Old Man and the Tee
Golf doesn't exactly run in my family, but that didn't stop me
I will never forget the look of utter sadness on my big brother's face.
It was fall 2001. I had just opened the trunk of my car. You should never open the trunk of your car with witnesses standing nearby. There could be just about anything in there. "What's that?" he asked, pointing an accusing finger.
"They're golf clubs," I said in shame.
And something just broke between us. As teenage boys, we had done pick-and-shovel work beside a golf course in northeastern Alabama. We had stood, leaning on our shovel handles or against the hot hoods of my uncle's dump trucks, and made fun of the people wearing silly plaid or Day-Glo green, pink, and yellow clothes and hacking at little white balls like they were mad at them and then jumping into tiny clown cars and weaving off across the grass, usually drunk as Cooter Brown.
"Good ball!" they would shout whenever one of them hacked it into the short grass.
It did not look like something a serious man would do. And why would a grown man ever leave home dressed up like an Easter egg? Once, we saw a guy wearing knickers. Knickers. In Alabama. "Tallyho!" I shouted and laughed myself stupid.
But that day, with the evidence staring us in the face, my brother knew. I was a fraud.
I had tiptoed over to the other side, FootJoy shoes on my guilty feet and a putter in my hand.
What kind of man did anything with a putter? Say it out loud. Putter. Lord.
My brother never forgave me.
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I stopped playing not long after that. I'd like to blame him for it, but the truth is, I quit because I was never going to be any good at it. I refused to take a lesson, believing that any chucklehead should be able to master such a ridiculous thing and thinking that would somehow keep my blue-collar pride intact. After losing nigh on 5,000 balls and rapidly running out of friends who would tolerate me, I quit.
I gave away my shoes (which we, being cool, called "spikes") and my clubs ("sticks"). I had lost my last ball some months before. If you find one out there with "Callaway" written on it, it's mine. I guess you can keep it.
But now, in this season of renewal, I've decided it may be time to take it back up again. I've determined that, because I write for Southern Living, it may be time to become a gentleman. It's come down to golf or fly-fishing. The latter involves whipping a fishhook back and forth at your eyes. There are no sharp implements involved in golf—unless you sit on a tee. I have done this.
I think I will make my brother go with me. He retires this year, and I am afraid that if I do not find him a hobby, he will take to drink. He sold his bass boat, and his coon dog died.
I wonder if we can find us some knickers. Tallyho…