Chapter 2: Lessons, Weather Vanes, and Hustlers
Mark had said to meet him outside and he’d grab a cart. I got a six pack and a cooler of ice from Lisa. She gave it to me and I tipped her five dollars.
I met Mark just outside the clubhouse. The clouds were getting darker and the temperature had dropped a little. I enjoyed that familiar feeling of a rainstorm approaching. It was soothing for some reason.
The front nine still had quite a few golfers so we would have to play the back again. There were two married couples standing on the tenth tee trying to decide whether to risk playing on. Unwilling to wait, Mark and I drove around the tenth tee and down a maintenance road farther out onto the back nine.
We spotted a group of men in their thirties playing very slowly around the thirteenth green. I say around the thirteenth green because they were still chipping and apparently they had never heard of “ready golf.” You can stereotype older people and women, but these guys were obscenely slow. They appeared to be arguing over who was away and should chip first. Instead of whoever was ready chipping onto the green first, they went around in a very precise order.
Mark and I took advantage of the situation. While I’d hate to be behind that group of slow sons of bitches, I’d love to be in front of them. We rode to the fourteenth tee and parked. If the group behind you is slower than the group in front of you, there’s time to practice and relax without being pushed.
We stepped out of the cart, grabbed our clubs and slowly walked onto the tee. Number fourteen is a 435-yard par four with a slight dogleg right. There were trees to the right; but if you cut the dogleg, it made the hole a lot shorter.
Mark teed up his ball and stepped behind it. After taking his line, he addressed the ball and waggled his three-wood. Then he took one of the smoothest swings I had ever seen. It was Ben Hogan pure. It sailed down the right side of the fairway and then curved to follow the dogleg as if he were steering it. I lost it behind the trees, but it had to be great.
I stepped onto the tee and smiled at Mark. “Nice shot,” I said as I teed up my ball.
“Now, you hit a good one,” he said.
“We’ll see,” I replied.
“We’ll see?” he repeated the words to me as though they were the most ludicrous two words he had ever heard strung together.
“I’ll try,” I offered as an alternative.
“How about a little confidence,” Mark replied.
I teed up my ball and stood behind it to find my line.
“You know that you can hit the ball,” he added. “Pick an exact spot in the fairway as a target. Don’t just point in the general direction.”
I tried to follow his instructions as I picked a spot on the right side of the fairway to cut off some of the dogleg.
“Hit the ball with some confidence,” he said. “Save the swing analysis for the range.”
Once I had my line, I addressed the ball and only thought of hitting the ball at my target. I fought to keep any swing thoughts out of my mind.
The wind was picking up quite a bit as the trees rustled and leaves blew by my ball. As I concentrated on that spot on the right side of the fairway, I swung with almost an automatic motion. The ball flew low, but directly at the corner of the fairway at which I had aimed.
I could feel that I struck the ball a little thin as evidenced by its low trajectory. Despite my shot’s imperfection, it was solid and dead at the edge of the dogleg. My ball landed a few feet inside the rough at the bend and rolled straight into the center of the fairway. I was pleased with the result if not the sting of the way I struck the ball.
“Wow, great play,” exclaimed Mark. “That’s the way to take the wind out of it.”
“Thanks,” I responded with relief. “Better lucky than good.”
I was within 150 yards of the green for sure. I might have been as close as 120 yards.
We hopped back into the cart and headed out the path. As I took a drink of my beer, I enjoyed the all too rare feeling of satisfaction. As we left the path and crossed into the fairway, I could see my ball in the center and a little short of the red stake. Mark’s ball appeared to be 30—50 yards from the green. An impressive shot with a three wood.
We reached my ball. I was 128 yards out. Wanting a little extra club in the wind, I grabbed my eight-iron. I thought about taking a three-quarter swing and aiming right at the pin. I didn’t have many shots in my repertoire so rather than hitting a low knock-down shot into the wind, I had to hit my normal shot with more club.
Again, I concentrated on the pin rather than a swing thought and hit a nice high shot that was dead on. It landed pin high, about a foot to the right and skipped toward the back of the green.
“Great shot,” said Mark.
“Thanks.” I answered as I wiped off my eight-iron and returned it to my bag. It felt good to be hitting the ball well. I actually felt like I was playing golf.
