FAIRWAYS

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Chapter 14—Thriving, not just surviving

On Saturday, May 20th, Pat, Lani and the dogs are at the range practicing. Jim drives to town, to the big flower shop in the Plaza, and picks up the special bouquet of pink peonies he had ordered in secret for Lani. Tomorrow, May 21st, is her name day in her native culture, and it’s a treasured celebration for Lani. He puts them in water and hides them in the garage for tomorrow.

It’s been more than a month since Jim asked her to marry him. She has been in the United States three years and Jim knows she misses her family. He worries about her feeling all alone on her wedding day.

On Sunday morning, Lani comes down for Jim’s freshly made coffee and finds the stunning flowers in a beautiful crystal vase on the table. She gasps for air and starts crying happy tears.

“Jim, my darling Jim.” She gives him a big embrace and kisses him. “You remembered. How thoughtful of you. I love you and thank you for being my new family.”

*

Pat and Jim had spoken weeks ago with Willie and reserved tee times for Saturday, June 3rd at two o’clock for four foursomes for the nine-hole wedding tournament.

“Willie, I’ll share a family secret with you. On that day, before the rounds of golf, we will have a Justice of the Peace come to Broad Oaks and perform the marriage ceremony for Lani and me on the lawn next to the Clubhouse.”

“Congratulations, Jim. How many people will you have?” Willie wants to know how to prepare.

“For the golf, we are sixteen, but there will be a total of twenty-three, including you and us,” says Jim, and he adds laughing, “You are not invited for the golf. We want to have fun, not to feel bad about our games.”

“Jim, I am thrilled. Look, I’ll arrange a special wedding setup on the lawn, and I will have a nice lunch for you and your guests on the club’s terrace before the 2 pm rounds of golf—my wedding gift for you guys.”

“Fantastic, thank you, Willie. Let’s keep this a secret from Lani. All she will know is what she, herself suggested—

to have it here at the course.”

“It’s in the vault, Jim,” says Willie, his way to swear to secrecy.

“The seven out-of-town guests will be told to arrive at the Broad Oaks Clubhouse at 11. They’ll be asking about the Queenan wedding.”

“The locals should also show up around the same time. They all know who’s playing and will bring their gear. The attire for the party will be fancy golf.”

“Oh, it sounds fantastic. If you allow it, I will post some pictures in the Newsletter.”

“Sure, why not. Thank you, Willie.”

*

Friday afternoon, after the house-warming party at the Angus’ House, Lani, Jim, Pat, and the golden-furred beasts take a relaxed walk home. Jim has an arm over Lani’s shoulders.

“Lani, for dinner tonight, I will order take out, so you have time to get ready for tomorrow’s big event.”

“Great, I need to wash my white golf outfit, take a soak, wash my hair and give myself a facial, manicure, and pedicure—”

Jim butts in laughing, “Will the Justice of the Peace make you take your golf shoes off and check your nails?”

“Oh, Jim. You are so silly at times. After the game, I have a cocktail party at the house. I should look presentable. I am the bride.”

“Cocktail party? Why don’t I know about that? Are you keeping secrets from me?” Jim is having fun, knowing full well he keeps an even bigger secret. The lady Justice of the Peace will be at the Clubhouse at 11 in the morning. We can take our clubs with us and play after that.

“Cool, I like that.”

*

The following day, they get to the Clubhouse before 11. Jim has on a pair of warm beige knicker pants, argyle socks in black and beige, a white long-sleeved Oxford shirt, bowtie, and an ultra-fine straw-hat with a black band. He looks fancy, right out of the end of the nineteenth century. Lani is wearing a white blouse and laced short skirt, a white brim hat with peach roses, and peach and white saddleback golf shoes.

To her total surprise, she sees lots of their friends there, all dressed for golf but in adorable outfits and accessories. Ray, the contractor, is exceptionally well- dressed, and he holds a lovely bouquet of peach roses.

“Jim, what have you done, honey?”

Jim starts laughing, and after they greet and hug their friends, he says, “Okay. At 11, the Justice of the Peace will arrive, and we will go to the lawn”—he turns around and sees a beautiful arbor full of white roses on the lawn. He looks at Willie, who is among the guests.

“Willie, this is gorgeous. What a setup. Thank you.”

“In that heavenly spot, after the ceremony you guys will hold drivers and woods up, forming a tunnel to walk under at the end.”

Jim and Pat, standing face to face several feet away from each other, lift their clubs, and Jim says, “Like this.”

Lani looks at Pat and smirks.

“So, you are in on it, too, huh? You guys got me. My life’s ‘big day’ and I know nothing about what’s planned. Well done, gentlemen.”

