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The Crazy Old Man

John W. Pinkerton


There’s a crazy old man who lives with me.  I say “lives with me” because I’m not sure where he lives: under my bed, in a tree outside of my house, or, horrors, inside me.  Yes, I know that seems a bit strange, but, darn it, I’m convinced.  He, apparently, has only one purpose in life: to screw up my golf game.

I suspect you’d like a description of this crazy little man.  Although I suspect he’s been with me a lot longer, it was only in the last few years that I realized that he even existed.  He’s either becoming careless or, perhaps, old because there are times I get a dim glimpse of him.  I don’t believe he’s a leprechaun.  He’s not that small.  He just looks...cranky, mean-spirited and, recently, frail.

As the years have gone by, I’ve played golf less and less.  In my teenage years, I played a couple of times a week. In my twenties and thirties, I played at least every couple of weeks.   In my forties and fifties a little less.  In my sixties and seventies even less.  Until a few days ago, I had not played for about a year.

A longtime friend unexpectedly called me the other day and asked if I’d like to play a round of golf.  I immediately accepted his invitation.  My next thought was, “Perhaps the little man has passed away during the past year.”

I made no special preparations for the outing.  I didn’t polish my golf shoes, look for tees and balls, check the condition of my golfing hat (pistol cap).  If the little man was still alive but only sleeping, I certainly didn’t want to awake him.

The next morning, I ate a light breakfast, put on my golf shoes and hat, went to the back porch, knocked some spiderwebs off the head covers, shuffled to the car with my clubs and threw them in the trunk.  I noticed that the clubs seemed heavier than a year ago; I’ve always said that when I got too weak to carry my own clubs, I’ll quit the game.  It’s getting closer.

After arriving at my friend’s house, I found that he had already loaded his golf cart on a trailer behind his truck and we were ready to roll the five minutes to the course.  On the way to the course and on the way to the first tee, I never mentioned golf.  I was cautiously trying not to awaken the little man who has ruined so many of my golf outings.

Apparently I had not awakened him because after placing my ball on the tee and without taking anything that resembled a practice swing, I hit the ball straight down the middle about two hundred yards.  I seem to be alone this morning.  I thought, “Maybe the little fellow has gone to meet his maker.”

I hit a decent second shot but pulled it left of the green.  I had a little trouble closing the deal, but that was to be expected after a year of not picking up a club.  Maybe he wasn’t with me that morning.

The crazy old man obviously shook off his drowsiness on the second hole and talked me into a regrettable tee shot.  I sensed that although the little man was with me still, I sensed his weakness, and I felt that I had a chance to fight him off.  After a struggle, I finished the second hole.  The third and forth holes proved to be somewhat better.  I kept hitting good shots; the short game was a struggle, but, as I said, that was to be expected.

The little man must have gone off some place to pout about being so rudely awakened because on the next hole, an extremely long par five, I hit three great shots and found myself on the fringe of the green.  My chip was the perfect distance but well to the left of the hole.  I two putted for an easy bogey.  Not bad.

Apparently, this good fortune infuriated the little man.  On the next few hole, he kept shouting in my ear, “Hit it harder,” or “Pull it,” or “Hit two inches behind the ball.”  In spite of these setbacks, I didn’t become discouraged.  I had seen his weakness: he’s getting old.

On the back nine I kept hitting not good but great tee shots; I know he wasn’t happy about this.  On a long par three, he talked me into using too much club and then yelled for me to pull it left into some trees.  Of course, I did. Fortunately for me, the ball struck a tree avoiding out of bounds and  bounced out to the fairway.   I knew that he was laughing at that point: I realized that he thought he had me fully under his control.  But I was clever enough to see his glee and pulled out a club I knew wouldn’t get me anywhere near the green: a 64 degree wedge.  I hit it with a mighty blow, and it went about fifty yards up but only advanced the ball halfway to the green.  I casually finished the hole and moved on to a par four.  I assumed he believed I had given up.

Excellent three wood, great five iron, two foot putt---birdie.  The little man was confused. 

We moved on to another par three.  I’ve always used a seven iron on this hole; it has proven to be the right club.  Little man whispered, “If you’re so damned good, see if you can get on with an eight iron.”  The result was predictable--ten yards short of the green but a good swing.  I finished up with an easy bogey.

The next hole began with the little man talking me into teeing the ball a quarter inch higher than I knew I should.  Of course, I skied the ball, but the green was reachable.  I hit a decent five iron which rolled a little left in the shade of a pine about fifty feet from the flagstick.  I assume the little man assumed that I would display my normal lack of dexterity with my short game.  He was wrong: I hit the ball squarely, it rose, dropped and rolled twenty feet into the bottom of the cup.  Another birdie.

With three holes left, the little man did his best, and although he had some success, I knew I had him reeling because in spite of his noisy shouting, I continued to hit reasonably good shots.

We finished the round.  I played all eighteen holes.  That’s something I haven’t done in some time.  I asked the little man if he wanted to go home with me.  He did, but he wasn’t as surly as he normally is when spoken to.

I almost felt sorry for the little guy.  He hasn’t aged well.  He still has powers, but he seemed to just be going through the motions wishing he were some place else.

The next time I go out for a round of golf, I’ll invite him to stay behind in the shade of a tree near the first tee with a promise to take him home at the end of the round.

The little man has been with me a long time.  If he stays with me, I’ll treat him with respect.  I certainly won’t ignore him.  I’ll let him screw up a shot occasionally, but he’ll have to get used to the idea that I’ve grown weary of his craziness.