FAIRWAYS

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Chapter 7—Worker Bee Busy

At six-thirty, Pat, Jim, and Lani walk into the empty Pro Shop. Willie left the door of his office wide open, and he’s waiting for them.

“Come in, guys, I have ice-cold drinks for you,” Willie greets them warmly. “Nice address position, Pat. You’re doing well, man.”

They all take a seat around Willies round table where the drinks were set on coasters, and Lani starts,

“I worked out a conceptual design and a description of work needed for making a home out of the old structures. I’d like to go over them now.”

“Shoot, let’s hear it. Do I have to take notes?” Willie has a pad a paper ready.

“No, I’ll leave these with you. Here it goes, the brick house first.” Lani goes through a thorough cost estimating for the renovation work: roof structure, shingles, metal studs, drywall and cement board, plumbing fixtures, windows, doors, pressure washing of existing brick walls, electrical work, and woodwork.”

“My estimate for materials is about $7000-7500.” She waits for Willie’s feedback.

“Wow, the demolition budget is bigger than that,” says Willie.

“Yes, but that is only the brick house, and labor is not included. The contractor will get his professional discount, but we also have to do a living space in the current metal shed.”

“Well, before I give you my good news, tell us, please, what do you have for the metal shed.”

“The shed is fifteen by twenty feet, is on a good concrete slab, and the steel structure is rusted but solid. It’s enclosed on two sides, and it has metal roofing. It needs windows—a small one for the kitchen and two larger ones for the living space—a metal entry door, and a glass door. The roof and walls need insulation and stud framing for sheetrock. The steel structure needs to be cleaned up and painted. I suggest linoleum flooring. It will need plumbing and electrical for the kitchen with a polished concrete counter, some under-counter cabinets, and some shelving. Maybe a pantry closet. I think $5000 in materials will cover it.”

“Last year’s bid for demolishing and carting the metal shed was $3800, and for the demo of the brick house, they wanted $5000 to take it down and for dumpsters and carting another $5000. That’s more than the materials costs for the renovation,” says Willie and looks up from the folder he was reading from.

“Willie, my number is an estimate. You can add ten-to-fifteen per cent on top of it for sure,” says Lani.

“Willie,” says Jim, “I can help with physical labor, I’m pretty handy, and I work from home. Plus, I am sure some of the older boys would volunteer to help. With Pat’s ideas for raising money, we may be able to pull it off.”

“Here’s the good news, guys.” Willie closes his folder and continues. “I spoke with one of last year’s bidders. He said his father—an experienced contractor who just lost his job—is willing to work. His nineteen-year-old grandson, who’s going to college in the fall, will help. He would do that for $ 800 a week if we don’t request bond and insurance for the construction.”

“Full-time, forty hours a week?” Lani asks and looks through her papers.

“Yes.” Willie answers.

“Well, in my schedule, I have the work figured for eight weeks at the most, and I’ll stay on top of it. This may work, Willie.”

“I am also sure I can get some more money from the management company. Let’s do it. I think, to make the management happy, I would charge the Holleys $400 per month rent. In four years, the management can get back almost the entire renovation cost.”

“Dad, what do you think about the $400 per month rent?” Pat asks.

“I think it’s very good.”

I can also give Cliff twenty hours a week to run the cage cart on the range and rake the bunkers. That right there will pay for their rent.”

Pat, who can never hide his emotions, is in tears and hugs Lani and Jim.

“Willie, I promise, you won’t regret this. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

“Wonderful, I’m going home now.” They all get up and leave the office.

“Good night.”

*

On Sunday morning, Pat calls Cliff and asks if he and Isa want to come in the afternoon, around 4, for a golf lesson with Lani.

“I don’t have clubs.” says Cliff.

“Don’t worry, Dude, we can share these for now, and I can get a kid’s putter and wedge for Isa from the Pro Shop. My dad bought a used set for me on the Internet, and they come on Monday or Tuesday. You’ll be good for the school golf next week, with these clubs.”

“Cool, then we would love to come.”