Willie draws everybody’s attention.

“After the ceremony, we are all invited to a festive lunch in the Clubhouse restaurant terrace, and at two o’clock, the starter will call four foursomes to the tee for nine holes of golf.” He doesn’t get to finish the announcement because everybody gives a round of applause.

“As I call out names, please raise your hand for the people to meet you,” says Willie.

“First on the tees will be the bride’s foursome, and that is:

“Mrs. Lani Queenan”—another round of applause and whistling. “Pat Queenan, Cliff Holley, and David Mullen, Mrs. Queenan is advised to play competitively and not do a practice round with the juniors.”

The whole crowd knows what he’s talking about and chuckles.

“Second on the tee will be the groom, his friend Alex Montaña with his son Greg—who are coming from Washington D.C. The fourth will be Raymond Dubois, our master builder, who will also give away the bride.”

The crowd goes wild. Nobody expected that, knowing Lani has no family.

“Third on the tees will be our new friend Barry—who works with Lani, but in the wetlands mapping office, and helped us greatly, so you don’t have to hit balls from wild geese dung.” The crowd laughs again. “He will play with Vivienne Bloom—Lani’s friend from Washington D.C., who did all the testing for the unfortunate Spy Hunt business. They will be joined by architect Bruno Místico from New York—Lani’s first boss who helped her get a visa to come to the US, and Tom, Ray’s grandson and vacation-time builder.”

The guests give a big round of applause, amazed at the beautiful relationships Lani has after such a short time.

“Last, but not least, the foursome, starting at 2:45, is Jim’s dad and his wife Barbara, Jim’s brother, Steve. They will be joined by Jim’s Washington D.C. friend, Police Officer David Hill—who helped Jim and Alex in the spy adventure a year back when they were neighbors.”

The crowd starts murmuring and moving around, but Willie calls again for attention.

“Please, I’m not finished. The following will be present on the course—for their viewing delight—in courtesy golf carts—Bianca, Alex’s daughter and Greg’s sister riding with Ty, David Hill, and Kasha Hill’s son, then Jasmin and Isa Holley—our new Broad Oaks residents, and in the last cart will be Kasha Hill and Barry’s wife, Gloria.”

*

All in all, the small and original wedding went smoothly, as planned. Jasmin took the photographs for their albums. Everybody had a wonderful time. The lunch was as festive as can be, with peach flowers, candles, place cards, delicious food, and a small gift bag for everybody with a golf ball and ball mark tool with the club’s logo.

Lani had the wedding of her dreams.

The family members and local friends came for the cocktail party at the house while the others returned home.

*

The top six players will train all next school year to be part of the high school golf varsity team.

Coach Yung had worked with them now for about two months every Tuesday and Thursday. Lani helped Pat, Cliff, and David with technical advice and played some practice holes with them in late afternoons.

There are only two more weeks left to the school year, but only one week left until Saturday, June 10th, when the final school qualifier for the golf varsity team takes place.

Lani thinks the boys are making substantial progress. Lately, she’s been working with them on their short games. Of course, the boys resist it. At the range, all they want to do is hit the ball hard and far. Lani gives them a convincing argument and suddenly they are believers.

“Look, boys. A normal golf course is rated at seventy-two shots. If you make the green in regulation, that allows for two putts on each green to shoot par. Do you agree?”

“Sure,” say the boys.

“That’s eighteen holes time two putts, that’s thirty-six putts. Half of the game is putting.”

“Wow, that’s amazing. You wouldn’t think so.” The boys look at each other astonished.

Lani teaches them a little strategy.

“First, you need to understand that all of you can reach any of the greens in one shot over regulation. That means there is no reason to pick the biggest club in the bag for the drive. You are better off with a lay-up shot off the tee that takes the danger out of play. You may not reach the green with the next shot, but you’ll end up short of the green. With the shots I am teaching you, you have a better chance to get it close to the pin for a two-putt. That will give you a bogey on the hole. A bogey play is giving you a ninety-score or a low nineties.”

“That sounds about right,” says Pat.

“Show us the shots. Are they pitches?” Cliff asks, confused.

“They are ‘finesse shots.’ You control the length of the shot by the length of your backswing. Look. If you imagine a clock on your body, with your head being twelve o’clock and your ball six o’clock, there are three lengths of backswing for these shots. All shots finish with a full pitch flow through, with hands and grip next to your left ear. The length of the shots is determined by the length of the backswing, and we are using three specific length—7:30, 9 and 10:30. Please, take a short backswing with your hands next to the left ear and stop.”

The boys do it, and she goes to them and corrects their finish positions.

They all move to the pitching green.

