A portrait of the writer as a bad golfer

Last Sunday I returned from a week-long golf vacation in which I shanked shots and tore up chunks of grass for 10 hours a day in what local meteorologists described as the “heat wave that is literally 5-degrees warmer than hell.” And believe it or not, I had a blast.

Every year, my father-in-law and three brothers-in-law travel to some faraway land to play golf for a week. Now, when I say “play golf” I don’t mean that they play like, a round a day or something. That would be, for them, the equivalent of going to a fancy restaurant and ordering a cracker. One round of golf is not nearly enough golf. The purpose of their golf excursions is to cram as much golf as possible into each and every day. Sleeping and eating are only necessary evils that are required to prepare for more golf. So yeah, we played two rounds a day for six straight days, and that’s not counting last Sunday, when we only played one round because we arrived in Williamsburg, Virginia earlier than expected and, well, decided that the best way to prepare for a golf vacation was to golf.

Now, those of you who know me may be saying to yourself, “Wow, that seems like a lot of golf. Especially for someone like you, who sucks at golf.” Well then, you’re an asshole. But yeah, it’s true. And you may also be saying to yourself, “How the hell did you end up going on this trip anyway?” That is an excellent question, asshole. My brother-in-law Matt could not make it this year because he just started a new job in North Carolina, so I got the call from the bullpen. Unfortunately for them, I am more Armando Benitez than Mariano Rivera.

There is no possible way I could write a cohesive column about this trip. Too much stuff happened, and the whole thing is a blur that I couldn’t put into chronological order if I tried. Instead, I’m just going to cover some of the highlights. Just keep something in mind as you read. My in-laws are really good golfers. My father-in-law is about a 14-handicap. My brother-in-law Joe shot a 77 a week before we left. My brother-in-law Anthony is actually in school to become a head pro. And then there was me. This trip was easily going to surpass the total amount of rounds of golf I have ever played in my entire life. I’m just saying. The best way I can describe my abilities is to say that every stroke I eliminate from the course maximum (usually 144) is a positive. So, you can imagine the comedy that ensued from this contrast in styles. Unless you were me, who found things slightly less humorous at times. Anyway…

- There is no way I can describe how freakin’ hot it was out there from Sunday through Friday. I mean, I know everyone knows how hot it was, but you don’t really have any idea, if that makes sense. On days like that, I start sweating when I look out the window, so you can imagine what we looked like (and smelled like) at the end of two rounds of golf. And no, we did not change clothes in between rounds, because the only thing that would have accomplished was to ruin two outfits instead of one. And I definitely won the “sweatiest guy” award of the trip (trophy forthcoming), although my brother-in-law Joe came in a close second, with his display of uncanny back sweat. The back of his shirt would be covered in sweat, except for small, sporadic blotches of dryness, which made the back of his shirt look like a map of the Caribbean Islands.



- Did I mention how hot it was? When you are away for a week doing nothing but golfing, it becomes difficult to stay in touch with what is going on in the world, but from what we gathered, the story of the day, every day, was how hot it was. (And also, something happened to Castro. We think. Heat stroke, possibly?) The top news clip of the day was always “stay inside,” which we heard every morning on our way to play golf outside for 10 hours. Among the four of us, we lost a combined 100 pounds. We could have opened up a salt factory with what was coming out of our pores. In fact, one day – I think it was Wednesday – we thought that we should call the local news to inform them as to what we were doing, because maybe that would be a good story. But we never called, because it was too hot.

- I never really use a driver off of the tee because I cannot control that thing. So, I usually use a 5-wood and play catch-up for the entire hole. Whatever. Anyway, on the second full day of the trip, during our morning round, I hit a ball off the tee and my five-wood exploded. The club head came off on impact and traveled almost as far as the ball (not very far.) I cannot begin to express how funny this was, and how well it seemed to sum up my trip. Check out this follow through. Where is the rest of the club? It’s somewhere in Virginia.



- And on that note, when we came to the bag drop after that day of golf, the guys who were taking our bags and cleaning our clubs were complementing us, saying that we looked like good golfers, and that they could tell that we were by our clubs (I used Joe’s old ones) and the places we’ve golfed (the tags and towels on the bags were from Pinehurst, Scottsdale, and all the other places they’ve been.) Then, one of the guys picked up the broken shaft of my 5-wood and said, “So…what do you want me to do with this?” There went my cover. The black sheep was exposed.

- My father-in-law had the worst putt of all time. Seriously, it was that bad. It was like he saw a 90-degree break in the green, except there was no break at all. It was so bad, that the ball hit his towel, which he purposely placed well out of the way of the line of his putt. It was so bad, he needed a mulligan. On a putt. And then, he did the same exact thing again. The four of us were convulsing in laughter on the green. I know it’s one of those things that you had to be there to appreciate, but just picture someone that you know, really trying to make a putt, and then putting it as far from the hole as possible. And then doing it again. You’ll laugh. Trust me. Every time I think about that putt, I start laughing.

