I keep thinking how easy it was to lose a ball on the easiest of shots as I prepare for my next stop: Crosswater.

Crosswater trek

The drive down Highway 97 takes you by the High Desert Museum and Lava Lands Visitor Center, its massive flow visible from the road.

I'm playing with one outstanding player and two weaker ones, so we pick a middle set of tees, more reasonable than the for-masochists-only back ones from which Crosswater plays to 7,683 yards.

It's not until the fifth, a long par four, that the real game begins. The drive there must clear threebends of the Little Deschutes, after which comes an approach to a green tucked behind a marsh. But my drive reaches dry land and the second shot does too. What, me worry?

The next hole, a par five, has wetlands before the green too, but it's a routine short iron shot for a decent player, meaning only a real clunker will get you wet. And . . . well, it happens. Just like that. Lost ball one.

The carry over lost-ball-land is short on the next hole too, meaning only an idiot still fretting over a previous disaster could fall prey. Lost ball two. There's one left in my bag.

On the next hole, wind catches my shot to the green, pulling it back, but it lands over a marsh -- by five feet. A reprieve. Then my pitch rolls into the hole. There's hope.

I still have one dry ball when we reach Crosswater's 12th hole, called Endless, and it is -- a par five that runs 600 yards even from the middle tees, all along water. The blessing here is that a course marshal warns us we're playing too slowly -- all that searching for balls -- so we rush through it. There's no time to think about the peril.

When we reach the 18th, I recall how the winner of last year's senior tour event, the JELD-WEN Tradition, found trouble there. But I follow our ace and play a three-wood off the tee, then an iron home. So what if it's a three-putt finish?

As we have a drink on the patio, the man I'd met in the pro shop five hours earlier finally comes trudging up. I don't have to ask, "How many?" He says right out, "Too many to count. I ran out of fingers." He never asks if I made it with my three balls. Too bad. I had that one lonely survivor in my hand, ready to show him.