I thought maybe I’d shift gears and write a story about a more recent occurrence. My wife and I are golfers, (which is to say she’s a golfer and I golf – there’s a difference). As this story is being published, we are enjoying the Phoenix Open together, hoping to brush shoulders with Tiger Woods. Since a young boy, I have believed it to be very important for couples to not only have shared goals, but also to have shared activities. There are very few women who have better hand-eye coordination than my wife. That is to say, I’m sure there are lots of them, but I personally have never known one single woman who can attempt a sport and master it so quickly.
In 1997 I broke my leg in a serious softball injury, playing in a coed league with my wife. I will write this story someday, but for now I share this information because when I broke my leg, the doctors told me I could no longer participate in running sports. What? No more basketball? No more softball? I have to do ‘something’. I’m not going to bowl 365 days a year! So the following Spring, we began golfing together. Wouldn’t you know it – my wife shot a hole-in-one that very first year. I still remember the date – August 14th, 1998 at a golf course named Pleasant Hill in Middletown, Ohio.
She called my dad, (an excellent golfer), to brag. “Bob, I got a hole-in-one!”
My (ever-so-eloquent) Dad – “You gotta’ be shittin’ me. I’ve been golfing for 52 years and never once got a hole-in-one”.
Thus began our many golf journeys.
We lived in Ohio from ’94 to ’04 and for those last six years we golfed every year in couples’ leagues, alone as a pair and on several fun trips to AZ, the Carolinas and French Lick, IN. We found the game of golf to be a great way to make good friends and to meet other like-minded people (i.e. People who like to hit teeny balls from hundreds of yards away into a tiny hole we cannot see from where we are hitting from).
In late 2004 we were asked to relocate to California, (by the authorities). The following Spring we picked our golf game back up. We called around, asking each of the public courses what leagues and activities they had for couples. Couples leagues? What the heck are you talking about? That’s pretty much the response we were getting from all the courses. We finally found a course in Roseville, (home of Summer Sanders), where they said they had a ‘couples’ get together’ each week on Friday nights.
So we gave it a try. It was just ‘ok’, a bit too unorganized for our taste, not like what we were used to in Ohio. We tried reaching out a bit, striking up conversations with the other couples, but making a connection seemed to be a bit more difficult than what we had encountered in Ohio. So we started asking around a bit more with the public course employees and other golfers and what we found was that here in California there really is not the level of couples’ golf at public courses like there is in the Midwest.
What was left; private courses, country clubs. We were scheduled to be in California for 5 years. Our neighbors were difficult to get to know and neither Kim, nor I came up with anyone we felt we could connect with at our workplaces. So we began searching the golf country clubs. We had quite a few to choose from but unlike today, the initiation fees were quite expensive. Today, most clubs are pretty much paying members to join. For the most part, country clubs are in deep trouble (Link). Ours has been in steady decline for a number of years. It’s a bit sad to watch and the jury is out as to whether or not it will be here 10-20 years from now.
Anyway, we did finally find a club that was relatively competitive in cost at the time and close enough to our home. When we joined our club in 2005, we knew nothing of country club rules or protocols. We had previously only ever golfed on public courses and had no need for a private course. One of those protocols has to do with something called “hole-in-one insurance” (or just insurance, for short).
We joined the club in July. Just three short weeks after joining, Kim’s sister and husband came to stay with us for a week. Rick bought a week’s pass at our club and he and I planned to play several mornings. On one of those mornings, we were by ourselves as a twosome with a full field. We stepped up to hole number seven which was a 140 yard par 3. The hole was invisible from the tee box that day as it was tucked directly behind the right side bunker, maybe 120 yards that day. I teed off first; a perfect soft 8-iron. When a golf shot hits the ‘sweet spot’ of the club, you don’t feel a thing – there’s very little sound due to no vibration.
When the ball left my club, it felt perfect but due to the closeness of the hole to the bunker, (and my personal knowledge of my performance), all I could think was ‘please don’t go in the bunker’. I saw the ball miss the bunker and I didn’t see it after that. I felt it was a good shot, but was afraid it ran to the back of the green without my being able to see it. Truth be told, I didn’t want to get my hopes up to be letdown.
Rick got up next and hit his shot. We had a cart that day and so on the short ride to the green, he was joking that it might be in the cup. I had never had an ace before so of course I was thinking we would find it off the green somewhere. We got out of the cart. I headed to the back of the green and Rick to the cup. And that’s when Rick showed a big, wide grin and said, “hey Rob, look here in the cup”.
Sure enough, I had shot an ace, a hole-in-one! Aces and eagles, (2 shots below par for the hole), are always thrilling to see no matter who shoots it. Rick and I threw up the high-fives with each other, big smiles and grins. It actually is a bit surreal getting your first ace.
There was a foursome of older men behind us. While we were on the green of number seven, we could see them on the green of number six. I guess they saw our high-fiving as the next thing we know, here comes one of the old dudes flying up to our green in his cart (the only time these old guys play fast). My assumption was that he was coming up to congratulate me. (Aw, that’s so nice.)
His name, (I found out later), was George. George – “did it go in the cup?”
Me – wide grin on my face, “yes!”
George – “you have insurance?”
Me – at first I just stared. My mind was racing….what the hell? I was thinking to myself – what the heck?…..what kind of a country club is this that people ride up to you and try to sell you insurance?!? Next then my blank stare turned to one of gradual indignation. At 100% indignation level, (and a furrowed brow), I just looked back at George and said to him, “well of course I have insurance!”
George – now with a somewhat confused look, he says “no, no, no…I mean hole-in-one insurance.”
Me – “what the heck is that?”
George – now smiling, “you’d better get the Hell out of here”.
And with that, George rode off into the sunset…or back to #7 tee box.
There’s an old saying about it being better to be lucky than to be good. I think that was made up to describe my game. Most golfers go their whole lives without a hole-in-one. I have since shot one more, plus an amazing “hole-in-three” (first shot in the water, re-tee, next shot in the cup). No one tried to sell me insurance.