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A Late-Afternoon Golf Match - Part II

By: Richard Voorhees


[Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from the novel, "Shooting Genji" by writer (and bogey golfer) Richard Voorhees. By way of background, "Shooting Genji" is a noir thriller set at the time of the 1929 Stock Market Crash, and features rumrunners, dancers, financial chicanery, and one very angry golfer. Unlike classic hard-boiled crime fiction, "Shooting Genji" is leavened with humor in the vein of P. G. Wodehouse.

In Part I of "A Late-Afternoon Golf Match" ("Pardon My French" - http://www.cybergolf.com/golf_news/a_lateafternoon_golf_match), an inexperienced caddie with unbelievable night vision attempted to help his boss win a golf match with $100 riding on it, as night was falling, against a friend with a serious anger-management problem.

Here in Part II, "A Hole-In-One," their crooked golf match continues at dawn the following morning and we learn which of the scoundrels involved is able to outmaneuver the other. Hold onto your golf caps and enjoy.]

A Hole-in-One

The morning after Stuart Blanchard lost his ball on the 18th hole and proceeded to cheat his way to victory, I pick up my boss at an ungodly hour. The sun's not yet up. He's looking cheerful but a little bleary-eyed. He wants to get to the club before anyone has a chance to find Blanchie's ball and spoil his coup.

En route, we pick up a disheveled, tight-lipped Stuart Blanchard. We load him and his clubs in and I put the pedal to the metal. Granyer is positively jovial. Blanchie looks like he'd like to clip him with one of his long-irons. When we pull into the club's parking lot, Granyer suggests that Blanchard bring his clubs with him.

"Are you kidding? These are just for show."

"Suit yourself. It's going to be a bit of a hike back, though."

We hustle through the clubhouse, telling the sleepy guy behind the counter that we lost a club on the 18th hole and would like to retrieve it. He recognizes the two combatants as members and waves us through like a solemn, somnolent traffic cop.

Granyer and I spread out, with him walking up the left side of the fairway and me hugging the right, acting as if we have no definite idea where the ball might be, just making a guess where Blanchie's tee shot might have landed. I've described to Granyer in detail where I saw the ball headed. He wants to do the honors of proving his friend is a liar and a cheat. He's convinced it will be hugely entertaining.

The sun has come up but it's still a bit chilly. The grass is wet with dew. Knowing that Blanchard's ball was headed for a grove of trees, Granyer hopes he will find the ball nestled at the base of a tree with no clear shot for his opponent. The cheat will be stymied and that will be that. Match over. Of course, it wouldn't be over absolutely. He could chip out on to the fairway and then hole his approach shot. He could make a birdie like that. But it's exceedingly unlikely. Or, he could make par and they would tie.

There's something weird about the 18th hole, though, and it's more than a little disconcerting. Small footprints in the dew, roaming all over. One of the grounds keepers might have been up and about before we got there.

Granyer looks and looks and after a while he starts getting agitated, whacking at clumps of grass with his club. Blanchie on the other hand starts to relax and then he goes back to being a smart aleck, telling Granyer that not only does he owe him $200, but he owes him an apology. I try to come to Granyer's rescue, looking among the trees where I saw the ball disappear. There's no ball there. I dread what the boss is going to say to me after we drop Blanchie back home.

Finally, we give up the hunt and stalk back to the car. Granyer is livid. His face is the color of lutefisk. Blanchie climbs in front next to me, having no interest in sitting next to Granyer.

As I turn out of the driveway of the club, I see a young Asian boy standing against a fence. He has a newspaper in front of him with a dozen golf balls on display. I pull up and stop.

"How much are the balls, sonny?"

"Five cents."

"That's a pretty good deal. Tell me, did you find any Spaldings this morning?"

He looks down at the balls on the ground and picks up three and brings them over to the car. One of them is a Spalding 2 and it has the initials SB stamped on it.

Blanchie howls. "I lost two balls yesterday. He could have found that anywhere."

"Where'd you find these, son?"

"On 18. People always lose ball on 18 after dark."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." He smiles. "They hard to find at night. Easy to find in the morning."

"I've played this course hundreds of times. I've lost my ball on 18 before. He just found a ball from some other round."

"That's bullshit, Blanchie, and you know it."

"I don't know anything. Besides, say it was my ball. He moved it. How am I supposed to finish the hole?"

"Do you know where you found this ball, young fellow?"

"No. They all look alike. White."

"All right, Blanchie. Here's my offer - you get to replay 18 and if you get a birdie, you win, a par, we tie, and a bogey, I win. What do you say?"

He thinks about it for a few seconds and then to my great surprise, he agrees. So I turn the car around and we walk in silence back to the par-4 18th tee box, and this time Blanchie's carrying his clubs. He's a good golfer but a trifle inconsistent. To boot, it's still early in the morning, he's got an excruciating hangover, and we've already put him through a lot of rigmarole. The odds are tilting decidedly in Granyer's favor.

Blanchie takes his time, does a fair amount of stretching and swinging of his driver. Finally he tees up the #2 Spalding, waggles his club a few more times for good measure, and takes a rip. His ball goes crashing into the trees on the left of the fairway and this time we all get a good look where it's gone.

As he stomps off after his ball, he lets loose a string of pained and colorful epithets. It doesn't take long to locate his ball, though, and sure enough, it's lying at the base of a big oak tree.

From the tenor of his yelling, you might have thought he was some wounded Saxon opera singer.

Faced with no other choice, Blanchie plays his next shot left-handed using a putter and manages to jam it back onto the edge of the fairway. To win the match with a birdie, he's going to have to hole this next shot from 200 yards away.

And then he does something magical. He hits a magnificent shot that flies straight for the pin and actually hits it, but it caroms off and rolls about 10 feet below the hole. He almost pulled off the impossible. When we get to the green, we can see the trail left by his ball in what's left of the morning dew.

"Make this and we're all-square, Blanchie."

He pulls out his putter. He looks at the line from below the hole. He looks at the line from above the hole. He's ready to give it his best shot. He rests his putter behind the ball. And then he freezes, as if he's turned to marble. Years go by. Finally he pulls his putter back and takes a stab at it. The ball rolls to a halt a foot short of the hole.

He bellows as if he's been speared.

Matter-of-factly, my boss says: "Never up, never in, Blanchie. Never up, never in."

Blanchard grabs his ball and tosses it in the air as if he's going to fungo it to the other side of the solar system. He obviously thinks he's Babe Ruth. Granyer and I turn away to try to protect ourselves. He takes a tremendous cut at his ball in mid-air, but he whiffs, and the ball plops harmlessly, quietly at his feet.

We can hear the gnashing of teeth.

"I thought you were playing statue-maker back there, Blanchie." Granyer can't help rubbing it in.

The lopsided golfer doesn't say anything more, not that he's said much up till now, except the same four-letter words. Instead he roars something unintelligible and flings his putter in the air. It flies remarkably high, returns to earth, glances off his head, and knocks him out cold. He's lucky he didn't kill himself. That's what the doctor at the hospital told us, anyway.

Growing up I had an elderly neighbor who took a more philosophical approach to the game of golf. She was a large woman and not at all athletic. A consummate intellectual. However, she played golf in her youth, and one day she actually made a hole-in-one. Finding it a perfectly delightful moment to leave golf and golfing to those who would have it, to exit the stage on a high note, she retired her clubs and never played again.

("Shooting Genji" can be downloaded for $4.99 at www.Amazon.com or from the author's website at www.rgvoorhees.com, where you can also read the first chapter of the actual novel, watch the official trailer, or browse Voorhees' other works.)