Many years ago I bought a set of golf clubs from my next door neighbor during his family’s big garage sale. The set came complete with a bag, clubs, an odd assortment of golf balls and tees. The golf shoes were a size eleven. I wear a size 9 1/2 and a 10 feels really good so an eleven must be even better. So now I’m suddenly a golfer!
In my late teens some friends tried to get me into the golf game. At the time I was into camping, hunting and fishing. I would always respond to their request with the same reply. The day the make a shotgun barrel big enough to hold a golf ball, I may consider taking up the sport that is if I could use the shotgun in play. Well, that didn’t happen so I didn’t become a golf bum, or should I say enthusiast? Now that I think about it, I did play on a specialized course. My biggest problem in tournament play was getting by the big wind mill on the first try. The hole with the draw bridge was a piece of cake.
So here I am with my first set of golf clubs for a total investment of $35.00. That hot, summer evening would become my first outing with my new golf set. Where could I go to play and not be embarrassed? Well. the vacant field beside our house would be a good test range. Sound like rocket science doesn’t it? I did happen to hit a few balls with the largest club in the bag that I remembered my neighbor calling a -hot driver.” Summer time in the Valley produces many hot drivers, but they all don’t hit balls. This experience was an interesting one, but as fate would have it, my other neighbor had a garage sale and my bag of clubs found their way to a spot closest to the sidewalk You couldn’t miss them; they had a big $30.00 sign on with some fine print at the bottom. It read, -complete with comfortable golf shoes, especially if you wear size 9 1/2.
Years passed, and I thought that getting into golf again might be fun. Several of my friends play golf and my Son in law is an avid golfer. Also, our church has golf tournaments from time to time to raise money for specials projects. That sounded like fun, so I decided to take up golf again that is if I really had taken it up before.
So my good friend, Willie heard about my new found interest in the sport and encourages me to play with him. I didn’t have any golf clubs of my own, so he loaned me a set to use, as he had several sets. His sons all played golf with him and on occasion, his wife Caryn would join in on the sport. But I think he saw me as a real challenge, but I don’t think he knew how much of one. So now I’m golfing again, but this time he started me out on the driving range. With a few pointers, I began contacting the ball in such a way that it almost would appear that I knew what I was doing, and then suddenly that vision would evaporate but not the worry sweat on my brow. I found out that stress is a big part of the game and overcoming it is the springboard to success. But overcoming it, is an on going process, for me anyway. The next step for me was to buy a set of golf clubs. I had great success in buying my first set of dubs at a garage sale, so I thought I would try it again. One of our current neighbors has one of the annual Kiwanis Club garage sales to benefit their charitable organization. And wouldn’t you know it, their set a set of golf clubs, bag and assorted balls and tees. I bought this set for less and $50.00. So now I was official, I had my own clubs. When I took them out for the first time. I found all kinds of things stuffed into the pockets of the bag. There were several score cards, stubby scoring pencils, and pink Kleenex. Pink? Some of the golf tees were pink mixed in with other pastel colored tees. Then it dawned on me. This set of clubs belonged to a female. I bought female clubs. Well, they were a bargain. I invested a little more money and purchased man size grips and re-gripped all the clubs. Now they are masculinized. Let’s play golf.
Oh, by the way. I have never player in the Church Tournaments. Since the time I have taken up golf, they have become few and far in between. Last year I got excited about one that was to benefit a Mission in Mexico. As it turned out, it was scheduled for a Friday morning. I question my friend Chip who is on the Church Staff about the Friday schedule. He asked if Friday morning was a bad time for me. I told him it kind of messes with my day job. One sunny, Sunday after noon, Willie called me to see if I want to join he and Caryn in playing the Executive Nine Hole Course at Painted Mountain Golf Club. That sounded like great fun and it was. It was only because I took being outplayed by Caryn very well and I was just happy to be out enjoying the day. I think it Mark Twain the said “Golf is a walk in the park, spoiled.” But the walking in the park is always great! Golf is fun!
During the winter months, Willie would imitate a golf swing after our Saturday Night Church Service and then would signal he would call me latter to set up a round for the next morning. This is a time when the snowbirds settle in for their season in the Valley and of course would time up all the restaurants, shuffleboard courts and golf courses. Willie had found the perfect time to get out on the links. He would pick me up in the wee hours of the morning, long before the sun would come up. We would have our morning coffee on the way to help offset the chill of winter. That chill sometimes would be 35 to 45 degrees. We would arrive along with the golf course pros and managers anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes before they open to the public. Willie knows these guys very well and made a deal with them. We would take all of the golf carts out of the basement garage after being on the battery charger all night. It was almost like go cart racing even though we experienced a little wind chill effect as the carts did not have windshields. Then we would back inside for a little more coffee and conversation and wait for the go a head from the City of Mesa Park Official go the go a head to play, after he has determined that the morning from was clearing up enough to play without damaging the grass. We would then be the first ones out and beat the rush.
