[This was an email to Skip’s friend, Gypsy Dave.]
â€¢ Skip to David
Do you play golf? My son Jay invited me to a round last Friday. We both decided to play hooky from work to enjoy a beautiful, early summer day on the links at Windsor Park here in Jacksonville. Jay stopped by a sports store somewhere en route and got us each a box of a dozen balls. â€œDid you get some for the back nine, too?â€ I enquired.
Now, I must say, I havenâ€™t played a round of golf in nearly a year. But I decided to forego any warm-up/practice on the driving rangeâ€”just tires me out before I even get started, it seems. And Jay had just played the week prior and was ready to try out his new â€œsetup,â€ which would purportedly eliminate his now famous banana-ball slice (that would be a left-to-right banana in case youâ€™re not a golfer).
Being a twosome, though, we were teamed up with another pair who, as it turned out, happened to be a father-and-son team as well, with each of our counterparts about our same age.
What a coincidence.
They were Doug Senior and Doug Junior. We wereÂ Skip Senior andÂ Skip Junior, butÂ Skip Junior had the wisdom to introduce himself as â€œJay,â€ which managed to eliminate at least some of the identity confusion through the course of the day.
I started taking Jay to the links with me when he was barely as tall as his driver. And, man, he has always been really pretty good. And now, as a young buck of 24, heâ€™s tall and lean and can hit it a mile. But that slice of hisâ€¦hmm. So, since he was twelve, I have often been inclined to remind him as he approaches the tee box to â€œAim left.â€ This annoys him to no end.
Anyway, so this is how it goes: Doug Senior scales the first tee box and warms up with a couple of practice swings. Itâ€™s a dog-leg right. He tees off. Pretty good. Crap. Iâ€™m hoping they arenâ€™t better than us.
Then, Doug Junior steps up and gets off a pretty good one as well. Nuts.
Then Jay takes aim and whacks what looks like a beauty! Right up until the last fifty yards of flight, at which time his ball hits the right blinker and winds up in the hedge along the road (first shotâ€”eleven balls left).
My turn. Iâ€™m a little nervous. I hate an audience.
I step up to the tee and promptly administer the four-someâ€™s first shank of the day. Dang.
â€œYou guys okay with a Mulligan?â€ says I.
â€œOkaysâ€ all around. The first little bead of sweat breaks out on my upper lip.
Okay. Donâ€™t choke. Line up properly. Slow backswing. Donâ€™t forget to turn the hips. Keep your frigging head down. Donâ€™t turn your right hand over through the swing. Right elbow in. Keep the knees bent. Back straight. FOLLOW THROUGH! KEEP YOUR DAMNED HEAD DOWN!
I find that my ball has advanced exactly fourteen inches. I know this immediately because Iâ€™ve never taken my eyes off it. So much for keeping your head down. My little white tee is left entirely undisturbed by all the commotion.
â€œMan, the wind really knocked that down!â€ says I. â€œAt least it was straight!â€ (I know â€™em all). Laughsâ€¦full sweat now.
â€œNever mind, Iâ€™ll play that first one,â€ so I pick up my ball and everyone heads for the carts, except meâ€”the distance of my first shot does not require automated transport in order for me to reach my ball in a timely manner.
I was away.
I managed to get some loft on my second shot and hopped in the cart with Jay. We then all headed off to root around in the hedges for a bit, looking for Jayâ€™s ball. Gone. He drops. He chilly dips. Jeez.
I get to my third shot. My brand new ball looks tired and muddy already. I study the distance to the pin. The bank of the green. Wind direction. I carefully select exactly the right iron that should provide a fairly high lob with a little backspin to keep it safely on the surface of the green.
I then proceed to take a two-pound divot. The ball advances ten yards. But itâ€™s straight (â€¦got that down). Iâ€™m getting closer. Donâ€™t need the cart yet. I think my arm is broken.
Then things start to go bad.
