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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Begats

I spent last Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Palm Desert. I had not been down for a couple of weeks and I must say it was a pleasure to be back. When I left Salt Lake on Wednesday night it was raining hard and had been raining hard all day. When I woke up Thursday morning in Palm Desert, the sun was shining and it was beautiful. While the Lovely Sharon was sound to sleep dreaming no doubt of me, I had a cup of coffee out on the patio watching the humming birds and a mother finch feed her newborns in the early morning sun. During my extended weekend I played three rounds of golf with the Lovely Sharon. I had not seen her for almost three weeks so it was so nice to see her, give her a few kisses and hugs and have her beat the tar out of me at golf.

In our first round of golf it was just the two of us. We played the Ironwood North Course, a par 70 course. Sharon shot 72. I will not embarrass myself or you by reporting my score. My first nine was an acceptable 41 but my back nine was undoubtedly one of the highest scores ever shot on the back nine of the North Course. But nonetheless, it was fun. After golf and a doctor appointment for Sharon, we bought shoes. No, these were not golf shoes and no they were not shoes for me. So I assume you have figured out they were non-golf shoes for the Lovely Sharon. We bought three pairs at one shoe store. Now we have to look for outfits to match the shoes. I cannot remember ever buying a pair of shoes for myself and then concluding that I had to buy an “outfit” to go with the shoes. I can never recall thinking that not one pair of pants or not one shirt I owned would be wearable with the new shoes I just bought. But for the Lovely Sharon, buying shoes is like the “begats” in the Bible where Moses begat Aaron and Aaron begat so and so, and so on. The purchase of a pair of brown shoes begats the need to purchase a matching outfit. The purchase of white shoes that are identical to the brown shoes except for their color, begat the need to buy a different outfit and so on. At one store I stayed in the car and took a short nap while the Lovely Sharon went in the store to return pants or a blouse or something, I forget which. When she got back in the car I learned that the return of that piece of clothing begat the purchase of still another pair of shoes. For the Lovely Sharon, purchasing shoes is an Old Testament religious experience. For me it also an Old Testament experience, kind of like the plague of locusts.

After all that shoe begatting we had a nice dinner with friends at the Club. Actually, initially just the Lovely Sharon and I were sitting at a table looking at the menu when two friends saw us and asked to join us. We welcomed their company. So our presence in the grill room begated dinner with friends. After we ordered, one of their friends walked in and we asked him to join us. So, yes, you have figured it out, the couple who joined us begated still another dining companion. The dinner conversation was lively and was about golf, sail boats and the NFL draft. What a terrific evening. A few glasses of a rich red Zinfandel with hints of berries lubricated the conversation.

On Friday we played golf with friends Joe and Margaret. Joe and Margaret are members of Ironwood Country Club but are also members of Green Hills Country Club in Millbrae, CA. Green Hills was designed in 1929 by Dr. Alister MacKenzie who was also the course architect of Cypress Point and, together with Bobby Jones, the course architect of Augusta National. I have played with Joe a couple of times this year and once or twice last year. Playing with Joe begats stories. I love his stories. Joe grew up in San Francisco and as a boy caddied at the San Francisco Golf Club (Course Architect, the famous A.W. Tillinghast). Joe caddied several time for Harvie Ward, the great amateur golfer of the 1940’s and 1950’s who won two US Amateurs, a British Amateur, the Canadian Amateur and many other tournaments. Joe told me that when he was a boy, the caddies were allowed to play the San Francisco Golf Club on Mondays. He described some Monday golf games in which Harvie Ward would play with the caddies. The caddies would play their collective best ball against Harvie’s best ball. They would play for quarters. I assume Harvie did not pay out too many quarters to the lads. I don’t know why but the thought of a world famous golfer, playing with and against caddies for quarters, seems to reflect what is wonderful about the game of golf. Folks, famous and not so famous, playing golf together, not for fame or fortune but for the love of the game. I asked Joe what kind of a fellow Harvie was to be around. Joe said Harvie was delightful and treated the caddies well. What a nice thing for Joe to have woven in the fabric of his life, an interaction with Harvie Ward.

