“Golf is a Gentleman’s and Lady’s game.”
I looked around at my eleven-odd fellow PE classmates sitting Indian-style in a semi-circle in front of Coach. It was late spring in Winnsboro, Texas. I was twelve.
Poking my buddy (a lanky, slow-drawling ugly, slightly buck-toothed dirty-blond towhead of a boy named ‘Gary’) in the ribs with my elbow I whispered, “Golf? What’s he talkin’ ‘bout?”
Coach continued, “Gentlemen, today I am going to introduce you to the greatest sport of all: Golf.”
“Coach done lost his mind,” I remember thinking. “Ever’one knows there ain’t but one sport: Football.”
“Golf,” he went on, “Is a sport you will enjoy for the rest of your lives. It requires skill, intelligence, decorum, determination, concentration, and class. You all will search me out later in life and thank me for this day.”
Coach was about twenty-nine and was attending night school in Tyler, taking ‘Pre-Med’ classes. One day he would change his name from ‘Coach’ to ‘Doctor Coach.’
Towering over us, standing at least six foot and change, lean and muscular, dark short-cropped hair, square jawed and possessing a cross between a serious at times, and a jovial at other times demeanor, that was ‘Coach.’
‘Charismatic‘ and ‘Honorable’ would be the two words I would choose if given only two to describe him.
He was not your typical Deep-East-Texas Football Coach.
He had a brain.
In Reality, this photo is of George Gankas, the famous golfing coach, but “Our Coach” looked very much like Ol’ George here
We just sat there, dumb-founded, but we, to a boy, genuinely loved, admired, and respected Coach.
So we listened and said nothing.
Although we did exchange some incredulous, ‘What the hell?’ looks.
Coach took us out to the practice football field and introduced us to “The Greatest Game on Earth.”
I cannot speak for the rest, but I was hooked from the ‘get-go.’
Rode the bus home to Granddaddy that afternoon and announced, “I am gonna be a professional golfer.”
Grandaddy was sober that day
and said, “Is that a fack? What you know ‘bout golf young’un?”
“I know it is a ‘Gentleman’s Game’, and I know I am a Gentleman.”
“Pshaw Boy! You doan know anything about anything. I know about ‘golf.’”
Turns out, my Grandfather did, in fact, know a lot about golf. Once he had actually almost convinced his neighbor to combine his one hundred twenty adjoining acres with his own one hundred and build a golf course for Winnsboro.
Granddaddy was somewhat of an entrepreneur, having been in the Grocery Business, the Appliance Store business, the Catfish Restaurant Business (on the Tennessee river), the Worm Ranch business (selling red-worms to all the bait shops at the area lakes), and pretty much had failed at each and every one of them.
Yet, he NEVER gave up. I did admire those few-of-a-kind great traits he possessed: Eternal Optimism, No Fear, and Dogged Determination.
That’s Granddaddy on the right (Duh), many years later. Me, the ‘Handsome’ (Ha! Ha!) Sailor-on-Leave, and Grandmother on the left. Winnsboro, Texas, circa 1987
The following Friday I got off the school bus and noticed two little flags poking up from two little golf greens in our huge front yard.
The ‘yard’ was about sixty ‘yards’ deep. There was a green next to the Farm-to-Market road just behind the bar ditch, nestled between the two Crepe Myrtles, and another green just in front of the house.
Granddaddy found me as I was rummaging the fridge for left-over cornbread and sweet milk.
“Boy! I dun built you a golf course.”
“Yes Granddaddy, I saw.”
He disappeared for a few minutes and returned with a golf club and some golf balls.
“Come on, I gonna see how much golfin’ that coach dun taught you.”
Eagerly I followed him out to the front yard. He dropped the balls in front of the porch and handed me a nine iron.
“See if’n you can hit that green yonder.”
I tee’d her up. Took a few practice strokes, remembering to keep my head down, and then I addressed the ball. My back swing was perfect. The downswing weren’t. I hit the ball and watched it sail over the barb-wire fence into the deep pasture.
“Sheeit Boy! You damn sure ain’t no natural.”
He coached me all that afternoon and after I finally managed to at least ‘find the fairway’ he went into the house and got drunk.
For the next several weeks, I played golf every day on my private course. But I had a major problem: I had no putter. Try putting with a nine iron. Even Lee Trevino won’t attempt to do this.
Granddaddy crafted a putter for me out of some scrap lumber. It was too light, so he drilled the head out and poured molten lead into it. Then it was perfect.
My putting skills improved dramatically.
Summer now and I was growing dissatisfied with my greens. I wanted greens resembling those at Augusta. Mine were one notch above cow pasture cut short.
I spent a week or two pulling weeds and planting fresh Bermuda grass. My tender mercies eventually produced two greens Jack Nicklaus would have been honored to putt upon.
They were smooth, silky smooth, and wonderfully… green. Lushly green. In stark contrast to the rest of the yard (fairway) which was somewhat brown, with some grass burrs serving as natural hazards–hazards to my feet.
Young’uns in Texas never wear shoes in summertime, but of course you’d know that.
My ‘Fairway’ Resembled This:
My ‘Golf Green’ Resembled This:
I watered my greens every day. I mowed them every other day. Being a sometime gardener, I loved green things. My golf greens were my pride. I loved the way the Bermuda grass had thrived and how smoothly the golf ball would travel on its way to the pin.
