I offered a weak excuse about not being very good. It wouldn’t have mattered if I told him I had a contagious disease — the kind that affects the nether regions down below. Richard wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer. Plus, he added, “I’m really, really good so you’ll certainly pick up a pointer or two.”
I typically play from the white tees. Richard insisted we move back to the blues. Maybe it was my competitive juices kicking in. Or the pure disdain I had already developed for my new best friend, Ace. But I split the fairway with a 275-yard bomb dead off the screws. “Pretty good,” he said, though I detected a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “Next time keep your chin tucked a little more and rotate your hips 10 degrees less.”
It was then Richard’s turn. “I usually play a fade but I think a hard draw will work better,” he said, surveying the hole. Next he tossed a blade of grass into the air to check the wind. Four times. Finally, after a dozen or so practice swings, he addressed the ball… only to back away and go through the entire process again.
By now, a line of golf carts eight deep had formed behind the first tee box. Not that the added pressure seemed to bother Richard. Finally, after adjusting the Velcro on his golf glove for the umpteenth time and waggling his driver for what had to be a full minute, he uncorked what anyone in attendance would have described as the worst swing in the history of golf. In fairness to Ace, the ball did shoot out straight and true… for about the first 10 yards. It then banked sharply to the left, making a beeline for the maintenance shed next to the practice range. A loud “clang” a few seconds later indicated the shot had found its target. It would be Richard’s best shot of the day.
Over the next four (or was it six, seven or eight?) hours I watched Richard conduct a clinic in how not to play golf. There wasn’t a shot he couldn’t muster — duck hooks, banana slices, worm burners and the occasional whiff. Ace could hit them all. With ease. And he had an excuse for every one of them. Someone had stolen his clubs and replaced them with counterfeits. He had left the $60 box of Titleist Pro V1s he was playing in his car trunk overnight which had obviously caused them to lose their compression. The cleaners had put too much starch in his underwear. He dog had chewed up his copy of Golf Digest.
It was painfully clear some type of intervention was needed. And since I doubted Richard had very many friends, it would be up to me to confront him with the brutal truth. So after yet another particularly horrific tee shot at No. 18 — and an accompanying excuse — I laid it on the line. “Richard, could it be that you’re just not very good at golf?”
I’ve never actually participated in one of those “Come to Jesus” meetings, or set in the studio audience while Jerry Springer was being taped. But I guess Richard’s reaction to my question was no different from that of an alcoholic, drug addict or cheating spouse… shock, anger, resentment and finally denial.
“Not very good?” he asked. “Name me one PGA pro, dead or alive, who could’ve played his first tee shot so perfectly and have it bounce off the maintenance barn and back into the middle of the fairway.”
Ace was right, of course. I couldn’t.