The last competitive event sponsored by the Men’s Club was nearing its conclusion. From the seventeenth green, we could hear shrieks and howls coming from the last hole.
When we arrived at the eighteenth hole, a par three, there were thirty members of the club gathered behind the green. They had already finished their rounds and were harassing and cheering the remaining players.
I had never played in front of a gallery before and I was happy to escape with a nervous bogey. My playing partner Andy was not so fortunate. He put his ball into a bunker and took two shots to get out. He chipped onto the green and then two-putted for a triple-bogey. The mob jeered, mocked, and booed him. It was an ugly spectacle, reminiscent of a scene from the book Lord of the Flies.
After finishing the hole, we joined the mob and waited, with deliciously eager anticipation, for the next group of unwary victims to arrive.
It was a sad affair. Ron, one of the regulars of the Men’s Club had passed away, and most of his golf buddies were at the funeral. Instead of the normal boisterous chitchat, their conversations were low and murmured; silent somber looks were solemnly exchanged. Their hands, folded in prayer, looked distinctly odd; the left hands were pasty white; the right hands were tanned a deep brown.
Sitting in the church, listening to the droning eulogy, the attendees would occasionally fidget. Wristwatches were discreetly studied out of the corners of eyes; would the preacher ever finish? One of the attendees leaned over and whispered to his neighbor, “God I hate slow pray.” Luckily, the ensuing moan was mistaken for grief. Occasionally, a side door would open and they could see outside, they could see the sunlight of a gorgeous day, a day perfect for golf.
When the service finally ended, there was an unabashed, mad, giggling dash for the exit. Tee times had been made and they were running late. Ron would understand.
One evening, rain interrupted our putting game and we took refuge under a small stand of pine trees near the green. Shielded from the cold drops, our small group exchanged jokes and bantered as cigar smoke drifted and curled around us. Vicious insults were exchanged in affectionate tones. Tales were told and lies traded as raindrops pattered softly on the pine needles around us.
Even as night fell, and it became apparent that it would be dark before the rain ended, no one left the group. No one was quite yet ready to go home. To go home and face nagging wives, crying children, or an empty apartment.
Chris took half-a-day of vacation-time to play with me on a Friday afternoon. Consequently, he was in a bit of a rush and didn’t have time for a regular lunch. When I met him on the first tee, he was holding a greasy bratwurst sandwich he’d bought at the clubhouse; it was garnished with a slathering of mustard and a fistful of jalapeno peppers. I watched in amazement as he wolfed it down like a greedy pig.
We were on the fifth hole when the partially chewed jalapenos, well lubricated by bratwurst grease, entered his lower colon and began to wreak gastrointestinal havoc. I knew he was in distress when his back swing shortened and he started walking in small mincing steps. There were no porta-potties in sight and no ranger nearby to give him an emergency transport; the only remaining option was a copse of pine trees behind the green of the fifth hole. He half-sprinted, half-waddled to the pines. After a few moments, horrible, disgusting, wet sounds emanated from the trees, sounds so vulgar and vile, that I can’t even begin to describe them; nor would I want to. Mercifully, the sounds eventually stopped.
After a few moments of silence, Chris’s voice quavered out through the pine branches.
“Hey, could you bring me my towel?”
Great. I unclipped his towel from his bag and noted that it wasn’t some ratty, old dishtowel, but a real golf towel with an expensive logo. Holding his towel out, I edged into the trees sideways and kept my eyes well averted. After he took the towel, I backpedaled faster than a politician caught in a lie.
When Chris finished and came out, I noticed he’d left the towel hanging on a branch deep inside the pines; maybe he thought rain would cleanse it and he could retrieve it later. We finished the round without further ado.
The next day was Saturday and Chris and I were playing again. Unfortunately, we were paired with Big Dave. Big Dave was a loud boisterous golfer who was detested by many of the players. He was so abrasive that some golfers, upon seeing his car in the parking lot, will go to another course to make sure they don’t have to play with him.
Big Dave was in top form that day; loudly describing which club he was going to use, dispensing unwanted advice, hitting several balls, and generally acting like a jerk. I could tell Chris was getting annoyed. We were on the green of the fifth hole when the devil whispered something in Chris’s ear; Chris turned to Big Dave.
“Hey Dave, isn’t that a golf towel over there behind you?”
“Where? I don’t see anything.”
“In those pine trees, I can just make out the logo.”
I couldn’t believe it—the big dumb bastard went into the trees. After a moment of anticipatory silence, there was a blood-curdling bellow of horror and Big Dave came rushing out of the trees.
“That towel had crap on it man; I’ve got it on my hands!”
“Well, wipe it off with your towel . . . and you better get your shoes too.”
Looking down, Big Dave screamed again. He cleaned himself up as best he could and threw his towel into a trashcan. He tentatively sniffed his golf glove, recoiled in revulsion, and peeled if off. It followed his towel into the trashcan.
Big Dave was quiet and subdued for once, and at the turn, he left the course.
Chris and I played the back nine in peaceful tranquility . . . interrupted occasionally with odd outbursts of hysterical giggling.
She was NOT your typical grandmother. Young looking and vivacious, she loved golf as much as any person could. A round of golf with her was a carefree event; laughing and having fun were both the norm and the rule. She especially liked telling and listening to dirty jokes. When she told a joke and got to the punch line, she would grab your arm and shake it until you had to laugh.
Only a few of her playing companions knew that she had suffered the worst tragedy a mother can experience. She had lost her thirteen-year-old daughter to cancer.
When she played with new people, she always had cheerful smile and charmed them with her happiness. They never had the slightest suspicion that they were in the presence of unimaginable strength, courage, and resilience.