Friday, April 3, 2009

In the Woods

What brand of golf ball are you playing? As I readied to tee off on the 16th hole, my dad repeated the question. Titleist, I replied. Titleist 2 to be exact. This conversation took place, with minute variations, at least 50 times over the course of a decade. Same place, same inquiry. More than 30 years have passed since that question was last posed. My dad died in 1979. However, it is possibly my favorite recurring memory of my golfing youth, and it has nothing to do with how well or badly I played.

The 16th hole at Montammy Country Club is a short dog-leg right. From a highly elevated tee box, one could hit a shot straight out about 180 yards, and then have a short pitch into the green. The more adventurous player could attempt to cut the dog-leg by hitting a high fading shot, which would navigate woods and a stream on the right hand side and land in a small opening near the green. Most of those who were foolhardy, or less talented, found themselves combing the woods or the stream in search of an errant drive.

My father loved this hole. I don't know if he found anything particularly memorable about it's shape or difficulty, but he relished the opportunity to be a ball gatherer. No sooner would the tee shots be hit on the 16th then my dad would disappear. Not only were the woods and stream a treasure trove of shots gone awry, but blackberries and blueberries were in plentiful supply.

As I wandered down the fairway, contemplating whether I should hit this club or that for my second shot, my dad's thoughts were on vastly more critical issues. He was, I am certain, looking into every nook and cranny, searching for the ball of choice. He would find a Pinnacle, or a McGregor, a Top Flite or some other 'incorrect' ball that would then be stuffed into a pocket for safekeeping. Eventually, these would find their way into his golf bag, which was always overflowing with the spoils of his hunt. Munching on blackberries or blueberries, he would spend every possible second he could in search of the ultimate prize.

Inevitably, when he emerged, his hands would be filled. He would walk over to me, with a wide grin and a look of immense satisfaction. Slowly, he would deposit a duplicate original (or multiple duplicate originals) of the brand and number of the ball I was that day playing with. As we strode towards the green, I would always thank him for his efforts and think how lucky I was, not as the possessor of a handful of new golf balls, but for the privilege of being in the company of the smiling man who walked beside me.


gail said...

Thirty years later and he's still walking besides us in so many ways.... He might have found millions of golf balls over the course of time, but he was truly one in a million.

Robert said...

That he was.

Jeff C said...

Another great story!!! These are the memories that stay with you forever.
Hopefully, our children will have the same memories, and pass them on as well. Somethings money just can't buy.Jeff C

Robert said...

I was very lucky to have a father full of good qualities. He left us way too soon, but I was left with many armfuls of wonderful memories.

RobE said...

This is a wonderful story! And a wonderful memory. RobE

Robert said...

thank you very much.

I am sure that those of us who have been fortunate enough in our 'choice' of parents, have many stories like mine.