"I'm never going to be Tiger Woods," I said to the pro at my first lesson. We were out at the practice range at Longshore, alongside the spill-over parking lot. "Here's my goal. I want to be able to go out and play with my three sons and not embarrass myself. Or them. I just want to kind of, you know, fit in."

"Got it," he said. "I know exactly what we need to work on."

I pointed to my golf bag. I'd brought a used set of clubs that once belonged to a teenage friend of the family. "What do you think of these?" I asked.

"Doesn't matter. I wouldn't be too worried about your clubs. That's the least of your problems."

I found it odd that he didn't think my clubs were important, but what did I know?

"Can we start with the driver?" I asked.

"Oh, no, not the driver. We're not ready for that."

I assumed he wanted to begin with the pitching wedge, and work our way up to the driver. I'd been told that's the way some golf pros do it.

"Oh, so you mean irons first?" I asked

"No, we're not ready for irons, either."

I looked at him curiously.

"You said you want to fit in, right? Best way to do that is learn to speak the language. Here's what I mean. You know that you're never supposed to leave a birdie putt short, right?

I nodded. I'd actually heard my sons talk about this. The theory was that a weekend golfer doesn't get all that many chances for a birdie putt, so when he does, he's got to really go for it. Better to stroke it too hard than to wimp out and let it fall short.

"So if one of your buddies has an eight-foot birdie putt and leaves it four feet short, what do you say to him?"

"Tough luck?"

"No! You say, `Does your husband play, too?'"

I got it. Pretty funny, in fact. I saw where he was going with this lesson, but I was eager to start hitting. I pulled my pitching wedge from my bag, placed a ball on the grass, and swung. There was a flag I'd been aiming for in the middle of a small green about 60 yards away, but I overshot it by a good 40 yards. I also sliced it way to the right.

"Long and wrong," the pro observed.

I looked up at him, annoyed. Then I tried again. This time I managed to get the ball to hug the very edge of the green.

"Better?" I said, fishing for encouragement.

"Yeah, better," he said. "At least you're on the dance floor."

I made a mental note: Long and wrong. On the dance floor. The next ball I hit plopped down about 10 feet from the pin.

"Now that dog'll hunt!" he exclaimed, approvingly.

As we cycled our way up through the irons -- the 9, the 7, the 5 -- he continued to drill me.

"What's army golf?"

I looked at him blankly.

"It's when you keep hitting the ball back and forth across the fairway, side to side, without ever getting much closer to the green. You know . . . Left! Right! Left! Right!"

I mis-hit a five iron, and cursed. The ball barely got off the ground.

"Worm burner," he said.

I glared back at him.

"Did you ever make a putt that was afraid of the dark?" he asked me.


"It's one that won't go in the hole."

At this point I'd had enough for one lesson, and wanted to go out with a bang. I'd arrived knowing one golf expression and one golf expression only. Now it was time to use it. I unsheathed my driver from my bag, stripped off the headcover and said, with some fanfare, "Time to let the big dog eat."

He raised his eyebrows, clearly surprised, and impressed.

"Yep," he said. "Grip it and rip it!"

In addition to "The Home Team," which appears every other Friday, you can also keep up with Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, on his blog, "Beagle Man," on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ He can be reached at: DoubleH50@gmail.com.