Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dear Local Golf Course

Broadcasters for sporting events like to use contrived and cliched phrases like, "Legends are made, not born" or even argue the inverse of that.  What most fail to recognize is that sometimes, legends are just there, waiting for the right opportunity to introduce themselves to the world.  After wasting thirty years on this planet witnessing nothing but the common dregs of society and the general unspectacular riff raff I am forced to cohabitate this world with, I was finally able to witness and share a moment with true, unmitigated greatness.   

I can only attribute my brush with legend thanks to the high aspirations I thrust upon myself for my recent day off.  My checklist for the day, scrawled hastily on the back of a note stating "The cat has eaten.  Do not believe his filthy lies", looked like this:
  1. Clean kitchen
  2. Go to Lowes for things to fix cabinets
  3. Fix said cabinets
  4. Bask in the splendor of the aforementioned fixed cabinets.
  5. 18 holes of championship caliber golf. 
  6. Vigorous calisthenics and the repeated lifting of heavy objects.
  7. See movie
  8. Plant 400 garlic bulbs.
  9. Watch the Eagles game.
Obviously, that particular diem was soon to be carpe'd.  I finished steps one through four in the time it would take most boring people to get their hazelnut coffee to the perfect temperature and read Marmaduke.  My basking completed, I loaded my clubs in the car, and drove to your course.  Even without a tee time, I was able to walk out and begin play immediately, and for that, I thank you.

What transpired over the first twelve holes cannot be put adequately into words.  If one were to make an attempt, they might try to use words such as "abominable", "cringe-worthy", or variations on voiding one's bowels in their sleeping area.  What can be said is that all thoughts of a championship caliber round had gone by the wayside, and what was left was a bitter death march towards futility. 

What I failed to notice was the patterns that were emerging, signifiers to the greatness I was about to behold.  Through the first six holes of play, I posted the following scores:

Hole 1: 7
Hole 2: 6
Hole 3: 7
Hole 4: 6
Hole 5: 7
Hole 6: 6

Alternating scores of 7 and 6, adding up to an unlucky number 13. I finished the front 9 with little hope of breaking the elusive 100 mark.  False hope arrived at hole 10, with a quick and flawless par, but holes 11 and twelve repeated the pattern of a seven and a six.  So, standing on the tee box of the 13 hole, the very hole that had been portended all morning, it could be said that I had hit rock bottom, and that hope was something in short supply. 

I selected a new ball from my bag, after having executed my previous ball in the murky depths of the #12 pond for high treason.  As you well know, hole 13 is not a great hole to play when your game is not going well.  A vast expanse of water lies to the left, while the set of the movie "Dune" is displayed in all it's glory to the right, buffering the hole from the highway.  I teed the ball, and looked of into the yonderland, praying that my ball stay true and straight.  That was when I first saw him. 

His presence was trumpeted with the rumble of the gas cart he rode, like a valiant steed conveying him to battle.  He crested the ridge of the mightiest sand trap, and there he stood, rake in hand, and went to work.  I knew he was too far to hit with my drive, so I took a breath and swung away.  No other drive on the day sounded so sweet off the face of my driver.  My ball cleaved the air like a knife, and landed softly well down the fairway, safe from sand and surf.  I strode triumphantly to my ball, and gave the man a grin.  He nodded slightly, as if to let me know I had done well, but there was more work to be done.  He stopped raking and stepped back so he wasn't so close to the line of my shot.  Whatever golf karma was gained from the good drive disintegrated as my shot sailed far right, over the dunes, over his head, and straight towards the highway.  To his credit, he did not duck, did not judge, he just went back to raking the gutter. 

Defeated again, I went to the fence and began searching for the ball.  After a couple of minutes, I dropped a new ball, ready to take a penalty.  As I lined up my shot, I heard the gas cart approach.  English was not his first language, and I did not speak his.  Sign language didn't seem to work, and neither of us could follow semaphore, no matter how vigorously I tried.  In the end, he jumped off the cart, walked over, and pointed with his rake 20 yards further from where I stood.


With one word, everything crystallized.  Almost an epiphany, it became clear that I had entered a Bagger Vance situation, and this man was to be my golf mentor.  I also somehow understood that he preferred to be called Queequeg, and had a very strong passion for collecting Pez dispensers.  Amazed, I walked to the ball, and put a great shot on the ball.  I hurried to my cart, looking back as Queequeg climbed into another sandtrap, as if he hadn't just changed my life forever.  I drove up, got to out, and again, I couldn't find my ball.  I walked towards the left of the green. 

"No" he said, just loud enough for me to hear, but not bothering to look up from his work.

I stared back, wondering if I had actually heard him, then took another step.

"No.  Bunker."

I walked to a bunker thirty yards to my right, and there lay my ball, directly in the center of a bunker in front of the green. I looked back, and he just raked away.  My next shot landed ten feet from the hole, and I putted in for bogey, possibly the best I had ever had on that hole.  Luckily, my manners returned, and I yelled a thank you to him.  He ignored me, and raked on, as if to say it was time for me to spread my wings and fly solo.  Reinvigorated, I stepped onto the next tee box, teed the ball, and hit it directly into the woods.

Queequeg shook his head, and raked his disappointment into the sand.  I drove away, playing slightly better for having gained wisdom from him.  I like to think there will always be a little bit of Queequeg in me, whether in my heart, or in my horrific slice that bananas back onto the fairway.

To my knowledge, this is the only known photograph of Queequeg, and I think it catches his essence well.  Stoic, slightly blurry, and always raking.  Please, give this man a raise, or at least a nicer rake, with comfort grip handles.  And maybe a popsicle, because it gets hot out there. 


I appreciate your comments. I appreciate them even more if you sign in or let me know who you are. Otherwise I get paranoid trying to figure out who you are, and that ends up with me having to watch The Sandlot to calm myself down.