The clouds were getting darker as we rode back into the right side rough and progressed towards Mark’s ball. As we curved back into the fairway, it became clear that his ball was inside of the 50-yard marker. We pulled up next to it and saw a sprinkler cap five feet ahead of his ball marked 29 yards to the center of the green. Harley, our eccentric maintenance worker, had ensured that every sprinkler head had the yardage marked on it. It was one instance of Harley’s attention to detail that we all appreciated.
Mark pulled out his sand wedge and took a few practice swings. He went through his usual methodical routine. As he addressed his ball and prepared to swing, another ball bounced in the rough and rolled directly in front of Mark about 15 feet away. The ball appeared to have come from number 11. An ill-timed errant approach shot from another group. Mark was unflinching in his concentration. As he started his swing, I couldn’t help but be impressed by his focus.
However, just as he reached the top of his backswing, the delayed cry, “Fore!” came bellowing from behind the trees that separate the two holes. I cringed in anticipation of the havoc this would cause Mark.
He seemed to hold his swing together quite well. He finished strong and the ball flew high and toward the green. However, it did seem to fade a little rather than Mark’s usual draw. The pin was on the left side of the green, but the ball landed on the far-right side. Mark was on the green, but clearly it was not the shot he had hoped for.
“Damn good considering that moron,” I commented.
“Yeah, he rivals old Paul in timing,” Mark replied.
Besides being a volunteer ranger and jack of all trades, Paul was our resident storyteller and Bob Hope caddy who had a knack for talking just as you swung. He was completely oblivious to the habit though. Most gabbers are.
As Mark sat down in the cart with me, a guy in his 20s popped out though the trees holding a club.
“Sorry. My bad,” he said. “Hope my ball didn’t bother your swing.”
“No, your ball didn’t bother me,” answered Mark emphasizing the word “ball.”
“That’s good,” the guy replied.
We rode toward the green and left the hacker to his ignorance. Mark didn’t let things like that bother him. He was very easy going. I could use some of his patience.
When we arrived at the green, I could see that my ball had rolled off the green. Mark had a long put himself. Probably 30 feet.
My ball was sitting up and I wasted no time addressing it. I chipped on and right at the hole using a low risk bump and run. The ball died about five feet short of the hole. I could live with that considering how I had played the first nine.
Mark had at least 30 feet to the hole. There was a slight drop in the green halfway between his ball and the hole. It wasn’t an easy put. He took his usual graceful practice swings and then rolled the ball to within one foot.
“Great speed,” I commented.
He tapped in his par putt as I lined up my five-footer. I tried to take a nice easy swing and the balled rolled straight for the hole. I got eager for a moment, but the ball stopped just two inches short.
“Bogie isn’t bad there,” said Mark.
“Yeah, I’m not complaining.” I had no reason to complain. I was playing golf. It had never felt so good to be disappointed in a bogie.
It was looking more and more like rain, but that seemed to help us both concentrate. There was something calming about the cooler temperature and rustling of the wind through the trees. We played the next two holes extremely well for each of us. Mark birdied 15 and parred 16. I was ecstatic to par them both.
We each opened another beer as we parked at the 17th tee.
“Feeling better?” asked Mark.
“Hell yeah,” I replied.
At that point we heard a cart getting closer from the next fairway. I thought perhaps it might be another lost soul searching for his ball, but then John came barreling through the tree line on a ranger cart. He had his clubs strapped on the back of the cart and was wearing his golf shoes. It was obvious he had been playing. He pulled up next to our cart.
“I guess Andy went home, huh?” Mark asked.
“Yeah, I told Hank that I had to go out to ranger,” answered John.
“He knows better than that,” replied Mark. “Range ring with your clubs on the cart.”
“Relax, he’s cool,” John replied. “He can handle it.” Hank was one of the better old guys to work with.
He did a good job and never bothered anyone. He often doubled as a starter and cashier. He was a nice guy who was always willing to cover for us. He did spend a lot of time in the restroom though. I know a lot of the older guys do that, but he really spent a lot of time in there occasionally. We would joke to each other that he must fall asleep on the toilet.
“It’s awesome,” I said. “There’s no one out here.”
“That’s because we’re really going to get it in a few minutes,” John said as he pointed to the southwest.
