From Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul The Second Round

Old Jake’s Shrewdest Trick

The older you get, the easier it is to shoot your age.

Jerry Barber

The news that Old Jake had the incurable unmentionable got around the club pretty fast. Members spoke in whispers when they said his days were numbered, or so they understood.

I asked a friend if he’d heard about Old Jake, and he said, yeah, it was a terrible thing—he understood his days were numbered. I asked how long, and the friend said he’d heard six months, maybe nine.

I said, “Well, there goes the Member-Guest and the Club Seniors again.”

The friend nodded. He knew what I meant. Old Jake had time to win two more trophies before he checked out.

Old Jake was a 12 who carried a 23.

He’d collected so many tournament trophies over the past ten or fifteen years—I won’t say “won”—he’d been forced to build another room on his house.

I often wondered how Old Jake described the trophies when he took visitors on a tour of the room.

“Here’s the Steuben bowl I screwed everybody out of in the ’88 Member-Guest. . . . Here’s the silver plate I stole in the ’91 Club Seniors.”

That kind of thing.

I first met him when we were paired together in the first round of the thirty-six-hole Club Seniors in ’89. Me with my 10, him with his 23.

When we both turned the front nine in 5-over-par 41, I knew it was all over. He eventually won by fourteen.

There was another year we were paired together in the last round of the Club Seniors, and for once he appeared to be as out of contention as I was, like eight or nine strokes off the lead as we stood on the 12th tee.

“Dang, I better get started, ” he said.

Whereupon, his swing suddenly got smooth and he shot one under over the last seven holes to win by two.

“Luckiest darn golf day I’ve ever had, ” he explained.

Old Jake had style to go along with his handicap. Always acting hung over, limping along, tired, weary, coughing, wheezing, saying how lucky it was he’d hit that 245-yard 4-wood onto the green from out of the rough. He didn’t see how he was playing so well today, much as he drank last night.

One afternoon, I complained about Old Jake’s absurd handicap to another guy at the club, and the guy said, “Hey, don’t knock Jake. I’ve won six Member-Members with him.”

In the Member-Guest or the Member-Member, you could count on Old Jake for two things. If his partner was on the green, he’d be in the water or out-of-bounds. But if his partner was in the water or out-of-bounds, Old Jake would be on the green.

He seemed to be an expert at never shooting better than a 95 when he played a recreational round with other members, even if he constantly had to find new ways to make a 15 or 16 on one of the last few holes.

Guy came in the grill laughing one day, saying, “You can’t believe what Jake just did on 17. He got the shanks with his 9-iron. Couldn’t get out of ’em. He put one, two . . . he must have put five, six balls in the water. Boy, he was hot. Darnedest thing you ever saw.”

“What did he make on 18?” I asked.

“On 18? Oh, he birdied 18.”

Two years ago the club tried a new event: the Open Match-Play Championship for the first 128 players to sign up. Full handicaps were allowed, if a guy was a 4 and you were a 10, he had to give you six shots. A guy was a 16 and you were a 10, you had to give him six shots.

If they’d had a way to bet on it, I’d have laid it all on Old Jake and his 23, and borrowed a wheelbarrow to get it home.

With his handicap, Old Jake got one stroke on thirteen holes and two strokes on five holes. He didn’t have a close match till the final, when he ran into Big Stu, the club champion, a long-hitting scratch player.

That’s where Old Jake was pretty hard-pressed to nail him, 6 and 5.

Not long ago, just when I was having a change of heart, and thinking our club was going to lose quite a bit of color when Old Jake checked out, it began to get around that Old Jake’s unmentionable was curable, after all.

Then it was confirmed that he’d never had the incurable unmentionable in the first place.

But his handicap was now up to 27.

Dan Jenkins

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