Sometime Willie would try to help me overcome the pressure and stress of playing golf by inviting golf pros to place with us. Or did he do it just for the pure joy of watching me sweat out each drive in the frigid morning temperatures. But it was fun and I became hooked!
On occasion, I would venture to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls. One late Saturday afternoon I was going through the various clubs in my bag and doing quite well with my short irons. I was working up to my fairway woods and then to my driver. There was a young man next to me that looked like a body builder. He was absolutely smashed the ball with his high tech driver and all the power he could muster. His shots were almost clearing the range. The older gentle on the other side of me was just finishing his last few balls just as I pulled out my driver. He watched me for a few minutes and then said” You don’t need to look up so soon after you hit the ball, it wasn’t that good. Then as he bagged his clubs and prepared to leave he said, •Remember to swing hard just in case you hit it.” He chuckled and gave me a wink. I think he always looked for an opportunity to use those lines. Then this little old lady came walking toward me one club in her hand and a small, junior bucket of balls came over to take the recently vacated space. She put her bucket of balls on the ground and then reached in the pocket of the matronly dress she was wearing that clashed with her sneaker style golf shoes. She gently teed up her ball, sighted the intended line of flight, approached the ball and swung her club. The ball traveled about ten yards on the fly and then rolled another two yards. She turned abound, smiled at me and said, •1 just got out of the hospital a few days ago after having surgery. I just wanted to make sure I could hit the ball and I can!” She picked up her tee, placed in back in her pocket and with a kind smile wished me a good day and headed toward the parking lot. That experience taught me what golf is all about. It doesn’t matter how well you play the game, as long as you can enjoy it. As my old friend Steve White used to say, •we are playing (any sport) just for the fun of it. The more we win, the funnier it gets!”
Willie and my Son-in-law, Kevin, both golf every chance they get. I, on the other hand enjoy the game, but do not play all that often, but enjoy it just the same. As a matter of fact. when Kevin comes to town, getting on the greens is of utmost importance. So Willie and Kevin work plan on when and where they could play. On one of their golf adventures, they were playing at a time I could join them. It was actually my first time playing with Kevin. We had a very enjoyable time the first four holes. Of course they both could play circles around me, but in the game of golf, you actually play against yourself, trying to improve your shots and score. On about the fifth tee, I hit a drive that drifted a little to the right of the fairway. It actually flew over a little knoll near the sixth fairway. Both Willie and Kevin had driven to the left of the green and were waiting for me to hit my shot back toward the green. The player with a ball lying the greatest distance from the hole is said to be •away”, and hits his shot or shots until they are no longer •away•. I was •away” so I climbed to the top of the knoll and picked a spot to target. I choose my nine iron for the chore, approached the ball and let it fly. As I ran up over the hill to see the outcome, Willie yells out that I hit my son in law. What? They were both laughing, knowing that I hit him on the bounce on the shoulder and it did not hurt him. To them, the funny part was how much mileage they would get out of the story at my expense. So goes golf. They don’t seem to invite me to go with them as often as they used too. They probably don’t want me to show them up.
I’m not so bad at golfing. I did get a birdie once golfing with Willie, but he said it didn’t count because it was a real bird that I hit with one of my shots he called a •worm burner” because it travels low and skips on the grass allot. He also refused to give me any credit with I hit a sleeping coyote under a shade tree about 75 yards down field. They love to prey on the rabbits that at times very abundant on the fairways.
Willie and Caryn had invited Carol and I to come up to Prescott for a little R&R. Shopping and Golf were on the agenda. We all arrived Friday afternoon with a clear sky and beautiful view of the Verde Valley. By the next morning, we had cloudy skies and rain in the forecast . But that wasn’t going to stop the slated events of the day. The ladies went shopping and Willie and I took off to meet two of Willies Prescott golfing buddies at Antelope Hills Golf Course.
We arrived at the club house early and found small groups of golfers waiting to see if the weather was going to break. Nobody was out on the course yet, so sharing golfing stories was the next best thing to actually playing. We decided to have a cup of coffee while we waited for the rest of our foursome. Sometimes you can’t beat the forced timeouts that your are given. After we finished our coffees, we decided to check out the Pro Shop for anything that could be used to protect us from the elements if we were fortunate to have the weather break enough to allow us to get out on the course. Willie bough a nice Antelope Hills wind breaker and I found a warm golf vest. I did have a couple of cheap ponchos in my golf bag for days just like this day.
Only one of the guys showed just as the steady rain turned into a light sprinkle. His name was Jim and he greeted us with a Bible verse, as I leaned latter was his standard greeting. He was a very likeable character in his mid sixties and loved to fling jokes and short stories at every opportunity. Jim said that we may be joined by our other member mid course so it was time for the big question. We asked one of the course managers if they were going to allow anyone to play. He had no problem turning us loose and off we went. Willie and I shared one cart and Bob had the second.