In golf, you will make maybe one, maybe two, shots in your lifetime that you never forget. I made my first unforgettable shot that summer. I had clipped my ‘Tee Shot’ from the tee next to the road. It had travelled about fifteen feet.
I needed a great second shot (my course was, of course, a ‘par-three’), to have any hope of making par. (I had fantasy tournaments with imaginary friends in my head—going head to head with the likes of Arnold and Jack and Lee).
My second shot was from about fifty yards. I had a good lie.
I said to my imaginary playing partner of the day, “Hey Jack, stand back and watch this. You may learn something.”
(Only ‘Golfers’ will understand this, and I am not ‘writer enough‘ to explain it to ‘not golfers’, but every once in a great while a golfer can visualize a future shot. It plays in his head like a ten second movie clip. And it is a ‘very good ten second movie.’)
One such movie was playing on the inside-my-head-screen as I approached my ball.
No grass burrs to distract me. I addressed the ball. Took several looks up to the flag. Did my ‘waggle’ to set my stance.
Video Content Credit: manoloteachesgolf
Backswing. Fore swing. Clean crisp hit. Watched my ball bounce thrice on the green as it rolled straight at the flag.
“Hole in One!” My grandfather shouted from the porch. (Until then, I had not realized I’d had an audience, or a color commentator, a slightly nose-painted-red ‘color commentator’.)
“Yeah!” I shouted. I saw no need to inform him it was my second shot.
One morning about mid-summer I went out to water my greens. There were small holes in the one closest to the house. Holes! Holes the size of tea cups! “Fuckin’ ‘dillo!” was my first thought. My dog Spot would never disfigure my green. Nope. Was an armadillo. No doubt about it. This armadillo had made a fatal mistake.
I was resolved to terminate him.
With extreme prejudice.
That night I dragged my sleeping bag onto my belov’d green and with my .22 rifle under my arm I lay in wait.
Fell asleep on watch around midnight. Woke up with the sun to discover more holes in my green. Further enraged now.
“Of Course You Realize This MEANS WAR!”
Made repairs to the ‘dillo divets and played a few rounds that day. Close to sunset, I downed some strong black coffee and filled a thermos with more.
Camped out again on my green. Feigning sleep, I waited with my rifle and a flashlight. Sometime in the night, I heard him. Grubbing for grubs on MY Green.
The moon was half. I did not need the flashlight. I spied him on the edge of my green, mockingly desecrating my pride and joy.
Ever so slowly I turned toward him while resting on my side cradling my rifle. Took aim and shot him square in his armadillo ass. Bam! “Now run tell that, fuckin’ ‘dillo!”
He did (run) and I am quite certain he did tell all his ‘dillo friends’ not to fuck with my golf course. Ever again.
I suppose he died, or not. Actually, I probably only clipped him, but that was sufficient; he never came back, and I continued happily along with my golfing career.
It would be five years before I actually set foot on a ‘for real golf course’, but when I finally did, I impressed the hell outta my peers with my ‘short game’, as that was all I had known, yet damn good at it, I was.
Took me two more years to learn how to ‘drive’ golf balls (and cars and trains, and hay trucks, and cheerleaders, and majorettes, and such sundry other things.)
But Coach was right: I wish I could find him now to tell him just how right he was, per his prophesy.
Added Bonus Value:
Robin Williams on Golf
I thought it might be fun to drop in some of the commentary generated by the origional version of this story.
So here ya go!
The Offensive Playbook May 20, 2014 at 16:24
“Fuckin’ ‘dillo!” 😀
I always wondered about Southern accents: do you guys think with perfect syntax and just speak like Woody Harrelson, or what? Now I know you think exactly the same way!
The only thing I don’t understand is why you didn’t shoot the ‘dillo in the neck then attack it with a shovel? Or….lead-filled wooden putter? I’ll bet even his armour would be no defense against that thing!
LAMarcom May 20, 2014 at 16:25
I was half-asleep. Lucky I got a shot off at all.
I don’t have a southern accent when I read to myself: it is British.
idiotwriter April 15, 2014 at 16:24
Yeah = pretty pleased I came around for a visit 😀 I am not sure which part I laughed the most at – but this kinda is sticking in my head “Sheeit Boy! You damn sure ain’t no natural.”
LAMarcom April 15, 2014 at 16:27
Wow! You read my stuff!
Ya know what?
I love you for that.
Do you suppose Hemingway ever felt this way?
Hey, that kinda rhymes…
idiotwriter April 15, 2014 at 16:37
Whose Hemingway? 😉
We got lanceRS and Idiots.
Um – I don’t get around much – but occasionally I manage to stop in and have a drink with people who interest me. (hence why i do not get around much? cos not many people interest me – THAT is the booze talking yeah!) Or it may be because I am a little more inclined to be a solitary creature and write a lot?
Um – yip. Dunno – a bit flawed that you are amazed that I read your writing?? But thanks for the love none the less 😀 !
Looks like you’ve reached The End.
Thank you for sticking with this long journey.
Here’s You Reward:
Vid Cred: Weebl’s Stuff