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Golfing triumphs a la cart.


I was never a gung-ho golfer. At least not as gung-ho as the fellow who asked, "Do you midn if I play through?--I just heard that my wife has been in a serious accident." But that was before I witnessed a new approach to the game at last year's annual golf outing of the Printing Arts Center at Indianapolis.

With refreshment stands traditionally located at every third hole, several players had had the foresight to include a hard hat among their playing gear. This protection began to show up along about the seventh hole, when errant golf balls began to send foursomes about to tee off scattering in four directions. But whether the refreshment influence had anything to do with what happened, who can sayc For the sake of the game, let us hope that at least it played a part.

I take you now to the par-4 18th, with the tournament leader having the misfortune to be riding in a cart chauffeured by the guy in second place by a single stroke. They tee off, both balls clearing the creek, but the driver of the cart, for reasons not then apparent, chooses to ignore the cart path in favor of a shortcut down the bank and over the rocks in the dry creek bed. As a result, the current leader takes a nine on the hole, which many of us think quite remakrkable, considering the way he's been banged up. Others remark that he's lucky just to have stayed in the cart. That, of course, is debatable.

As an ethical man, naturally I was shocked at this debauchery of the wonderful sport of golf. How could a man sleep at night after winning a tournament by a strategem so out-and-out crude? It would have to be refined.

The two golfing "buddies" I was out to get were Bill and Frank (not their real names), mostly because they both have the same irritating habit. It's something about the way they stick out their hands when it comes to settling up after our weekly contests.

My first victim--but I'm getting ahead of myself: my first opponent--was eager-beaver Ed. Because my genes for operating things of a mechanical nature have been lost somehow in transfer, I have always left the driving of the cart to the enemy. Ed was more than a little surprised, therefore, to find me behind the wheel looking for a way to start the thing when he emerged from the pro shop.

What happened next, I must admit, was pure luck. To finish lacing his shoes, Ed unwisely leaned his golf bag against the rear of the cart. And I backed over it.

Another of Ed's faults--he's a loudmouth. It took him at least five minutes to exhaust his inventory of invectives and calm down to the point where we could assess the damage. This turned out to be nothing more than a crushed bag, a bent putter, a toed driver, and a couple of irons that had assumed rather odd angles. I offered to run over them again to straighten them out, but Ed said no thanks, he'd make the necessary corrections by adjusting his stance.

His adjustment of 30 degrees on the first tee proved perfect for sending his ball into the open door of the metal cart shed, which in turn sent the lone attendant scurrying out the opposite end. His second attempt did a little better, going across the road and maybe ten rows deep into the cornfield. Ed was still adjusting after the first two holes, which I took with no sweat.

If you have never played the Pine Hills course in Spencer, Indiana, I should explain that the third hole was designed with the mountain goat in mind. Just making the climb from the second hole is a triumph in itself. If your nose isn't bleeding by this time, you are invited to drive your ball on up for another hundred yards, make a hard right, then pray that you can at least see the green from your ball's landing site. Strong men have descended from number three sobbing unashamedly and offering to exchange their clubs for a croquet set.

With woods flanking both sides of a path up the cliff, which serves as a fairway, I was basking in the reverie that Ed's misaligned eight-iron would deposit his brand-new Golden Ram (certainly appropriate for that hole) deep into the pines on the left. Instead, by turning directly toward the ball washer, his drive not only traversed the "fairway" but also sliced around the turn at the top. And on number four, when his ball faild to disappear into Money gulch, whence few balls ever return, it was back to the old drawing board.

At the next tee, by coincidence, I neglected to engage the brake before leaving the cart. And, as luck would have it, Ed's club was on the descent of his swing when I noticed the cart creeping forward.

"Run for your life, Ed!" I yelled, hurting myself at the runaway vehicle. What might have happened had it not been for my presence of mind, I'm not sure. A am sure of what happened to Ed's ball. It hooked so far into the oak-studded valley that he left it for the squirrels without even bothering to look. Nor to this day has he thanked me for possibly saving his life. In fact, except for the few remarks required by etiquette, Ed didn't speak to me again until I backed the cart over his foot on our approach to number eight.