We could see a hazy line of rain moving closer to us from the front nine across the jungle. The rain always seemed to come from the valley toward the old lakebed.
“I think it’s time to play it in boys,” suggested John.
“Let’s cut over the barn,” suggested Mark as he pointed toward the maintenance barn. “Tee off here at seventeen and play in to the practice green in front of the clubhouse.”
John and I agreed to this imaginary hole. It was the most direct route to the clubhouse.
“How’s five bucks?” Mark asked. “That’s fine,” I said.
“We’ll give you a stroke on this hole, Bri,” John said. “Well, yeah,” I replied.
John grabbed his Titleist 905T driver and stepped onto the tee. This was not an easy hole by any means. I would venture to say that it rivaled any tournament hole considering we were going at it completely blind. From seventeen’s tee, we had to go over the 16th fairway and carry the maintenance barn. From the other side of the barn, somewhere in the fifteenth fairway, we would have about 100 yards over a tall tree line to a small practice green about 20 feet from the clubhouse. The green was half the size of a normal one. Both the tee shot and approach shot would have to be based on our best guesses. No yardage and no line of sight.
There was a fierce wind coming straight at us. John teed his ball up high, took a big swing and launched his ball over the sixteenth fairway. The ball was still rising as it sailed over the maintenance barn.
“Wow,” was all I could bring myself to say.
“A little off the toe,” John said as he walked off the tee.
“Yeah. Off the toe my ass,” replied Mark, as he took the head cover off his old Macgregor persimmon three wood. “You’re too long for your own good.”
“I’ll have a shot at the green,” John replied. “You won’t make it over the barn with that antique in this wind.”
“We’ll see,” said Mark as he addressed the ball.
He took a slow, easy swing and hit a low-ball dead straight. The ball barely made it over the maintenance barn and then dropped out of sight.
“That low ball is gonna get you in trouble one of these days,” said John.
“Not in this wind,” Mark replied. “Brian, get up there and let’s see what happens.”
“Yeah, let’s see what kind of bullshit Mark’s been teaching you,” said John.
“Hit it right over that weather vane,” said Mark.
I looked at my Bertha three-wood but opted for my G3 and slowly stepped onto the tee. John and Mark were talking to each other, but I was successfully blocking out what they were saying. Once on the tee, I didn’t look back. I teed up my ball and stepped behind it.
I lined up my Titleist ProV1 with the weather vane on the roof of the maintenance barn. I walked around and addressed the ball. I looked up one last time and focused on the top of the weather vane. Then, I looked down at the ball and thought of making a smooth swing. That was it. No other thoughts were in my head.
I took a nice easy swing concentrating on the Titleist logo. I never felt the club strike the ball. When I looked up, I saw the ball flying right at the roof. I felt relieved, like I had made the best swing I could possibly make.
The ball continued on line right at the weather vane. Would it make it over? Yes, it looked as if it would. I pictured having the best lie out of the three balls. I couldn’t have hit it any better. It was pure. Too pure.
My ball struck the weather vane making a loud and sharp bang as the ball bounced off the rod iron and rolled down the roof into the gutter with a clang.
I waited to hear if it dropped further. There was nothing. It was stuck in the gutter.
Then, I heard a creaking sound as the weather vane wobbled a little in the strong wind. It swayed first to right and then back to the left almost crying in pain. It lingered in a feeble attempt to stand and then fell off its perch on the near side of the peak. It slid down the side of the roof skipping over the gutter and crashed onto a pile of rocks with a loud crash.
“Holy shit,” John said slowly.
“Nice swing, Bri,” Mark added.
“I guess you can’t complain when you hit it where you aim,” I said.
I really wasn’t upset. I was laughing too hard to be upset. I hit the ball well. I hit the ball perfectly. Like a hole in one.
“We better get going,” said John as he sat down in his cart and drove off.
The first few rain drops had begun to fall. Mark and I hopped into our cart and followed John.
When we got to the other side of the barn, Mark’s ball was sitting up in the middle of 15 fairway. John was at the far rough looking for his ball.
“Nice shot, Mark,” I said as I hopped out of the cart and headed over to help John look for his ball. John and I walked up and down the tree line looking for his ball.
“I know I crushed it, but this is ridiculous,” he said.
I started to walk in the opposite direction from him when I saw a ball next to a tree.
