A GOOD WALK SPOILED
My father was a great golfer. Actually he was just a good athlete period, and he excelled at any game involving a ball. In high school he was an All-State guard in basketball, and played on the college level. He quarterbacked his football team, and he made it to spring training with the Yankees as a left handed junk pitcher. His fastball looked like anyone else’s change up. He swam and fought Golden Gloves, but he never tried golf until after he returned from WWII.
Jay Lawrence played his first round of golf in June of 1946, and he broke par in September. He continued to play at that level for the rest of his life. He viewed golf as a money making machine. He lived in Natchez, Mississippi until his death, and made a darn good living playing golf and gin rummy with the local oil barons. I caddied for him some, and I can attest to his skill. He didn’t hit it long, but you could lay a transit line from the tee to the hole and he’d never be off more than a foot, and he was a great putter.
When I was about fourteen I asked him to teach me to play golf, and we spent the summer of 1953 playing. Just before school started in September, he took me aside and said,
“Tommy, in order for you to ever be able to play golf, we’d have to break both your arms and have them reset, but I doubt you’d be any good even then. Stick with football.”
Of course I didn’t take his advice, and I continued to try to play. While at Mississippi State, I was part of a foursome who played at least once a week. Both Carl Sikes and Dick Hall were decent players, and whoever rounded out the foursome was usually much better than I was. They referred to me as “The Load,” and each week they flipped a coin to see who had to carry “The Load.” They would all shoot in the 80s and 90s, while I seldom broke 110.
On the Saturday of my last round of golf, we all teed off and I hit a drive that was long, straight, and within an easy chip to the green. I was on in two, and birdied on the three par number two. I hit the green with my tee shot, and putted for another birdie. Two under after two.
The third hole was a five par, with a dog leg left out over two hundred and fifty yards. I drove the dog leg, and laid my second shot at the edge of the green. I chipped in for an eagle, and found myself four under after three.
On the fourth tee there was some talk about alien abductions and minor miracles. I can remember Dick Hall saying,
“Don’t worry, he’ll find his regular game soon.”
I found it right away. I double bogeyed the fourth, fifth, and sixth holes. When we were about to tee off on number seven, Dick bent over to get a drink from a water fountain, exactly ninety degrees from my line of drive. He had his hands in his back pockets, when I hit a wild drive that caromed off his left hand. While it marked the low point of my game, it actually helped him. He couldn’t grip his clubs with his left hand, but it improved his swing. He didn’t think to thank me.
My second drive hooked right, and I ended up in the high rough bordering the small lake. I tried to hit an iron back on to the fairway, but hit a pine tree dead on, landing my ball even deeper into the woods. After five attempts to get out, I completely lost it. I grabbed my golf cart by the handle, swung it over my head, and heaved it twenty feet into the lake. I took off my golf shoes and threw them after the cart and bag, then stomped off to the parking lot.
On the way, I could hear my buddies convulsing with laughter after watching my futile attempts to regain the fairway. Upon reaching my car, I remembered that I had zipped my car keys into the side pocket of my golf bag, whereupon I stomped back to the lake, waded in and retrieved my car keys, then threw my cart and bag even further into the lake. I never touched a golf club again.
The phrase “A Good Walk Spoiled” is attributed to Mark Twain.
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