My dad was a natural athlete, although golf was his Achilles Heel. He didn’t play golf, he didn’t work at golf, he subverted and corrupted golf. The only time my father ever drove anything 150+ yards straight from the tee, was when he was screaming profanities while slinging a 4-wood like an Olympic discus thrower. He passed that gene on to me – I once hurled an electric weed eater over one-hundred feet at an altitude nearly stratospheric. I was told one neighbor called NASA to report the sighting of a UFO “in the hood.” Dad had a better sense of humor than his demonstrable and boisterous anger, but on rare occasions, he would exhibit a similar degree of control he had at the game of golf by using a nearby tree as a tool to refashion a 2-iron into a French horn. He had three other friends to round out the foursome from Hades, undoubtedly the worst in the Milky Way. Each of their scorecards after eighteen holes would have been an admirable bowling score after ten frames (and “striking out”), but on the best of days, more like a stroke count always 20-30 degrees above the ambient July temperature in Dallas, Texas, after 3:00 p.m. on a cloudless Sunday afternoon. Al Prescott once tallied two-hundred strokes for eighteen holes – not thirty-six or fifty-four holes, but EIGHTEEN! What is the inverse of impressive? Playing golf like that probably qualifies it as an aerobic sport. HYPOTHESIS WORTHY OF CONSIDERATION: Should a player be banned from a public golf course merely for poor play? I remember my father once finishing eighteen holes below ninety strokes; he was as jubilant as a player making a hole-in-one on a five-hundred-yard par five hole! Most players take extra new balls with them as they play a round; dad’s quartet would take dozens AND USE THEM ALL UP! I concluded they had a special arrangement with Titleist or some form of limited sponsorship the way they “consumed” golf balls. In the olden days, near the tee every few holes, there was a hand-operated device where you would place your golf ball into a recess, then plunge a handle up and down as if pumping a tire, in order to clean off your golf ball from the accumulation of dirt. Dad and his posse never played with one ball long enough for it to become fouled. Commonly in golf etiquette, players wear clothing they would don in almost no other venue. Being attuned, dad’s quaternity attired themselves like hyperopic, color-blind Rodney Dangerfields in the movie, “Caddyshack”, or a Marx Brothers skit. Golf had Doug Sanders back then, and he was a dashing, impeccable dresser and professional, so I knew sartorial grandeur on the links, and dad’s menagerie had none of that! This foursome could find water as if golf clubs were endowed with the magical powers of divining rods, and I once suggested they take up scuba diving, which they loved hearing. They behaved as if they would be awarded some form of bounty plunging balls into the water. I assumed they confused the term 'hazard' with 'haven', or had devised a new modality for fishing. And sand? For them, it was as if sand traps were composed of finely crushed lodestone and their golf balls were metallic. They were more comfortable in the sand than any Bedouin on a Saharan caravan or T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia fame). What these four, non-handicapped, witty, intelligent adult males played should have been called “Travesty,” not golf. I occasionally rose at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday to accompany them, but only as entertainment – there were no cartoons on Sunday mornings and I could often be home in time to see Alistair Cooke hosting an engaging CBS program, “Omnibus,” sometimes because they simply ran out of balls or clubs. This motley crew never brought spirits or beer, so inebriation was never an excuse. They walked the course (more like coarse) – never a cart but each dragging one of those three-wheeled golf dollies, generally with at least one wheel that did not turn “true,” because it normally hibernated in the trunk of a car under a half-ton of other crap. They never took refuge in the 19th hole after being thoroughly demoralized and vanquished by the previous 18. That always struck me as unusual – they were not members of some temperance union and after a traumatic event, most adults bathe their misery in some libation. I came to understand they did NOT understand how truly atrocious the four of them were, as individuals but even more so collectively. It is customary in golf for slow playing pairs or foursomes to allow others to “play through,” pass them by. Given dad’s quatrain routinely engaging in treasure and Easter egg hunts for their