After playing a round of golf last Wednesday with my traveling buddies, I once again heard the question. My friend, whom I'll call Bob (primarily because that's his name), wanted to know why he hadn't seen it in the paper. He was referring to an incident that happened on the golf course a couple of years ago.
I recalled the day and informed Bob that I was hesitant to write about something that could cause a person embarrassment. I really hesitate when the party about to be embarrassed is ME! Then again, the situation was kind of funny, so Bob, this column is for you.
Most of you who play the game of golf realize that many guys will have some sort of side bet when they take to the links. When my friends get a foursome together, we like to play a game called Chairman of the Board. In this game we toss golf balls toward the tee markers before we start our round. The player whose ball is closest to the marker will be the Chairman for holes No. 1,5,9 and 13. The next closest, gets holes 2,6,10 and 14 and so on and so forth.
After the chairman tees off he gets to watch the other three hit and then he gets to pick a partner. When you are the chairman, you have to pick each member of the group once as well as playing one hole by yourself. If a golfer beats all others on a given hole, he and his partner each get a point. When you go by yourself and tie for low ball you get a point, but if you win the hole outright you get two points.
So you find yourself rooting for a guy on one hole and rooting against him on the next. Of course on the last two holes it's everybody for himself and friendships go right out the window. Being a little shy of what you might call wealthy tycoons, my friends and I wager an entire quarter a point. On a bad day you might be "putting on the party" by being the big loser of a buck and a half. It's not the money that matters. Bragging rights are much more important.
Invariably when we play this game someone gets the short end of the stick. It probably means that the person did not golf very well. It also likely means he was "dumped" by his partner. Player A will be sailing along with a couple of birdies and a par - then he partners with the one guy he hasn't played with yet. He promptly then throws a double bogey on the card and someone feels like he has been dumped.
Getting dumped can lead to mild consternation on the part of the "dumpee." You know that nobody would dump someone intentionally because it hurts him as well, but after you get dumped often enough you start to wonder.
Over the years I have not played my best golf when partnering with a guy I'll call Hart. I'd use his real name, but to protect the innocent we'll just go with Hart. He has accused me of dumping him frequently over the years. He may have a point.
I play well for a couple of holes and then he becomes my partner and I screw up. It can be a drive that flies a couple of fairways away or an iron shot that finds the creek. Sometimes it is the 10-foot putt that betrays me and by association, Hart. You know the one I'm talking about. The gun goes off and you now have a 12-footer coming back. Hart gives you the "thanks for dumping me" glare.
Well the incident in question happened at Nature Trails, on the fifth hole. The fifth is a par 5 that requires two pretty good wood shots and a quality chip to a sloping green. I of course, am paired with Hart, as he is the Chairman. I play the hole superbly for three shots and have a five-foot birdie putt to win the hole. Our opponents have scored a par. Hart can't beat that score, so it's up to me.
I look the putt over and line up to take a practice putt. Now I take one, perhaps two practice putts and then it's time to go for it. On this occasion I decide to take two practice strokes and it turns out to be a mistake. On the second practice stroke I make contact with the ball and it travels the needed 5 feet. The problem is I hit it with the end of the putter (since I was not trying to hit it in the first place) and it travels at a right angle to the desired line.
I think I have created an isosceles triangle (or whatever that thing was in math class oh so long ago) with where my ball started, where it ended up and where the cup is. Now two guys are laughing hysterically, I'm perplexed and Hart is glaring. I'm thinking that my opponents might be granting me a do over. Apparently I forgot we were playing for all that money.
Instead of having a 5-footer to win the hole, I now have a 5-footer to make sure no one gets a point. You're probably guessing that I will miss the par putt. You would be correct on that count and I have just created a new way to dump my "favorite" partner.
I probably have had more embarrassing moments on the golf course, but this one was unique. There is good news though. Hart still plays golf with me, though he is wary of any new ways for me to dump him. Also I will not have to listen to Bob telling me that he hasn't seen this story in the paper.
I would suggest to Bob that he be careful not to do anything silly on the golf course, lest he read about it here. A precedent has been set.
Al Stephenson is The A-T golf columnist.
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