Is there any better feeling in golf — at least on the local charity scramble circuit — than betting on yourself to put the ball on the green of a par 3, stepping up to the tee, hitting a no-doubt-about-it shot to the dead center of the putting surface, and then, as the volunteer starts counting out your winnings, waving him off and donating it back to the charity?
OK, there might be a few things better, like getting the ball in the middle of the green in regulation on more of the rest of the holes you’re playing, taking a few less putts once you get there, or at least winning one of the nicer door prizes. Or as was the case Friday, simply winning any one of the door prizes.
But short of accomplishing any of that, sticking my tee shot on the green was pretty good.
Golf is one of two things — fishing is the other — that seems to have skipped a generation in my family. My grandfather taught me both skill sets as my dad and my uncles apparently had no interest in either activity.
I think I was 10 or 11 when I learned to play. I grew up in New England, and my grandparents, who lived in Los Angeles, would come to visit each summer. We’d head down to Cape Cod to rent a beach house, or head north and stay in some rustic lake house or country inn for the week, and eventually, started staying at places with access to a golf course.
For my first golf experience, my grandfather, my siblings and I had the course to ourselves — in this case, “rustic” meant that the course, like most things around that particular inn, had not been well maintained and therefore, were not well used. My grandfather borrowed a set of clubs in similar condition to the course, and off we went.
I should mention that my grandfather’s demeanor in those days was a little gruff, to put it mildly. He was a high-ranking, high-powered executive for a big oil company, and always had high expectations of those around him — whether they were colleagues or grandkids.
When it was mentioned that I might do better with left-handed clubs, as I batted that way in baseball, he said that lefties should golf right-handed — something about the front arm leading through the swing, after which he grumbled, which meant the conversation was over. It wasn’t until I was 14 or 15, and plunked down my own $5 to rent a set of lefty clubs, that I figured out I was being taught to play right-handed because right-handed clubs were what we had.
Anyway, while my grandfather didn’t expect every shot to be perfect, he did hate to see a good shot wasted. So, when I did actually make the green, there was always was a certain amount of pressure to putt out in two strokes or better — especially when I got good enough that pars or even birdies were on the line.
When shots weren’t made, I was inevitably heckled (lovingly, of course) with one of two lines. If a chip or putt was short, it was “Hit it, Alice.” If the shot was really bad, then it was usually “Does your husband play, too?”
Flash foward 20 or so years to the 10th hole at the Kenai Golf Course, with the tees set at the back of the tee box, the gully between me and the green and $5 on the line.
I don’t know if her husband plays or not, but Alice hit that ball just fine, thank you very much.
And you can keep the $5.
Will Morrow is the editor at the Peninsula Clarion.