Here’s a fact truer than apple pie on a summer day. I’m no athlete and I’m perfectly okay with that. We all have our talents. I said before I’m good at rhyming. And recently I discovered finger puppet shows. But hitting a small object into an even smaller receptacle? Not my bag.
I had one great sport’s moment in my life. It was in seventh grade where I, alongside my BFF at the time, won a badminton championship. I brought home a trophy which my parents treated like it was the Noble Peace Prize. It was a little gold asexual being perched on one leg brandishing what was presumably a racket. It appeared just as likely I was being crowned “spider-swatting champion” or “easiest person to find in a large crowd” and I would have been just as happy. That little gold trophy nestled on my dresser between my jelly bracelets and Tiger Beats was a big checkmark on my list of things to do before I’m ninety. Do something decent at sports. Any sport. And now twenty-some years later, I earned my second-ever sports related allocate at my company’s annual golf tournament.
Here’s what I know about golf: It can be played indoors or outdoors and sometimes involves windmills or tiny bridges that cross tiny streams where tiny trolls hide waiting to capture your tiny golf balls. I also know about bogeys and birdies but only because I had a parakeet named Bogey when I was ten. I don’t see how she fits into this quite yet. In terms of actually playing the other kind of golf, the kind that doesn’t involve windmills and is generally played and revered by grown-ups like my dad, my experience was limited to Man Day.
Man Day, if I may digress, happened in April while I was vacationing in Florida. Mom went out on the gambling cruise while dad and I stayed behind to celebrate the first annual Man Dan. We started our day by lifting weights at Gold’s Gym, then got an oil change, ate burgers and drank beer for lunch (it was actually a veggie burger and diet root beer but go with me on this) and finally concluded Man Day with a trip to the driving range. I had never tried to hold a golf club properly or even go the distance with a golf ball and was surprised at the level of difficulty involved. But still, I walked away thinking I was a natural. My dad told me I had potential. Two or three more years of lessons and I might actually hit the ball straight.
So this golf tournament…it’s not the World Open of course. It’s meant for fun, first and foremost (get it—I said “fore,” hee hee.) I’m all for fun and goodie bags. And let’s not forget the most important part. I can drive the cart! Yesssssssssssssssssss!
But first, another digression. There is a universal problem facing society. The Nintendo Wii. Yes, that’s right. That darn Wii is breeding generations of overconfident athletes. We all seem to think that our Wii living room skills will translate to the court, the course or the ring. I’m pretty good at Wii bowling. In fact, last night I scored a 119. That’s four times higher than my real life high score. See what I mean? The Wii makes you cocky. It makes you delusional. It makes you do ridiculous things like sign up for your company’s annual golf tournament. The Wii is a little, white, electronic version of my parents.
My team consisted of two other women and one man. We called ourselves the Part-Time Models—a nod to our stunning good looks and my latest obsession, The Flight of the Conchords. Between us, we’ve been on golf courses five times. (Two of those times had nothing to do with golf, mind you, but I’m saying what went down or who was involved.) Ilja was in the tournament last year and was on a team so good I think perhaps he measured his own prowess accordingly. Sarah is an athlete by nature and I think the “by nature” part is really a stubborn competitive streak that says “if I can’t win now, I’m going to at least get good enough this time around so I can kick all your asses next time.” If not for Sarah, surely we’d have been rescued by helicopter days later somewhere on the 7th hole. Nina and I were very similar. We figured out quickly that golf wasn’t our game and the company’s tournament complete with uptight co-workers shouting at us from the tee to “hurry the hell up or just move on” was not the place to perfect our swing. We were perfectly content to drive the cart, keep score and caddy. We named the clubs. Harry Putter, Jackson Five, Foury Pouvich. Nina was expert at filling the divots we made on the course, running out from the protective shade of the cart with her plastic bottle filled with sand. She even filled other people’s divots.
I have found that after three or four beers, I’m in my “window.” The window is a short period of time where I’m actually pretty good at sports. I can hit a bull’s eye with a dart, shut someone out at air hockey, even earn the high score at Pop-a-Shot basketball (actually I’m pretty good at this even when I’m sober.) Golf was no different. About six holes into it, I stepped onto the tee and made one impressive shot. It was like the beautiful lush green course in the middle of nowhere was gone and it was Man Day and the vast flatness of the driving range was spread out before me. I heard Dad saying things like “straighten your arms, bend your knees, don’t look up. Don’t you dare cross the street without looking!” (Oops. That’s not really golf related, is it?) I took a mighty swing and sent the ball somewhere in the vicinity of the hole. Like close enough to the hole we had to get out the putter on the next shot. Overconfident and more than slightly drunk, I grabbed Harry Putter and proceeded to putt the ball thirty feet in the opposite direction. Window closes. I told you it was short lived.