Soon after four o’clock, Jim and the three children meet Lani at the practice ground of the club. Close to the driving range is the putting green, the chipping green, and a sand trap. A beautiful lawn, flowering trees, and bushes surround the side toward the big terrace of the Clubhouse. It’s a splendid place just to go for a picnic, or to have an outdoor party or even a wedding.

Lani finished warming up and is practicing high pitches to one of the cups.

“Hi, guys. Ready for me? I have a putter and pitching wedge for you, Isa, here. Cliff, here is a putter for you. Let’s move to the putting green. You guys need to focus. Willie told me that two weekends from today, you have the first school handicap competition, so today I’ll talk about score keeping.

“What exactly is a handicap? Cliff asks.

“In amateur golf, to make the game pleasurable and fair for people of different skill levels, they created the handicap system. Usually, they take the best ten out of the last twenty scores, apply a formula, consider the course’s difficulty, and give you a number—your handicap. From your total score—the gross score—you deduct your handicap, and that gives you your net score. So, for example, if your handicap is twenty-eight and my handicap is twelve, and you shoot 102, and I score eighty-eight, you beat me. Because your 102 minus twenty-eight is seventy-four, while my eighty-eight minus twelve is seventy-six. So, you beat me by two shots.”

“This is also a straightforward way to tell with a number what level golfer you are. This way, you can play with anybody and can have fun,” says Pat, who knows this cold.

“What handicap do the pro-golfers have, Miss Lani?” Isa wants to know.

“When you can play the course to the number of strokes the course is designed for—usually seventy-two for eighteen holes—your handicap is zero, and you are called a scratch player. Not relevant though for the pros, because handicap doesn’t come into play for them, but most of them have a negative handicap.”

“Lani, how is our school’s handicap competition going to work, and why? We weren’t told it’s going to be a ‘handicap’ competition.”

“They really want to assess your skill level at the beginning of the summer vacation and see by the fall how you guys have progressed. They’ll add your scores on three putts, three chips and three pitches holed out, 3-short irons on the range, and one hole of golf. I’ll show you. It’s easier to understand.”

Lani takes a wedge and a putter and goes to the chipping green. Ingo and Missy jump out of the lush grass, ready for work.

Lani says to them,

“Thank you, but let’s hope your services will not be needed.”

Deflated, Ingo sits back in the thick grass, but Missy is still ready to go.

Lani turns to the kids and says.

“You have to imagine that there is a three-foot radius chalk circle around the cup and one of five-foot radius. I have three chips, and I have to hold them all out.”

Lani makes the first chip and misses the put. The second chip holes out.

“Bow-wow” comes from Ingo, who by now knows it was a perfect shot. His little knob of a tail wags violently.

The third chip is within three feet from the cup, and she makes the putt.”

“So, how many strokes did I get on the holing out of the three chips?”

“Six,” says Isa.

“Yes, and the pitches test works the same. However, the iron shots from the range work differently. A stray shot that doesn’t hit the green is four strokes. A shot that lands on the Green but rolls off is three strokes, a shot on the green but not close is two and one inside eight feet—and there will be a chalk circle on the green—is one stroke.”

“Oh, I see,” says Pat.

“And on the hole of golf we will play, we just add the strokes until we hole out, right?”

“That’s right. So, you guys need to practice and do your best for now. In two weeks is just the ‘rehearsal.’ The last school week, you’ll have the real ‘school handicap.’ Did you all get that?”

The kids all say yes, and Lani decides to test them.

“Okay, then,” she gets an old scorecard out of her golf bag and breaks three pieces out of it and gives each kid a short golf pencil. “Please, write the best theoretical score in this upcoming competition, considering the hole to be played is a par 4, and nobody can make better than par on it.”

She collects the papers when they are done and looks them up.

The boys answered both thirteen, but Isa said ten.

Lani hesitates for a second but decides she wants to know Isa’s reasoning.

“Isa, tell me please, how did you come up with ten?” The boys are snickering.

“It’s quite simple. Best chipping is three, best pitching is three, best irons at the range is zero, and a four on the hole is ten.”

