8: The Golf Maniac

8: The Golf Maniac

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport

The Golf Maniac

I’m a golfaholic, no question about that. Counseling wouldn’t help me. They’d have to put me in prison, and then I’d talk the warden into building a hole or two and teach him how to play.

~Lee Trevino

We rode in and out pretty often together, he and I, on a suburban train.

That’s how I came to talk to him. “Fine morning,” I said as I sat down beside him and opened a newspaper.

“Great!” he answered. “The grass is drying out fast now and the greens will soon be all right to play.”

“Yes,” I said, “the sun is getting higher and the days are decidedly lengthening.”

“For the matter of that,” said my friend, “a man could begin to play at six in the morning easily. In fact, I’ve often wondered why there’s so little golf played before breakfast. We happened to be talking about golf, a few of us last night—I don’t know how it came up—and we were saying that it seems a pity that some of the best part of the day, say from five o’clock to seven-thirty, is never used.”

“That’s true,” I answered. Then, to shift the subject, I said, looking out the window, “It’s a pretty bit of country just here, isn’t it?”

“It is,” he replied, “but seems a shame they make no use of it—just a few market gardens and things like that. Why, I noticed along here acres and acres of just glass—some kind of houses for plants or something—and whole fields full of lettuce and things like that. It’s a pity they don’t make something of it. I was remarking only the other day in the train to a friend of mine that you could easily lay out an 18-hole course here.”

“Could you?” I said.

“Oh, yes. This ground you know, is an excellent light soil to shovel up into bunkers. You could drive some big ditches through it and make one or two deep holes. In fact, improve it to any extent.”

I glanced at my morning paper. “Look at this,” I said, pointing to a headline, “’United States Navy Ordered Again to Nicaragua.’ Looks like more trouble, doesn’t it?”

“Did you see in the paper a while back,” said my companion, “that the United States Navy is now making golf compulsory at the training school in Annapolis? That’s progressive, isn’t it? I suppose it will have to mean shorter cruises at sea; in fact, probably lessen the use of the Navy for sea purposes. But it will raise the standard.”

“I suppose so,” I answered. “Did you read this article about the extraordinary murder case on Long Island?”

“No,” he said. “I never read murder cases. They don’t interest me. In fact, I think this whole continent is really getting over-preoccupied with them.“

“Yes, but this one had such odd features.“

“Oh, they all have,” he replied, with an air of weariness. “Each one is just boomed by the papers to make a sensation.“

“I know, but in this case it seems that the man was killed with a blow from a golf club.”

“What’s that? Eh, what’s that? Killed him with a blow from a golf club!”

“Yes, some kind of club.“

“I wonder if it was an iron—let me see the paper—though, for that matter, I imagine a blow with even a wooden driver. Where does it say it? It only just says ‘a blow with a golf club.’ It’s a pity the papers don’t write these things up with more detail, isn’t it?”

“Have you played golf much?” I inquired. I saw it was no use to talk of anything else.

“No,” answered my companion, “I am sorry to say I haven’t. You see, I began late. I’ve only played twenty years, twenty-one if you count the year that’s beginning in May. I don’t know what I was doing. I wasted half my life. In fact, it wasn’t until I was well over thirty that I caught on to the game. I suppose a lot of us look back over our lives that way and realize what we have lost.

“And even as it is,” he continued, “I don’t get much chance to play. At best I can only manage about four afternoons a week, though of course I get most of Saturday and all Sunday. I get my holiday in the summer, but it’s only a month, and that’s nothing. In winter I manage to take a run south for a game once or twice, perhaps a little swack at it around Easter, but only a week at a time. I’m too busy—that’s the plain truth of it.” He sighed. “It’s hard to leave the office before two. Something always turns up.”

And after that he went on to tell me something of the technique of the game, illustrate it with a golf ball on the seat of the car, and the peculiar mental poise needed for driving, and the neat, quick action of the wrist (he showed me how it worked) that is needed to undercut a ball so that it flies straight up in the air. He explained to me how you can do practically anything with a golf ball, provided you keep your mind absolutely poised and your eye in shape, and your body a trained machine.

So, later in the day, meeting someone in my club who was a person of authority on such things, I made an inquiry about my friend. “I rode into town with Llewellyn Smith,” I said. “I think he belongs to your golf club. He’s a great player, isn’t he?”

“A great player!” laughed the expert. “Llewellyn Smith? Why, he can hardly hit a ball! And anyway, he’s only played for about twenty years.”

~Stephen Leacock
Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul

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