18: The Ace Man

18: The Ace Man

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

The Ace Man

Luck is when opportunity knocks and you answer.

~Author Unknown

I consider myself an incredibly lucky man, possessed of a wonderful, interesting and eclectic life. I have a remarkable wife and life partner, Ewa, a fantastic and truly unique step-daughter, Nikki, a wonderful twin and mother, and, thanks to a truly mystical golfing adventure, a magical dog that enhances all of our lives.

The Charlotte Golf Links is an expertly crafted layout carved from the rolling farmland outside Charlotte, North Carolina. It has often been the scene of peaceful late afternoon walks, one of the few courses where you can still walk nine holes at dusk. That, as well as its obvious ties to the traditional roots of the game, has made it a place where we sometimes can feel a connection to the deeper, more spiritual side of things. We were, however, unprepared for what was to happen one eventful morning.

On a clear, beautiful Thursday, Ewa (who shares most everything in my life, including a passion for golf) and I had an early tee time. I felt completely at ease warming up, and had, surprisingly, become aware of and was able to repeat a simple swing thought that was allowing me to hit the ball better than I had in quite a while. I hoped the thought would stay with me.

The course was serenely uncrowded, rare nowadays, especially on such a gorgeous golfing day. We began the round in a relaxed and unhurried mood, both grateful, as we often are, for the kind of lives that allow us to be out on the course together.

I was +1 after six holes (not bad for a 10 handicap), and Ewa and I were laughing as we went to the seventh hole, a long, uphill par-3 whose tee is surrounded by tall, heather-like grasses, waving in the breeze. As we turned to approach the tee, we cleared the tall grass, and there, standing at the tee, was a small dog staring straight at us. We all seemed to pause for a second, and then, being unabashed dog lovers, Ewa and I said hello to this funny, playful, reddish-coated pup. A mixture of long-haired dachshund and something resembling a fox (with no tail), he rolled around on the tee, licked us a few times and stood watching as we hit away.

We said, “See ya later,” and proceeded up to the green. Before we got there, our little friend ran up to the green and picked up my ball in his mouth, looking child-like and full of mischief. After we stopped laughing, Ewa and I bogeyed the hole, but before we could leave the green, there he was again, this time with his head entirely in the cup, looking, no doubt, for the deeper meaning of the game.

We proceeded to the next tee, followed of course by you-know-who, who jumped into our cart (sadly you must ride early in the day) and climbed into Ewa’s lap. The eighth is a dogleg left (of course) par-5, and I snap-hooked my drive into the trees lining the fairway left, feeling my score slipping away a bit. I heard no contact with wood, so I presumed my drive was out of bounds. I re-teed and hit a provisional ball, trying not to think too much about losing a good round’s score. On returning to the cart, I found our new friend asleep in my wife’s lap, and chuckled at this strange new golfing partner.

After Ewa hit her tee shot, we drove out to the fairway, and lo and behold, about two hundred yards out, dead in the middle, was my first tee ball. Incredible, I thought, and turned to Ewa and said, “It has to be the pup. He’s lucky. That ball never touched a tree.” I proceeded to hit a flush 3-wood, then a really crisp 8-iron to about three feet, and made the putt for birdie. Back to +1, and really laughing now.

The ninth hole is an uphill par-3 that was playing 167 yards that day. I took a look at the still-asleep, gentle face of my good-luck charm and suddenly was reminded of the swing key I had used earlier in the round. I hit a pure 5-iron at the flag, the bottom of which was hidden by the elevated green. I watched the ball in flight, and, as we are wont to do after a feel-good strike on a par-3, yelled “Go in the hole,” or some such brilliantly worded phrase. As I walked back to the cart, Ewa remarked on the seeming ease of my play that day, and we both looked again at the dog. I said, “If the ball is in the hole, we’re keeping the dog.”

Ewa hit her tee shot, and as we approached the green, there was only one ball visible. Still in a playful mood, I asked Ewa to go pick my ball out of the hole, and I sat with a now wide-awake, furry-faced pooch staring at me. I looked up in time to see Ewa jumping up and down, a beaming smile on her face, saying, “Yes, yes, yes....” I ran up to the green, followed by, you-guessed-it, and, somewhat in shock, picked the ball out of the hole, the first time in eighteen years I ever had that privilege.

It wasn’t much of a choice after that. His name is, naturally, Ace, and along with our other two, Stella and Raquette, he is now an integral part of our home and lives, and is, I think, a symbol of all the reasons that golf is the greatest game—he gives us joy and constant surprise. Although he is often frustrating and difficult, when we pay attention and allow him to teach us, he rewards us with unending gifts.

~Mitch Laurance
Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul

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