CORKY'S WEDGE

CORKY'S WEDGE

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

Corky’s Wedge

Parents lend children their experience and a vicarious memory; children endow their parents with a vicarious immortality.

George Santayana

It was one of those moments that makes a golfer rejoice in the fact that the game is a part of his life, a moment only a golfer would be silly enough to get sentimental about. The prelude to the moment occurred when I was with my children at my parents’ home, the house I grew up in, which borders a public golf course. The course, in suburban Philadelphia, was built by two members of the famed Whiz Kids, the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies. As a kid, the owners were nice enough to let me go out onto the range at twilight and hit all the balls I wanted, as long as I hit them at the flag in the center of the range. That little spot of land is where I learned how to strike a golf ball with approximately the same lack of skill I do now.

I was in the house with my parents when I happened by the kitchen window and saw the three children with golf clubs in their hands. My parents are not golfers in the sense that they play a lot. Typically, they play a few times a year, mostly when they go to Florida to visit my mother’s sister and my uncle. Nevertheless, the garage of the house on Fairway Road still has a lot of clubs scattered about, remnants of the days when the five brothers who lived there claimed any club, ball or bag offered to us by someone at the club where we caddied. The kids had found a few rusted old weapons, grabbed a few muddy balls from an old bucket in the garage and were now giving those balls what-for in the backyard.

As you might imagine, the ground was getting it worse than the balls. With little two-handed chops at the ball, only the oldest, my ten-year-old daughter, was making occasional contact. The other two, a girl and a boy ages seven and five, were doing a proper job of tilling the soil. It was the first time I had ever seen them with clubs in their hands, though I suspected their actions were born more of boredom than genuine interest.

It was an admittedly odd moment for me. Because the game means so much to me, and because nearly every minute of my working life has involved the game in some manner—be it as caddie, editor or writer—I had long ago made the decision that I’d let my children decide for themselves if they wanted to play golf. I knew I couldn’t be objective and feared I’d become one of those tennis or Little League fathers who becomes obsessed with his child’s golf game. It’s uncommon, but that type of person does exist in golf. I occasionally encountered them as a junior, and once saw a man bring tears to the eyes of his very talented son during a match in which the boy was whipping me handily. It just wasn’t good enough for the father. You never forget things like that. Once in awhile, somebody will bring up that boy’s name (although I suppose he’s a man now) and mention that he is a very competitive amateur in the area around Philadelphia. I automatically think of his father. I realize now that he was probably a good man who just lost sight of the true purpose of the game. Back then he simply seemed like a mean guy.

“Why don’t you go out there with them?” asked my mother, and so I did. I sat on the back porch and said things such as “Way to go” and “That’s a great try, buddy.” And that was it.

The moment happened the following way. We were at our home in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and we were packing up our possessions to move to a bigger house just a mile or so away. My oldest daughter found an old wedge in a closet she was cleaning out, a wedge that had served me faithfully for years. Fact is, it wasn’t actually a wedge. Years ago I discovered I was a lousy bunker player and decided it was because the flanges on sand wedges were too big for my liking. About that time, I stumbled upon an old 9-iron in my parents’ garage. It was a Spalding Bobby Jones model, with a rather large, offset clubhead, and I noticed when I hit it full bore it only flew about 110 yards. It had a wonderfully thin sole, so I wandered out onto the course and hit a few bunker shots with it. Perfect—for me at least. So I went back to the garage, cut about an inch off the top of the shaft, put a new grip on it and had the wedge I’d been looking for.

As time passed the already dilapidated club became even more battered looking, but that just added to its appeal. The club was the one constant in my bag. I changed drivers, irons and putters every few years, but the wedge was with me wherever I traveled. It launched me out of the fearsome bunkers of Pine Valley, it (not I) executed the best recovery shot of my life from a steep hillside at Royal Dornoch, it bailed me out from desert lies in Phoenix and Palm Springs and the thick rough of Baltusrol and Westchester Country Club. Once in Florida, from the driveway in front of a clubhouse, it hit a beauty that landed two feet from the hole and stopped like a dart. I could even remember a shot from the fairway it played, to the 1st green at the Old Course. Even I couldn’t miss that fairway. And then it ended up in the farthest reaches of a remote closet for a few years, an ignoble end to its career, no doubt initiated by one of my kids.

I was immersed in those moments as my daughter stood before me with the wedge. “Daddy, could you make this shorter so I could use it?” she said. Could I make it shorter? Voluntarily destroy a link to my past, a landmark tool in my personal golf history? Are you insane, kid? Bad enough you lost it in the first place. Now, you want me to ruin it? “Sure thing, kiddo, ” I said. “We’ll do it tonight, right after dinner.”

And so we did. In the last breaths of a late summer evening, when the only sound to be heard was the Delaware River on its slow but relentless march to the sea, Michelene Corcoran, with a little help from her old man, made her first golf club. Take care of it, I told her, and she assured me she would.

The next afternoon I saw the grip end of the club sticking out of the edge of our fish pond. I pulled it out and found a rope tied around the clubhead. It appeared someone had been trying to hook a big one with the club. Oh well, I thought, as long as they were having fun.

Mike Corcoran

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