago, we got started in the middle of March,” said Mullins, who works as a teacher at the Neil Hellman School, part of the Parsons Child and Family Center. He also works part time at Muni.
Other golfers, most dressed in wind shirts and sweaters, were glad to finally have the chance to hit and walk, and follow Titleists and Pinnacles around fairways, roughs and greens. “If I get too damn cold, I’ll just go home,” said George Scott, 69, of Colonie. “Sometimes, you just have to go.”
Scott was in the foursome that teed off just after the Mullins-Cole team. Scott said he’ll play 120 rounds of golf at Muni between April and late autumn. “They call us the roadrunners. We don’t hold anybody up,” Scott said. “You can’t catch up to us unless you’re a twosome, and even then you might not catch up.”
Cole, 59, launched his first drive a little right. “It’s in the fairway,” said Cole, a salesman at Metro Ford.
“But it’s the wrong one,” added the helpful Mullins, figuring his friend was a little closer to the adjoining fairway for the 18th hole.
The guys walked to their balls, passing small amounts of snow in tree groves. Mullins rolled his clubs on a three-wheeled cart; Cole carried his blue, 40-pound bag over his back.
Mullins loves to walk the course and visits Municipal during the autumn and winter off-seasons. “I’ll walk the 18 holes just for the exercise,” he said.
Mullins bought a little extra exercise looking for his ball. “I don’t think I came this far,” he said, walking near a few trees. “It will be round, it will be white … there it is, I’ve got it.”
Mullins swung a 6-iron and put his Pro V1 close to the green. Cole, from another direction, met his partner on the short grass. “Good chip, Danny,” Mullins said. “Very nice.”
Mullins was in the cup in five. Cole needed three putts and settled for a seven. “So we start off with a bogey,” Mullins said.
The guys moved to the second hole. Mullins, with honors, belted his shot off the tee.
“I missed it,” Cole said, scanning the sky. “Right down the middle,” said Mullins. “That will work. I’ll take that.”
A hawk flew overhead. “We used to have a lot of turkeys here,” Mullins said, of Municipals’ nonplaying residents. “Last year, I didn’t see that many of them. Maybe because the fox moved in.”
Cole hit into the fairway, but his second shot again veered right — toward a sea of brown leaves under another stand of trees. “Hit something hard,” Cole pleaded to his Pinnacle.
The ball went into the leaves. “It just died in there,” Cole said. “You hit the ground hard,” Mullins said.
Cole recovered, and put the ball about 40 yards from the green. He was a little too strong on the next shot, which soared over the green. Another recovery, and both men were in the cup in seven strokes, two over par.
Sixteen holes were still ahead. The weather was warming up.
“Everybody you talk to has been dying to play,” Cole said. “Bad golf is better than no golf.”
By 10 a.m., 23 golfers were alive at Municipal. “You see the sun come out, the first thing you want to do is go out and play,” said Matt Daley, the course’s head pro.
The only problem on Thursday, he added, was rust. After the winter break, some guys needed a little time on the driving range and putting green.
“You can always tell the guys who went to Florida,” he said, “and the guys who didn’t.”