Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Walk in the Woods

It was 1963 or maybe 1964. The barely formed outlines of a course were our guides as my dad and I walked the hilly terrain. I recall one image vividly, standing on the crest of a hill staring down and trying to envision the arc of a shot into that impossibly small area, next to the pond, intended as resting place for one's dream of glory.

I had not seen this spot, or the rest of this course, for nearly a decade. My dad is gone nearly 40 years but I can envision him in the familiar locales, mostly in the thicket of trees off the 16th that gobbled up errant tee shots faster than Clark Kent could change in a phone booth. 

My dad invariably wandered into these woods armed with a ready, slightly off centered smile, and a request that I advise him as to the make and model number of the gift he was to bring me when he emerged. "Titleist 2" I might suggest, and there, in but a moment, would be that precise present, along with a handful of other balls that had wandered into this forbidding land. This was also home to blueberries by the bushel, or so my memory informs me, and I watch my dad emerge with his spoils and a hint of berry on the corners of his mouth.

The course has such a different look now, denuded of much of its forest, in a nod to what is apparently the response to older larger trees dominating the sky and earth around the beating heart in the center of these grounds. The vistas are often unrecognizable, as I stare directly at greens from several tees. Where once doglegs filled with limbs and barks served as barriers to my line of sight there is no longer any impediment. It is a somewhat disorienting journey into time as the spaces seem so much more open, inviting and expansive then my mind's recollections. 

I recall the trees off the left of the third tee, screaming at me to stay right, stay right. There is but open air there now. And I can no longer find the line where my drive on fourteen is intended, as it seems as if the earth has shifted.

Even sixteen has changed, its pond, once but an afterthought next to the grove where my dad spent his few moments in splendid isolation, now spruced up and highlighted. Still, the place where my father meandered in search of his delight and emerged ever a victor, remains remarkably untouched, maybe the last clear testament to a bygone time. I chunk a chip shot from the fairway's center into the no longer murky waters. I suffer through an inglorious first nine, maybe distracted by my recollections but most likely merely a recital of failing skills.

No one knows me here now. They have no idea that I grew up on this terrain, that I spent one summer as a near daily resident, searching for the hidden secrets of the game. No one knows that I beat the Goodwin boys that one time to win the junior championship, even as they were far my superior. No one knows of the lifeguard at the pool who was in my dreams, and of our one inglorious date. No one knows of those days I strolled these grounds with my father, as happy as a young boy could be. No one knows what place this acreage holds in my heart.

There is a plaque placed in the front entrance to the clubhouse thanking the first group of leaders here, those who paved the way for more than a half century of errant shots and dashed hopes. I stare at my dad's name, and am flooded with recollections that only I will ever know. As I walk out the door, I wipe the last remnants of blueberry off my lips.


Anonymous said...

Very moving, THANK YOU, dear friend.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful prose and personal remembrance. Maybe that lifeguard still dreams of you…not saying what that dream is.


Anonymous said...

Sad you're not a member but great memories


Anonymous said...

Took me back in time. I can still walk most of the holes in my head. A lot of good memories … me and my dad, us with our dads, and you and me late afternoons making up our own course (like #3 tee to #11 green).


Anonymous said...

a lot of fond memories for all the sons with their fathers