Golf: a Crucible of Manhood

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Last weekend, I was invited to two days of heavy drinking, orgiastic eating and golf. I hope I haven’t startled readers of this blog by admitting I use golf recreationally. The event was arranged by my brother Archie, as it has been for the last three years. Its main purpose to reunite his Babson college cohorts (class of ‘83) for forty eight hours of mayhem and bad behavior.

Now, if you know that I graduated high school in ‘89 and you do the math, you’ll notice that I’m much, much younger than these old men. What could we possibly have in common to talk about? As it turns out, we have a lot in common because I visited Archie while he was enrolled at Babson. That means that he brought his ten year old brother to visit his college, his frat and his friends. The psychological damage from that experience continues to this day.

While the strict rules of the event prevent me from detailing what happened during the weekend (naturally, what happens on Nantucket, stays on Nantucket), I can mention the results of the golf tournament. There were three teams of 3-4 golfers playing scramble golf, in which each member shots and the best shot is used. This means you’ve got about four players taking the same shot each time.

I’m long out of practice at golf, although I occasionally do get to driving ranges and putt-putt courses. Consequently, I materially contributed to the team’s success with a handful of decent drives and putts. Sadly, my medium game of chipping is utterly in ruin. I couldn’t chip my way out of a bag of Ruffles. Fortunately, I only needed to perform 1/4 of the time (a statistic which fails to impress the ladies, it seems).

Our team shot last and as luck would have it, the tourament came down to our performance on the last hole, a par 5. We were running a little over par for the back nine, as I recall. We needed to birdie the last hole to win, or par to tie. Our team was drunk, er, fatigued and not driving too well. We did get to the green in 2 strokes, but our ball was a solid 35 feet from the pin.

The first attempt to make the putt showed that the green was running slowly. The next two attempts confirmed the first observation. As the rest of the tournament players gathered around to watch the outcome, the taunting started. I, the self-acknowledged rookie, had stepped up to take the last shot of the game.

I saw that the green was basically flat. The primary difficulty was the distance and the sluggish green. This worked to my putting strength, which is in regulated the force I apply to the stroke. This is my primary skill at pool too. My wetware doesn’t process geometry well on the fly.

As I settled into the shot, the pressure dial got bumped up when one of the other player’s whipped out a camera to record the last stage of the game. I addressed the ball, shut out the external world (which I really, really good at doing) and took my swing.

In attaining the Zen no-mind condition, the ball seemed to roll for about fifteen minutes. Had I put too much muscle into it? Not enough? If the shot missed, would my brother (who was on my team [or was I on his?]) ever invite me to another weekend event?

As the ball slowly rolled to a stop, time resumed it’s normal pace. I found that I managed to put the ball within one foot of the pin. A great wail was released by the assembled throng, part astonishment, part grief. Nothing is so sweet as the tears of my opponents. I easily knocked the ball in for a birdie and the victory.

It is true that few poets will sing of my triumph that day. No artist will erect a statue on the green to my glory. But I will know that for one brief moment, there was a most unlikely hero of the hour who went by the name Joe Johnston.

Special thanks and appreciation is due to the Family Manix for hosting our motley mob and to the Truesdales for happy hour. Both contributions were vital to the success of the weekend. Thanks also to Archie for his logistical skills and uncanny ability to awaken earlier than most of us to cook breakfast.