He was standing by the first tee at the storied Port Royal Golf Club on the western edge of the impossibly gorgeous island of Bermuda, tattered golf shirt faded into an unidentifiable shade of vermilion. His polyester doubleknit pants had once been white but had fallen victim to excess bleaching. Too many golf balls strained at the pocket seams that barely held aging material together. His golf shoes looked like something in which a swamp monster would consider himself to be quite nattily attired. But that smile! Teeth clenched in a grimace posed as a grin, porkpie hat positioned pertly on top of hairless head.
Having played public course golf for many years and knowing you can sometimes be paired up with anyone, my instincts went into overdrive.
“My goodness, Bernie,” I anxiously said to the starter, “Who is that?”
Bernie, originally from Tennessee, matched those roots with an original sense of Southern humor. He’d been at this golf course for more years than I’ve been playing.
“That,” he smirked, “is your fourth.”
I looked aghast as ‘my fourth’ was taking some practice swings. Oh no. They were worse than his outfit.
“This is going to be a long day, Bernie,” I sighed.
“Heh heh heh,” he chortled, “wait’ll you see his wife. She’s your third!”
Finding a sweet-smelling Bermuda cedar, I sat beneath the cool shade and calm moment it provided, arms slung around my knees. I figured this would be my last chance for serenity all day. My mind dozed, and I slowly began to recall playing partners I have known…….
What is it about golf that can transform angels into heathens, princesses into witches, and ordinary people into vampires? We all know them; we’ve all played with them, but I’m convinced they don’t know who and what they are.
One USGA national championship I played in almost two dozen years ago found me paired with a duo of complete opposites, yet two of the most annoying women I’d ever met. One was the darling of the high school set and the other was certainly a model for rodeo-bound Brahma bulls.
On the first tee, the Prima Donna announced, ‘My name is Mau-ree-see-a, and I don’t like Marie for short, so don’t expect me to answer if you call me that. I am up first, so if you’ll remove yourselves from the tee box, I’ll hit.”
She promptly sliced one into the woods and curtsied, certainly not happy but trying to maintain decorum. How fitting.
Next up was Brahma Bull and she didn’t even bother to tell us her name. Maybe we were better off. She grunted a few times and hit her shot down the middle. “Oh, that was just awful,” she snorted, then stomped and grunted a few more times. I half expected her to charge down the fairway straight for the red flag on No. 1 green. She didn’t…….at least not yet.
The rest of the day didn’t get much better. My comments of ‘nice shot’, ‘well done, or ‘good swing’ only evoked tirades of whining, wheezing, and insistence that I didn’t know of which I spoke. Of course the fact that I was playing decently did not elicit one word of praise from them.
On the narrow 18th hole, Bull duck-hooked one left. The spotter had been on the right and dashed over to find the ball. Bull then hit a provisional ball……you guessed it – dead right. The spotter did her waterbug dance back to the right again. Well, you can figure out the result when Brahma lost both golf balls and proceeded to chew out the spotter for not being in both places at once. And why not? Surely a presence as great as a B. Bull should evoke such reverence.
I might add that during the search for B.B.’s golf balls, the Prima Donna stood still, poised in the middle of the fairway. In reply to my quizzical look, she said, “Well, you can’t expect me to look for balls in those weeds. I might soil my clothes or get dirty or sweat or something like that. My hair could even be mussed. And then what???”
We finished the hole and headed for the scorer’s tent. It is traditional to wish your playing partners well and tell them how much you enjoyed the round; but with golfers from Hell one should simply state: ‘I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a round of golf…..less,” tip your visor politely, then leave. They never quite figure out what you’ve said until after you’re gone.
“YOU there. Young woman!”
I was jolted out of my reverie – or was it a bad dream about to eclipse into a nightmare?
“Are you talking to me?” I asked, innocently.
“Well, I’m not talking to the tree, obviously.” she snapped, recreating the St. Valentine’s Day massacre out of my name. “Whatever. Well, you’re playing with George and me. I’m Mrs. Baddle and we’re next on tee. Hop to it!”
Mrs. Baddle? More like Baddle-axe I would presume.
Deciding I could no longer hold out and leaving the welcoming shelter of my tree, I delivered myself up to the purgatory from which there is no escape: golfing with partners from Hell.
Back in the 80’s, the U.S.G.A. recommended that three expert players should take no more than 4 hours and 3 minutes to play a round of golf under championship conditions. What they don’t specify is how long one should endure a round of golf with three un-expert players under unbearable conditions.
Mrs. Baddle must have picked her 36-handicap out of the N-row of Bingo. George Baddle was actually a much better player than he looked: a passable 18 handicap provided you ignored his swing and his stretching the Rules of Golf. But of course, he didn’t have a chance. From the moment we teed off until the last shot was in the cup – some 5 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds later (13 nano-seconds if you’re counting), she never let up.
“George, stop chewing your gum, I can hear you…..George, don’t stand there, I can see you when I putt!!” (George was standing by the ball washer on the next tee)…”George!!! How could you hit such an ugly shot?” George’s reply to this rapid fire annihilation? Not a word. He just kept wearing his grin. Now I understand why he’s perfected it so.
Don’t ask me how my one under par score was achieved for the day; and don’t inquire about the remaining person in our foursome. He left after three holes mumbling something about being late for his root canal surgery the next day.
One thing you might ask is whether or not Bernie the starter was anywhere to be found after our game. Would you have been? Unfortunately for Bernie, Mrs. Baddle did find him hiding near the practice tee behind the Porta-Potty, looking very much on the lam – and with good reason. Mrs. Baddle wanted his hide, but I couldn’t figure out why.
“How could you have done this? We’ve played here all these years and what do you do? Embarrass me by putting Miss Perfect in my group. Down the middle, on the green, two putts……how dare you? And so polite……she was sickening. It was like…..like….golfing in Hell!!!”
She whirled around and trudged out of sight, taking her vengeance out on the furry dandelions dotting the practice field and leaving a trail of fuzz in her wake.
Only then did Bernie catch my dumbfounded stare.
“With some folks, ya just never know.” He gave me a devilish wink and added, “Everyone’s got their own idea of Hell, I reckon.”
TheAPosition says the only cure for golfing partners on public golf courses is discount golf!