“With one wedge I can hit three different length finesse shots. With the three wedges in the bag, times three different backswings, that gives you nine guaranteed, different-length and consistent-distance shots that land softly on the green and stop. You just have to learn your distances in time. When you are confident you have the right club in your hands, you hit a better shot. You don’t have to guess.”

“Wow, that’s going to take some time,” says Pat.

“Boys, as Bagger Vance said, ‘golf can only be played. It can’t be won.’ You play it a lifetime, and you still learn.”

During the warm-up at the range, Lani asks them to relax and remember a few simple ideas on competition day.

“You all have a good stance, alignment, and keep a soft grip. I want you to remember:

-Keep your arms and the club in front of your chest.

-Keep your hands ahead of the ball at impact so you can hit down on it and compress it.

-Do not swing with more than 80% of what you’ve got.

-Do not overthink. Feel the club head weight at all times.

-If you need to, pull that front foot back if you are hooking or the back foot backward if you’re slicing.”

With that, Lani wishes them good luck and leaves. She will return to see them play on the course.

*

The practice facility is full of kids and parents. There are banners with the school name, refreshment stands, and many chairs placed in a semi-circle on the lawn behind the practice greens for the parents and the other spectators to enjoy the competition.

All boys do better this time in the putting competition and in chipping. They sure had some training, and it shows. The pitching is not going much better for most of them, but some of the finesse shots Pat, Cliff, and David practiced for a week give good results. David does the 7:30 pitch with the pitching wedge, and it works. Twice the sand wedge at nine o’clock backswing gets Cliff and Pat close enough for a two-putt. The range iron shots to a designated green also go much better for our three boys. Their controlled, smoother swings get a lot of cheers and applause.

David, Pat, and Cliff are again leading with a score of twenty-seven, five shots better than in April. Six boys scoring thirty-two and higher follow.

Because they are tied, they have a three-hole playoff. The scoring will be—zero for birdy, one for parr, two for bogey, three for double-bogey, four for a triple-bogey, and five for more. The boys will play holes eight, nine and ten, all close enough to the Clubhouse for the spectators to see them. Lani arrives before the players leave for the eighth- hole tees, and she sits with Jim and Ingo in the audience.

It’s still early in the afternoon, but while the boys, coach Yung, and the starter walk the two holes to their starting tee, the sky clouds up, and it gets darker. The wind picks up, too. Lani turns toward Jim and whispers, so no one else can hear her.

“Jim, they are in trouble. I didn’t teach them yet how to play in the wind.”

“I think Cliff with his lower hook will do better in the wind, but we’ll see,” says Jim, who watched a few of Lani’s lessons with the boys.

“I saw lighting far away.” As she says that, they all hear a loud and rumbling thunder. “The storm is not far away,” says Lani.

When they finish the ninth hole, Pat is one shot ahead of the other two. He has two bogies, while Cliff and David have a double-bogey and a bogey. Lani is impressed with how well they’re playing in these weather conditions. She watches them on the tenth hole tee, and she also keeps looking at the angry sky.

Pat being ahead, has the honors, so he goes first. He puts a low 5-iron in the fairway. He knows enough to have figured out that now, when they turned around, on the tenth fairway, he’s hitting against the wind. Cliff hooks it a bit but is still on the fairway, on the left. He’s going to be standing in the rough for his second shot. David hit it well, but the wind in his face slowed his ball and pushed it into the right rough.

David is away and hits his second shot aiming left out of habit, which gives him another slice. His ball lands on the right side in the rough, some thirty-five yards from the green. He has a tree branch blocking his next shot. Pat’s second shot is on the green but far from the hole, and he has a tricky downhill putt. Cliff’s tee shot is longest, so he hits last. His second shot reaches the fringe of the green and rolls back a little.

The boys are watching the sky while walking toward their balls.

David gets to his ball and is pulling an 8-iron to try to stay under the branch. The ‘old David’—the one who cheated last time by kicking his ball to improve his lie—is long gone. He wouldn’t do that for all the wins in the world. He knows his Dad would do it in a heartbeat, but not him.

Willie blows the Clubhouse horn to stop play. The storm and lighting are coming, and coach Yung tells the boys to mark their balls and pick them up.

David concedes the hole. From where he is, the best he can do is to get on the green in four and, if he is lucky, two-putt for a six.

Cliff concedes, too. He’s still off the green and has an uphill chip—and he doesn’t have that shot. Anything could happen with the chip. Pat is on the green in two, looking at the putt he is afraid of, but he wins with the other two players conceding.

Everybody runs off the course and hides in the Clubhouse, just as the fury of the storm hits Broad Oaks.

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