Saturday, August 15, 2009

Miracle on the 17th Green

This morning I head off to our annual corporate golf outing, once again at the 36 hole four star rated Nemadji Golf Club in Superior, WI. Corporate golf outings are a great way to introduce new people to the game of golf. At our company we form teams and have a scramble format it which everyone plays but not everyone has to carry the team.

The sport of golf is widely believed to have originated in Scotland. Being a MacGregor on me mother’s side thereby makes my attraction to the game a natural.

My dad liked to golf regularly and used to go back behind Stafford School in Maple Heights to practice hitting his irons. I have memories of Dad, my brother and I going to some remote road and running through the underbrush finding golf balls, filling brown paper lunch bags with them. I guess it must have been a particularly nasty hole at a Cleveland golf course where the initial shrubbery discouraged hackers from going deeper into the woods. But further in there was no brush at all and we scampered about like squirrels collecting nuts.

My Grandfather Sandy especially loved the game and played as much as he could after retirement, about four times a week I seem to recall. When I was about eleven he’d gotten a new set of clubs and gave me his old wooden shaft irons in a brown golf bag. He got quite angry with me when we were practicing once and I broke the shaft by duffing one, which I did on at least a couple of occasions.

Beginning at age 15 I spent two summers caddying at a NJ country club, courtesy Mr. McAvoy, a Bridgewater neighbor and likewise avid golfer. The chief benefit of caddying was that I could then go golfing every Monday for free, and golf we did. It was a wonderful experience.

Two years later I was invited to be a bus boy at Fiddler’s Elbow and got a real up close look at the country club culture from the inside. Here, too, we had the opportunity to play for free on Mondays, which I did now and again. The famed Bobby Thomson of the Giants, who hit the “shot heard round the world” to win the 1951 National League pennant, was a member there and I remember once standing in the doorway watching him slowly remove his shoes in the locker room after an 18 hole round.

All these memories come to mind as I prepare for my own round this morning.

A book recommendation comes to mind as well: Miracle on the 17th Green by James Patterson and Peter de Jonge. It’s a relatively fast read. If you like golf and have ever followed any facet of the PGA Tour (My dad was part of Arnie’s Army, I like Gary Player) you will enjoy this inside look at a great sport. It’s about a middle aged guy who is very good at golf who takes a midlife crisis type of stab at making the PGA Senior Tour.

I myself did not know who James Patterson was at the time I read this book years ago. My intro to Patterson was such a turn off because many of his bestsellers are of the gruesome type where imagination is applied in the sickest of ways to come up with new and creative macabre villains. I will admit that I wrote a few such stories myself when young, albeit poorly, but the very first chapter of one of his books was such a put off I have scrupulously avoided him, no matter how many bestsellers he writes.

On the other hand, I thought this review on pretty much summed up my take on the book which I hope you will one day read yourself… No murders, no serial killers. Just a lot of golf, and some fun. Sort of like today at Nemadji.

And congrats from afar to my brother Robert who got his first hole in one two weeks ago. Cherish the moment! I had a nice drive on one hole myself today.

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