I’m not a golfer, but I’ve tried it before

“They call it golf because all the other four-letter words were taken.” — Pro golfer Raymond Floyd

“How about you, Leon,” the unexpected inquiry came last week from a colleague at the office where a small group of us were reviewing a selection of golfing related promotional items. “Are you a golfer?”

My eyes glazed over and my mind drifted, recalling three times when golf and I really tried to become acquainted. The first was in high school at Mount Pleasant. Golf and I, we desired a relationship, but the chemistry just wasn’t there.

Our paths crossed again at East Texas State University in Commerce (better known these days as Texas A&M at Commerce), and it appeared that the sun, the moon, and the stars would align this time when a brother-in-law with golf clubs for sale and my search for easy P.E. credits came together. When the semester was over, Coach Boley Crawford took pity on me gracing my transcript with a passing grade, and luckily my brother-in-law decided he wanted to buy his clubs back.

It would be a few years before golf and I would try one last time for a meaningful marriage. Completing Shelby Newspaper’s first week of ownership of the Siloam Springs, Arkansas, Herald and Democrat, Jim Chionsini, Albert Thompson and I huddled at Dawn Hills Country Club to assess the progress that morning and enjoy some rest and relaxation that afternoon. The only flaw in the plan (for me) was that Jim and Albert’s idea of R&R was a round of golf.

I had already been tagged as an anomaly among newspaper publishers attending press conventions where the standard first-day format is golf. Scarred by memories of failed attempts, I always managed to dodge the humiliation of participating.

Few options for dodging presented themselves that Saturday in Northwest Arkansas as I gave it my best attempt at politely opting out. “Go ahead guys,” I offered with a sweeping motion of my hand. “I’m not a golfer. I’m just going to relax this afternoon.”

“Come on,’ Jim countered. “This is not a serious golf game, just celebratory fun.”

“You don’t understand,” I pleaded. “I really don’t play golf. Y’all go ahead, I’ll be all right. I’m gonna knock the thermostat down to about 65, curl up on the couch and watch an old movie.”

“Aw, come on,” Albert joined in the beckoning. “We’re just gonna hit a few balls and have fun.”

“I don’t have clubs, don’t have shoes,” I tried one more time to beg off.

“We can rent clubs,” Albert responded, “I’ll borrow a pair of shoes out one of my buddy’s lockers.”

“You guys have no idea what you’re getting yourself into,” I said, feeling myself weakening.

Golf clubs on the cart and shoes reasonably close to my size on my feet, we embarked on Dawn Hill’s front nine. The first hole was brutal. Amassing enough strokes on one hole to equal their score for the next three, we moved on to the second. It was no better. I felt bad, but then remembered how I offered ample warning. With three holes completed, my score was close … to a nine-hole score.

Collecting my ball as Albert tallied scores, I saw Jim coming toward me. He walked up, put his arm around me and said, “Would you be terribly offended if we got you to just drive the cart and make trips to the bar?”

Relief rushed over me like a waterfall. “Offended,” I blurted. “I would be relieved. I tried to tell you guys I couldn’t play golf.”

I smiled last week at the recollection of that day almost 37 years ago. I was probably still smiling when my thoughts focused again on the office discussion and the question posed to me.

“No,” I answered. “I’m not a golfer. But, I’ve tried it before.”

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas, Light and Champion (http://www.lightandchampion.com) and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune newspapers (http://www.tribnow.com).

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