Friday, July 10, 2009

A Quiet Place to Harbor (1)

The tee on the first hole of the North Course at our "home club" is elevated. As a result it is impossible to see any players in the fairway ahead of you until they are within about fifty yards of the green.

The golf links are located inside an urban municipal park with playground, basketball court, swimming pool, softball field, and picnic area. Charcoal and hotdog aromas float in the air. Hawks look down from their high tree box seats. Non-golfers and their extended families, sometimes with dogs, wander across the course. Fishermen and duck-feeders sit on the banks of the water hazards. Bicyclists and joggers circle by on the surrounding road. In the winter this access route winds its way through a "Festival of Lights". The unlit naked looking sculptures appear next to fairways and greens towards the end of the golf season adding hazards that normally only putt-putt golfers would face. From inside the car trunks of picnickers and hoopsters oversized audio speakers blast competing bass rhythms across the greens and tee boxes.

Golf clubs are either private ("members only") or public (open to any golfer). This one is, at times, anarchic.

Therefore I wasn't too surprised, as I stood ready to tee-off at that elevated opening hole, when a golf cart with an adult and a child made its way up the fairway heading in my direction. I had seen it leave the area around the green but now it had temporarily disappeared. So I leaned on my club and waited, somewhat impatiently, for the small vehicle and its occupants to appear over the top of the hill.

When they came into sight the driver was waving at me. I did not recognize him. He continued across the upper plateau, still blocking my shot, and pulled up next to Mars who was waiting for me to hit.

There was one golf bag in the cart. The driver was a thirty-something, slightly built black man with a short black chin hair, a black tee shirt, and a black, red and gold Rasta hat -- those knitted caps designed to contain dreadlock styled hair.
His outfit was not at all out of place. Most of the golfers at this venue do not follow the rules of "proper golf attire" -- a golf shirt with collar, long trousers, no denim, and proper golf shoes.

Based purely on their clothing it is pretty much impossible to tell those who are at the park to play the game from those that are not.

The passenger looked to be about ten years of age. He wore a yellow golf shirt with the word "Jamaica" in red, a Tiger Woods Tour Swoosh Flex Golf Hat, and an expression of eagerness.

"My son is going to play a round of golf and he would like to play with someone. Can he join you?" the driver asked from inside the cart.

"Sure" we both said.

As I began my practice swing the boy hopped out of the cart, took off his cap, walked up to Mars, shook her hand and introduced himself. Then he approached me. "Hello, my name is Dexter."

After I hit my drive I walked over to Dexter's father and extended my hand. "I'm Jim."

"Thank you. My name is also Dexter."

Meanwhile young Dexter selected his target, positioned himself properly, swung smoothly, and drove the ball straight down the fairway about the same distance as my shot.

"My son is in the 'First Tee' program and is getting ready for a tournament."

"I guess he is". I replied.

Needless to say Dexter shot par or one above on each of the nine holes that we played. Mars and I scored a couple of strokes higher on every tee-to-green trip. On the first hole, where he putted out before we did, he put the flag back in when we all finished, and handed us the additional clubs that we had carried to the green. He and we continued that protocol throughout the round.

Dexter hesitated only once. On a ninety-degree dogleg he didn't hit his drive past the turning point and was blocked from the green by a copse of tall trees. He conferred with his father who recommended a five iron and to "try that curving shot you've been practicing". Once again Dexter selected his target, positioned himself properly, swung smoothly, and "bent it like Beckham" around the forest and onto the fairway up close to the green.

Other than "nice shot" or "thank you" neither of the Dexters said much. I inquired how often he played here.

"This is his backup course. He plays it every Wednesday afternoon." After a pause the father added, "He wants to birdie every hole. I tell him that doesn't happen."

At one point I asked young Dexter, who had been riding, if he had to walk during the tournament. "Yes. But my father carries the clubs" he said with a big smile. He did however get out of the cart and walk a little more.

After the last hole young Dexter removed his hat and we four shook hands all around thanking each other for a good game. Mars and I wished him good luck in his upcoming competition. Then they got back in the cart and headed up to the practice green for some putting and chipping drills. We followed them on the cart path and went to our car.

Several teenage boys were smoking in the small shed next to the first tee as we all rode by. The heavy pungent aroma of a non-tobacco substance wafted into the carts -- bringing at least two of us back to the real world, which we actually had never left.

(1) A Quiet Place to Harbor

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