My ball is sitting in a two-inch deep divotâ€¦or maybe itâ€™s a snake hole, Iâ€™m thinking. I need a shovel. Or maybe a long stick with a â€œyâ€ at the end, along with a pitching wedge to finish him.
Meanwhile, old Doug puts his second shot through the green, takes two chip shots to get back on and then three-putts. Young Doug misses the green altogether and then proceeds to skull his chip shot with a line-drive bullet that would have gone into the woods on the other side had it not hit the pin. Maybe we were all a better match then I originally thought.
Jay sizes up a thirty-foot putt.
â€œWhatâ€™dya think?â€ he says.
â€œKeep it low,â€ says I.
One downâ€”seventeen to go.
Next holeâ€”a three par. Doug the eldest shanks into the swamp. Doug the youngest lofts one into the sand trap in the front of the elevated green. Takes three shots to get out. I put mine on the short grass in front.
Jay goes right.
And so it went.
Hole three. Older Doug puts down another great tee shot.
â€œMan, right in the middle of the fairway, Dad!â€ says Doug-the-younger.
â€œWhatâ€™s a fairway?â€ whispers I.
â€œItâ€™s what you have to drive your cart across in order to get to your ball in the woods,â€ says Jay.
We play â€œready golfâ€ (whoever is ready goes first) because the two guys behind us are clearly displaying negative body language as they watch us hunt for balls and line up our fourth putts. I want us to get a move on. Old Doug appears clueless. Plods along.
On the turn we grab sandwiches and beers and head to the tenth. We let the twosome behind us play through. They thank us. They donâ€™t smile as they drive by. They both hit humongous tee shots. We never see them again.
Iâ€™m ready. I tee off with a mouthful of hot dog and onions and a streak of mustard on my sweat-soaked, previously white golf glove. Iâ€™m in the palmettos to the left, about fifty yards up. Turning the right hand over. Same olâ€™, same olâ€™. Chew chew.
Jay steps up to the tee.
â€œAim left,â€ says I.
â€œI donâ€™t need to aim left,â€ says he. â€œIâ€™m telling you, itâ€™s all in the setup. I just need to get the setup right.â€
Whack! A beauty! Ah, wait, itâ€™s in the trees on the right. With the younger Douger. They head over there together.
I walk to my ballâ€”again. I then proceed to chilly dip my way up the left side of the fairway with my two-iron, one shot after another until, exhausted, I finally meet up with the others, hot and sweaty, on the tenth green. â€œWhereâ€™s the rest of my hot dog?â€ Thereâ€™s a foursome waiting behind us, sitting motionless in their carts. Arms crossed.
We come up on a long three-par with water in front and in back of the green. â€œJay, maybe you should use an old ball on this one,â€ says I. â€œI donâ€™t have any old balls,â€ says Jay.
Later I par a hole. This is what makes us keep coming back for this torment, by the way. Well, that and the fresh air, the sun, the hot dogs and some really good laughs. Taking this game seriously can kill you. Or get you killed.
Next hole. Jay steps up. Smokes one right down the middle of the fairway, 270 yards. Whoa!
â€œSee?â€ he says, â€œItâ€™s all in the setup.â€ Who am I to argue? Iâ€™ve never hit a ball that far in my life.
Last hole. Jay surveys the challenge: â€œOh greatâ€”dog leg, right with water all along the right side.â€
Setup. Swoosh. Crack!
Then, a blistering right turn. Splash. Mulligan time.
Jay lines up again. â€œAim left,â€ says I. Jay secretly aims left, apparently having lost some of his enthusiasm over his setup strategy.
Swoosh! Crack! Another absolutely huge shot! His Titleist flirts with the tall Georgia pines along the left side of the fairway. We watch its flight breathlesslyâ€”hearts in our throats. Then the fairway goes right, of course. But Jayâ€™s ball, well, it just keeps goingâ€”straight as the proverbial arrow. Right through the towering trees and into the adjoining fairway on the left. Exactly where he aimed it.
We had a blast. Canâ€™t wait to go back.
More later. Keep your head down.
P.S. Sorry about all the old golf jokesâ€¦