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THE FIRST TEE
I can sum it up like this: Thank God for the game of golf.
Who Is the Greatest Golfer?
For the first time in my personal golfing history I had broken 90. Because of it, I couldn't sleep. In the midnight darkness I nudged my sleeping wife, "Can you believe it?" I cried. "I'm no longer a duffer! The secret of golf is simply a matter of ..."
"... Of beginning your downswing with your shoulders instead of your hands," she muttered.
"How did you know?" I asked, amazed.
"Only because that's what you've been muttering all night." She felt my brow to make sure I was not delirious. "Try to get some sleep now, darling. You've got a big day coming up, remember?"
She was right. I should have been asleep hours ago. In a few hours I would play my first-round match in the club tournament against my arch golfing enemy, Steve Galloway. I chuckled into my pillow sadistically. With the secret of the game now locked in my breast, I would humble him at last.
I shut my eyes and ordered my mind to go blank, but to no avail. It insisted that I again replay each stroke of my day's round. During the first two holes my smile all but illuminated the night shadows of the room. But when I again found myself missing that twenty-inch putt on the 3rd green, my smile turned itself off. That putt had hurt. So had the four other short ones I had muffed later on. If I had sunk them instead, I would have completed my round in 84.
Nor were those missed putts the only additions to my score that should not have happened and most certainly would not happen again. If one of my drives hadn't sliced out of bounds, costing me two penalty strokes, I would have toured the links in a sizzling 82.
Or might not I have scored better still? The supposition caused me to gasp aloud, waking my wife with a start. Now that she was no longer asleep, I could find no reason for not sharing my joyous discovery.
"I had some tough breaks today, not of my own doing," I explained. A perfect pitch shot to the 9th green took an astounding hop into a bunker, and my drive on the 12th freakishly scooted beneath a bramble bush. And on the 17th hole, my caddy sneezed at the top of my backswing, all but causing me to miss the ball completely. Wouldn't you agree that because those were obviously non-recurrable accidents, I should further reduce my score by that same amount?"
"Why is it," my wife interrupted, "that a man can recall for a week every shot of his last game but can't remember for five minutes that the screen door needs fixing?"
I lay back in the pretense of sudden sleep. But my subconscious kept busy subtracting those three strokes from my hypothetical round of 82. On arriving at the amazing answer of 79, my body seemed to float toward the ceiling.
"Good Lord," I cried, "I'm a championship golfer!"
Every shred of evidence now pointed to my being able to par even the toughest holes on the course, and should it be my good fortune to slap in an occasional birdie—and, after all, why shouldn't I?—well, the implications were downright staggering.
Ever so carefully, so as not to cause my wife to phone a psychiatrist, I slithered from bed and stood beside it, my hand gripping an imaginary driver. For a moment I waggled it back and forth in delicious anticipation, then powerfully and smoothly I swept my body through an entire swing. Had the situation been born in reality, the ball surely would have zoomed into orbit. I drew in my stomach and threw out my chest and, in the utter darkness of the bedroom, exuded more confidence than ever before in my life.
Confidence, that was the key ... confidence born of my new mastery of technique. How incredible to realize that in all these years I had simply conducted an endless series of tiger hunts on the golf course, violently beating the earth with my clubs, exhausting myself with my very ineptness. Not once, in fact, had I gotten past the first round of the club tournament. But tomorrow would be vastly different. Poor, unsuspecting Galloway!
At 2 A.M., I begged my mind to let me sleep. My plea was in vain. By three o'clock I had won the club championship. An hour later I captured the U.S. Open. Dawn was creeping over the windowsill before I divested myself of an armful of phantom trophies and tumbled into a canyon of sleep.
My wife and I and the Galloways sat together on the golf club terrace, watching the sun call it another day on the fickle fortunes of man. Now that my tournament match was over I wished I were alone, like Napoleon, on Elba Island. Not even on Boy Scout timber hikes had I met up with so many trees. No doubt about it. I would have scored better with an axe. What could have gone wrong to lead to all that abject, humiliating agony? My wife reached over to pat my knee. "Didn't you remember to keep your eye on the ball, sweetie?"
Her question was so ridiculous that I refused to answer. Without looking up I felt the sting of Steve Galloway's mocking glance. This time I was through with golf for good. Should I give my clubs to some deserving caddy, I wondered, or instead salvage a scrap of retribution by wrapping them around my opponent's neck?
My wife was talking again—a far too usual procedure—and I was trying not to listen. I chose instead to gaze out over the course where the evening dew already had tinted the fairways with silver and where, on either side, the terrible towering trees now slept, harmless and serene, as a moon tip rose above them into the night. It seemed impossible to believe that this gentle pastoral scene had, by daylight, proved itself such a violent battlefield.