“Is this your flying lady?” I asked.
“Go to hell,” John replied.
“It’s over here,” Mark yelled from the other side of the fairway.
“There’s no way,” John yelled. “Callaway 3?” Mark asked.
“Shit,” John muttered as he got into the cart and drove back to his ball.
“Let me know when you want to learn how to hit that low ball,” Mark said with a laugh as John stopped his cart.
John walked behind his ball and surveyed the shot. He probably had about 115 yards to the green. The tree line made it impossible to see the green.
The only thing showing was the roof of the clubhouse and the satellite dish.
“You think it’s about 35 yards to the left of the satellite dish,” John asked.
“Yeah, about 35 to 40,” Mark replied.
“This is a practice green we are going to. Which hole are we playing to?” asked John.
“Let’s say whichever is closest to the clubhouse,” Mark said.
The wind was still strong in our faces. John wasn’t taking any chances this time. With a nine iron in his hands he addressed the ball. John took about a three-quarter swing and launched the ball right on line with where we thought the green should be.
“Well, no noise,” said John.
“That’s a good sign,” I replied.
Mark was about 25 yards closer than John. He took out a pitching wedge and lined up his shot. He made a nice, easy swing and the ball flew high and straight over the tree line toward the clubhouse. A few moments later we heard a loud crash and the sound of glass breaking.
“Oh, my god, you’re probably inside the clubhouse,” I said.
John burst into laughter and I couldn’t help but chuckle myself.
Mark was not as amused as we were. “There’s no way I hit the window,” he said.
“Andy is going to be pissed if he has to tell Cunningham,” I said.
“Yeah, it’s hard to explain how one of your golf pro- fessionals hit a ball through the clubhouse window,” John added.
“We can say that Vader the gator broke the window,” I suggested.
“Too many witnesses,” commented John.
“There is no gator and I couldn’t have hit the clubhouse,”
“There’s only one way to find out,” John replied.
We hopped in the carts as the rain began to get harder and headed around the trees and in toward the clubhouse. Mark was a bright guy, but I wasn’t convinced that Vader wasn’t out there somewhere.
As we approached the clubhouse, there was a crowd of about 10 to 12 standing on the patio. The windows of the clubhouse didn’t appear to be broken; but judging by the crowd, something must have happened.
When we pulled up, I saw John’s ball on the practice green about five feet from the pin. The guys from the skins game who were gathered on the patio to watch us come in were laughing hysterically. Al Harper, old Charlie and Paul were at the front of the pack. Mark and I walked up to the patio where a broken beer pitcher was shattered on the concrete in a foamy puddle.
“You owe me a pitcher of Budweiser, Brian,” said Charlie.
“It wasn’t me. It was Mark,” I said.
“You mean Mark hit that bad a shot that he almost killed us?” said Al Harper.
“Hey, it was a tough shot,” Mark replied.
“Hell, it’s not even a real hole you boys are playing,”
“Either way, I’m on the green,” John commented.
“You think that was a tough shot Mark, look where your ball ended up,” said Charlie as he pointed at the bushes at the edge of the patio.
Mark’s ball was lying underneath the two-foot-tall hedge that lined the edges of the patio. The ball was about 15 feet from the green. It was lying at the edge of the bush so there was nothing between it and the green. However, Mark would have to swing through the bush to get to the ball.
“Hey, where’s your ball Brian,” asked Paul.
Paul was one of the old guys whom I liked the best, but I really didn’t feel like explaining that my ball was in the gutter of the maintenance barn in front of everyone.
“Oh, I decided to sit this hole out.”
“What the hell was that noise we heard out there?”
“I don’t know, must have been the weather,” John said as he tried to keep from cracking up.
I could see that Mark was also attempting to hold in his laughter as he addressed the bush. He had his putter in his hands. He was working it down into the bush so he could just knock his ball out. Everyone stopped talking. Mark flicked his wrists back and then through. He struck the ball after breaking a few thin branches.
The ball rolled onto the green past the hole and stopped at the back fringe.
John sank his putt for birdie. Mark rolled his ball right on line, but it stopped two inches short of the cup.
“Did your putter get caught on your skirt Marky?”
“Yeah, I wussed it,” said Mark as he tapped his ball in for a bogie on this made-up hole.
