Around 10 years ago my boss invited me to play a round of golf with him and his boss, the CEO of our company. At the time I was just picking up the game and playing with my antique Wilson’s. In my naiveté, I accepted his gracious invitation. So one beautiful Saturday morning I found myself trucking through the Connecticut countryside looking for some country club, the name of which I have long since forgotten.
I arrive at the country club a few minutes before our tee time and rush to the first tee. My boss and the CEO were standing there with a slight sheen of sweat from the bucket they’d hit at the driving range, sipping a Samuel Adams. Hitting a bucket before you play, I thought. Now that’s a good idea.
Catching my breath, I had the chance to look around and quickly realized this wasn’t your average public links course. Behind me loomed the large turn-of-the-century mansion turned pro shop, like a watchful sentry guarding the peaceful countryside. The golf course spread before me like some green magic carpet bordered by oak trees sporting the beginning buds of an early New England spring.
Since it was early spring, and such a beautiful day, the course was crowded with dames and dandies like this Arizona bumpkin had never seen. I swear to God, it was like a movie. I heard the old Sesame Street song running through my head: “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…” and I realized the one thing I was thinking about was me.
We were the next group to play, so we stepped up to the tee box waiting for the foursome in front of us to hit off the fairway before teeing off. The CEO gave me the honors. I placed a tee in the ground and whipped my club around in some awkward effort to warm up. I noticed that the practice green was to my left and too close to the first tee; the foursome playing behind us were standing together in casual chat, glancing at me. All in all, including the starter, who was friend of the CEO’s, I’d guess there were 10 or 12 people watching me as I addressed the ball.
Well, I took a breath and did it! I swung with all my might. And I hit that damn little ball hard. Real hard. The only problem was that I topped it bad. Real bad. The ball rolled with some vicious velocity at about a 20 degree angle to my right. We were playing the white tees and the ball rolled fast and hard, right toward the red tee maker some 20 yards in front of me. As if in slow motion I saw the ball hit the red tee maker with a loud thunk, shoot up in the air in a beautiful arch backwards, heading right for me. I was frozen, I couldn’t move. The ball floated, floated, floated, and then landed thunk, right in front of me, damn near on the tee it had previously been sitting on. I mean, I didn’t have to move to take my second shot. And then, like a razor cutting through the soft skin of an apple, laughter cut through the soft spring morning. Laughter echoing off of sentry pro shop, rolling through the budding oaks, traveling down the country lanes, fading only when in reached my Arizona home town itself.
Everyone on the practice green stopped motionless to view the source of such merriment; patrons stuck their heads out of the pro shop window; my boss and the CEO were literally on the ground, holding their sides in painful joy of my painful embarrassment. And all I can say is, “It’s amazing I still play this game.”