The first few holes were played in a light mist. The clouds were scooting by at a fairly good pace and the forecast looked promising. By the third hole, the clouds changed to a solid blue/gray mast and then rain came down as a heavy sprinkle. Jim did not have any rain gear, so I loaned him one of my cheap ponchos. It looked more like a glorified trash bag with a hole cut out of his head. I did have a hood that helped distinguish it from a garbage bag, but Jim was happy to have it. After a few more holes, Jim decided to through in the towel and left Willie and I to fend for ourselves. The rain would pick up from time to time, but not enough to drive us off the course, no pun intended. The occasional lighting strikes punctuated by loud claps of thunder made us consider our options, but we choose to play through.
One of the highlights was a large eagle like raptor fly by with a live fish clutched in its claws sharp talons. It was close enough to see it trying to wiggle free to no avail. It was doomed to be breakfast for the massive creature.
Out on mid course, Willie was demonstrating what not to do near a water feature. His ball landed on the embankment surrounding a small pond. As he addressed the ball, the water seamed to draw his attention and with his swing striking the ball in such a fashion, that it sliced right into the water. He dropped a second ball down on the grass and swung his club with the same result. He now baptized two of his good golf balls. The third made the correct flight probably due to the adjustment attributed to his laughter from the first two. My Bother-in -law Ken has know taken up the gentlemen’s sport of golf. One of the explanations of the word golf is that it means •·Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden. But that is not the case anymore, or hasn’t been in a long time. Ken purchased a new set of clubs when he started playing and loves to bring them out to Arizona to enjoy the great golfing weather we have in the winter when is cold and snowy back east in New Jersey.
One day Willie called and invited Ken and I to join him for a round of golf. Ken and went out the day before and did a little practicing on the driving range, so we were ready to go. To our surprise, we were joined by one of Willies friends, Scot, who happed to be one of the managers for the Chicago Cubs. He was a beginner at the game of golf and fit right in with Ken and me. Ken was telling him how he was excited-to be in Arizona at the same time the Fiesta Bowl was events were going on as he is an Ohio State Alum and didn’t even care that he didn’t have tickets to the game against Miami. He we want~ to be here to catch the flavor of the atmosphere.
Scot spent allot of time on the telephone in between his shots. It was a busy time for him making arrangements for this or that. It wasn’t till later that we learned part of his cell phone time was spent trying to arrange tickets to the Fiesta Bowl for Ken but he was unsuccessful. Ken appreciated the effort, but Scot said he would try to do better next year.
The night of the ballgame, Ken, Bonnie, Carol and I went to downtown Tempe to roam the streets along with the Ohio State Buckeye Fans and a few Miami fans. The ratio was about ten to one. Ken bought a few souvenirs and then we headed home to watch the game on TV. It was a great game and Ohio State Buckeye won and became the National Champions . The following year, Ken and Bonnie came out for Christmas and low and behold, the Ohio State Football team was in town to play the Kansas State Wildcats in the 33rd Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship. •It’s like deja w all over again”. (Yogi Berra) This time Scot came through with great tickets for the ball game for Ken and Bonnie. Bonnie graciously elected not to ~ to the game, but would stay home and watch it on TV with Carol. She insisted I use her ticket. I was a little reluctant for a good thirty seconds, but then after much persuasion I accepted her offer. This tim~dnstead of roaming with the crowd in downtown Tempe, we were heading inside the stadium to our seats behind the Ohio State Bench, ten rows up. Thank you Scot! Ohio State won!
Willie and Caryn were planning a cruise to Alaska similar to the cruise that Ken, Bonnie, Carol & I took several years before. Willie was interested in the fly fishing adventure Ken and me went on and wanted to learn a little more about fly fishing. I owe him a trip to the White Mountains but we weren’t going to be able to get a fly fishing lessen in up there before the trip, so I had another plan. He and I were going to play Painted Mountain. This was at the same time Sammy Sosa had his bat spit open and cork was discovered. So when Willie and I were out on one of the tees, we started talking about Sammy’s corked bat and I told Willie I had a corked golf club. Sure enough, there was a cork handle hanging out of my golf bag. Willie asked what a cork handle was doing there so I pulled it out and there was my fly rod. I had planned giving Willie a fly fishing lesson on the golf course, and so I did. After about fifteen minutes of show and tell, one of the pros drove out to us from the club house. He sad management heard that there were too guy fly fishing out by the first tee box and they must be stopped. It gives the wrong message. So we all laughed about it and the story is still being told from time to time in the golf shop.
