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Luck and Recovery



Whiffs. Shanks. Hooks. Beginning golfers know—some days you can throw your club farther than you can hit the ball. It can be mighty frustrating. But don’t give up. Resist that urge to chuck your clubs. Your game will improve. The key is to be humble and cope. I do that by thinking back 30 years to my very first round. I’m a bad golfer now but I was a lot worse then.

That day, the clubhouse sent me out with one other player. My partner was a stony-faced, old soul with the build of a compact freezer. At the first hole, Stony Face tipped his newsboy cap and gave me the honors.

Nice, I thought as I teed my ball—and noted the chain-link fence left of the fairway. Across that fence, ran a two-lane highway full of cars racing by. What fence? What cars? So what if I just hooked 40 straight balls over at the driving range.

I took two practice swings, then I hauled off and hit a hot, high, hook that sent the ball over the fence. The ball smacked the highway like a superball, then barely missed a package delivery truck. As the brown truck sped past, I heard two beeps of the horn and saw the driver laughing and waving at me.

I dropped my club then and there. “Good gawd!” I cried, “Get me off the course before I kill somebody!”

Old Stoney Face handed me my club. “No, no, lass,” he said, “You have the chance to recover on your next swing.” Then he teed his ball and blasted his drive 270 yards down the fairway.

Crap, I thought, as he stepped off after his shot, “My first 18 holes ever and I’m paired with a golf whiz. He’s good. I stink. I hope he knows he is in for a hell-day on the fairways.

Swing after swing, I put my beginner’s game on full display. While I topped, shanked, and flubbed every shot, Stoney Face played like a pro. His drives flew long and straight, his irons hit every green, and his putts never missed.

Probing the knee-high grass in search of my fourth lost ball, I kept glancing his way. I hit one more duck hook and he’s gonna just go off I thought. But he never did. He just played his game and remained good company. The more holes we played, the clearer it became—his stony face came with a stony mind.

Then we made the turn to the back nine and the evil golf gods put ol’ Stony Face to the test. On hole 11, he broke his three-wood. On hole 12, he got pooped on by a bird. At 15, his ball hit a greenside sprinkler and bounced into the water. But did he moan, groan, or get angry? No, not once. Through it all, he kept his silky-smooth swing going and his putts rolling in.

Who is this guy? I thought, after he lost his ball in the reeds on 16, but pitch in to make a par anyway. Nothing sinks him. Not my crappy play or his crappy luck.

Then, while I was putting on the 17 green, the worst happened. My secondhand golf pushcart, with secondhand brakes, rolled into the greenside pond.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I heard Stony Face holler.

I whipped my head around just in time to see my cart, my golf bag, my wide-open umbrella—my whole dang set up—trundle into the swampy pond.

It was the very thing to make him finally come unglued. He had every right to. But instead of him coming unglued, I did. I just plain lost it.

Spouting expletives like a kid just learning to cuss, I threw down my putter and stomped into the waist-high water. I put a chokehold on the cart, then hauled the whole, sopping shambles onto to the bank.

I stood there, red-faced and out of breath, my clothes, rank and dripping. I was so mad and embarrassed. Looking at Stony Face he was as placid as ever. “You’re an ace golfer,” I said, gritting my teeth, “You’ve just spent 16 holes waiting on me while I hit five shots for your every one. Now, my gear takes a dive into the pond. Isn’t it time you blew your top?”

Stony Face didn't flinch. He just handed me his towel. “It won’t do to get rattled over our mistakes and bad luck,” he said dumping the pond water out of my bag. Then he headed off to the 18 tee box.

When I joined him, he was teeing up his ball. “Golf is a game of making up for our mistakes,” he said, “and adjusting to bad luck.”

Stony Face had the perfect golf personality. No matter what happened during the round, he would play on. As long as he could swing a club, he would try his best. He taught me a lot that day.

When we added up the scores after the round, he’d shot a 6 over 78. I’d shot 124.

As we said our goodbyes, I said, “I’m just a beginner. Thanks for tolerating me.”

“I enjoyed the round,” he said, “We both had our troubles today.” He chuckled, his eyes twinkling, “Funny how golf is a bit like life. It’s full of mystery and challenge—and plenty of chances to recover.”


End


BIO


Marie Lemond : Marie Lemond is a character created by Kathleen King. Kathleen is a writer living in Washington State. Her work has appeared in Country Magazine, Women and Golf Magazine, Erma Bombeck Writers' Worksho

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