NOVEL EXCERPTS

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Golfers Decry Plans to Revise Unfair Tee Time Arrangement

from the book Golf Beat: A Year in the Life of Persimmon Pines

By Larry Caringer

Traylor County Pro Tempore Councilperson-at-Large Vivian Festerhump has seen a ton of controversy lately.

“Since Buck Rucklesbuck, the former eight-time Councilperson-at-Large was arrested for public indecency in the restroom at the Traylor County Spring Tractor Pull, it’s just been downhill from there for me,” she said.

Ms. Festerhump and I were sitting in the Golden Rule Cafe, having a cup of coffee. She took a quick drag on her Camel and explained: “Right after I took over, we had that problem with the septic system at the Library. Some books are still drying out from that.”

A long pause to reflect. “The Old Man and the Sea swelled up to twice its size.” Another pause. Another sip. “After the Library mess, we had the County Jail fiasco.”

For those who don’t recall, two months ago all fourteen men and women in the Traylor County Jail escaped after Deputy Sheriff Oscar LaMott forgot to lock up before going home for the evening.

Festerhump shook her head. “Lucky for us, the most serious offender in the lock-up at the time was Lucy Schmuckel, who was in for failure to pay multiple parking tickets.”

The problem was resolved when all the escapees returned to jail the next morning after getting a good night’s sleep in their own beds.

Viv waved Rez Nuggetman, owner of the Golden Rule, over for a fill-up and lighted a new cigarette. “Now this.”

“This” is the new plan by the Board of Directors at the county-owned Hooking Hills Golf Course to change the way golfers get weekend tee times. Hooking Hills, a direct competitor with the city-owned Persimmon Pines Slippery Meadows, had used a “racking system” to schedule tee-off times.

However, Hooking Hills pro Bix Wilstrup says he began to see a drop-off in his business after Slippery Meadows eliminated the racking system and began taking telephone reservations. He proposed a change – one he said would be fairer and less onerous to most golfers.

The Hooking Hills Board of Directors quickly approved the plan, but angry longtime Men’s Club members Mickey Dogslaw and Elmer Pittswheel appealed to County Commissioners to review the plan.

Vivian stared across Broad Street toward the County Courthouse. “Twenty-seven lawyers later we’ve still got a mess on our hands.”

She crushed out her Camel, blew a cloud of smoke over my head, and pointed at me. “Don’t quote me in your damned article, but I’ll tell you this: Golfers have got to be the most screwed up, backwards, and self-centered idiots on the planet.”

Then she stood and walked outside, coughing.

For the uninitiated, here’s how the old (and still current) racking system worked (works): Basically, the racking system began with the simple democratic principle of “first come, first served.” Originally, you arrived at the course, placed your ball in a rack on the first tee, then teed-off in the order in which the balls were “racked.”

That was back in the days when golfers arrived just a few minutes before they intended to play. As more people began taking up The Game, it became important to arrive earlier and earlier to get into the rack for a prime tee time. These days at Hooking Hills, to get a weekend tee time, you must arrive at the Golf Course the night before you want to play.

For a Saturday morning time, you must be in line by 8 p.m. Friday. Everyone in line by this time is allowed to draw a number from a hat. This number corresponds to the order of the line for the next morning. That’s when the actual tee times will be made.

After that, the golfers in line arrange their cars in the parking lot according to their number. Then they recline their seats and wait. They must remain on the premises because anyone who has a number for the line but leaves the premises loses his right to snag a time.

Several times during the night, golf course employee Nat Ulyee walks by each car and shines a flashlight inside to make certain no one has slipped away home.

At dawn, the bent and twisted golfers climb over gear shifts and stumble through the mist-shrouded parking lot to the Starter’s Shack where they once again stand in line to watch as the numbers they’ve been assigned are drawn from a spinning Bingo Basket. Not until their number is called do they get to name their tee time.

It’s a simple enough arrangement. But Wilstrup, the Hooking Hills pro, thought he had a simpler plan: “Let ’em call in on Wednesday for the following Saturday. That way, they know in advance when they’re going to play.”

Wilstrup declined to say any more for this story because, as he said, “Now it’s all up to the courts to decide.”

However, the two men who brought the lawsuit, Mickey Dogslaw and Elmer Pittswheel, weren’t as reticent about speaking out.

I met them at their usual hangout, a table in the Grill Room at Hooking Hills. Both men are in their sixties, with skin the color of tarnished copper cookware. I shook hands with them and sat down to a cold Budweiser.

It was 9:30 a.m. I checked the clock on the wall.

Elmer Pittswheel lifted his glass in a toast. “Too early to get served?  Hah.  We’ve been members of the Men’s Club long enough to have a little pull with Squirrelly back in the kitchen. Salud.”

I watched the glass of beer disappear quickly down Pittswheel’s stubbled throat. Mickey Dogslaw took the pause in the conversation to jump in.

“Look, we’re doin’ this to protect traditions . . . to keep those things alive that make Golf so enjoyable and magical to those of us who honor The Game and it’s heritage.”

“The racking system was good enough for us for the last thirty years. It oughta be good enough for these damn rich yuppies with their cellular phones who want to destroy our way of life.”

Elmer seemed upset and a little distracted as he looked impatiently around for Squirrelly. But Mickey nodded quickly. “Exactly. And we don’t say that just because we hate yuppies and don’t own cell phones ourselves.”

“Couldn’t you guys just call from home to get your tee times?”

There was an icy pause broken only by Squirrelly’s arrival with the second round. Elmer took a long sip. Mickey leaned toward me.

“Haven’t you heard anything we said? This is about tradition.”

Elmer nodded. “We’ll be damned if somebody’s gonna have it easier than we did. Hell, I had to choose between dating women and racking.”

I tried to get the quote written down in my notebook as Mickey stood and looked out the Grill Room window at the first tee. “That’s a little harsh, Elmer. Truth is, you quit dating women when they all stopped saying yes.”

He turned back to our table. “Look, I’ll be the first to admit that my first wife hated to see me leave on Friday nights.” Mickey sat back, reliving those magical moments.

Elmer put down his glass. “Your second wife loved them Friday nights.”

They both laughed.

Mickey nodded. “I went to the Golf course and she never complained. I just thought she was understanding.”

Elmer chuckled. “It took him five years to catch on that she was havin’ her Boss over every Friday night.”

“I didn’t catch on ’til I came home one Saturday afternoon and she wasn’t there . . . and neither was most of the furniture – and my TV.”

More laughter.

Elmer looked up at me, earnestly. “Good times.  If we lose the racking system, them yuppies’ll lose their chance for experiences like that.”

I couldn’t argue.

Mickey was deep into nostalgia. “My third wife was the only one who knew how to keep me home on a Friday night.”

Elmer winked at me. “She took his clubs to the dump and had them crushed.” He laughed.

Mickey didn’t. “It was because of her I got those new clubs with the bigger sweet spot. She really saved my game.”

I looked up from my note pad. “Are you still married to her?”

Mickey looked down at the two beers in front of him, grabbed a glass, chugged it, got up, and walked away with Elmer close behind.

I took it as a “no.”

__________

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