- On the ride home, Anthony had to pee so bad, that he could barely even hold it in anymore. But we were stuck in traffic, with the rest stop still five miles away. He was really struggling, so much so that we were not allowed to make him laugh or anything. Then he said, “Just don’t say anything about peeing, or do anything to remind me how bad I have to pee.” And right as he said that, a van pulled in front of us with the license plate “PPPPPP.” I am NOT exaggerating. Not one iota. I mean, I didn’t even know you could have a license plate like that. Just weird. And this shot below may serve to explain why Anthony had to pee so badly in the first place:



(that was vodka!)

- Everybody hit “the wall” at one point during the trip. Mine was Tuesday afternoon, when I was playing like absolute ass, and was so tired and hot that I couldn’t even think anymore. At that point, if a helicopter had passed by, and was heading towards New Jersey, I would have gotten on in 2.4 seconds, even if I had to hang from the bottom of it, a la Jaime Lee Curtis in “True Lies.” I could barely swing a club, and when I did, I managed to leave it on the course, which is what happened to my (Joe’s) pitching wedge. Luckily, someone found it. And even luckily-er, that feeling of utter exhaustion passed, and I was ready to suck at golf again the next day.

- I blew my load, so to speak, on the first full day, posting my best round that afternoon (a 102…don’t laugh) at the Kings Mill River course. All this really accomplished was to make me think I was better than I actually was, and caused me that much more frustration the next few days, as I suffered through my normal 116s and 119s. So that was my first lesson on how much golf blows.

- Anthony won the birdie race with 18. Joe had 10, and my father-in-law had two. I was a distant fourth with one, which is exactly one more than I had planned on contributing.

- Most of the courses we played were very difficult, as if my general state of suckiness wasn’t enough cause for frustration. Hey, throw in some more blind tee shots, bunkers, and sloping greens! Yeah! What was that – a par 5? Give me a 10! Awesome. For me, playing these courses was like being a bad singer, and having my first public performance be at the Apollo. Ya’ know, if I were African American or something.

- It was so hot that many of the greens had huge fans to dry out the moisture of the relentless humidity. It was near one of these fans that we ran into this fellow, an obvious stray from one of Colonial Williamsburg’s many Civil War reenactments. He was nice though – he actually paid for our trip.



(By the way, I can't thank him enough for the experience.)

- At dinner one night, we all decided that golf is only good in retrospect. When you’re on the course, you’re constantly having the worst time of your life because everything you do well is expected, and everything you don’t do well only pisses you off to no end. And then afterwards, you’re like, “Hey – that was fun! Can’t wait to do that again tomorrow!” And you’re actually serious. Yeah, so that’s golf.

- It was so hot that Joe’s shirt melted onto his shorts. Seriously, his sweat caused his khaki shorts to become red.



It was so hot that my father-in-law would not let me bring my dirty socks back into the room. I had to leave them in my golf bag. It was so hot that a hot fart felt like a cool draft. It was so hot that, on one of my shots, I chunked it so bad that I reached the core of the earth, and let me tell you – it was cool by comparison. Don't believe me?



- Through it all, I actually did manage to have the best shot of the trip. On the 17th hole of Tuesday morning, I holed out from about 130 yards. “Holed out” is golf terminology for “getting the ball in the hole,” because you can’t say things like “I got the ball in the hole from really far away,” unless you want to sound like a complete idiot. Anyhoo, most golfers who hole out from 130 yards on a par-4 call it an “eagle.” Mine was called a “par.” But hey, whatever. It went in the hole. From really far away. So there.

- Here is my final, and lasting thought of the trip. If there was ever a debate as to whether or not golf is a “real” sport, or whether or not the pressure of golf is as great as the pressure of other sports, or whether or not the act of walking through a beautiful landscape is a test of endurance, this trip officially ended that discussion. This weeklong affair was an assault on my temperament, my athletic ego, my endurance, and my will to live. There were times when I was so angry that I didn’t know what to do with myself, so frustrated that I just wanted to hide, so nervous that I felt like I was back in high school again, so hot that I thought I was going to melt, so tired that I would have slept on the fairway, and so happy that I knew it was all worth it. It’s pretty strange to describe a golf vacation as an accomplishment, but that’s what it was. For me, it was like climbing a mountain, except every 10 yards someone reminds that you suck at climbing mountains. Yet somehow, you still make it to the top (four hundred and thirteen shots later than everyone else, but you still make it). Honestly, I don’t know too many people who could have done what we did, and I’m kind of proud of that.

And when I recover from this trip in 2008, I might even get back out there again. That is, if I can manage to tape my 5-wood together.

Comments

Mike,
Great report! We felt like we were there, except Aunt Patti & I were not on the course,but at the swim up bar of the Four Seasons- Williamsburg watching you on a big screen tv.
Uncle Dave
CMB said…
Glad you had a great time. It was the hottest week ever and if any of you 4 lost weight, then you must now be invisible. Miss you.