... think it over before you leap
This was the final day of the Four-ball golf tournament. We had beat Dr. Mello and his son the day before. “Killer” McGuillicudy and Joe Pasta were our opponents. If we win, we win it all! A big day ahead!
This all started at a banquet where we were all dressed up in jackets and ties and a large buffet was served. Beforehand, the players of the club talk it over and decide who will play with whom. Merrick Vance and I liked each other and since we were both about the same handicap, we were a pair made in heaven.
Each team of two players has a chance to draw a team and if no one has picked your names, you can choose your own, if you want. (There is a lot of money bet but no one is supposed to know as it is against the rules). The way it works is that two players play two other players. This is done in flights with five teams in each flight, 20 players in each. The flights are done by handicaps, lowest handicaps first. We were in the third flight with our handicaps about 14-20. This is match play meaning that each of two players get to choose who has the best shot. So let’s say I get 5 and my partner has 4 and the other two players have 5, then 4 wins the hole. It’s a little more complicated than this because we get strokes off our handicap. I won’t bother to tell about that. Best ball wins the hole. If all four players all have 4’s the hole is halved, nobody wins.
We had eliminated the other teams and had one other team to beat to win the championship. The team that wins the most holes wins the tournament for each flight.
My partner, Merrick “Jim” Vance and I, had the honors. All four drives off the first tee landed in reasonable shape. It was a warm spring day with a visible waft of pollen overhanging the first fairway. Dr. Mello lived in a big, white, blue-shuttered house midway down the first fairway. He was disappointed in losing to us the day before but, gentleman that he was, wished everybody good luck as we set up for our second shot.
After putting out, Killer and Joe won the first hole. As we walked off the first green and headed to the second, to my surprise and fright I began choking. Perhaps I inhaled a bug or a lung full of pollen? To this day I do not know what happened. As I gasped for breath I had the presence of mind to frantically point to where Dr. Mello was still standing. The others called to him and he came running over. Dr. Mello could see that I was choking and administered a Heimlich by having me raise my arms over my head wrapping his arms around my chest, compressed my chest and freed my airway. I was sure pretty scared, but after a few minutes I felt settled enough to continue to play. Dr. Mello, though, insisted that I ride in the cart back to his house where he found and gave me a tablet of Benadryl. The pill was a precaution against an allergic reaction I might have had. Our group had to wait for all of this and let a couple of groups go ahead of us.
I felt a bit loose-jointed but was able to continue to play. I was reassured and I’m still very grateful that Dr. Mello borrowed a golf cart and followed us around for a few holes, checking to see if I was OK.
As we finished the first nine holes, we were getting killed, as we were five holes down. This meant that our opponents only needed to keep us from winning all of the next five holes (all halves) and they would win the match on the 14th hole. Or, we would have to win at least six and halve three of the last nine holes to win. We were not too hopeful. Killer, sensing victory tightly in his grasp, phoned his wife to come with the children to the club to celebrate the imminent victory. He was so certain of winning that he had stored a small American flag in his golf bag to unfurl marching up the 18th hole in celebration.
To our astonishment, WE WON ON THE 17TH HOLE!! I don’t have clear recollection of the details. We won the 10th hole and either won or halved holes thereafter. Their game just went south as lots of balls were hit astray or trickled along the ground.
The story is not over. We found out that our opponents sought a ruling to overturn our victory because I “…had left the course” that should constitute disqualification. They said that by Dr. Mello taking me to his house for medicine meant our team should be disqualified. No doubt a deeply disappointing loss after being so far ahead produces an intense desire for remedy. Apparently, Killer and his partner thought that their victory could be preserved by our disqualification. There is no such rule!
I remember feeling laughingly annoyed at the feeble attempt to grab our hard won win away from us. Over the years, though, I think back more in amusement than bitterness of the effort to disqualify us. Isn’t it true that time heals wounds?
November 7, 2008