Golfing in the Snow

I took up playing golf when I was fourteen years old. I had ruptured some ligaments in my knee while swinging too hard at one of Don Durham’s curve balls. I was looking for a fast ball, and had dug my spikes into the ground really deep at home plate. Don had a ferocious fast ball. However, I had always been able to make some contact with the bat against him, and usually ended up getting a hit. The slow curve ball totally fooled me, and as I over swung at it, my spikes hung up in the soft dirt, and I felt something pop in my knee. Pain shot through me from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes, and I grabbed my knee and fell to the ground writhing in agony. To beat it all, it was only strike one!

I ended up staying for three nights at the Trion Community Hospital, with my leg in traction. It wasn’t so bad, as the only thing I had to do was lay around and read comic books.

After about three weeks of recuperation, old Doc Clemens said I should start to get some exercise, and that walking would be good to build up my thigh muscles, and hopefully prevent that type of injury again. (It didn’t) My Dad had played golf when he was younger so he suggested we try that. He bought a used set of left-handed clubs for me, and we drove up to the Trion Golf Club.

It was early May, and as we rounded the big curve right before the entrance to the course I gazed out over the course with awe. The greens were a deep emerald color, with flag sticks that had bright red flags on top, flapping gently in the spring breeze. The Chattooga River flowed by the first hole, a deep sapphire color, not having been by the mill yet to pick up any contaminants.

The old log club house looked pristine, sitting dignified on a little rise overlooking the river. You could smell the sweet Bermuda grass as it was being cut, a pungent, lovely odor that lingered in the air like a kind of hypnotic perfume. Big tall pine trees whispered their spring symphony as the winds blew through their closely knit limbs. It was magnificent, and I fell in love with it at first glance. I still get the same feeling even now whenever I go to that familiar site. Goodbye Mickey, Roger, Yogi, and Whitey. Hello Arnold, Jack and Gary Player.

Some of the members of the club were teeing off when we pulled up, and I watched as they sailed those Titleist and Maxfli’s straight down the fairway toward the number one green. J.W. Greenwood was playing and saw us walking up, and referred back to the beginning of my little league career: “If you knock all your golf balls in the river HERE, you won’t be a hero.” He laughed. (referring to the time I had hit all the practice baseballs into the Chattooga river during my first little league practice)
“Looks pretty easy to me.” I exclaimed excitedly. I couldn’t wait to get up there and smack one of those little white balls straight down the fairway. It could not be any harder than hitting one of Camp’s fast balls.
We paid our green fees and my Dad teed up and went first. He took an easy swing, and sailed the ball about 200 yards down the middle. It was my turn now.

I teed up a new ball, took my stance, and did a little be-hind wiggle like I had seen the other guys do. I took a huge back swing, and uncoiled in an explosive and powerful movement which ended up with a beautiful follow through, looking down the fairway to see where my drive had gone.
“Nice swing,” coached my Dad. “You missed the ball, though.”
I looked down at the tee, and that little white, dimpled devil was still sitting there undisturbed.
I slowed my next swing down slightly, and this time made contact, and sent the ball bouncing down the fairway about fifty yards.
“Topped that one.” Advised my Dad.
I took an eight on that first hole. A quadruple bogey.
“This is not as easy as it looks.” I muttered
On hole number 2, which was a short par three, I took a seven iron out of the bag as my weapon of choice. As I stood over the ball, I looked out at the two creeks, and one swamp that the ball would have to cross before getting to the green, and bowed my head and prayed silently to God to please let me at least not lose all of my golf balls on this one hole. I exhaled, kept my eye on the ball, and took a smooth swing. The ball sailed over both creeks, and the swamp, bounced in front of the green once, and rolled gently onto the putting surface about six feet away from the hole.
“Nice shot, son.” I could barely hear my Dad say, over the pounding of my heart.
There was enough adrenaline flowing after that shot for me to have picked up an automobile.

Although I played another year of Pony league baseball, my High School athletic career goals had just changed. Goodbye Mick. Hello Arnie.
Anyone who has never played golf, can’t understand what motivates people to chase a little white ball around a large field, whacking it with a club. All it takes, however, to remain motivated is one great shot every once in a while. About the time you’ve topped three in a row, and are ready to throw your clubs in the creek, the good Lord, who I believe approves of the game, looks down and commands the next shot to be a humdinger.
“How ‘bout that shot I made on number four,” you reminisce as you write down your third bogey in a row on hole number eight. “Almost a hole in one!”