misguided golf balls, “playing through” was almost as common as their immersing balls in water hazards. I always believed one day they would be honored for solving the mystery of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan’s disappearance or rediscovering the Ark of the Covenant. For dad and his coterie, “out-of-bounds” was somewhere near the Crab Nebula. On one fortunate Sunday, I decided to sleep in, and not join them in their much-anticipated but irregular diversion from the daily humdrum. My father was recently divorced from my mother, and had taken temporary sanctuary with his parents, so I would sleep at their home on the weekends I spent with my father. On this particular Sunday, Dad had not returned from golf by late in the afternoon, and my grandmother became worried. Granny was from Lithuania and “unlike” my father, she did not understand the finer nuances of golf. In her tiny shtetl, there were no golf courses or country clubs, although there were six yentas (gossipmongers), five shadchanim (matchmakers), four mohelim (In America - CPAs or insurance agents that perform circumcisions for single-malt scotch), three synagogues, and two temples. She badgered my less than saturnine grandfather into calling the police, and, an hour later, an officer called back to inform my grandparents the feckless foursome was on the 15th tee at Tennison Park, and should be home likely before the return of the Messiah - they were all in “good spirits.” Yeah, right. These men had been on the course for seven+ hours, and had four more holes to play? Dad finally sauntered in just before sunset, red as a radish with a 2nd-degree sunburn. He was almost collapsing from dehydration, but he composed himself to explain no one had brought extra balls, and the four of them had had to make multiple excursions back to the Pro Shop to purchase balls, until the Pro Shop ran out of them, and they were then compelled to negotiate with other golfers to buy more balls, even old, used ones with cuts. I guess at this point, I am supposed to say something about pugnacity, endurance, or commitment – I decline. I am much more predisposed to address humility, self-respect and that there is no dishonor in surrender in the face of overwhelming numbers, but I will leave it at that. THIS WAS FUN? ABSOLUTE MADNESS! After observing them for a few years, I never had any inclination to attempt the game. Aside from the necessary skills to excel, it just seemed insane to take a metal stick, “address” a tiny, dimpled, white, ball as hard as you can, then trek into the outback to try and find it, always watching out for poisonous snakes or scorpions, AND, if you were lucky enough to find your ball (officially not someone else’s), you repeated the whole process once again. Then there is the potential risk of bodily injury from being near people with no control hitting small, hard spheres at 120+ mph. My brother and my two closest first-cousins played the game at every opportunity, but they would not have me for a fourth-some. I decided I would take up sports where the ball was generally confined, and once you struck it, at minimum someone would try to hit it back towards you. No pit vipers, no quicksand and no swamps. No deciphering which implements of the game to employ. My choice just seemed rational… ONE ball, one racquet, no trolley, an enclosure, and no big investment. An athletically-inspired Socialist’s ideal.
I guess at some point (and this must be it), I should find something positive or redeemable to say about my father’s, and his band of brothers', occasional weekend enterprise. Grasping at straws, I arrive at a parable; if you shamelessly ask a forty-year-old woman her age (ostensibly from beyond arm’s length), she will often reply, “Well, since you so rudely asked, I just had my thirty-seventh birthday.” Ask the identical question of a female octogenarian and she will reply, “I am eighty-two years young!” My point is, when your scorecard after eighteen holes of golf indicates One-hundred-and-forty-six strokes, what could possibly be the benefit of shaving four strokes off your tally? Like one-hundred-and-forty-two strokes would move you up into a more esteemed echelon! My father and his comrades were honorable men and the concept of cheating on their stroke count was inconceivable to them. So, hip-hip-hooray for integrity and righteousness. Sorry, but that is the best I can do given what I have to work with. If there is a Hall of Infamy for Golf, I am certain the four of them are enshrined. RIP Dad, Al, Harold, and Ralph. I love you guys and thank you for providing me with hours of laughter as a child, and now as an adult.