Friday, May 4, 2012

Golf Tales From a Left-handed Hack

I'm a terrible golfer, but folks like to play golf with me. Unlike a lot of golfers, I never, ever get mad on the golf course. It's just not worth it. I laugh a lot on the golf course, and so do the people lucky enough to play with me.

It started with a company team golf outing
There were fourteen of us on the staff and the boss wanted to have a nice staff team building day on the golf course. I'd never played the game before, but I like green things, and lawns other people mow, so I looked forward to the outing. I went out and bought Golf for Dummies, and read it cover to cover.
   I rented a set of left-handed clubs, and one of those two-wheeled pull carts. Running through the mental list of notes from Golf for Dummies (my copy was in the car), I took my very first swing. I connected with the ball--which was, in and of itself, a miracle--and it soared. Soared! High in the air! Made a beautiful arc and went a lot farther than I ever thought my 120-lb frame could hurl anything.
   Where the hell that ball landed, no one ever knew. I'm pretty sure some neighbor found it with the lawnmower.
   I was hooked.

Golf Lessons
  I needed professional help. From a golf pro. Oh, what the hell. I needed professional help, but turned to a golf pro instead...
   My friend and I signed up for golf lessons from the same pro at the same time at an indoor driving range. It was winter and we were in Michigan, so an indoor range was one of our brightest ideas of all time. By then I had a starter set of clubs. They were from K-Mart. They were cheap, but the heads were titanium, and I thought that sounded pretty sexy. Tough and sexy. Titanium. Tougher than steel. That's what I thought, anyway.
Coming up on my toes was easy. Stopping...not so much
   "Follow through when you swing," the pro said. "Come up on your toes when you finish."
   He demonstrated what he meant. He had me practice it without a ball for several swings. When he thought I was ready, he put a ball on top of the white rubber stopper on top of the fake grass.
    I was all the way over on the right-hand side of the golf dome, the indoor driving range. It was a big, white, plastic dome built atop a network of girders. Golfers could whack to their heart's content. I pulled the club back, I took a swing. I followed through.
    ...I came up on my toes when I made contact with the ball. Came up on my toes...and...
...kept right on going.
    The head of a golf club moves at warp factor 4 (scientific fact I just conjured) when it whacks the ball. It's still moving at a damn good clip when it finishes its journey. If you watch slow-motion video of a good golf swing, you'll see the shaft of the club curve with velocity.
   The KLANG sound was the sound of the titanium head of my driver colliding with a steel girder. I came up on my toes, alright.
   The fillings in my teeth all jumped together when the club head stopped, forcefully and immediately, with the steel of the girder. If my bladder hadn't vibrated itself into the previous day, I might've tinkled. The vibrations went through my dental work, down my neck, said howdy to my balls--golf and other--and untied my shoes. It was bad. It was ugly. It was painful.
   The pro fell to the floor, howling with laughter that would've made Rasputin blush. His wife was working in the outer office. She ran into the dome to find out what had happened to her husband. All I heard her say, from the puddle I became when I fell to the floor next to Laughing Boy the Golf Pro was, "Honey! Are you okay? You never laugh this hard!"
   Dented my driver, but not my ego. When I'm anywhere near a golf club, my ego is in the car.

No Time To Shout "FORE" When You Hit Yourself
  The friend I took lessons with has something I don't have--talent. He's not a great golfer, but he's achieved that which we dreamed of when we paid for our lessons. He's an average golfer. I'm not an average golfer. I'd love to be an average golfer, but I have a feeling that threshold is above my grade. Waaaaay above my grade.
  It was a later lesson. I was over hitting my driver on the girder. I'd learned to come up on my toes and not fall on my ass. My confidence was growing.
   My friend was in the stall to my left as I stood on the artificial grass with my ball teed up. There were waist-high wire mesh barriers between each stall. He's right-handed. When we teed up, we faced each other. I watched him make a beautiful swing and knock his ball cleanly into the plastic of the far wall of the dome. he was watching me as I took a mighty swing.
   When a lefty swings and hits the ball with the toe of his club, the ball squirts off to the left. I toed the ball. It flew straight at my friend. It didn't hit my friend because it collided at the speed of sound with the metal mesh barrier between us. Bored with the barrier between him and me, it flew by me and bounced off the barrier on my other side, bounced off that, and...
...Smacked me in the right thigh
   I did what any man would do when he's hit with a tiny white cannonball in the thigh. I screamed like a little girl and collapsed in a yammering puddle in the middle of the golf stall.
   My friend and the golf pro, were too stunned to do anything but stand and stare for almost a full minute. Then they both fell to the floor in howling fits of laughter. That time, the pro's wife didn't bother to enter the dome. She saw me come in.

