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Grandpa's greatest round on the grandest stage

Men's obsession with golf baffles me.

What's the attraction? They spend an entire morning of the weekend hitting a ball (which, as its claim to fame, is the size of hail) with a club (which, as its claim to fame, was invented by ancient cave dwellers). And, by lunch, all they have to show for it is fabricated numbers on a little card, a miniature pencil, and an empty zipper pocket on the side of the golf bag that earlier housed at least a dozen balls.

Society, nevertheless, has experienced great technological gains as a result of golf. For in prehistoric times, man had to use one club for every chore. The same club he used to kill a woolly mammoth doubled as a drying rack for his underwear. Thanks to golf, though, man now has a variety of highly specialized clubs from which to select (currently leaving him too preoccupied with the game to wash his own underwear).

I admit I love to watch professional golf. Take me out to a tournament any 'ole day. The colorful frocks and socks donned by golfers and fans, the polite clapping accented by collective hushed oohs, aahs and ohs from the gallery, and the occasional thrill of someone shouting "fore" without indicating who it's for, all make a day spent watching handsome men swinging clubs at hail-sized balls worth the price of the ticket.

Unfortunately, my soul still floated in the Guff when the greatest round of golf I could ever have had the privilege of watching took place. It stands alone as the only golf in which my grandfather ever partook. And, it occurred at the Augusta National. Back in 1953, as a member of the media, he played the Monday after the Master's concluded. I suppose he decided that if he only hit the links once, he should hit them big.

He paired with Ben Hogan's caddy for the day. Having no golf paraphernalia of his own, my grandfather borrowed clubs and attire from a friend. He looked the part. Even the caddy believed, by my grandfather's appearance, that he possessed some skills. It wasn't until the first swing that Gramps blew his own cover. To everyone's astonishment, his powerful stroke resulted only in whiffing the ball off the tee and onto the ground.

His next swing produced a large divot, a piece of which rolled along behind the wildly bouncing golf ball. Both landed about 20 feet down the fairway. Several more worm burners, accompanied by his caddy's frequent wilderness excursions, and he arrived at the first green. At this point, the caddy turned to my grandfather and said "Boss, you ain't played this game much, have you?"

By the third tee, the Augusta National maintenance crew followed closely, repairing fairways, greens and bunkers from the damage inflicted by my thrilled-to-just-be-there grandfather. By the fourth tee, the entire field of golfers played through and proceeded, with great speed (compared to the disillusioned caddy and Gramps), to the 18th hole. By the fourth hole, the maintenance crew played through. And by the fifth tee, it was lunch time.

Gramps doesn't remember if he finished all 18 holes. But he does recall that it was the best (only) round of golf he ever played, and considers it a high point in his life.

And the caddy ... Well, I heard that he and the maintenance crew got down on their knees at Amen Corner and bargained with God for release from their torment.



Web posted on Thursday, April 8, 2004


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