Steve Hammond and I were passing acquaintances before we both took up golfing. We went to the same church, and Steve’s brother Tommy was the same age as I was, and we were often in the same classes at school. Steve and I never got to be close friends until my freshman year in High School when I went out for the golf team.
J.W Greenwood was the golf coach, and when he saw me come walking up to the clubhouse on the day we were to play a round as a tryout he again ribbed me good naturedly:
“There comes ‘ol scatterarm.” He grinned. “This ain’t the baseball field Bowers,” he continued “It’s the golf course.”
“That’s O.K.,” I said “I’m here to try out for the golf team.”
I don’t think J.W. thought I was serious, but he got the idea when I teed off of number one, and put one straight down the middle.
“Dang boy, you must have been practicing.” Said J.
I had. Every day it didn’t rain since I had picked up my clubs. Many days me and my neighbor Mike Brown had taken our clubs and walked all the way from Eighth Street. I made the team, and so did Steve. We became practice partners, competitors, and teammates. We were golfing maniacs.
Every time we had a spare minute, it was up to the golf course. We practiced drives, putts, irons; you name it, and we did it. Swinging a golf club became such second nature we could do it in our sleep. We read Arnold Palmer’s book and studied Jack Nicklaus’ grip. Our record as a golf team reflected our practice. We won the region title in 1967 at Hogansville, which was Steve’s senior year. I had a chance to win as low medalist that year, but fate wouldn’t allow it.

I was in the lead by one stroke coming to the last hole. It was a dinky little par three, with no hazards whatsoever. Just a straight shot up a little hill. All I needed was bogey to win. I was confident, I was pumped up! I was stupid. I went with too strong an iron, and it sailed over the green by about twenty yards. I heard a loud ringing sound:
“Dong!!!”

I didn’t have a clue where my ball went, because I’d never seen it land.
As I approached the green, J.W. was standing there shaking his head slowly from side to side in disgust. My ball had landed smack dab in the middle of the big thirty gallon barrel that was being used for a trash can. The rules for the tournament were very strict. You had to hit it from where it lay, no matter what. If you couldn’t do so, it was a stroke penalty for a drop. Not being able to crawl into the trash can for my shot, I had to drop the ball, and take a stroke penalty.

I could still win, all I had to do was to get up and down in two strokes. However, the combination of the trash can shot, and the crowd which surrounded the green, had also shot my nerves. I chipped the ball up and over the front of the green, eventually struggling to a six, for a triple bogey and third place. J.W. Greenwood never let me live down that shot in the subsequent 45 years I knew him. Every once in a while, he would still poke me about it:
“You remember that shot you made at Hogansville that year that went into the trash can?” He would ask.
Yes I remember, but luckily time has made it much less painful than it was on that day.
J.W. passed away not long ago, and he is a man I surely miss. Always willing to help children and budding athletes. Always giving his time to other people. He was a great man.

Steve and I even liked to keep our swing in sync during the winter.

One gray, cloudy, bitterly cold December day, we put on three sweaters and a scarf, and went up to the golf course to play nine. The weather prediction was for snow, but we figured if it started in snowing too bad, we would just get in Steve’s car and come back home. As luck would have it, we were excellent, and I mean EXCELLENT that afternoon. We were both one under par when we reached number four, and the flakes started to descend.
“Let’s see if we can finish.” Steve suggested “We’re playing too darn good to quit.”

I agreed and we kept on going. By the time we got to number six, we were beginning to have our doubts. The snow was coming down faster and faster, and had already accumulated to about two inches on the flat fairways. As we teed off on number seven, the only way we knew where the ball was at, was because of the furrow it dug in the newly fallen snow.
“Uh…I believe we had better go.” I suggested
“No way!” Steve hollered back over the howling wind.
Despite the semi-blizzard, he was still one under par.
We played on to number eight, and when I chipped my ball up onto the green, it gathered snow as it rolled, and ended up as almost a baseball size snowball.
“How in the heck am I going to putt that?” I thought
Suddenly we heard the blast of a car horn from behind us, and turned to see Steve’s Dad sitting in his work truck, with an incredulous look on his face. We were supposed to have left if it started snowing, and Steve’s Dad had visions of us off in a ditch somewhere in the blinding snowstorm.
“Are you idiots’ crazy??” He yelled.
This display of emotion from a man who normally never, ever raised his voice was alarming to me. However, it did not seem to bother Steve.
“C’mon Dad,” Steve shot back. “We’ve only got one more hole to go, and I’m one under par!”

Amazingly enough, Mr. Hammond waited on us and followed us home in his truck after we finished the round. Steve lost his ball in the snow on number nine, and I made him take a stroke penalty! Thus his splendid one under par round in the blinding snow was snuffed out. It was the most fun I ever had playing a round of golf, before or since! Wish I coulda’ played yesterday….

