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

The Life and Times of a Golf Ball

I have talked to golf balls all my golfing life. I accept that a golf ball is inanimate; I understand that a golf ball does not have ears or a brain or even a nervous system. But it is, nonetheless, pleasing to see a golf ball pop right out of a bunker at the exact moment you’ve yelled, “Skip, golf ball, skip!” So, yes, I talk to golf balls; I admit to that. If I had to guess, I’d say we talkers are in the majority.

Michael Bamberger

There is nothing surprising about it—ending up in this trash can behind the golf shop. I suppose it was inevitable from the day they put me in a package back at the factory. Still it’s deeply disappointing: Nobody or nothing in the world likes to admit that the end is near. Not even a golf ball.

A golf ball? That’s right. So no golf ball has spoken out until now. Well, I’m going to tell my story. It needs telling—too many of us have been sliced, hooked, topped, scuffed and thrown to oblivion without a backward glance from the people we have served so loyally.

My life hasn’t been typical, because for one splendid day I had the kind of life few golf balls enjoy—a chance to perform on the professional tour. But, other than that I’ve been the same as my brothers. Now, battered, bruised and severely cut I have been tossed out—worthless.

My last few weeks were spent on the practice range. A horrid kind of existence. You’re poured into a bucket, then dumped onto the ground and clubbed down-range by golfers with talents ranging from lots of it to none at all.

But I was surviving all right until this morning. A lady beginner talked briefly with the pro before picking up the bucket of balls where I was resting. “I never have played golf before, but my husband insists that I give it a try, ” the lady explained to the pro. I winced.

She was dangerous, the kind who could deliver a fatal blow with one disjointed swing. My only hope was that she would hit the ground behind me so I could dribble along the grass and avoid serious damage. There wasn’t a prayer that she would hit me square.

I watched painfully as she chopped away, missing some balls two or three times.

Finally my turn came, and she flailed at me with a 7-iron. It might as well have been an axe. The clubhead hit into my topside, and I would have screamed in agony if the golf ball code of ethics had permitted.

Instead, I needed all my strength and determination to hold my tightly wound innards in place as I skittered along the ground. The pain was almost unbearable, but I turned numb as I rolled to a stop less than thirty yards from the tee.

I took a hurried inventory and learned the worst—I had a mortal wound, a deep and ugly gash that laid bare my wrappings and assured the end of even my driving range days.

Less than an hour later I was picked up by the range boy. He took one look at me and, without hesitation, dumped me in a sack with other discards. A little later he tossed me into this trash can.

But that’s only the end of the story, the saddest chapter. I would like to tell the whole thing, including the part about my close relationship with Sandy Douglas, the famous touring pro.

By some kind of a lucky break, I was given to Sandy by the sporting goods salesman. Sandy uses only balls with the number 3 on them, and that’s my number. So into his bag I went just two days before the $200, 000 Dorado Classic.

Several new balls were in the bag, but not so many that I couldn’t be sure to see action. Sandy, like most of the pros, uses a ball for only six holes or so before switching it to his practice bag. I was delighted. I would compete in a major tournament, and then I would serve out my life with Sandy Douglas, traveling in a shag bag from city to city on the Tour.

Well, things started out just as I expected. Actually, they started even better, because Sandy picked me out as one of the first three balls he would use in the Classic. I got in on the preliminary action, too—he used me for his tuneup on the putting green.

Sandy Douglas is all the things everybody says about him. He’s colorful, humorous, and he has the kind of charm that draws big galleries: there must have been five thousand people crammed around the 1st tee to watch him. Sandy placed me carefully on a tee and then took his address position. I was tingling all over.

“Okay, little ball, let’s just send you out there nice and easy, ” Sandy said quietly, and then he swung smoothly. The driver came into me perfectly, and suddenly the green color below me was a blur. I reached my peak height and started down. I could feel myself being drawn to the middle of the fairway, and finally, I bumped down and rolled to a stop.

The spectators were applauding, and I could see that we were in perfect position, about 275 yards out and with a clear shot to the green. Sandy and his caddie strolled up, held a brief conference on distance and club selection, and then I was on my way again, this time with a 9-iron. Again the swing was good and I climbed into a high arc before dropping toward the flagstick. Sandy had been a little firm with me, but I managed to dig into the green and curl back to within eight feet of the hole.

A small coin was placed behind me and the caddie gave me a bath before Sandy placed me back on the green and prepared to putt. He wanted a birdie for a fast start, and I wanted to help him get it.

“It looks as if it will break about an inch to the left, ” Sandy said to the caddie.

“A little more than that, about an inch and a half, ” the caddie replied.

Sandy didn’t say any more. He carefully lined me up and a hush settled all around. Finally, he tapped me, and I rolled gingerly towards the cup. Two feet away I began to break to the left, and I was dead on line. Plunk! In I went, and a huge roar arose from the spectators. Sandy picked me out of the cup and held me up to acknowledge the cheers. It was the supreme moment for me.

The 2nd hole was another par-4, and Sandy gave me another good ride off the tee, but with a bit more hook than he wanted. I ended up in the rough, but I managed to crawl into a good lie and there was no problem. A solid 8-iron put me six feet from the hole on a flat portion of the green. It was a straight-in putt and Sandy sank me for another birdie.

Two holes and 2 under par! I could hardly believe it! It was an exquisite experience; I had to be the luckiest ball in the world—or so I thought.

Little did I know that heartbreak was just ahead. What hurts most is that it really wasn’t the fault of either of us.

The 3rd hole is a par-3 of 180 yards with a pond right in front of the green.

“Give me the 6-iron, ” Sandy said.

“I think a 7-iron is enough, ” the caddie replied.

Then Sandy and the caddie huddled and I couldn’t hear what they said, but when Sandy addressed me I could see he was using the 7-iron. The caddie had convinced him.

The next few seconds turned into sheer horror. Sandy hit me well, but from the moment I left the tee I could see that flying over that pond would be touch and go. If only he had stuck with that 6-iron.

I sailed through the air and started my descent. Everywhere I looked was water! Suddenly I was sick; I wasn’t going to make it over the pond. With a knifing dive, I splashed into slimy weeds about three feet from the edge of the pond. I can’t describe the agony I felt as I settled into the mud two feet under water.

A few minutes later I saw the head of a wedge poking about near me. Sandy was trying to find me, and I wanted desperately to reach out for that wedge, but of course I couldn’t. Moments later, the wedge disappeared. I had been given up for lost.

Such was the end of the exciting part of my life. It was so brief, but so memorable.

What followed was almost predictable. About a week later a young boy was wading in the pond looking for balls. He found me along with a lot of others, sold some of the balls at the golf shop, but kept me. I still looked as good as new.

For the next month I served the boy’s father, about a 12-handicapper who beat me up a bit but didn’t give me any of those dreaded cuts. Finally he lost me in long grass behind a green. The next time I was found was by a greenskeeper who narrowly missed running over me with his mower. He turned me over to the golf shop, and that started my tour of duty on the driving range.

That’s about all there is to tell. I lived dangerously but made it by okay until the other day.

Now I’m buried deep in this trash can, and I can hear the garbage truck coming. I recognize the sound because I’ve heard it many times in the last few weeks.

It’s just a matter of minutes now until they haul me away to the dump. I wonder how Sandy Douglas finished in the Dorado Classic. I wonder how my life might have gone if it hadn’t been for that pond. I wonder if that lady beginner ever will learn to hit a ball.

Bob Robinson

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