I played quite a bit of golf as a young lad. Then I gave it up for sex and I never looked back. They’re both endeavors that require all your concentration. They also share many of the same fundamentals — such as Keep Your Head Down, Shift Your Weight Rhythmically and Don’t Get Caught Cheating.
So here I am rehearsing a play in the Berkshires and I get an afternoon off and there’s a lovely nine-hole course that I pass sometimes on our way back to the apartment.
“Why not?” I thought in a moment of youthful impetuosity.
Well, I’ll tell you why not. Can we begin by mentioning that it was 92 degrees and crushingly humid? That there had been a chemical fire the day before that was so toxic a three-state warning went out telling people to remain indoors if at all possible? Not to mention that our hero is a tad out of trim and short of breath to begin with?
I entered the pro shop with what I thought was a good attitude. I told the pro I just wanted to rent some clubs and hack around for nine holes.
“Not in them jeans, you won’t. We don’t have a lot of rules but that’s one of them.”
I decided not to rise to the bait. It was a stupid, elitist, archaic rule but — when in Rome. I mean, who would I be offending with my jeans? A bunch of geezers with boney knees and baggy Bermuda shorts? Is this really a style question? I think we should put up a sign in the lobby of our theater — NO TAN CHINOS ALLOWED – WE DON’T HAVE MANY RULES, BUT THAT’S ONE OF THEM.
“I’ll go back and change my pants, no problem,” I said, nice as pie.
“Well, you better do it before 3:15,” said the pro. “‘Cause I got a league coming in. If you can get back here and tee off before 3:15, I’ll let you go.”
I should have quit right there. If that’s not the universe telling me something, I don’t know what is. But off I flew to change. When I returned in my condonable pants — minutes before my cut-off time — I told the pro what I wanted: a rental set, some balls, some tees and a glove.
“Walkin’ or ridin”?”
I figured I should get something out of this, a little exercise, at least. A near-fatal mistake.
The bag of clubs looked okay — newer than mine at home, which have sat unused for years. I put the four shiny new balls and some tees that I had just bought into the bag and off I strode to the first tee. There was no one ahead of me, no one behind me — perfect.
I stretched for a moment, which was all it took to break a serious sweat. I took a few practice swings to loosen up and my shirt was immediately drenched and my glasses were fogged in like San Francisco on a summer morning. I couldn’t see and I couldn’t breathe. There didn’t seem to be any air in the air.
I teed up the ball — I just wanted to get the whole thing over with as soon as possible — and I hit a dinky little shot down the left side of the fairway. Fortunately, it’s a dinky little golf course so I wasn’t in such bad shape. Off I went to my ball, my clubs slung over my back as I did when I was boy in Baltimore all those many years ago.
Except that the shoulder strap was way too long so the bag was hanging down around my knees and the gizmo that allows you to stand the clubs up vertically when you set the bag down wasn’t retracting properly, so I kept tripping over it and spilling the clubs all over the ground. Thank God there was nobody watching.
I hit my second shot, which was nothing to write home about — it landed to the right of the elevated green — and I trudged up the hill to find it. This trudge was when everything fell apart. What’s left of my brain shut down in protest; my lungs screamed for air; my heart pounded like a jackhammer. The only things functioning perfectly were my sweat glands, which I must say were impressive in their output. When I got to the green I was reminded immediately that I never knew how to putt properly. “I hate this game,” I muttered.
On the third tee, which is a dogleg right, I attempted a fade shot with my drive — moving the ball from left to right with the contour of the fairway. Well, it went left; that part was okay. But the fade to the right didn’t happen and the ball flew about thirty yards into the woods. I teed up another ball and tried again. This one ducked into the woods immediately never to be seen again.
Damn. I should be able to hit this shot, I thought to myself as I whacked a third ball into the woods. I stood there, drenched down to my Jockey Shorts as the reality of my situation came into focus. I didn’t buy enough balls. I had one ball left to play the remaining seven holes. I almost went into the woods to search for my errant shots but thoughts of ticks and Lyme disease dissuaded me.
I shifted my strategy — much like Tiger Woods did at the U.S. Open when his left knee went out. My new plan was to hit the ball no more than ten yards at a time so that I could be certain of finding the little bugger. By the sixth hole I got so bored, I pulled out my driver and whacked away. It was a nice shot, well hit if I may say so myself — just to the left of those little flags down there. When I got to it I realized that those little flags were put there to warn me of a pond – just to left.
I tried for a moment to fish my ball out with a seven iron, but a frog croaked and scared me away. It sounded like a big frog.
I schlepped my way back to the clubhouse in disgrace, started my car and sat in the air conditioning for fifteen minutes or so until I could detect a pulse.
On my way back to the apartment I stopped at a tiny farmer’s stand that promised sweet corn. I bought some and boiled it up immediately after I peeled off my sopping wet duds. It was indeed the sweetest, most toothsome corn I’ve tasted in years. This was the corn I remember from my youth – fresh off the stalk, popped into a pot, just a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Oh baby; oh baby.
So the moral of this story? Give up golf, old fella; it never was for you. Stick with corn and sex.