You can blame the Scottish for a lot of things. One of these things is golf. Golf is a sport, they say. I always thought it was more like a crime. I’ve never gotten along with golf, but I have had to endure it for a long time. My family loves golf. Want proof? Show up at the next Rausch Reunion. Every two years we have a reunion. First we usually gather at some exotic location, like Stillwater or Bismarck or Big Stone City. Then we greet and hug and kiss our beloved relatives. Then we sleep. Then we have the Rausch Golf Classic.
No joke. Our reunions are mostly a golf tourney.
This puts me at quite an awkward position. If this were medieval times I’d probably be dead by now, but, as it is the 20th century, I am still alive. Alive and usually left with nothing to do at family Reunions. This is why I bring a book.
A couple weekends ago we had a family get together. This wasn’t as expansive as a reunion, but there was a nice gathering of family. Guess what they wanted to do. Everyone in my family knows that I despise golf, so I figured there would be no question in my participation. I would just go to grandma’s with my guitar and serenade the wildlife (and grandma).
My mom says, “Dan thinks you should go golfing. If you don’t play, then he could use a good caddy.” There must be a misunderstanding. I haven’t golfed in years. It’s like being told that the Pope is actually a robot. Suddenly, nothing makes sense.
“Well,” I said, “I ain’t no damn caddy. Bring me my clubs.” So began a horrible golf experience with plenty of witnesses. It started off bad. When dad got home, as he was golfing, too, he braved the jungle of his garage and located my bag. The former glamour that had been my set of golf clubs was now a macabre mix match of other people’s hand-me-downs. Frankenstein’s clubs would be like this. Head covers of all different shapes, sizes, and artists sat upon a spectacular variety of woods. They were all different numbers at least.
The irons were the same I had come to loathe the last time I set eyes on this bag. Good to know that they hadn’t abandoned me. I even had an ample set of tees in the bag (and a fair amount of old trash, too). I didn’t have much for golf balls. I had a stolen range ball a bright yellow women’s ball.
I got stocked up on balls, found more head covers, tossed out some old, empty bug spray cans, and we journeyed to the course. We got there and, after a heated argument on who was going to golf with who, we teed off. Dan went first, Bryce went next, and both made respectable progress. Then I hit.
The ball took off. I would say if you were to draw a line from me to the pin, and then from me to my ball, there would be 45 degrees in between. I managed to pass over Hole 1, over Hole 9, and almost hit someone at the driving range. I was too shocked to yell “fore” but I did mutter “dmmt” under my breath.
I managed to play like that pretty much the whole game. Since I hadn’t managed to secure a putter (and I know I had a putter last time), I sat out all the putting. See, putting is like pool, but you only get one pocket. At least there an eight ball, and you don’t have to call your shot. Though, sometimes the game would be more interesting if people had to. “White golf ball, my golf ball, in the only pocket. Oh, I scratched.”
Some holes I just decided to hike out. In golf you can’t sit out, because part of the fun of the game is all the landscape you get to see. However, using the game of golf as a hiking adventure is like using the stairs in your house to simulate rock climbing. If I want a real hike I’ll go to Adirondacks.
Golf is a demeaning game. Take the par system. When you get to a hole they have a rating. This is called the par. The higher the number, the harder the whole is. Hole 3 at Ortonville’s golf course is Par 5. That means, “We don’t expect you to get less than a 5. Five total hits is our average. You look about average. Maybe you should just pretend it’s a Par 6, there, buddy.” I didn’t play Hole 3, not after that. I wasn’t giving him the satisfaction of a 12.
We traipsed onward. Dan and Bryce had by now taken to using my driver (affectionately named the ‘Killer Whale’) whenever they’d tee off. A driver is a wood on steroids. It’s like the Robert Paulson version of a regular club. It gives your ball that extra “HUZZAH!” that it needs for most holes. Most holes would not be the Par 3 Hole 6.
Dan tees off using an iron. Bryce tees off using an iron. I step up with ‘Killer Whale’. There are nervous chuckles when they realize I’m not joking. “What? Are you nuts?” Look, guys, just trust me. I hit the first one and it lands in the lake in the middle of Hole 2. Dan says, “Try it again.” I set up the shot and hit. It sails through the air – straight! It climbs higher and higher. I can picture it sailing past the green and right into the traffic at the back of the Hole. Oh, right. There’s a road there – I had forgotten that.
It hit the green and stayed. Sure it was the back, but I couldn’t have asked for a nicer shot. Well, I could have, but I would have gotten scolded for asking more than I deserve. I putted and finished the whole with a 6 or so, but feeling pretty good. We walk across the road to Hole 7.
Set up, tee off, watch the ball rocket dangerously far to the right. My spirits are immediately crushed as I trudge off to find my ball. It’s in the fairway for Hole number 8 which runs parallel to Hole 7 but in the opposite direction. Hit after hit I keep getting closer to the Hole 8 tee box, but not the Hole 7 green. Finally we finish that hole and I promptly forget whatever score I might have had. We walk on to Hole 8. Almost done. Please be a good hole.
Dan tees off. Bryce tees off. I stand up there. No pressure, but I really want to play this hole. I pull back and hit it. The ball shoots out from the front of the club. I can’t believe how high and how far it’s going. Too bad it’s going right for the road. Too bad it hit the road and has now bounced into someone’s yard.
“It’s in Hartman’s yard,” I say. Confused and incredulous looks from my friends prompt me to repeat my statement.
“It is not. Really?”
“Well, I guess I’ll meet you guys at Hole 9.” I walked over the fairway for Hole 8, where my dad gave me a confused look, crossed the street, and entered the yard. Outside was Mrs. Hartman, coming to see if she could help me with something.
“I hit my ball into your yard.”
“What hole were you on?”
It seems to be that time of day for people to look confused and incredulous. “Oh. Really? Wow. Well, I’ll help you find it.” She did and there is lay under one of the trees not 13 feet from her front door and her large living room windows. “I hope your luck improves. If you straighten them out, you would be doing great.”
“Thanks Mrs. H,” and I pick the ball up and walk to Hole number 9, stopping to talk to my dad a little. I don’t know why, but he’s grinning at me like I’ve just discovered that Rocky Mountain oysters are actually testicles. I meet the guys at Hole 9 where, despite the foreboding in my heart, I tee off. The ball again takes off in an all-together new direction. My heart sinks.
I really do hate this game. After hitting that dimpled freak a couple more times, I pick the ball up and go to lay in the shade, on the grass, and wait for the other family members to finish the first nine. My mom is standing there.
“So, how did you do?”
Silence. “On number 8, I ended up in Hartman’s yard.”
Silence. “Oh, wow. Hartman’s yard?”
“Well, if you could only straighten it out, you’d be doing great.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond to this. What would I say? ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. That is true, isn’t it?’ All I can think to say is, “I hate golf.”
Silence again. Then I hear her chuckle. “You’re going to golf the back nine then?”
My mother is so funny. Funny like a heart attack.