Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Semi- Appointed Round

I have spent most of my golf life in a perpetual state of near unhappiness. Never more than a moment's notice from casting myself as the unfortunate victim in some Shakespearean tragedy. Not today.

Steve and I arrived 10 minutes before our scheduled tee off. It was 7:50 on a Saturday morning in mid August. The place was deserted.

When was the last time the proprietor of the pro shop took your shoe, brought it over to a rack filled with galoshes, and fit it to your specifications?

Welcome to Haines Alaska

In 56 years of innumerable swings and questionable results I can't ever recall being bent over double in laughter. That statement no longer is true.

As I prepared for my first shot with my rental clubs, I clutched at my very tender left side. On a hike the day before I had  impaled myself on a small but extremely stubborn tree limb. But neither rain, sleet nor pain could keep me from this semi appointed round. Not that the weather was to be an impediment, as I peered out at the snow capped mountain seemingly no more than a good drive and five iron from where I readied myself.

We were advised to take a dozen golf balls between the two of us for our nine hole undertaking. The first of the 12 disappeared into the brush no more than 10 yards from where I took my very tentative swipe. The proprietor now also served as temporary guide, carefully explaining the particulars of the layout. Once both Steve and I had driven to places where our golf balls could possibly live to see another day, our host helped us in our search, before leaving us to make our own way in this very different world.

From the beginning, our day was concerned most of all with survival. Not in the golf sense of "that course was so difficult I barely survived" but in the dead versus alive kind of meaning. We were two boys from New York, hearing and seeing danger at every moment, the unmistakable bear droppings here, the wolf or coyote sighting there.

We were not counting strokes, both of us having long since abandoned any pretense that our endeavor had anything remotely to do with numbers on a page. We were part of something infinitely more interesting. It was the first time I had truly felt free while involved in this often futile exercise.

The sixth is the signature hole. As each of us teed off,  our partner snapped away furiously. Click, the river showed just to our left. Click, the mountain was framing our image. Click, we were peering out onto a world we had never seen before. Click, we were making certain a bear was not applauding, or more likely laughing in the background.

On several holes we played from the "whites" having gauged that danger lurked too close to the "blues". Too close to the trees, not because we could hook or slice a shot there, but fearing we could be hooked or sliced. The path from the eighth green to ninth tee was particularly unnerving, maybe 50 yards of narrow opening between two dense areas of trees and brush. I had never before complimented a partner on a good drive when referring to his capacity to handle the cart.

There was a shotgun tournament that morning (maybe shotgun wasn't the best way to describe this, given our surroundings). Steve and I were asked to participate but gently declined, as we were expected elsewhere in short order. But I would leave very reluctantly.

I have played at Pebble Beach and well recall the camera trying to capture the moment that had little to do with three putts, shanks and double bogeys. But as I stepped off the last of the artificial greens I felt that the past two hours had been the happiest and most satisfying I had ever spent chasing a little white ball from here to there. Actually not THERE, because I think I see something moving in the brush. Maybe just here in a kind of make believe universe where there are no marshals, no clubs being thrown and the warning is not "fore" but "whoa bear."

1 comment:

David B said...

In honor of your bear free game, i am playing at Great Bear tomorrow.
Played with the lovely Eliz and Joan last week at Great Gorge, we saw a cute family of black bears, mom with her three cubs. Fortunately, I was not worried as I felt that I could run faster than Eliz.or Joan.