Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Great Game of Golf
The other day my grandfather offered to take me to play golf "at 6:30", by which, of course, he meant AM, not PM. This is slightly earlier than my typical wake-up time, but for the sake of having some quality time with Grandpa, it was worth it.

I have to clarify some things about the situation. My grandfather is a great golf player, and still competes in local semi-pro tournaments (and not the senior citizen tournaments either). My knowledge of golf is limited to an infamous episode of "My Name is Earl" and films starring Adam Sandler. I have been to a driving range a couple of times, but never gone golfing-golfing, and was curious about how it might go.

Let's put it this way: it didn't go well. My Grandpa went and spent an obscene amount of money on brand-new golf shoes for me, and that day was the first time I was wearing them. Note to self: *always* break in new shoes before you go golfing. So between the early hour, the shoes cutting into my heel through the paper-thin socks I was wearing, the icy coldness of the predawn morning and then the oppressive 70-degree heat of the sun, and the fact that I ate a delicious Croissant-wich for breakfast, the situation was already bad enough.

Then we actually started playing golf, and my level of skillz can be quite easily implied through two different anecdotes:

-Grandpa told me I needed a "pitching wedge". I was able to identify the proper club, because it had a "P" on it. I think. I had originally assumed this was the "Pirate" club, but I didn't tell anyone.

-The scorecard read something like this:
Hole 1: Par 4
Grandpa: 5
The Author: 12

Hole 2: Par 4
Grandpa: 4
The Author: 15

Hole 3: Par 4
[left blank, like every other hole afterward, to save me from embarrassment]

After we had struggled through the most painful 9 holes since Curtis James Jackson got shot, my grandpa took me aside next to the James Bond Villain Henchman's electric golf cart we had rented and looked me in the eye. With broken but carefully measured English, he said, "I know you feel pressure, this is first time. But don't worry, don't worry. I am play golf for very long time, and I feel pressure too. Everyone feel pressure."

I smiled and suddenly everything was right again, even if it had taken me 10 strokes before I was able to get back on on the fairway.

Then we went to the 10th hole and another gentleman was waiting there with his golf cart, chomping on a large cigar and looking for all the world like Mike Ditka. My grandpa got out and started talking to him all friendly-like, then he waved over at me and asked if I was beating "my old man". I laughed and said no, and he laughed and told me I should be.

Grandpa said something along the lines of I was 18 years old and a student at $t.X, which is not entirely true. But the man's eyebrows went up slightly. Then my grandpa went, tee'd off, and hit a beautiful drive that arced through the air and landed like an artillery shell about a foot away from the big yellow flag stuck in the hole, on a little peninsula jutting into a water trap.

I dutifully took out my driver, which I assume is called a driver because it uses electromagnets to accelerate the mainly titanium ball. Unfortunately, futuristic technology or not, I still was terrible at hitting the thing into anything other than the ground directly in front of it. Arcs were a pipe dream- at this point, I would settle for the ball flying off the tee in a straight line, for ten or fifteen yards.

Behind me, the gentleman chomped his cigar some more and said something about being a Panthers fan, and I realized how high the stakes were on this hole. The chummy man had gone to my high school's biggest and ugliest rival. Oh dear Lord, please don't make me embarrass myself in front of an 3LD3R fan!!!

I have one chance to not screw this up.

I have to keep my head down.

I have to shift my weight.

I have to swing and follow through.

The club comes down like a pendulum and makes contact with a solid THWACK sound that rings in my ears as the ball flies upward, higher, higher, higher than I've ever hit it, a beautiful arc so perfect you could use it for a polynomial graph in an Algebra I textbook, an arc that ends inside the hole.

I just hit a hole in one. O M F G. My grandpa goes crazy in the background. The guy's cigar falls out of his mouth.

No, just kidding. The ball arcs beautifully, but it soars over the splotch of green and plunks into the water. I sigh, and my grandpa laughs, clapping me around the shoulders.

"Good shot, good shot."

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