Drag Racing

I remember watching the drag races on television when I was a kid. I remember Don “Big Daddy” Garlits’s cars would just sit there on those gigantic twin back tires and spin, and spin, and spin. They would spit smoke out, like a gigantic volcano, and the sound was so loud you would want to stick your fingers in your ears. Finally, that car would get traction and go flying down the track like a bullet shot out of a gun. I miss those drag races. Used to watch them on T.V. with my Daddy. Now that…was really a sport.

Nostalgia

Sadness seems to creep up on me lately, mostly in the form of nostalgia. There’s no use in giving in to it though. So, at night…now very soon, I will meditate, I will pray (some will be surprised at that) and I will turn over and go straight to sleep.

You see, I feel everyday which I live is a gift, and a pop quiz. I didn’t like those pop quizzes when I was a student! I usually did better than most though. But when life throws them at you, it’s a bit different.

“Did I take my meds today?” ….and the answer is….dang I dunno!

If I didn’t do that, then the rest of the quiz is going to go really bad.

We have so many things coming at us on a daily basis in such an unexpected way, we are definitely tested. The world continues to test us. It will chew you up and spit you out if you’re not careful…sometimes even if you are! Rely on your family, and friends…those who love you, to help you through. Most of the time they will be there for you, and give you the boost you need to feel better about yourself.

And don’t forget to enjoy the gift of life. No matter where you think it came from. Don’t quibble about the root origin, just live. It’s a one time, no satisfaction guaranteed if you don’t try, awesome experience. I think it’s a great gift, but you guys call it what you wish.

I’ll hopefully continue this journey when the sun rises tomorrow, and maybe I’ll see you round. If I don’t I’ll send you a picture or two and maybe write a couple of lines.

Beating the Winter Blahs

Someone told me the other day, “we don’t hear much from you anymore.” Guess they are probably right. I repurpose old posts as blogs, rewrite some old stories and post them, and generally just let it go at that.

I’ve about stopped going out in nature and taking walks. Generally now, I just do an hour inside in the mornings. Maybe it’s just the weather and the short days….but maybe not. I don’t feel compelled to photograph sunrises and sunsets. Most of the photos I’ve taken lately have been dark and scary, like many of my dreams. Maybe the sun just has not shined enough of late. Or, maybe it’s just me. My moody self showing itself in my actions.

There are things I intend to get done which are not getting done. What is wrong? Winter time blahs?

My Daddy always told me that when you get down, you have to pull yourself up, because nobody else is going to do it for you. They got their own battles they’re fighting. I figure he was pretty much correct, as usual. If I hadn’t grown up with his wisdom, I’d be a lot more stupid then I sometimes am.

I remember so very many times as a kid…a young teenager, that I would just take off on a Saturday during the school year, or on any particular day in the summer and just go walk and explore around my home town. I might walk up to the dam, and walk across the rocks right up next to the base of the dam, and feel the spray coming off the top. I’d go down underneath the wagon bridge and dig some of those giant green yucky earth worms which lived there and fish in the river with them. If I caught anything, I’d throw it back. Who wanted to clean and eat anything out of there, especially since the worms right next to the river were a weird green!

I’d go into the woods, behind the cemetery above Simmons street, and climb trees. I’d lay in the grass and listen for the leaves to rustle, and wonder what kind of animal was creeping around. I spent hours practicing throwing my straight bladed scout knife into the side of trees. Got pretty good at it. I’d get a baseball and glove, and spend hours bouncing it off one of the old cement walls down by the school.

I’d hike over the hill from happy top to the golf course and hunt golf balls…always keeping an eye out for Roy Williams, as you weren’t supposed to hunt them except on Tuesdays. During the summer Mike Brown and me would dive off the river on the right hand side of number one hole and feel our way down the mushy banks. We found tons of balls there.

Those were the days when I didn’t feel like I needed to get anything done. Days when I wasn’t responsible for anything, Days I didn’t have to justify a political position on Facebook, or worry about going to hell for being a democrat and a sinner. (One and the same??)

In actuality, I really don’t worry about that now. The only thing I’m focused on is tomorrow and keeping my little ones safe. Keep from stepping on the poor old dog. Keep from being so grouchy, so my wife will be happier. And, as the days get longer, maybe I’ll be motivated to get back out and walk the parks again. I’ll find a focus setting on my camera for sunsets and sunrises. Get rid of the Winter blahs, and get some of those other things done I’ve been meaning to do.