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The Golf Course Turns Saints Into Sinners

It’s been postulated that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If so, it’s safe to assume I drive in the fast lane and hit every pothole possible whenever I play golf. I can only imagine the celestial tug-of-war that ensues between the heavenly angels and their fallen comrades when I make a tee time.

My struggle between the forces of good and bad, and right from wrong, begins before I ever leave the house. I promise myself I will get to the course in plenty of time to warm up properly on the driving range and putting green. Instead, I pull the covers over my head when the alarm clock so rudely goes off; I spend a half-hour on the internet seeing what the Kardashian sisters are up to; I pillage the dirty clothes’ basket looking for my favorite golf shirt… and then dutifully blame my wife for me leaving so late. Three rolling stops, two “orange” traffic lights and one underwear-soiled pedestrian later, I screech into the parking lot. The rest of my foursome is already waiting for me on the first tee, which does have one advantage: they’ve already paid for my greens and cart fee in the pro shop so that we don’t lose our starting time.

“I can only imagine the celestial tug-of-war that ensues between the heavenly angels and their fallen comrades when I make a tee time.”    -Bud Key

Worse, yet, are those rare occasions when I do manage to arrive “on time” and make it to the driving range. “Work on the fundamentals,” I remind myself. “Make every practice shot count.” And then I hear the rumble of a diesel engine, knowing instinctively that the ball retrieval tractor has just coughed to life. Strapped inside is a scared, pimple-faced 16-year-old lad, protected only by a thin, wire frame. I quickly pull out a 3-iron, shift my stance, angle the clubface to produce a low liner, and then spend the next 15 minutes hitting ballistic missiles intended precisely to rattle the kid’s cage. With any luck, I’ll still have one striped ball left in the bucket when I finally hit the moving target — I slip that one into my golf bag for the first water hole I encounter, confident God would approve of my frugality.

The ride from the practice area to the first tee gives me time to rehearse my opening shot of the day. “An easy 3-wood or perhaps even a mid-iron,” I picture in my mind. “Work your way slowly into the round.” Yeah, right. I’ve already pulled the head cover off of my titanium-infused, extra stiff shaft oversized driver before the cart skids to a stop. And right on cue, just as I imagined it, I slash my first drive of the day 300 yards… dead left, over the trees and across the four-lane highway that defines the course’s property lines. No problem. Preparedness is on the list of virtues God approves, and I have another ball out of my pocket and teed up before the first one lands.

I’ll spend the rest of the hole explaining to my playing buddies that, according to the official Rules of Golf, my first shot didn’t count against my score. I know I’m lying, but am also confident none of them will have the patience or wherewithal to fact-check me. Come on. Everyone knows the rule book, which extends 160 pages, is too penal and way too complicated, anyhow. It’s the same tactic I will employ several more times later in the round to convince them that, like the mulligan, the leaf rule, foot wedge and gimme putt from 12 feet are all totally legit in the eyes of the USGA and R&A.

The midway turn at the clubhouse brings into play its own den of iniquities. I had a good friend, Charlie Cramp, who dropped dead a few year ago after nine holes. Heat exhaustion was the culprit. In Charlie’s memory — and to protect myself from suffering the same malady — I always run into the snack bar and pick up a six pack of beer for the back nine. Staying hydrated on the course is something not to be messed around with.

I’ll commit a few more transgressions before the round is done. None of which are my fault. After all, it would be unfriendly and rude not to flirt with the drink cart girl — the one wearing the short shorts. I wouldn’t have to improve my lie in the third cut of rough if the superintendent wasn’t too damn lazy to mow it. And no one can expect me to remember the brand of ball I play while weed-whacking through the heavy brush — here it is, over here. Wink, wink.

It’s not that I don’t try very hard to be good. In fact, just a few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to win a $50 side hustle. My first inclination walking off the 18th green was both noble and honorable — I would take my wife out to a romantic dinner with drinks at Hooters. I would have, too. Except the pro shop at Hell’s Point in Virginia Beach, VA, where I was playing that day was having an incredible sale on all logo merchandise.

I don’t know why I do the things I do on the golf course. Perhaps it’s the pressure of having to make all those six-foot putts for triple bogey. Or, like the Grinch, my golf shoes are too tight. But I think the most likely reason is an epiphany shared by the late, great American comedian Clerow “Flip” Wilson, Jr. — the devil made me do it.

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