November 12, 2011

The importance of 'Fore' in golf


---- — As the local golf season coasts to a close and golfers throughout the North Country begin to pack their clubs and frustrations away for another merciful respite, I'm compelled to report an incident that recently came to my attention involving my friend Ted and that diabolical sport.

When you hang around with a person for 40 years, you think you know just about everything about him, but my friend Ted has such a deep reservoir of ungainly mishaps that they may not all surface in twice that amount of time.

Before I get to that notable misstep, however, a little background may be in order. I was never a very good golfer, but when I played often as a kid, I was passable. The same could be said of another old friend and running mate, now-retired P-R Sports Editor Bob Goetz.

One day, we all arranged a match: Goetz and I would break out the old clubs against Ted and then-P-R Sports Editor Ed Stransenback.

Ed was a scratch golfer. So was Ted: As soon as he hit the ball, he'd scratch his head in wonderment over what had gone wrong.

Ed would hit a booming drive and wait for the rest of us to catch up. Ted, invariably, would swing every bit as hard as Ed but watch as his ball would head down the fairway before turning sharply right, or bounce along so short that he'd barely have to change his stance for his second shot.

Remember the old "Honeymooners" episode in which Norton coached Ralph on addressing the ball before hitting it? Ted addressed the ball after hitting it, and not in flattering terms. He called it names that any physiologist would assure could not apply to a golf ball.

And the club was invariably in for even rougher rebuke — Ted still held it, choking any life out of it, pounding its head into turf or tree or simply letting it fly. Often, the ball and club were reunited in the woods, as the club flew past the ball to await the next round of indignities.

It apparently was Ted's view that, in swinging the club, he'd launched the perfect arc. It was the club that had at the last instant spitefully decided to change course and send the ball off to Never Never Land. The ball, woefully short on backbone, joined in the conspiracy and found a log in the woods to hide under.

That was the pattern for the entire round, and, as it turned out, that was the last time Ted, Goetz or I ever lifted a golf club in earnest.

However, this incident I mentioned above may shed a little light on how Ted wound up invariably losing this battle of wills with golf equipment.

He and I were driving through Clifton Park a few weeks ago, when we passed the site of an old driving range.

"Oh, there's where Hoffman's is," Ted volunteered. "What a day I had there one time." It was probably half a century ago, and Ted and a friend, looking for something to do, decided to go to the driving range and hit a bucket of balls.

"I set a ball up on one of those pop-up tees and swung the driver, but I hit the mat in front of it, and the head came right off the club," he said.

I'd never heard of such a bad swing in my life. "Was it your club?" I asked.

"No, it was theirs. I set what was left of the shaft down and went in and asked for another driver. Very embarrassing.

"I came out, set up a second ball, took another swing, and — can you believe it? — the same thing happened. Snapped the head right off the driver."

"What did you do?" I asked.

"I set that shaft down next to the other one and said to my friend, 'We'd better get the #$%@# out of here,' and we left."

Thus, by comparison, what happened on the course with Bob, Ed and me was nothing more than a walk in the park. And, fortunately for Ted and any golfers nearby, his last.

Bob Grady worked at the Press-Republican for about 40 years, as a reporter and then editor. For 20 of those years, he wrote a weekly humor column. He retired in February 2011 and now writes an occasional column.