Harvie Ward played 8 or 10 times in the Masters. He seemed to have a charmed life until the USGA determined that due to a financial arrangement with his employer, he was no longer an amateur. His employer was Eddie Lowery, a wealthy car dealer. It is interesting to note that as a 10 year old, Eddie Lowery was the caddie of Francis Ouimet, who in 1913, as a 16 year old, won the United States Open. This action against Harvie Ward by the USGA triggered a spiral down fall for Harvey. He basically gave up the game, went through a number of wives and divorces and turned to alcohol. Ultimately, he moved back to his home state of North Carolina, married the right woman, gave up drinking and turned his life around. He started playing golf and teaching golf again. One of his students was Payne Stewart. His story is one of being on the top of the world, a tragic down fall and then redemption. He died in 2004. The life and story of Harvie Ward is compelling to me.

If you are interested in Harvie Ward there are two books that discuss aspects of his life. “The Match” is a terrific book about a four ball match of amateurs Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi playing against Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson at Cypress Point Golf Club in 1956. I read this book a few years ago and then reread it again a couple of weeks ago. This is a capitvating book about what may possibly be the greatest golf match in history on one the most famous golf courses in the world.  The match started out with the four players, the caddies and the sponsors of the bet watching.  By the end of the match an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people had heard about the match in progress and were at Cypress Point to watch history.

The other book you should read is listed above in my recommended books, “A Son of the Game” by James Dodson. I have told some of you that over the last two years I have become email friends with Jim Dodson. I have never met him in person or even talked to him on the phone but we have emailed each other a number of times during the last two years. Jim has written books about Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan. He has written books about travels with his daughter and travels with his son. He wrote a book about gardening. He worked for Golf Digest for 20 years or so. A native of North Carolina Jim moved back to the Pinehurst area (the town of Southern Pines) a few years back. “A Son of the Game” is essentially a sequel to “Final Rounds” that I read in 1996. I probably purchased and gave out 15 copies of Final Rounds over the years. A “Son of the Game” was published last year and I am currently rereading it. It is wonderful book about the forces of life, friends and acquaintances that drew Jim back to North Carolina after 20 years in Maine. Included in the book is a description of Jim’s interaction with Harvie Ward. Jim was lucky enough to have a friendship with Harvie and to have seen him turn his life around. Harvie gave Jim’s teenage son Jack golf lessons. The last time Jim visited Harvie, Harvie gave Jim a putter to give to son Jack. Not long afterward, Harvie passed away.

I have referred “A Son of the Game” to many of you and have bought several copies that I gave to a few of you. I recommend that you read this book. Feel the bond of family, the gravitational pull of the land of Jim’s boyhood calling him back home, and rekindle what golf means to so many of us. Sometimes when we play a lot of golf, we lose some of the thrill of the game.  We lose the feeling of awe of holding clubs, of hitting balls and walking fairways and the other aspects of the game that have compelled us to undertake this endeavor of golf.  It is more than a game.  It is more than a sport. It is a way of life, it is a way of thinking. it is an act of being. Jim Dodson's writing has a way of making you remember, clearly remember, why we play the game.

On Saturday, Sharon and I played with Linda. Linda is a beautiful, fun loving southern bell. Her significant other is Artie, a former PGA tour player who is now a famous golf teacher with the Jim McLean Golf Schools. Artie is a joy to be around. His has a lifetime of golf stories and is an expert golf instructor. Sunday morning before I left for the airport to fly back to Salt Lake, Sharon and I had breakfast at Ironwood. After breakfast I ran into Artie who was getting ready to play golf with Linda. I told Artie I was struggling with how to start my downswing. Artie told me to look at Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons of Golf.  He said the answer was there.  He told me to search the end of the book for the proper sequence of the swing.  He told me to look for it, to search for this part of the book on my own and then to talk to him about it when next we met. Fortunately I had two copies of the book, both in Salt Lake. I must say, I could hardly wait to get off the plane in Salt Lake to look for whatever wisdom might be contained in the Hogan Book. I spent Sunday night reading Mr. Hogan.

So it was a golf and golf related weekend for me. I loved it. Golf begats friends. Golf begats relationships and golf begats stories to cherish.

1 comment:

  1. The purchase of most of the shoes in this blog were instigated by the blogger. Only one pair was purchased by a gift card "won" in a golf guest day.
    The Lovely Sharon.