I poured myself another drink and downed it quickly. Somehow it made me feel better. I reclined in my chair, my eyes again drawn back to the lush and quiet fairways. The course was beckoning me now like a temptress in the shadows. "Come conquer me," she seemed to whisper. "You can, you can."
I closed my eyes, but the voice refused to go away. When I refilled my glass and drank deeply from it, I began feeling surprisingly relaxed. Much the same as I had felt yesterday when I had shot my 89.
Ah, so that was it—relaxation! Not how you gripped the club or pivoted your hips or snapped your wrists, but simply how well you relaxed. No wonder Galloway had trounced me so completely. My mind had been gorged with a jumble of mechanical do's and don'ts. By taking it smooth and easy, wouldn't those technical elements fall naturally into place?
Yes, yes, I saw it clearly now. After years of huffing and puffing on the links, I caught the message at last. Silently, almost breathlessly, I started out over the vastness of the golf course, lost in wild surmise. What, I wondered, should I wear while competing in the British Open? A touch of heather, perhaps? I could only hope I would not be so relaxed as to drop my trophy on the toe of the queen.
Pulling myself back to the present, I tried not to sound condescending as I turned to Steve Galloway. "How about a return match next Saturday?" I asked.
"But darling," my wife protested, "that's when you promised to fix the screen door."
For a moment her words buzzed near my ears like mosquitoes, then mercifully took flight when Galloway's voice chose to lead him to slaughter. "In the mood for another licking, eh?"
I only smiled in the dark. Already I was growing joyfully tense just contemplating the wonders of relaxation.
Graham Porter Submitted by Ken and Judy Chandler
I started to shake with anticipation as I hung up the phone. Could it really be true that I would be playing a round of golf at the hallowed ground of Augusta National?
The generous offer had been extended by my friend, Frank Christian, a world-renowned golf course photographer and the official photographer of Augusta National for the last thirty years. Each year Augusta allows selected employees to invite two guests to play the course. Our date was to be just two weeks after the Masters.
I brought along my friend Tim Townley. Tim and I have been friends forever, but I have since found myself constantly reminding him that he will be indebted to me for just as long a period of time. Needless to say, the weeks leading up to our date seemed like an eternity. We talked every five minutes, sharing some nuance of Augusta history.
Frank Christian has a way to make people feel special and make his friends' trip to Augusta a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So it was when we arrived in Augusta.
Frank has a long-standing tradition that he invites you to partake the night before you play. You see, when the great Bobby Jones died, Frank was in charge of cleaning out Bobby's locker. In it he found a bottle of 1908 Old Rye Whiskey some three-quarters full. With permission, Frank cradled home his prize. Frank's preround ceremony consists of each member of the foursome taking a sip of whiskey from Bobby Jones's bottle. To this day, I get the chills thinking back on it.
I awoke before dawn the next morning in anticipation of the day that lay ahead. Finally the hour of our departure arrived, and we headed out to the course.
On approach, I had my first glimpse of the famed gate and the magnolia-lined drive. Just outside the gate stood a man and his young son craning their necks to get a peek inside. The young boy was attired in knickers and a tam o'shanter, just like Payne Stewart. Clearly golf was a passion the father had passed on to his son and now was being jointly shared. If I had the ability to let them inside the gates I would have, but alas, as we passed, I wished them luck in their efforts.
Everything was perfect, just the way I had always imagined it would be. Every blade of grass was perfectly cut, the gardens were brilliant and every shrub was precisely manicured. The golf course was very different than it appears on television. Namely, the course is distinguished by deep and numerous undulations and hills. Although the difficulties of the greens are well documented, I believe they are even tougher in person.
I have played St. Andrews, Royal Troon, Muirfield, Pebble Beach and many others, but Augusta National was without a doubt the best overall golfing experience I have ever enjoyed.
I have my own tradition whenever I play one of these great courses. I collect a small vial of sand from one of the bunkers and display it alongside its distinguished brethren. I pinched some sand from the famous bunker alongside the 18th of Augusta as my keepsake.
Arriving at the airport for my return home I spotted the father and son I had seen at the gate to Augusta. I asked the little boy, whose name was Max, if he had a good time in Augusta, and he gave me a reluctant "yes." His dad mentioned to me that Max was really disappointed because he could not get in the gates of Augusta National to get a souvenir. Well, here I was just fresh from a round at Augusta wearing my new Augusta shirt and my new Augusta hat, and this little boy had nothing.
At that point I took off my hat and put it on his little head. I then reached into my bag and grabbed my vial of sand from the 18th hole and explained to Max what it was and how I got it. I told Max that this would be a great start for a new collection for him.
