96: Humor at Its Best

96: Humor at Its Best

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

Humor at Its Best

Hartman was a big man. Physically, he was a solid 280 pounds and stood around six-foot-two. He had a presence about him that demanded attention when he entered a room, and he had a twinkle in his eye. Oh that twinkle! Hartman was the kind of man who could talk a half dozen men into walking outside in the snow in their bare feet, and still be in position to close the door and lock it, before he actually had to go out himself.

Hartman was the person who introduced me to golf. He loved the game. On one occasion, when we were younger, a group of us rented a farmhouse for the summer. It was a place where we could go at the end of the week and just do whatever comes to mind. Hartman suggested one evening that we go to the local golf course the following day and play a round. Eight of us agreed immediately and went off to bed at a reasonable hour, which at the time was not the norm, so we could get an early start.

The next morning, we arrived at the golf course early enough to be the first two groups off. Being a small “farmers field” type of golf course we fit right in. The skill level of all the participants varied from just above beginner to really struggling for a bogey round. Hartman was one of the more accomplished players out that day, but it was obvious that he was struggling along with the rest of us.

Finally, after the increasing frustration seemed to win out, Hartman snapped! He stood up on the tee of the par-3, 157-yard 8th hole and pulled his driver from his bag. With a great deal of drama, for which Hartman was known, he pulled back on that club and pasted that poor ball with every ounce of his 280 pounds. The ball took off as if it knew it was no longer wanted and headed straight for the trees and the river just to the left of the hole. By this time the other group had already joined us on the tee and the seven of us were howling with laughter. No one really tracked the ball except Hartman, who cringed as we all heard the ball hit a tree to the left of the green. What none of us were ready for was the look on his face as he excitedly asked us, “Did you see that?”

“See what?” was the common reply.

“My ball. It came off that tree, bounced off that rock in front of the green and rolled towards the pin. I think I’m close!”

“Yeah, right. That ball was so far gone you’ll never find it,” I said with a note of finality.

Fully convinced that there was no way in the world Hartman’s ball was even on the golf course any more, let alone anywhere near the hole, we watched as Hartman teed up what we considered to be his serious ball. He hit it fat with his 8-iron, and we all started to walk toward the green disregarding everything he had to say about it being a provisional ball.

As we approached the green we were giving Hartman a pretty hard time. It was becoming more and more obvious his ball wasn’t on the green. Hartman couldn’t believe it.

“I know I saw it head in this direction.” he said with absolute conviction.

“Maybe it’s in the hole!” suggested Pete in a sarcastic tone.

Pete walked up to the hole, looked down and yelled back to Hartman.

“What are you hitting?”

“Top Flite number 4” was Hartman’s reply.

You could have knocked Pete over with a feather as he leaned over and picked the ball out of the hole.

“It’s in the hole,” was all he was able to stammer.

Hartman was the last one of us to arrive at the hole to authenticate the ball.

“That’s it. I don’t believe it! A hole-in-one!” he exclaimed excitedly.

The rest of us just stood there with our mouths open and looks of utter disbelief on our faces. It wasn’t possible, yet seven of us witnessed it. The most incredible shot in history.

We finished our round in a state of excited numbness, anxiously waiting to tell someone, anyone, what we had witnessed.

Back at the clubhouse we were indulging in a few beers and regaling the story among ourselves and anyone else who would listen. That’s when someone suggested we call the local newspaper and maybe get our pictures taken and enjoy our fifteen minutes of fame. While we were planning all the TV appearances and endorsement contracts, Hartman sat at the end of the table with that twinkle in his eye. Oh that twinkle! It was the unmistakable tone of his laugh at that point that removed all doubt. We had been duped!

Being the first group off that morning put us in the unique position of being the first to each hole. Hartman took advantage of that fact when playing the 6th hole, which paralleled the 8th.

Having hit his ball in the narrow stretch of woods between the two holes, no one thought anything of his activities while he was looking for his ball. While wandering around in this no-man’s-land he meandered over to the 8th green, casually dropped his ball in the hole and then wandered back to the 6th fairway as if he had just played his ball out of the rough. The rest of that hole and the next one leading up to the 8th was a display of acting on a Shakespearean level, to bring his apparent frustration level to a peak on the 8th tee.

The number of people with the imagination and savvy to pull off a prank of this magnitude and make all his victims feel good about being had are few and far between. This was the case with most of his pranks, the ones who laughed hardest were the ones at the center of the prank. We lost Hartman to cancer at the young age of forty-three, but he left behind a legacy of good-natured humor, a zest for life and a true appreciation of the good friends he had.

I miss the big man.

~John Spielbergs
Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul, The 2nd Round

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