‘GOLF’ & the Art of Sailing

By: Bob Spiwak


I don’t know which came first, puberty or skin cancer. Regardless of which arrived first, I have had to stay out of the sun or well-protected. As an avid golfer and canoeist, this has been a difficult task. The two coalesced in my 50s (golf and canoe, not puberty).

Preparing for a day on the water at Diablo Lake in North-central Washington, I opened the car trunk and discovered I had forgotten sun block. But next to the spare tire lay an el-cheapo umbrella with the logo of GOLF magazine I had tossed in a long time before. It was green and white. I decided it would have to suffice instead of the SPF 40 goop, so I dropped it in the boat and paddled off to the north.

It was a windless morning and a leisurely paddle to the other end of the lake, about 2 miles, to the remote Buster Brown campsite. I beached there and ate lunch, did some exploring of trails, then returned to the yellow boat and began paddling back to the launch area.

The sun was now in my face and, as I unfurled the umbrella, I congratulated myself on the foresight of bringing it along. It was a small umbrella; I was in no hurry, so paddling with one hand as I held the shat of the brolly with the other I slowly got to the middle of the lake.

The canoe suddenly veered to the right. The afternoon breeze had picked up and filled the umbrella, creating an unintentional tack to the right. Moving the umbrella to the left side of the canoe produced a turn in that direction. As the wind picked up, the sailing was fine-tuned and the canoe was soon skimming across the lake, umbrella generally centered ahead of me. This made visibility rather limited, but the trip a lot easier insofar as all steering could be done with a twitch of the umbrella.

Approaching the Highway 20 causeways across the lake, I noticed people at both ends aiming cameras in our direction. As we skimmed under the highway, with “GOLF” leading the way, I waved at the onlookers, many of who returned it, like a golf gallery at a large water hazard.

It was so much fun I went on past the launch. On my port side (that’s nautical talk) came a small boat with an elderly man and two small children. The boat had an electric outboard and we were like “ships passing in the day.” He hailed me with, “I’ll trade you the kids for your rig.” We laughed and preceded in opposite directions with the wave familiar to us sea captains.

My big error was relaxing and letting the increasing wind take me to the shallows at the south end of the lake. Returning the half-mile or so to the launch, I found it had become quite a blow, and paddling against it, umbrella now reefed (that is nautical, too), the journey took longer and was a whole lot harder than the jaunt with the wind.

Being pretty well wiped out when I finally landed the canoe, I realized there was a lesson to be learned here. Carry both sun block and an umbrella, whether hitting a golf ball or playing the water in an open boat.

This story originally appeared in the Methow Valley News.

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though recently suffering a three-year lapse, he’s been a fanatical golfer ever since. Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world, although few have been published (not true). Bob’s most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultraprivate Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.

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