I was talking to my niece, Kime, at Facebook this morning. She posted that she’d played her first-ever round of golf yesterday—nine holes. She managed a gob of “Triple-boogeys”; that’s what she called them, which made me smile immediately and go into my giggling mode. I messaged her and told her that triple bogeys ain’t all that bad; that I’d tell her all about my first outing with my two older brothers when I was younger. Both of them were (are) scratch golfers. Kime said she’d love to hear all about it. So for Kime, here’s what happened.
Jim and Mike were very good, very patient, very looking forward to 18 holes and then the joy of reliving their (and my) successes at the 19th hole.
Now, I had never golfed, but I was pretty good at football—not so good at baseball. An ok fighter in the ring, although I was always afraid to hit my opponent very hard for fear of hurting him. Which was impossible due to the fact that, A) we were small kids. B) we wore 16 ounce gloves. For those of you who don’t know what those are, they’re much like pillows with soft leather coverings. The pros use 8 ounce gloves, which are very similar to molded blocks of cement. I never wanted to get that far in my short career in the ring.
Anyway. I’d never golfed, but Mike and Jim were certain I could master the game under their tutelage.
Now they both had very nice sets of clubs, polished golf shoes with the painful spikes on the soles and heels, and shiny new Titleist balls. I had none of these essentials; only a very positive attitude, and the word “Fore!” in my vocabulary. We went to Wellshire Municipal Golf Course out in southeast Denver, parked, and I was informed in the parking lot that I could use a set of Jim’s old clubs, and that he’d give me half a dozen of his old balls. The ones with smiles in them, in case I lost one in the rough.
So far, so good.
We entered the clubhouse. On the way I was given a short verbal tutorial about the game. The guy with the lowest score wins, which at first made no sense, but okay. The object was to throw a ball on the ground…actually tee it up…and then smack it straight down the “Fairway” as hard as you could. Kind of like baseball (which, as I said before, I sucked at), only you didn’t have to put up with ninety-five miles per hour pitches, curves, spitballs, or sliders. The ball would just sit there for you. How easy, I thought.
I blame a lot of what happened next on my raggedy old Converse All-Stars and the smiley-balls. You have to have the right equipment.
The tutorial having ended, our green fees taken care of, we wandered outside toward the first tee. On the way, Jim told Mike how proud he was of him for having hit two homeruns the previous week, one with the bases loaded. My position on the bench in the dugout got lost in the conversation; I suppose rightly so. I determined to make my older brothers proud of me, Converse all-Stars and smiley-balls notwithstanding.
Jim teed up first. I needn’t tell you how the professionals do it. That’s how he looked. He did all the right things (which looked very simple from where I stood), and whacked the ball. I had no idea where it went because that was before I had gotten my first pair of glasses. I was very nearsighted. But both he and Mike Ooohed.
Mike teed up next. Another pair of golfers gathered behind us and waited their turn. He did about the same, although his swing was a bit different than Jim’s. Still, I heard the “Thwack!” and squinted to see if I could follow the ball. Pointless.
“Okay, Paddy, you’re next. Get over here,” Jim said very brotherly.
“Which one of these clubs should I use first?” I teed up. The guys behind us waited.
“Try the 3 Wood,” Jim said.
“Which one is that?”
The two guys waiting snickered.
Jim came up and pulled the biggest looking one out of the bag and handed it to me. “This one.”
“Can I use one of your new balls? This one is crappy. It has a big gash in the side of it.”
“No. It’ll work fine. Just get over here and address the tee.”
I had NO idea what addressing the tee was all about. Was I supposed to speak to the little white wood thing sitting beneath that ball? Probably not, I figured, so I just did what I remembered seeing him and Mike doing.
“No, no, no,” Jim muttered as I stood there with the tip of my tongue clenched between my teeth, looking down, shaking my skinny hips a little. “It’s grip! You don’t have a bat in your hand. You have to interlock the index finger with the pinkey.
He showed me.
After several more, “No, no, nos”, some stance and arm adjustments—all of which made me feel like I was being tied in knots—after a few grumbles from the two guys waiting, I addressed the ball properly and rared back to swing.
Five frustrating minutes later, with half the grass around my tee chopped to smithereens and the two guys grumbling loudly, I connected. It was as hard as I could swing the club, and it was a miracle I hit that ball that suddenly looked like a marble hiding on the tee. But it sounded solid. I quit cussing and squinted down the fairway.
“Ah, Jesus Christ,” one of the waiters said.
Jim and Mike both just patted me on the back and said, “That’s okay, we’ll find it.” Jim turned to the pissed-off couple at the little bench behind us and said, “You fella’s go ahead and play through.”
On the way to search for the smiley-ball, Mike informed me that I’d been way behind in my swing, or something like that, and that that’s why I’d sliced it so badly.
“What if I’d been ahead of my swing?”
“Then we’d be tromping through the overgrowth on the opposite side of the fairway. But thank God it didn’t go too far.”
That was true, and a good thing I suppose. We only had to walk twenty yards off the tee into the rough. My brothers had twenty-twenty vision, or else God only knows if we’d ever have found the damned thing.
But we did eventually find it, hiding under a huge cottonwood tree. Right between a pair of gigantic roots.
To be continued...