The way it happened, I had cut the marshy area along the creek a bit fine and the cart got stuck. Ed climbed out to push. I shifted into reverse, hoping to rock the cart until it broke free. Due to the cofusion, however, I forgot to inform Ed. The ground, fortunately, was soft enough that I was able to pry his foot out with my sand wede. He began hobbing around, of course, pretending to be injured. But it was only an excuse for not finishing the match. And I sure could have used more practice with the cart, because I was meeting Stan the very next day.

You may have played with the Stan type. Subscribes to all the golf magazines. Keeps a scrapbook of Trevino's tips. Buys every tool of the sport guaranteed to yield extra yardage. (If everything he owns lived up to its guarantee, Stan would be hitting the ball at least 600 yards. Into the wind.) He carries a measuring tape for determining who should put first. If your ball is in the cup, he won't putt until it's removed. Ask him if he thinks your ball is contagious and he'll quote chapter and verse of the PGA rule book to prove he isn't making an ass of himself. And if you so much as sneeze or holler to someone on a neighboring hole while he is putting, he has the juvenile reaction of throwing his putter. You know the type.

"How come?" asked Stan, strapping his bag to the cart with irritating precision and walking around to the passenger side. "You've never driven before."

"Time I learned," I explained, looking for the ignition key.

Talk about luck. Stan was in the process of climbing aboard just as the cart leaped forward, causing him to ricochet off the front panel and land with his head on the steering wheel. And he had no sooner realigned himself and rubbed his sore sports than I slammed on the brakes at the first tee. The sound of his knees striking the floorboards, I was later told, carried clear back to the pro shop. And Stan had come out of his shoes.

Giving credit where credit is due, after the third hole Stan, in spite of his condition, offered to take over the driving. But he was having trouble enough just getting in and out of the cart, as I pointed out. "And I've noticed that your backswing has been restricted to no more than shoulder height," I said. "Driving the cart would only add to the problem."

When he parred number four, however, I might have been in trouble--except for another stroke of luck.

Stan, who sweats like a horse with the colic, never shows up without his thermos of Gator Ade. And I had neglected to mention that my home course was devoid of restrooms. But not until his drive had sliced deep into Money Gulch did I notice that Stan had teed off with his legs crossed.

Although he made it through the par-3 fifth hole without incident, I can't say as much for the sixth after we bounced down the hill at full throttle. "To get you back to the proshop facilities as quickly as possible," I explained, hoping that Stan could hear me above the chatter of his teeth. For my thoughtfulness I was rewarded by seeing Stan's second shot develop into a worm burner of no more than 20 yards. I took the hole by three strokes.

For all my efforts, however, had it not been for the good old creek threatening our approach to number nine, I still might have lost the match. Not that Stan's ball got wet. In fact, it went well over the creek, while mine required a second shot. Where I turned the advantage to my side was in driving the cart back some 50 yards from the narrow, guardrail-less bridge spanning the stream.

"Where the heck you going?" was Stan's appropriate question.

"I'm hoping to gain enough momentum," I explained, drawing a bead on that naked wooden structure, "so that if I miss the bridge the cart will carry the creek."

Even with that sharp ridge in the center of the bridge, as I argued with Stan, I think he would have been all right if he had only stayed in the cart instead of trying to jump. As it was, the cart's resumption to four wheels found him draped untidily over the front panel, a four-tooth upper partial lying grotesquely on his lower lip and his glasses swinging from one ear. Stan had also come out of his shoes.

Not only did he forfeit the ninth hole and concede the match, he wouldn't even let me drive him to his car.

That's the one trouble with my golf-cart approach to triumphs in this gret game of golf. You'll have to find a new opponent for each match. And new opponents won't be easy to come by. STan has been telling his golfing buddies that he wouldn't play another round with me even on the Utah salt flats with pull carts.

That's O.K. by me. If there's anyone I can't stand it's a sore loser.
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Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1988
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