How about a sports story this week? I spent last weekend up in Tahoe on a golf trip with my wife and another couple. We were all celebrating our wedding anniversaries, (as mentioned in this story). The weather was very cooperative and we all had a great time.
Written about in this story, (link), my dad was a really good golfer who carried close to a zero handicap for all of his life. He never had an ace, a hole-in-one though. I am a so-so golfer, but luck has certainly shined my way in the game of golf. It’s better to be lucky than good, right?
As a child, my dad went golfing every chance he got. Like today, golf was an expensive hobby so we kids didn’t really get introduced to the sport except as a spectator or to shag balls (link). The only other time I was invited out to the golf course with Dad was to serve beer.
Yup, you heard me right. Dad was apparently in charge of arranging refreshments for a work related golf outing one year. It was held at one of the local Hamilton golf courses, Potter’s Park.
The 9th hole at Potter’s was a nice uphill par 4 with a small pond on the left side near the tee box. In the wintertime, they would allow us kids to go snow sledding there. Near the frozen pond, there was always a nice fire going for the parents. No doubt those thermoses had a little more than warm coffee in them if they were smart. On a few occasions, Dad took us and my childhood friend Timmy (link) there for sledding. Facing downhill, we smaller kids would usually take to the right side of the hill, with the challenge being to see if any of us could sled our way all the way to the bottom, near the creek. On occasion, one of us would take out an innocent ‘sledder’ trying to make his or her way back up the hill. You might say that this was my introduction to the sport of bowling. Snow sledding at Potter’s is one of my favorite childhood memories.
But, back to golf….
Or should I say, back to the young teens serving beer to drunken golfers as they made a turn near the serving area. I had been hanging out with a kid named Colin Cole at the time. We had just begun our friendship when Dad asked if I wanted to ‘man’ the drink station. I think I was 14, possibly 15 at the time. Colin would have been a year younger and I’m not certain, but my little brother Steve might have been there too.
There used to be a large gazebo-like covered area near the clubhouse. Dad showed us how to work the pump on the beer barrel and instructed us to pour out a plastic cup of beer for anyone coming by wanting one. Naturally, every golfer wanted some free beer so we stayed busy. We also got pretty busy tasting the beer for ourselves. This is my earliest memory of actually getting physically drunk. When my dad made it around at the end of his round, he laughed and introduced us to his friends, “and that’s my drunken son”. That’s an exact quote.
In terms of the actual sport of golf, I didn’t really golf my first full round until after getting married. Just before our first son was born, Kim and I tried to take it up. We also asked my dad out as a teacher. I thought it might be a good opportunity to get closer to Dad. I even called and invited him out a few times on weekends that Kim worked, but he took me up on the offer only a couple of times.
Kim picked up the sport pretty quickly. Way back then, (around 1980/81), neither of us were really very good but Kim has better natural ability. I can be good at something, but I have to practice and work at it much more than Kim. After Mitch was born, we tried to keep it up but golfing then was a logistics nightmare. Not only is a round of golf not cheap, but also we had to arrange for a babysitter. This became a huge hassle’ (and too tempting to keep on running), and as a result, we could only get in maybe just a round per month. One round per month without my having Kim’s talent was just too frustrating for me. I remember clearly going out to Potter’s with Kim once, only to announce I was no longer golfing after the 9th hole; I would caddy for her the rest of the round, but golf was no fun – I think I shot about a 70 on that 9, (that’s a horrible score for you non-golfers…aka smart people). We quit golfing after that and didn’t pick it back up until 1998, after I broke my leg in ’97 (link).
So I told the story already about my first ace and the guy I thought was trying to sell me insurance (link). What I didn’t describe though was that another 5 years or so later, I got another one. That one was more cool because I was able to watch it go into the cup. We were with another couple, golfing on a Saturday at the same club as my first ace. It was a different par 3, but the pin was tucked behind a bunker, just as before. This time though, I could see the cup. I struck the ball with a pitching wedge and it was a perfect shot that hit a couple of feet before the cup and rolled right in. We all high-fived on the green and Pete, (the man of the couple we were with), took the picture you see below. As I said at the beginning of the story, the golf gods have smiled on me a few times.
As luck would have it, I damn near got another ace the following Saturday. I kid you not! We were with the same couple and the pin was positioned in the exact same spot on the same hole as the previous Saturday. It was almost surreal – I hit the exact same shot as before with the same club. The ball landed almost in the same spot but this time rolled a couple of inches beyond the cup. That would have been crazy had it gone in the cup. Still…..a memorable weekend.
The golf gods were not yet finished doling out good fortune on me. Perhaps they’re paying me back for all the lack of sports successes otherwise? A couple of years ago, my wife and I were down in Phoenix visiting our son Corey. Tim, (link), was with us on this trip so he went golfing with us in Scottsdale.
McCormick Ranch, the Palm Course, hole #8. From roughly 155 yards away, I could see the terrible slope of the green and the only thing I was thinking was I did not want to putt that green. The greens had been running very fast that day anyway and from the tee box, the cup looked to me like it was cut right on the right side slope. Golf is a mental game – probably why I’m so bad at it. Take your mind off of your shot for even a fraction of a second and it will be enough to screw you over. And it did – PLOP! My shot went right into the pond that was located between me and the green.
According to the rules of golf, I could have moved forward and dropped my ball behind the pond for my next shot. I also had the option of re-teeing on the box. Either way, I was going to hit my third shot (penalty point for the water). Still, I continued to think about that green and how I was dreading the putting. I was probably looking at scoring a six. We golfers absolutely hate triple bogeys!
But dear old Golf God once again felt sorry for me. I re-teed, thinking oh well, maybe the tee shot will be a little better than a grass shot. We had been paired up with an older gentleman. Tim and Kim had already driven up to the green – not very courteous golf etiquette I might say but perhaps they knew something that I did not. I remember hitting a seven iron, a perfect seven iron that hit the green….and rolled right into the cup! A ‘hole-in-three’! That impressed even my youngest son. He was all smiles and like ‘WOW’, THAT WAS COOL!
It was cool! I’m more fond of sharing that golf story than either of my aces. Hitting a re-tee into the cup is far more rare than an ace. Lots of people get lucky and get aces, some even get more than one. Very, very few golfers will ever hit one into the cup on a par 3 after chunking one out of bounds or into the water.
Isn’t life a bit like this? My dad was a great golfer and yet, was not rewarded with an ace. Was his attitude and approach to life involved or is everything we do driven by chance? Who am I to say. We have such little control over where we were born, when we were born and to whom we were born. And yet, if we maintain a positive attitude and accept responsibility for our actions, life sometimes can be quite rewarding. I’ve written now almost 200 little short true life stories. Some of them were griping sessions over what I felt were shortcomings as a child. But yet, I’ve tried to adopt a positive outlook, especially in my last 20 years. And I’ve benefitted – I’ve been lucky and I am very thankful. I have a wonderful family, a wonderful marriage and the past dozen plus years have been the best of my life. I don’t want it to end, but I know it will. Hopefully, there are a few more Aces in store for me and if not, maybe I’ll get lucky after I’ve chucked one into the waters.