November 14, 2003
Whenever I play golf with my father and his friends, I’m always reminded of a basic truth.
No matter how bad the first shot is, don’t ever make any assumptions about what’ll happen with the next one—especially if it’s my father holding the club.
We recently played in a breakfast tournament at Rehoboth Beach Country Club, along with his buddies Bill Hill and Frank Kennedy, in a format that used the two best net scores per hole. Based on who else was playing, it looked like winning wasn’t a real option for our group. Instead, we would be “Participating”.
For us, of course, winning wasn’t the point. It was a beautiful day, we were out in the sunshine and, most important, we were spending time together doing something we all love.
Hill is a gentle, funny man, and a deceptively long hitter off the tee. His efficient stroke often creates a soft high draw.
Hill is also an unreformed tobacco addict, but this time he had to be a bit more careful about when he would light up. His cart mate, Kennedy, is not a big fan of smoke.
Hill had a definite routine. He would fire up a cigarette as he left the cart, walk over to his ball, and assess the situation. When he was ready to swing, he’d throw the cigarette down to the ground a couple yards from the ball, take his stance, and smack the ball. He’d then reach down for his cigarette, take a few more puffs, and wait for Kennedy to take his shot before tossing the butt and climbing back into the cart.
Hill probably went through an entire pack.
Kennedy is a former auctioneer for Stuart Kingston, and can turn on the charm with everyone he meets. The man’s a born salesman.
He is also profanely funny, but since this is a family newspaper, you’ll just have to trust me on this.
Kennedy rarely hit into trouble off the tee, with a simple up/down swing that usually produced a high, straight shot. On that day, however, he sometimes managed to compound any bad shots that crept into his usually steady play. Kennedy didn’t hit into the Rehoboth Bay next to the 19th hole, but several balls disappeared into the ponds. On the other hand, his score counted toward our total on several other holes, so it’s not as if he was being carried by the rest of us.
My father now plays from the green tees. His game is more erratic than it used to be, but he is one of the more hopeful golfers with whom I’ve ever played.
Perhaps that’s because he can be a remarkable scrambler, a trait he showed on several holes that Sunday.
On the short par-3 fifth hole, for example, Dad hit a low screamer with his 5-iron that bounced once on the green and then dove into the rough on the high bank beyond. The green slopes severely from back to front, and the hole was in the right front, so bogey or worse looked likely.
Undeterred, he hit a flop shot with his wedge out of the deep turf. It slowly rolled down the steep slope to a couple feet from the hole. He then calmly rolled in a twisting sidehill putt for his par.
On the fifteenth hole, another par 3, Dad hit a high hook with his 7-wood that clattered among the trees about 20 yards short and left of the green. His ball sat on a small rise about four feet from the trunk of a pine tree. Dad took a few practice swings, and then hit a wristy, high flopper that bounced on the left side of the green, hopped once, and then rolled 15 feet or so to about a foot from the hole.
As he would say, “Routine Par.”
And for him, that would be true.