Eventually, we played on a real course
   My friend and I played a lot of golf together. We made a good team actually, when we played two man best ball. He can drive a ball straight and true and a long way. I can chip, pitch, and putt very well. That took us a season to figure out. At first it was just him and his skill, and me with my sense of humor and tenacity.
   The hole was a dog-leg to the left. That boded well for me. As a lefty, I have a tendency to hit the ball to the left. I had hopes that my ball would go through the woods (for indeed it went for trees like they were magnetic), and land close to the green.
   The markers on the tee box were made of 4"x4"'s, cut at an angle on the ends. I pulled my club back and took a mighty swing.
   The ball left the club face and flew at high speed directly into one of the tee box markers! I saw it hit that angled piece of wood. I dove out of the way! That ball bounced off the wood, flew over where I had been standing seconds before...and landed thirty yards behind where we started! Damn wood.
   I stood up, brushed myself off, nodded to my friend...walked thirty yards behind where we started and said, "I'm still up. Steeeerike two!"
   I was on the green in 12.

Water in front of the green? No problem!
   We played a lot, my friend and I. I bought a set of irons for $500. A set of Tommy Armor Silver Scots. I love those clubs. Can't hit 'em worth a damn, but I love 'em. I have a good set of drivers, too. TI Bubble Burner, etc. Nike shoes. Endless supply of golf balls.
  We played a course we hadn't played before. There was an impressively wide water hazard in front of the green. The first thing I did was pull a ball from my bag and toss it into the water. I figured I should sacrifice one to the water gods on purpose, for surely it was going to happen with or without my consent.
  The sacrificial ball worked.
   My friend has long since ceased to be amazed at what happens when he golfs with me, by the way.
   I hit the ball badly. It headed straight for the water...skipped like a stone once, twice, three times, four, five, and...six. It rolled up the embankment of the green, and stopped at the outer edge. I looked at my friend and grinned.
   "Don't rub it in," was all he said.

We were in league...with jerks
   The only reason I let him talk me into joining a league was that we would be paired. The league was made up of two-man teams. Each player on the team hit his ball, and they played form whichever position they liked better. My friend and I were winning. We were winning because he could get us within 50 yards of the green in one or two shots, and I could put the ball in the hole in one or two shots from there. Kidding aside, I'm great with my lob wedge, and darn good with my putter.
   There was a team of two jerks on the league. We hated playing with them because one or the other of them was sure to throw a club at least once, sometimes twice, and once three times, during the round. They cussed. They bickered. They got mad at us if we played well.
   My friend and I both teed off on a short par three. My friend's ball landed in the water in front of the green. My ball landed near the green and rolled back into the water.
   The jerks were overjoyed. "Hit one from the tee and take the penalty," one advised.
   "The hell we will," I said. "We'll play my ball."
   "From the water?"
   "Damn right." I walked up like I knew what I was doing. My friend showed nothing but complete confidence.
   I took my shoes off, and took my socks off. I rolled up my pants legs. Handed my glasses to my friend, and pulled my lob wedge out of the bag. I looked at the golf ball with about three inches of water covering the top. It was resting on top of the mud under the water.
   In all seriousness, I did not for one second believe I would get that ball out of there. What I really, really, really wanted to do was splash water all over the jerks we were playing against. I wanted to douse 'em and douse 'em good.
   I screwed up. I blasted the ball right out of the landed on the green, rolled merrily over it...and went in the hole.
   I'll confess--I laughed pretty hard at the dripping wet, jaws dropped jerks.


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