“That was a good hole,” I said.
“Yeah, any hole that I take money from Mark on is a good hole,” said John.
“Enjoy,” replied Mark as he handed John a five-dollar bill and walked into the clubhouse.
“You’re off the hook, Brian,” said John. “I don’t want your money.”
“You’re not off the hook, Mr. Golf Pro,” Charlie said to Mark following him inside. “You still owe me a pitcher of beer.”
“Yeah, alright, but you you’re going to have to share it,” I could hear Mark reply.
It was then that Hank sounded the lightening siren to clear the course. The rain was really coming down hard and thunder started to rumble, so everyone started heading inside.
“Who won all the money in the skins game?” I asked Paul as he walked toward the door.
“I think Charlie’s team won. Al got a skin, but I don’t think the teams were fair,” he replied as he walked inside.
As everyone else went inside, I remained on the patio.
“Aren’t you coming in, Bri?” asked John as held the
“I’ll be in, in a minute. I just want to watch nature kick up her heels for a few minutes.”
“Alright,” he replied with a confused look. Then, he walked inside.
John wasn’t the type of person who would understand my need to sit and contemplate a round of golf. He lived for the moment and never gave his game much thought. It just came naturally to him. I sat down in one of the steel patio chairs and began picking the grass out of my spikes with a tee. The wind was now blowing the rain sideways and the remaining golfers on the course were all converging on the clubhouse from different directions. The mad dash was an amusing spectacle.
I think I learned something from Mark that day. I never realized exactly what until much later. I found it hard to be satisfied after hitting a ball on the roof of the maintenance barn. That was the part of the game that I was not willing to accept.
I didn’t know which was better; hitting poor shots that wind up in good places, or perfect shots that wind up in bad places. I had never heard the cliché, “It’s a frustrating game,” ring more true than on that day. The worst part was that I should have known better than to get upset. I spent day after day watching people get angry with themselves. I saw how foolish they acted because of a bad round of golf. I had seen people destroy themselves as they tried to get better at the game.
I pulled myself together with the reassurance that I would play better tomorrow. My shoes were now as clean as they were going to get. I stood up and walked inside. Everyone was sitting around the big screen. John was at a table by himself. Mark was at the bar with Paul and Charlie buying beer and gabbing. I sat down next to John and glanced at the television. Al Harper and News Junkie Fred were sitting at the table next to us.
“Hey Charlie, Sergio is taking fashion tips from you.” I said as he and Mark approached each with a pitcher of beer.
“How’s that,” asked Mark.
“He’s wearing a white belt,” I replied.
Mark and John both laughed. Mark sat down next to me while Charlie sat down between Al and Fred.
“Yeah, those Europeans do dress a little funny,” added John.
“That’s style,” countered Charlie. “What’s wrong with it? It’s not Labor Day yet.”
“It is a classy look,” added Al Harper. “You young guys with your brown belts and khaki pants don’t know how to dress.”
“Reminds me of Herb Tarlek on WKRP,” said John.
Mark and I laughed with John as we drank our beers.
“But you can still wear a white belt after Labor Day,” continued Al. “You just can’t wear white pants or shirt.”
“You cannot wear a white belt after Labor Day,” responded Charlie.
“I don’t think you should ever wear a white belt,” said John.
Charlie and Al didn’t hear him though. They began arguing again. News Junkie Fred tried to interrupt to declare that the terrorists were making people sick on cruise ships, but nobody seemed to pay him any attention.
“You know what, Brian,” said John. “I think if you stop wearing that damn baseball cap you’d be OK.”
“Go to hell. I like my hat.”
“Don’t tell me you two are having this discussion too,” said Paul as he sat down with us.
“It’s better than European fashion and white belts,” said John.
“Those Europeans do dress nicely,” commented Paul. “They aren’t afraid of some color.”
That was enough for me. I wanted out. I could hear some shouting coming from the pro shop.
“I’m gonna go over and see if Hank needs a hand with rain checks,” I told John and Mark. As I got up from the table, I could hear that Fred was still talking about biological warfare and hoping for someone to listen. He had flipped the TV to CNN, but the natives were growing restless and calling for the golf tournament.
When I got to the pro shop, I saw that Hank already had a line of 5 people. As I walked behind the counter, I noticed that Hank was in an argument with a customer.
