Off-course / By Judith Marks-White
I recently returned from a few days in Florida where I visited with my Aunt Rose and Uncle Al. Al is an avid golfer, who can maneuver around a course as deftly as President Barack Obama can discuss health care. The bad news was, he (Al, not Obama) expected me to join him.
"Golf is not my game," I said. "I'd rather sit by the pool and read."
"That's because no one ever bothered to teach you the moves," he said. "Spend a day with me and I'll have you swinging and putting in no time."
"Why don't I stay here at the condo and keep Aunt Rose company?" I asked.
"Rose plays Mah Jong with her friends all day," Uncle Al said. "You don't want to play Mah Jong, do you?"
I weighed my options: Mah Jong or golf. The latter won out. The next morning we were up and out by 7 a.m. Al had rented clubs for me, and was raring to go.
"We'll start slowly," he promised. "We'll begin with nine holes and see how you do. Then we'll have lunch at the club house. The bartender, John, makes a mean Bloody Mary."
Plying me with alcohol was Uncle Al's way of wrapping up the deal.
"Golf has been handed a bad rap by your Aunt Rose," he said at hole one. "That's because she believes that golf is a four-letter word. There's a skill and challenge to the game. Once you learn the knack, you'll be begging me to take you out again." Then he resorted to flattery: "I can tell you have potential just by the way you hold your clubs."
The last time I was told I had potential was when I was 16, and took my driver's license test. The man from the Department of Motor Vehicles, sitting in the passenger seat, looked at me and said: "kid, you've got potential." I was so excited that I made a right turn into a one-way street, and ended up denting a couple of cars. But I walked away unscathed. I was given my license only because the DMV guy knew my dad, and I had promised I would not, in this lifetime, ever get behind a wheel. I figured that same rule applied to golf.
On this bright and sunny morning, there I was in my lime green skirt and gift of a cotton shirt with the club insignia. My little golf socks were tucked inside my cleated golf shoes that Aunt Rose had earlier warned I had better not place anywhere near their Oriental rugs. To complete the look, Uncle Al bought me a cap with a logo: "Weston Hills Golf Club." I was now considered a full-fledged club groupie. We grabbed our bags, and here's where the real fun began.
What I learned was that the entire game rests with the clubs. Having the right clubs corresponds to the individual's build and swing. My bag consisted of a set of woods, irons and a pitching wedge, sand wedge and putter. I had to admit: if looks mattered, I was the biggest hottie on the green. If looks could kill, I would knock 'em dead.
"I knew it," Uncle Al stood back beaming. "You look like a real pro."
But, the truth was, I was as green as the course on which we stood. Outwardly, I might pass for a female version of Tiger Woods, but inside I was shaking. But, I wanted to do well and not disappoint Uncle Al, who had put all his faith in me, and would invite me back so I wouldn't have to stay home and play Mah Jong.
Everything was going well until I encountered the golf cart. This open-air vehicle was not designed for the faint of heart. Stepping into one of these was more treacherous than the bumper cars at an amusement park. I held on for dear life as Uncle Al maneuvered up the course and around a tree, into a sand pit and down a slope so steep I would have been better off with skis than clubs. Finally, as we rounded a bend, we zeroed in on the fourth hole. With one mighty thrust, Uncle Al hit the break so fast, I was catapulted into the air and onto the green. By a narrow margin, my head missed a hole in one. I lay there for a few minutes until the EMS in charge of wayward bodies administered first-aid.
It took a while, but our relationship -- Uncle Al's and mine -- is back "on course." As Uncle Al sees it, he gave me another chance. I was invited back to the club where I made some new friends: Uncle Al's cronies all of whom had pot bellies, wore black socks with white shoes and smoked big, smelly cigars.
When Al left to do nine holes, I declined the game. Instead, I sat inside the clubhouse with the ladies, eating club sandwiches and playing Bingo. I gave Aunt Rose equal time, too. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, I joined her and "the girls" at the condo where we played a rousing game of Mah Jong, stuffing Trail Mix into our mouths and sipping prune juice spritzers.