Did I mention it was something like 190 degrees outside? Probably closer to 80 but it felt like the burning bowels of hell by the time we reached the three hour mark. I was hesitant to get out of the cart because it provided the only bit of shade I could find and even more hesitant to bring the cart to a complete stop because cruising at the maximum 4 mph was the only way we could get a breeze. Sarah suggested we play a round of “polo golf” using our carts as makeshift horses. Personally I think it was a brilliant idea. Ilja who plays more video games than a Pac Man arcade machine in the 80’s and therefore the most delusional of us all insisted that we could still find our groove and rack up enough points to make us contenders. Contenders? Contenders for what? “Contenders for second to last place,” he said.
This is the point where Nina and I turned into three year-olds on a long road trip who ate all their Teddy Grams, watched all their DVDs and drove all their crayons into backseat lakes of magenta and brick red. We were so over this whole tournament thing. We needed entertainment STAT. While Sarah and Ilja tried to find the 116th ball we lost in a sand trap, Nina and I took off in one of the carts and visited co-workers on other holes. We watched other people suck and get sunburned and lament they too were only half way through with this course. They missed their wives, their kids, and dentist appointments. How long exactly had we been out here? Nina filled their divots. I named their clubs.
Not until we saw Ilja in the other cart driving wildly towards us, Italian hands waving, Italian swear words spewing, did we realize that the cart we escaped in had the clubs strapped to it. In our effort to get back to the previous hole before Ilja got to us, Nina flipped a colossal U-turn, which included us driving over part of the tee. One of the guys yelped, “You’re going to drive on the tee???” Nina stopped smack in the middle of the tee, beer in hand, and asked with the utmost sincerity, “Is that bad?” It is. Who knew?
If after the ninth hole we packed up the clubs, drove back to the clubhouse, got a bite to eat, nursed the hangovers we were already getting, and recounted our adventures to co-workers, the day would have been almost perfect. But after nine holes we came to the sad realization that golf is actually nine holes too long. We had been out there in the lushy, green wilderness for well over three hours and we were only halfway there.
Why oh why must I be on a team that insisted on finishing what they started? Why couldn’t I be on the Part-Time Slackers who were more inclined to slip into the shade of the woods and knock back a few Bud Lights and bags of Kettle chips and wait out the next three hours? But no. We paid for this tournament and bully for everyone if we weren’t going to finish it! Nina and I realized that if we couldn’t convince them to give up the dream, we would have to join them. We would finish this game if it were the last thing we did and quite honestly, I was beginning to think it was.
Tiger Woods we’re not. Tiger Whoosh? More like it. We teed off with no regard for direction, just an inconsolable urge to hit that ball as far away from us as possible. We chased our balls in twelve feet increments and when we lost sight of one in the brush or sand or fake koi pond, we pronounced it dead and moved on. By the last hole—YES THE LAST HOLE—we were down to ONE ball. Out of the 1, 543,987 we started with. I have later discovered this is not, in fact, normal. Oh and golf balls can get pricey. Sorry Sarah. Upon completion, we jumped into those golf carts with the ferocity of firemen responding to the screeching shrill of an alarm and drove the twelve miles back to the clubhouse.
Most of the other teams were already back and enjoying a very meat-filled dinner of chicken and hamburgers. Would it kill golfers to eat a vegetable once in a while? Ilja gave our score to the boys who manned the white board. They laughed at our score—those teenaged bastards! Threw their little teenaged heads back and let out a mighty guffaw.
“Wow,” one of them said. “Are you serious?”
“I think you’ll get a prize,” the other said.
Well good for us. We should get a prize. The Swiss Family Robinson Prize for survival, perhaps?
Here’s the deal. The first place team came in with forty-four points. The second-to-last team brought home thirty-three points. My team? Ready for this? Are you sure? Wait for it—we got…ten. That’s right. Ten. As in points.
I’m still not sure how scores are calculated but I know how to tell if we suck—the mighty applause that erupted from our former friends and co-workers when they caught sight of the white board. No doubt the teen-agers drew everyone’s attention to it. The Part-Time Models left with handy golf ball retrievers that sure would have been helpful on the course. At least we’ll be more prepared next time. Wait. Did I say next time? Oh please let that be the free Bud Light talking.