One day Willie called me to see if I wanted to join him and other friend for nine holes at the Painted Mountain Course. I was more than happy to play, so I headed over for our 12:00 noon tee time. We were also expecting one of the Chicago Cubs pitchers to join us, but he was a no show. From the parking lot I spotted Willie on the practice putting green. He introduced me to the third member of our group and another person with a strange looking putter. It was actually a billiard pool queue stick with a half a brick epoxied on the tapered end. Willie said “Watch this!” Just then, while this guy still was talking to me and still making eye contact with me, hit the ball toward the hole twenty feet away. The ball made a little curve just before reaching the hole and then went in. Then he put another ball on the ground and did it again. Evidently he builds these “queue brick clubs·, sells them and then offers putting lessons with them. This particular model even had a clear section in the butt of the handle, filled with liquid and a miniature Eight Ball suspended in it. When he strikes the golf ball, the clear sections would light up and then flash on and off. After this demonstration was over, Willie told him we were short one of our foursome, and asked if he would like to play with us? He agreed and off we went to the first hole. It was a short hole with the cup about 125 yards away. So “Mr. Fancy Club” is invited to hit first. He places his ball on a shot tee, pulls out his nine iron, turns his back to the hole and swings looking the opposite direction. He called it side saddle. The ball rolled up on the green within ten feet of the hole. The rest of us weren’t nearly as accurate. Then as we headed to the green, he said he likes to hit like that because of his hip replacement. Oh boy! We had a trick putter and shooter playing with us. This was going to be a long round. I am glad we don’t bet on these games.
On our last golf outing, by luck we timed our tee time just ahead of a large group of fourteen golfers. It was about 104 degrees in the shade at 1:00 P.M. At that time and temperature we thought the golf course would be all ours. Did I ever mention that golfers are a little nuts? The group behind us wanted all of its sub groups to be foursomes so when they split their players, they were off my two. They asked if we would mind having two of their players team up with us. So we agreed. The two golfers were the youngest in the group, college age and the only two under sixty years old. After our foursome teed off we were of to the races, so to speak. It was a little embarrassing for me when Willie put the pedal to the metal on a jack rabbit start, we heard a strange crash just after we hit a little bump on the fairway thirty yards from the tee. I looked behind to see my golf clubs rolling to a stop. Evidently, the strap securing the club bag bump again the cart frame and the bump release the buckle and the rest is history, all recorded by the twelve golfers behind us.
Sometimes Willie sneaks out for a little golf solo. He is always is looking for an opportunity to practice. He tells me Practice, Practice, Practice. He practices what he preaches. But one time when he came home he was greeted by Caryn at the door and then she exclaimed “I Smell Golf! How do these women zone in on us so easily. We men don’t come home and say, “I Smell Chit Chat” after the girls had a mid morning or afternoon coffee. I know what coffee smells like, but “Chit Chat”?
they must be stopped. It gives the wrong message. So we all laughed about it and the story is still being told from time to time in the golf shop.
One day Willie called me to see if I wanted to join him and other friend for nine holes at the Painted Mountain Course. I was more than happy to play, so I headed over for our 12:00 noon tee time. We were also expecting one of the Chicago Cubs pitchers to join us, but he was a no show. From the parking lot I spotted Willie on the practice putting green. He introduced me to the third member of our group and another person with a strange looking putter. It was actually a billiard pool queue stick with a half a brick epoxied on the tapered end. Willie said •watch this!” Just then, while this guy still was talking to me and still making eye contact with me, hit the ball toward the hole twenty feet away. The ball made a little curve just before reaching the hole and then went in. Then he put another ball on the ground and did it again. Evidently he builds these •queue brick clubs”, sells them and then offers putting lessons with them. This particular model even had a clear section in the butt of the handle, filled with liquid and a miniature Eight Ball suspended in it. When he strikes the golf ball, the clear sections would light up and then flash on and off. After this demonstration was over, Willie told him we were short one of our foursome, and asked if he would like to play with us? He agreed and off we went to the first hole. It was a short hole with the cup about 125 yards away. So •Mr. Fancy Club” is invited to hit first. He places his ball on a shot tee, pulls out his nine iron, turns his back to the hole and swings looking the opposite direction. He called it side saddle. The ball rolled up on the green within ten feet of the hole. The rest of us weren’t nearly as accurate. Then as we headed to the green, he said he likes to hit like that because of his hip replacement. Oh boy! We had a trick putter and shooter playing with us. This was going to be a long round. I am glad we don’t bet on these games.
Sometime Willie sneaks out for a little golf solo. He is always is looking for an opportunity to practice. He tells me Practice, Practice, Practice. He practices what he preaches. But one time when he came home he was greeted by Caryn at the door and then she exclaimed •r Smell Golf! How do these women zone in on us so easily. We men don’t come home and say, •r Smell Chit Chat” after the girls had a mid morning or afternoon coffee. I know what coffee smells like, but “Chit Chat”?