Red played on Saturday with a gentleman about Red’s age and two young studs who both thought they were pretty hot shit. It gave Red enormous pleasure to beat the studs on several holes. No doubt they bested Red on the final score card (thanks to a few rather errant shots to the green), but on any given hole Red could compete with these young Adoni. Which at Red’s advanced age is a reason to keep going out there.
And a special note to the player who decided it was too much trouble to rake the trap on the Par-3 15th hole where Red’s ball landed right in the depression in the sand where you took your shot – You Suck! I hope your next ball buries in the lip.
Red, as they say, is no spring chicken. A few years ago he could still play soccer – albeit with the players on the U10 team he was coaching – but the lines on the curves crossed and soon it was best to watch from the sidelines during practice. So as to competitive sports, the options were considerably narrowed.
Thinking himself still a bit too young for shuffleboard, Red continued playing golf and even surprised himself at times with a respectable round here and there. The good rounds are fun, but golf is mostly in the doing. Too much of life is watching – movies, football games, theatre, music and other events. Red likes to be the one doing and golf – however ultimately pointless it may seem – consists almost entirely of doing. Yes, there is the camaraderie and exercise – Red likes to walk the course whenever possible and challenges any normal human over age 45 to go out and walk 18 on a steamy August afternoon and tell him they aren’t just a little bit tired afterwards. But mostly, it is the doing of golf – picking the right club, making the correct swing, lining up the putt properly – all while attempting to craft a decent score on the hole that you are playing. Golf at its best consists entirely of that improbable moment when Red takes a crooked stick and makes a small white ball do exactly what he wants in the garden that is any particular golf hole.
And finally there is this – on any given hole on any given day, Red can do better than the absolutely best athletes in the sport. That could have never happened on a basketball court with NBA players; but it could happen at Pebble Beach where with a respectable drive and a well-placed 7-iron Red might just have a better score than Phil Mickelson on the par-4 16th. And just like that, Red takes a skin from Lefty. How sweet would that be?
Red has played golf since his Dad bought him a set of clubs for Christmas the year Red’s mother passed away. Red was 10 and as you can imagine, kind of lost without even knowing it. Red doesn’t recall that he played a round of golf with his Dad much more than a handful of times, but that doesn’t really matter. His Dad gave him something that would last a lifetime. “Red, all those games you like to play now are great; but when you get older, the game everyone will be playing is golf and you’d best learn it now.” When Dad was right, he was really right.
Shortly after that Christmas, Red’s Dad joined a second-rate country club (we’ll call it BCC). BCC was beyond the outskirts of town then and something of a getaway from the house where the ghostly presence of Mom seemed all too real and painful. The clubhouse at BCC was adequate, there was a very nice pool with 1 and 3 meter boards, some tennis courts, a shack of a pro shop and a 9-hole cow pasturish golf course.
Red got his first golf lesson along with some other kids from the pro – who was undoubtably pretty desperate to take a job at BCC. The instruction was probably adequate but not particularly inspiring. The pro did impart some valuable lessons about golf etiquette and respect for the course – a subject on which Red could pontificate for quite some time. “When you are walking on the green, it’s like you are walking on $100 bills.” He was also able to teach Red some of the basics. Red pretty much still uses the same grip and stance that he learned on that first Saturday on the driving range at BCC.
Red immediately liked the game and it helped that his friend John and some others wanted to play and that Red could occasionally take them out to play at BCC. There were not many golfing options in Red’s hometown back then and BCC was not a bad place for a young golfer to work on his game. And man, you felt grown up when you were out on the golf course playing with your friends at your country club in between two foursomes of men or the occasional women. It all sounds a bit more idyllic that it probably was – but Red has learned not to mess with memories too much.
Red distinctly remembers the first time he hit a ball off the first tee. It may be hard for some to believe, but it was an exciting moment – at least for 2-3 seconds. The ball came crisply off Red’s driver and started straight down the fairway before taking a sharp right turn onto the driving range and golfing purgatory. But it was a glorious 2-3 seconds and Red was hooked (or in this case sliced).
To be continued . . .