“I’m sorry sir, if you’ve reached the sixth hole, you don’t get a rain check,” Hank said to the irate man, who appeared to be in his late thirties.
“Buddy, I’m telling you we only made it to the fourth green before we decided to come in,” said the guy. His face was red with emotion.
I walked over to the counter and looked at the man’s greens fee receipt.
“Sir, according to your receipt you teed off at 3:00. It is now 5:30. You should be finished by now or at least on number eight or nine.” I said to the customer.
“Hey, we’re beginners. We play slow,” he said.
“How come that group that just left reached number five? They teed off an hour after you did?” asked Hank.
“We let them play through.”
“And the five groups that were in between too, I suppose,” Hank said sarcastically.
“Nice try,” I added.
The man’s fierce determination withered away leaving his face pale. He turned and walked away without admitting he was wrong. Some people will try anything. Rain checks are the invention that keeps you from having to give money back. Many will go unused which was one of the dirty little ways a golf course makes money. I answered the phone a few times to free up Hank. It was easy to field calls when it was raining.
“Yes, it is raining steadily down here,” I would repeat to callers.
Hank was giving out rain checks left and right. Whenever it rained, it seemed that everyone was on number five. After about 30 minutes, Hank seemed to have everything under control so I walked back over to the grill. Things had quieted down there since I had left. Most of the guys were gone and Tiger was leading the tournament.
John, Mark, and Paul were sitting at a table finishing off the last of a pitcher. I sat down with them and pored myself a cup. Paul was telling them a story about how he played nine holes with Bob Hope back during World War II.
“I was a private, who was assigned to caddie for Mr. Hope’s partner. He was some Colonel who never showed up. So, Mr. Hope asked me if I could play and that’s how it happened.”
As Paul continued telling us how he straightened out Bob’s hook, I began thinking about chicken wings and beer. I had heard Paul’s Bob Hope story a dozen times. He told it every time that he got a few beers in him.
At the conclusion of his story, Mark, John and I instinctively stood up. It was obvious that we had all had enough of White Lake for that rainy day. Paul said his good byes and we left the table.
“See ya Hank,” I shouted as Mark and I headed out the back door near the grill. We said goodbye to Lisa as she scoured the grill and John headed to the pro shop to check on Hank before leaving. After all, John had technically been working this entire time.
I was meeting John and Mark down the road at The Hangar. It was a local bar and grill that Mark’s uncle owned at William’s Field, a small airport a few blocks away. It was a nice local spot and knowing the owner had its advantages.
Mark and I each threw our clubs in our cars and changed our shoes.
“I got to call Ashley,” Mark said. “I’ll see you there.”
“Yeah see you in an hour I guess,” I replied.
“Screw you,” he answered.
I got in my Jeep and pulled out of the parking lot. I could see him already glued to his cell phone. The poor guy. It wasn’t such a bad thing that he was whipped. It was just too bad that he was whipped by such a bitch.
I arrived at The Hangar first. When I walked in, I saw Willie Boylan holding court at the bar. His brother Nate was a shady young attorney who hung out at White Lake and volunteered as a starter on Fridays. Willie needed a good attorney. He had a few DUIs in his day. He was one of the biggest bull-shitters around. He dressed like Tiger, but he talked like Daly. His face was very brightly tanned. He ran a landscaping service, but I don’t think that’s where most of his income came from.
Willie was entertaining some golf enthusiasts with a story about how he beat local PGA champ John Anderson from White Lake. He hadn’t seen me yet and I listened intently has he spun a web of lies. It was going to be interesting when John arrived from around the corner.
I could tell that Heather, the barmaid knew better, and was fighting the urge to shoot holes through Willie’s story. Moments later, I saw Mark enter the door. He walked up behind me as I hovered in a corner eavesdropping on Willie.
“What the hell are you doing,” he asked.
“Slick Willie is telling some folks about how he beat John the week after the chapter PGA championship. “How he beat John?” asked Mark.
“You heard me,” I replied.
“Didn’t John have Willie Beat by the 15th hole that day?” asked Mark.
“Yes, that sounds right to me,” I replied.
“Oh, this is going to be good,” answered Mark. “Let’s set him up.”
