Morning dew layered a glistening blanket over the fairway leading to the greens where golf cart tracks weaved a path the way tires leave traces in fresh fallen snow. It was an early morning the first day of June; a perfect date on the calendar to pull up memories from summers past. A calling welled in me to join in the fun with the orange colored Bermuda shorts and lime shades of golf shirts to run the course and shoot the shit with guys like me that had run their course in another life before sun and fun in Florida ate the time left. Reality set in and reminded me of the fact that moving dirt and digging holes is an easier task with a shovel instead of a golf club. The idea of male companionship is overrated. My simple mind concerning sports in general seemed to be a strange world. A group of sweaty guys in a locker room speaking of scores and points had very little appeal to me when sipping sixty year old scotch with trophy brides in the clubhouse made more sense. Why talk about boobs with naked guys in a locker room when you could immerse yourself in the vicinity of such abundance? As much common sense as that statement is, there is a story about a time when the effort to master the sticks overshadows veracity of such observations.
In the summer of the year that would be the sunset of one century, the heat in Asheville, North Carolina set the stage for dry fairways with grass that crunched. “I think we have a new one,” my father said to my senior brother as we gathered that early morning to do eighteen in a foursome that included a local friend who was well versed in the language of bogies and eagles. Mike had retired from a very successful career on Wall Street where business trips with investors involved foursomes who wrangled courses on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, followed with dining heavy hitters for deals in the Belvedere of the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. For Mike, a round of golf with me was an act of sympathy to endure my relationship with my father and brother as they visited.
They were warned that this outing was only my third attempt at Golf, and being kind they offered how third time’s a charm and warmed up on the putting green coaxing me to do the same. My brother and Mike looked serious and compared notes on their short game. Third time’s a charm. Who were they kidding? Some say that old saying goes back over centuries when lists of three things were considered a kind of good luck charm, even so far as to compare the sentence to the Holy Trinity in Christianity. Anyone who has ever tried golf for the first time may reference God in outbursts that have nothing to do with anything Holy.
Over the course of the month of August in Asheville, the days grow shorter by about an hour a day, nevertheless, the day about to unfold would be known to our foursome as the longest day of golf on record. Asheville’s normal cloud cover peeled back for the event, just as the forecasters predict year in and out that the closer to August 28th, the more the sun beats down and chases humidity away from the valleys and mountain ridges that form the bowl of seven mountains fencing in the city. This was a perfect day for golf; until we began.
The tee toss at the first tee gave my brother first whack; a welcome loss to me and I breathed some relief being saved starting first. My brother is appropriately referred to as my big brother a full five inches taller with his large football frame, he was a true athlete and could do what many say is impossible and knock a ball three hundred yards on a good day. Three of us watched as he positioned carefully to address hid ball leaning slightly to the right. We could feel eyes on us from the clubhouse. Our foursome had not been the first that day to leave tracks in the dew, so early tee timers now gathered for coffee to size up other golfer’s skills. My brother took his time. Those large shoulder pad muscles drew back and his head just barely twisted to lengthen the back swing. My inner voice shouted like a cheerleader for him to just knock the absolute hell out of the tiny ball just the way he flattened lineman after linemen. He had the killer expression etched in his forehead, the downward swing began, then, bang the shot rang out like a rifle echoing along the trough of a fairway girded by forty five degree slopes on either side. The ball took off. It seems my brother had turned his head just a bit too much to power the drive and the rocketed ball propelled about fifty feet to hit the trunk of some big old oak tree that had managed to dodge golfer’s balls over and over. Not this time. The power in the launch drove the ball back in a ricochet as if the tree threw it back and said to try again as the small orb rolled to stop between the size thirteen two tone brown and white golf shoes my brother wore that morning.
Laughter behind the glass of the clubhouse rang out way too loud for any window to muffle.
Mike, the closest to pro on our team, was next. His ball made it to the right up the slope and rolled back down to be swallowed by the trench these mountain types designed as a fairway. My dad was next. Now, to be fair, he only started golf when he had already turned seventy six. His three score and ten made no difference as he broke a hundred within several months. He reared back and slugged out a promising drive down the middle and said, “That’s how it’s done.”
Then, it was my turn. Nothing to report there. The ball got off the tee.
We were anxious to put some distance between our team and the onlookers in the clubhouse expecting more of a show. We did not disappoint.
In our hurry, my brother floored the peddle on the golf cart, only to send our bags flying off the back. My job to fasten the straps failed.
There was more laugher from the faceless mob behind the glass.
They say the days grow shorter in August just as days grow shorter for old men. We obliterated that old saying as over the next seven and a half hours, the mountains beat us over and over for the longest day of golf maybe in history. Mike decided our friendship would require some other bonding that did not include golf. My brother and father looked forward to returning to the flat fairways around Richmond, and I said, “Screw that third time’s a charm crap.”