Thursday, December 27, 2012
I had a golf dream last night--as real as anything surreal can be. I was on a course that somehow blended the grounds of Hiram College (which I attended) and Western Reserve Academy (where I taught for a while). I was in a threesome but cannot for the life of me remember who the other two were--only that both were far better than I, not a major achievement. And why we were smashing golfballs on a college/school campus is unknowable.
I remember that, off to my right (never a safe place to be when I'm hitting) was a very energetic young couple copulating on the grass. He, I recall, was making lots of noise. She seemed oddly placid--detached (well, intellectually), as if she were thinking about her next class. (Don't worry, worried readers: I didn't recognize either lover.)
I had to borrow a club, borrow a ball, which I promptly hit somewhere unimaginable, and then the sound of a snowplow woke me from what, as far as I can remember, is the only golf dream I ever had.
The picture at the left shows lots of verdure on the course today. It has not been ever thus. They did not irrigate when I was a lad, so except for a few lush hours in the early spring, the grass was khaki colored most of the year. And--could this be true?--the "greens" were packed sand. It was a brown experience, playing golf in Enid. The other feature of the course? Ground squirrels, popping up their heads everywhere from their burrows. (I wonder how many got bonked over the years?)
My mother, I remember, said that I could play. She gave me a ball. Then she told me she would hit my first shot over the lake for me. Swing. Plop! Splash! Buh-bye, Danny's ball. She did not have another extra (so she claimed), so I walked along with her the rest of the morning, caddying, feeling vaguely betrayed, a feeling that has deepened over the decades and has now achieved a pure certainty.
Later, after we moved to Hiram, Ohio, I learned to play with Dad and my little brother, Davi, on the Chestnuts Hills course, now defunct, in Ravenna, about a dozen miles south. It, too, was a nine-holer, with only two par-four holes. Not much to worry about, except for slicing on the first tee, which I invariably did. I would guess that whoever bought that land found the Land of Lost Golf Balls off to the right of the first tee--a Smaugian treasure-pile of golf balls, many of which were mine.
There was another hole nestled against a fence separating the course from Maple Grove Cemetery. Once, over-clubbing, I hit my tee shot onto the roof of a maintenance building in the cemetery grounds. Don't know if that building is still there--but if there's a dent in the roof, it's mine.
And--confession is good for the soul--I once hurled my pitching wedge into that same green from, oh, twenty yards away, where I'd just demonstrated how not to pitch. The club flew far farther than the ball, landed mid-green and excavated an impressive divot. Which I repaired with more alacrity than skill.
Even later, a teaching colleague of my mother's, Rudy Kelker, converted his Garrettsville, Ohio, farm into a course--called Sugarbush (still flourishing)--which Davi actually helped to build (in a sort of go-fer fashion). We played there a lot, and it was there that I saw that I was going to forever suck in golf. And worse: My little brother was going to be better--a lot better. (True: He played on his high school team and became a scratch golfer.)
And that left me a single option--quitting. Which I exercised promptly, offering all sorts of self-serving excuses for doing so. It would shame me to reproduce them here, so I won't.
I did go out and hack around now and then--even bought a (sad) set of clubs. But when my son was on the edge of beating me, I decided it was time to quit again. And I passed the clubs along. He now plays with his own children, and there is no way I'm going out on the course where, I'm sure, my seven-year-old grandson would give me (a) a lesson, (b) yet another reason to quit.
I will end with the worst shot I ever hit--and "worst," for me, is something to behold. At Sugarbush, there's an elevated tee, up on a cliff. Off in the distance, straight ahead--the club house. To the immediate right--ninety degrees: a service road/cart/pedestrian path descending the hill. One day--near the end of all--I hit my tee shot down that road, an impossible, right-angle shot, really, worthy of a gazillion YouTube hits.
The worst seven shots? The seven putts I once took on a flat green. On in one. Seven putts. An 8 on a par 3.
See why I quit?