Willie was facing away from the entrance toward his audience, while leaning on a barstool. Mark and I walked to the corner of the bar behind him and sat down. Heather set us up with a couple of Bud Lights on the house.
Willie continued to ramble about his prowess on the golf course and his domination of White Lake. In fact, he began telling these two unsuspecting young couples that he gave lessons with group discounts.
It was well known that he would drag gullible wannabe golfers to the Farm Crest Driving Range a few miles away from White Lake. It was an old cow pasture that a local farmer ran as a practice range to help offset his struggles with soybeans.
Mark and I drank our beers and discussed how best to pull the rug out from under Willie and his tall tale. I suggested that I ask Willie about the story once John arrives and let nature run its course. Mark preferred a more subtle, but complex scheme where we would convince the two couples that Farm Crest Driving Range was no place for them. We called John on his cell phone to tell him what the deal was. Mark told him to sit at the bar when he arrived opposite of Willie and to follow our lead.
Willie went on with his bullshit trying to impress the unsuspecting couples. He was in the middle of expounding on his theory that success was relative to the golfer.
“What looks like failure to others could be success for you,” he said.
That was Willie’s way of preparing them for the inevitable lack of improvement in their swings that would come from taking lessons from him.
It was then that John walked in the door. He walked to the bar and sat on the other side of Willie and his eager students. As soon as Willie saw John, he lost track of his sales pitch and was noticeably uneasy. He likely was worrying that somehow John would undo his story.
John played it cool and simply ordered a beer. He sat and watched Sports Center on the TV without even acknowledging Willie.
Visibly shaken, Willie had to get some air. He said he was going to the restroom and promised his prey that he’d be right back.
As soon as he left the bar, Mark turned to me and said loudly, “I wish they’d spray some pesticides on that driving range.”
“Yeah, it really is a public health hazard,” I replied. John leaned forward on the bar stool to see us around the two couples and asked, “What driving range is that?” “Farm Crest driving range,” Mark replied.
“Really, what’s the matter there?” asked John.
The two couples sitting in between us had no choice but to listen. They were noticeably interested.
“Why, they’ve got the biggest mosquitoes around,” I answered.
“Yeah, they’ll eat you alive,” added Mark.
“Really, they’re that bad?” asked John with a great show of concern.
“Oh yeah, they had two cases of West Nile last summer,” Mark said.
“Are you serious,” John played it up.
“Yeah, the CDC shut the whole place down for a month,” I said.
“The poor lady who died had just taken up the game and was in group lessons,” added Mark.
“She died?” exclaimed John.
“Yeah, but only after spending a few weeks struggling for life in the hospital,” I answered.
With that, the two couples had heard enough. They quickly paid their tabs and headed for the door to avoid Willie before he came back.
Just as they walked out the front door, Willie was returning from the rear entrance.
“Nice work, boys,” said John.
“We had to defend your reputation,” I said. “I appreciate it,” John replied.
Willie was stunned when he returned.
“What the hell did you bastards do to my students?” he asked.
“Students?” I laughed.
“We told them about your bug problem,” said Mark.
“My bug problem?” he asked with a puzzled look.
“You’re such a fucking liar,” said John.
“About what?” asked Willie.
“About you beating John,” I suggested.
“I never claimed to beat the All City PGA champ John Anderson,” said Willie.
“We heard you,” said Mark.
“You heard a hypothetical event based on the relative set of circumstances,” replied Willie.
“The event was your round of golf with John on Tuesday July 31,” I answered.
“The circumstances were that you lost,” added John.
“Well, the facts aren’t the important thing,” weaseled Willie.
We sat around bullshitting for a few minutes, each poking fun at Willie and then receiving his barrage of return insults. It was stimulating. Even though we enjoyed giving Willie a hard time, he was always entertaining. Much like his brother Nate, he never let things get dull. He would try to coerce you into betting on anything.
We gambled on what type of plane would land or take off next. Heather was an expert and our rules official since her father and brothers were all pilots. A mixture of Pipers, Cessnas, Leers and Gulfstreams kept us busy for a while. After about an hour, the airport traffic had slowed and it was too dark for us pick out the different makes.
Heather set us up with another round as we transitioned to the Golden Tee Golf Game against the wall. I might not be able to beat these guys on the golf course, but I had a knack for Golden Tee. As far as I was concerned, Peter Jacobson was the man.