Lani and the boys are quiet for a moment. Lani thinks about it and starts laughing.

“From the mouth of babes. You know what, Isa? You nailed it, girl. That’s thinking outside the box. I’ll tell them to make a good hole at the flag. Somebody’s ball could hit the flag, and we’ll never hear the end of it if it couldn’t drop. Good for you, girl.”

Lani and Isa continued putting and chipping and the two boys went out to play a few holes.

Cliff carries Pat’s clubs and Pat has Lani’s set. Cliff enjoys being alone with his friend.

“Buddy, everything around me is changing. I am like in a daze,” says Cliff, walking side by side with his friend.

“I can only imagine, tell me some more.”

“Well, Dad is gone. Mom is a lot quieter than she was before. There is a sadness and fear on her face. I am the ‘man’ of the house now, and I don’t know if I am up to the job.”

“It’s normal. This is a huge change in your life. You’re doing fine, give it some time,” says Pat, not sure how else to encourage him.

They hit their second shots and get close to the green.

“You know, when we were walking down the fairway just now, I had one of those déjà vu moments, a feeling that I’ve done the exact same thing before.”

“Cliff, I am sure you have done this before—”

“No, I mean, it felt just like when I would walk with Dad. It was strange, because for a moment I was a young child and I was enjoying the sun on my face and looking at the blades of grass and trees, not at where my ball is. I was not thinking about golf, I was thinking about how pretty it all is.”

The boys see Jim coming back on the eight-hole fairway. They cut across to play the nineth with him.

When they come off the course, Lani tells Jim the amusing story with Isa’s score of ten.

“I know, young children have no filters like the older ones or adults, and they catch the essence of things. It is amazing. Marketing, advertisers, and industrial designers use children as a sounding board all the time.

*

On Monday afternoon, before Pat returns from school, Jim takes delivery of the used clubs. He unwraps the package, and inside is a brand-new black Ping bag with lime- green straps, legs, and a brand-new set of cavity-back irons and Big Bertha woods. He also finds a note from the seller.

We wish you lots of fun. Mom bought these for me to cheer me up after I broke my leg last September. But I grew six inches since then, and now they are short for me. Enjoy them. It was signed Mike.

Jim is jumping out of his skin with joy.

What goes around comes around. Signed, Dad.

When Pat enters the house—with his K-9 escort, of course—and sees the beautiful gift, he flips.

“Oh, my God. This is incredible, Dad.” He runs and jumps on Jim, who doesn’t even have time to get up from his desk.

“Did you read the note?” Jim gets up and walks with Pat back to the hallway where the new treasure is. Pat reads Mike’s message.

“Wow.” He reads Jim’s writing and puts the note against his chest.

“Do you mean—”

“Yes, Pat, the universe is paying you back for all the good things you’ve done lately. What goes around, comes around.”

“I love you, Dad.”

Jim walks back to his desk, while Pat gets a club out of the bag, takes his stands, and addresses an imaginary ball.

“Hello, ball,” he laughs out loud. “Dad, do you remember that Honeymooners episode with Ed Norton addressing the golf ball?” Jim leans his head on the backrest of his office chair and starts laughing like a child.

“Pat, we got to show it to Lani. I am sure she hasn’t seen it. She will die laughing.”

Later, Lani comes home and checks the clubs’ fit on Pat. They are perfect if he chokes down about an inch and a half on the grip, as he should. These clubs will fit him next year, too.

After dinner, the boys set Lani in the best seat of the house to watch the Honeymooners golf episode without warning her how funny it is. Pat and Jim are sitting slightly away from her on purpose. Both have their cell phones ready for capturing her reaction. Pat takes photos and Jim some video. The scene in the kitchen, with Ralph dressed up in his borrowed, over-the-top golf outfit, and Ed reading to him from a book on how to ‘address’ the ball killed her. Poor Lani, totally unprepared for this, is laughing with tears, gasping for air, and holding her belly like a little kid.

Watching her laugh with abandon is going to be in the family’s funny scrapbook for years to come.

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