The look on his face was absolutely priceless.
As great as my golfing experience was at Augusta National, my most memorable moment was the look on Max's face.
The One Hundred Greatest Golf Courses
A golfer called the Chicago Golf Club and explained that he was playing the "One Hundred Greatest Courses" and desperately needed to add the club to his list. The club was very private but reluctantly agreed to allow him to play under these special circumstances.
After the round, a member asked the man, "By the way, how many do you have left to complete the One Hundred Greatest?"
"Ninety-nine," he replied.
Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo
Daddy Tees Off
All children find chaos congenial.
George F. Will
If James Joyce was right about our errors being portals of discovery, then a miniature golf course—the Poconos Putt-o-Rama—was the door to Saint Basil's Cathedral. I made a honey of a mistake there, and on the 11th hole (dogleg left, up a ramp, through an alligator to an elevated plywood green) I made one major discovery about children.
It was Rebecca's sixth birthday. The plan was to simulate the PGA championship: cake and juice and miniature golf for everybody. According to the log at Putt-o-Rama, my wife Jody paid green fees for eighteen.
Even before we teed off, there were bad omens. The kids battled over who would play with what color ball. Brenda complained that green didn't match her shorts. Julian hated yellow.
Sensing chaos, I jumped into the breach with parental authority. "Rule number one: Any dispute over the color of your golf ball," I said, choosing order over good cheer, "will result in immediate disqualification."
I looked over at Sean, who had Joey in a chokehold with the midget putter.
"Rule number two," I went on, "no player shall at any time hold his club against the trachea of another player."
"What's a traker?" Brendan asked.
"It's my neck," Joey gasped.
"Close enough," I said.
While the kids were choosing clubs, Jeffrey claimed to have won the world miniature golf championship. His twin brother, Mark, in an attempt to publicly humiliate his clone, shouted, "He's never even played miniature golf before."
Nice, I thought, very nice.
"Shut up, Mark. I have too played golf."
"Oh, yeah? When?"
"Uh, uh ... I ... I ...," Jeffrey stammered, paralyzed by the fact that he and the Grand Inquisitor not only had identical DNA packages but identical life histories. "I played once when you were asleep."
My heart broke for the little liar.
But before I could even say anything in his defense, Jeff lunged past me and stabbed his brother in the belly with the business end of his putter. When I stepped between them, I took a club head in the kneecap.
I should have enjoyed it more; it was the high point of my day.
On the tee at No. 1, the first foursome argued about who should tee it up first. I gaily suggested the birthday girl should have the honor and then we go in birthday order. Mark said that was unfair to kids born nine minutes after their stupid-head brother. He teed up his ball in protest. Another boy—Brian, I think—kicked it into a wishing well on the 9th fairway.
I wrapped five or six of the kids in a big old Daddy hug—or was it a threatening headlock?—and gave a quick little speech about how if there were sportsmanship we would all have a wonderful time. Absent cooperation, I went on, our memories of Becky's birthday would be full of recrimination.
"Rule number three," I had to announce a few minutes later, "no player shall help another player count his shots."
"Eleven ... twelve ...," said Jill in gleeful play-by-play on Beth's first dozen strokes.
"Three," Beth chirruped as her ball clunked into the hole.
There was mayhem in the air.
I did a quick count of the children. Came up one short.
"Jody, give me a count, will ya?" I yelled through the clamor to Mom.
"I make us minus one," she shouted back, apparently unconcerned since both of the kids to whom she had given birth were accounted for.
I grew frantic. There's nothing I hate more than having to tell a parent I lost a child somewhere on the front nine. "Lock the front gate," I shouted to the kid in charge.
"Hey, I don't do security, pal," he replied. "I do lessons."
I grabbed a perfectly calm little girl—Wendy, I later learned her name was—by her shoulders and said with panic in my voice, "We've got to find somebody."
"Who?" she asked.
"I don't know. Who's missing?" I answered.
"I think Jonathan's in the windmill," she said, clearly worried I was exactly the type of man her parents had warned her never to talk to.
I raced across to the windmill and found a little boy cowering inside. He was holding a rather large hunk of devil's food, which appeared to have been ripped from the birthday cake we had left in the pro shop "for later."
"Are you with the Becky O'Neill party?" I asked.
"Yes," he confessed, trying to hide the fistfuls of cake behind his back.
By the 5th hole everybody was hitting golf balls simultaneously. Orange and blue and green golf balls were whirring around Putt-o-Rama, like mesons in a particle a particle accelerator. Becky's friend Jessica hit a shot that would have done Tom Kite proud—a low boring liner that ricocheted off Sneezy's foot into Josh's chin
Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul: The 2nd Round by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jeff Aubery, Mark Donnelly. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
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