April 2016

Quitting Golf

Author: Paul deVere

There is no logical reason for this. None. It is a Saturday morning, 7:10 a.m. Your tee time is at 8:10 a.m. If you scramble, you have a choice between breakfast (cold cereal, juice and a day-old bagel) or a shower.

Since you may be with people who seem to have avoided showers for several weeks (these are your friends?), you choose breakfast. There is, of course, no milk. Your highly educated (MFA film and television production, SCAD) unemployed son (4 handicap), who reclaimed his bed after an unpaid internship at CNN/Atlanta went sour, has developed a habit of eating various cereals (though he knows better than to touch your Cheerios) several times a day, exhausting the milk supply every 12 hours.

So you pour the only remaining liquid in the refrigerator, low sodium V-8, over your Cheerios for an interesting medley of tastes and only slightly burn your fingers as you extract your bagel from the toaster (why does it always get stuck?). There is no cream cheese, no butter, no jam (see “son” above), so you slather the slightly burnt bagel with the only thing left in the fridge: salsa. Very spicy salsa. It goes quite well, you tell yourself, with the Cheerios and V-8.

This paucity of foodstuffs is due, for the most part, to the absence of wife/mother who is out of town participating in a week-long regional pickleball championship and who would, if present, notice these things. The other part is that you hate to shop.

Why are you playing? you ask yourself as you finish your “salsa’d” bagel. You have, generously, an 18 handicap. But you’ve been an 18 for almost 10 years. You bought the instructional DVDs, the books (actually watching and/or reading the material is another matter) but nothing changes.

As you get in your car (you notice your unemployed filmmaker son did not get it gassed up as promised) and wonder what your V-8 juice-laced Cheerios is doing to our stomach, you remember (again!) your three-putt finish the last time you played (three weeks ago?) and the ribbing you took from your ex-best friend, Randall (who would name their son Randall?) as you handed him the $20 bill when putt number 2 lipped out. Why torture yourself? AGAIN.

As your golf angst grows, the little gas pump symbol blinking on your dashboard catches your eye. Do you coast up to the bag drop on fumes and have time to hit a few balls on the practice range, or do you stop for fuel and just make your tee time without having hit a ball in three weeks?

When your ex-best friend Randall gave you that smirk as he accepted your money three weeks ago, you promised yourself that would be your last game. Three-putting on 18! The humiliation! You pull into the gas station with the intention of only putting five bucks in the tank to save time, maybe time enough to hit five or six balls on the range. But the card reader doesn’t work at the pump, so you run inside and wait in line behind the old guy buying lottery tickets.

Fundamentally (an important golf term), there is no logic to the insatiable urge to tee up one more time. But logic, and what the salsa-laced bagel is doing to you, do not enter into the equation. This is, after all, golf. Golf is not like any other sport. Where else do you call a penalty on yourself even when no one is looking? Unbelievable.

And balls. You pay 30 bucks for 12 of them. At the first water hazard you encounter (this always happens) you’ll dunk one, possibly two balls (that’s $2.50 to $5) into the alligator-infested green slime. Five bucks simply vanishes.

You tell the nice lady behind the counter you want $5 on # 7. She gives you that withering “can’t-afford-to-fill-it-up-but-you’re-playing-golf” look as the Cheerios start complaining.

And equipment! Your wife got everything she needed for pickleball for under $200. Everything. You paid twice that much for your driver! Your ex-best friend Randall said you got taken. To add to this morning’s miseries, you admit Randall might have been right. The guy on TV said it would cure your slice. Three weeks ago, on the first tee, using your new $434.95 (free shipping!) driver, your ball went further right than ever before. You have used that driver a total of once.

As you pull up to the bag drop, you see your ex-best friend Randall on the practice tee. His bucket of balls is almost empty. He’s been here since 7 a.m. He called you last night, he says, and told your son to tell you to meet him at the club at 7 a.m. for breakfast, Randall’s treat. You wonder if it is against the law to intentionally make your progeny homeless. When you get home, you will make it abundantly clear to your son that you will no longer share the remote with him. End of case. Tough love.

You actually have time to hit three practice shots before you head off to the first tee. They aren’t that great, but they’re straight. The salsa and V-8 seem to be arguing with the bagel and Cheerios. Randall tells you how wonderful the breakfast buffet was: omelets made to order, perfect bacon, fresh juice, coffee as good if not better than Starbucks.

You did not like Randall in grade school because he got a dog and you got a turtle. In high school, he got better grades than you. In college, he was on the dean’s list. You were in the dean’s office for a variety of innocent pranks. He married his high school sweetheart (she put him through law school) and had two obnoxiously perfect children.

Your high school sweetheart dumped you and eventually married an investment banker. Your first wife decided to leave you (your ex-best friend Randall handled the divorce) and devote the rest of her life to serving the homeless on Fisher Island in Florida (the homeless on Fisher Island live in cabanas on the beach). Your current wife likes Randall and his wife Zoe (who would name their daughter Zoe?) whom you can barely tolerate. (Zoe was your high school sweetheart’s best friend.)

Randall introduces you to the two guys you’ll be playing with: Rex and Bear. Bear explains his parents’ love of their alma mater, the University of Alabama, and legendary coach under whom his daddy played, Bear Bryant. Bear says if he’d been a girl, her name would have been Crimson. Bear and Rex seem like nice fellows. You wonder what they’ll think when you announce to your ex-best friend Randall this is your last game. Maybe, finally, you can wipe that smirk off Randall’s face! Ha!

As you tee your ball up on #1, the Cheerios and bagel seem to have come to some kind of truce with the salsa and V-8. You feel pretty good. Since this is the last drive you’ll ever hit off of the #1 tee box on any course in the world, you don’t have to prove anything. Your tummy is calm, your mind is clear, you are totally focused on this one, final, last shot into the fairway of the #1 hole you are playing with your ex-best friend for the last time.

You are the last to tee off. It seems appropriate. Last drive. Last player. LAST GAME! When do you tell Randall? Now, or on 18?

You choose your 3 wood. Driver stays in the bag. You swing. It’s easy, yet powerful. You intend to land between two sand bunkers. Randall is in the one to the right. Rex and Bear are somewhere off to the left, in the weeds. You swing and actually carry both bunkers. Your ball lands in the middle of the fairway, 136 yards from the green. Randall gives you a funny look.

Second shot. Randall is out of the sand. Rex and Bear punch into the fairway. You, the last to hit, sail one up to within three feet of the pin.

While you miss the three-foot putt and claim par, Randall scores a bogey and Rex and Bear come in at two over.

On #2, a par 4, 345 yards, you pick up a birdie while dumb old Randall pars the hole. Rex and Bear are already falling apart. Double bogeys again.

On #3, a par 3, 141 yards, your ball rockets into the intense blue morning sky, a perfect arc, heading right for the pin…

… On #18, a par 5, 492 yards. By now, you do not know your name or where you were born. You cannot recall your wife’s or son’s name. Are you even married? Poor Randall, Rex and Bear (double bogey, bogey, bogey) await your final putt, a three-footer for par. You have never broken 80. Your old buddy Randall is one stroke behind you, Rex and Bear aren’t even close. If you make this…

For a moment, a brief moment, you see your ball circling the hole then lipping out, just like three weeks ago. But since this is your last game, it doesn’t matter, does it? Who cares? You don’t care!
You stroke and hear that most glorious sound as your ball finds the bottom of the cup. And you just know, this is your game. This is your win. This is golf, your favorite sport! 

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