Golf adventures best kept close to home

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Pity me if you will, play with me for a good laugh — I’ve finally officially taken up the sport of golf.

After years of occasionally reporting on golf and a few attempts to play the game during friendly tournaments, I broke down last weekend and bought a set of clubs after a couple of family members suggested golfing while in Ruidoso for the weekend.

Every time I’ve ever reported on local golf or typed up results from a local club tournament, Howard Cosell’s book title “I Never Played the Game,” would creep into my thoughts. While I’m sure Cosell probably played the game of golf (I don’t know because: “I Never Read the Book”) he was regarded as an expert on football and boxing, sports he never played. I didn’t want that to be me.

Four or five years ago I actually played my first round of golf at a friendly Rotary fund-raiser tournament. I had helped organize charity tournaments before but I never played. That year my good friend, and fellow Rotarian, Peggy Devilbiss insisted I had to play. Said she would even supply me with a set of clubs. I’m not sure what garage sale she rounded up that set of clubs from, but let’s just say they were a bit antiquated and not terribly straight. We joked that Fred Mertz had probably used that same set on an episode of “I Love Lucy” in the early 1950s.

Since Peggy was making up the foursomes herself, amazingly enough she didn’t wind up in the same group as me but another good friend, Dick Howard, did. Dick was a former semi-pro basketball player and great athlete and he was just beginning to take his golf seriously. He had already bought a lot on the course we were playing that day and was anticipating a golfing retirement.

After patiently tutoring me through 18 holes that day, he took up drinking and now sits in a rocking chair and swears at inexperienced golfers from the deck of his new home.

Over the five or so years since that first round, I have played two other times. Both at a company golf tournament two years running. I was grouped on one of those days with a fellow sales rep, Martin Swanemyr, who preferred to golf with his cowboy boots on. Someone made the mistake of telling me I was hitting the ball pretty good for only having played twice and that’s when I decided I would eventually take up the sport.

My journey into golf was slowed a bit as I discovered the price to play in Colorado was going to inhibit my learning the sport. With fees during the summer running from $75 to $150 in the area, I wasn’t going to get much golfing done, so I put off buying the clubs for a few years.

After unwrapping my new Wal-Mart-purchased clubs in the pro shop parking lot last weekend, my nephew, his new brother-in-law and myself hit the links. Things went well on the first hole for me. It went straight but not real far. I thought if I just play conservative until I get the hang of it I won’t embarrass myself here.

I needn’t have worried though, I was in the company of greatness. On his tee shot from the second hole, my nephew hit a railroad tie being used in a retaining well for the tee box. The ball bounced back off the tie at rifle velocity, and as I hit the deck I thought I was about to die. Instead I heard the ball cutting through the trees directly behind us. A raven, which, if it wasn’t actually wounded in the incident, at least had the Edgar Allen Poo scared out of it, flapped away to another tree.

I relaxed a little since I hadn’t hit the shot myself, but the narrow fairways lined with homes kept me on edge all day. My stray shots only hit roofs and fences and I stayed out of the water all day, so I think things went well.

I think I’ll be all right playing out here on the flatlands where the game is affectionately known as cow pasture pool. The price is a little better too.

Karl Terry never played the sport of rugby but vows never to report on it. He can be reached at 356-4481 ext. 33 or e-mail karl_terry@link.freedom.com