Brian’s Column: Golf in the Provinces, Part 2

The “golf with my friends” phase

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As I continued to move forward learning “provincial” golf, I would run into friends of mine from an aerospace technology  firm where ten years before I’d done some engineering.  I don’t really remember the sequence, how our Fab Four was initially formed.  But I had started keeping a record of all my rounds of golf from the very first, so it’s in there.

I was asked to play one Saturday with Curly and Mo (not their real names)—it’s always about who can get out; Curly tho married could always get the Saturday kitchen pass, and Mo

being somewhat of a ladies’ man in those days simply decided his main squeeze of the moment would have to get along as best she could without him during that timeframe—early in the season of 1993.  Larry, unattached (to several things as it turns out), became the regular fourth later that year.

I guess you could say it just clicked.  By 1994 we became a Regular Foursome.[1]  I use the initial capital letters to suggest that a Regular Foursome is one of the bigger deals in the known universe… like the mating of wild yaks:

  1. It doesn’t happen that often
  2. It doesn’t last very long when it does happen
  3. Although it’s varyingly painful and enjoyable (for the yaks), outside observers may find the behavior strange bordering on vulgar

(We’re technically still a Regular Foursome, but because two years ago Mo hit the professional high road out of town in pursuit of the legal tender and because I’m often in New Hampshire saving souls for freedom, our regularness now is annual as opposed to weekly.)

If you take a survey around the country among the thousands of foursomes who play a weekly 18-hole round of golf, you will get thousands of different stories on how they started, their unique circumstances of play—public course or country club, early tee times or late, younger or older, richer or poorer, purely social or business related, high-handicap or low, walk or ride, etc.—and what keeps them together sometimes for years.

Probably our only common denominator is: we all enjoy the great outdoors while taking wild swipes at a tiny white projectile and talking guy stuff that takes our minds off anything really important in the grand scheme of the cosmos.

Our own gang of four, for nearly 15 years, liked to play Saturdays on less-expensive public courses we could walk, with tee times in the 10:30 a.m. range allowing us to sleep in a bit.  We now shoot bogey +/- 10.  In the beginning, because I was shooting wretched double bogey, the teams became Larry and I vs. Mo and Curly.

Competition varies depending on the foursome—you have a host of standard ways of playing against one another, from Wolf to Scramble to Nassau—but Our Gang usually takes the best total stroke score per side for a shot and a beer.  I.e. the losing side buys a shot and a beer for each of the winners… followed typically by more separately purchased beers and/or shots, detailed post mortems, and general gloating by the winners with (what I’m sure seems to them) rapier wit.

The competitiveness adds spice to the play.  It also can breed some real-life harshness contrasting to the “big happy family” attitude one takes to the first tee.  Golf, even on a nice day, especially when you’re walking, can become a grind toward round’s end.  One’s thoughts after shanking an iron or stubbing a putt then often turn U-G-L-Y, i.e. “Those bastards have the audacity to breathe during my backswing, I’ll show them!”

Speaking of our gang’s competition, I’m tempted to share the blow by blow of a meltdown suffered by my side of the foursome at a local course.

But I won’t.

It was years ago, so long ago in fact, I doubt that anyone even remembers it.  Suffice to say my team was leading by five strokes going into the 18th, a par five, and we wound up losing the round by six strokes!

There’s a moral to that story, mainly don’t count your chickens even a microsecond before they’ve hatched.  So how does something like an 11-shot swing happen?  It’s actually unbelievably easy.  I’ve seen everything.  You line up your drive carefully, and because of nervousness you hit it directly off the toe of the club 20 yards at a right angle to the target line.  Or you hit three tee shots out of bounds.  Or hit so far under the ball it pops up and lands on your head.  Or you’re in the middle of the fairway a hundred yards out after a great tee shot, and you take eight more strokes to get down: gross mishit, chunk, chili dip, blade, whiff, chunk, stub putter, miss a two-footer.

Per the Law of Regular Foursomes, no one is immune.

[1] My good friend and former English golf professional Mr. Peter Shanks (sic) informs me that technically a foursome is where one pair of competitors plays another pair of competitors and each side plays one ball, with each member of the pair taking alternate shots.  But what the heck, most people on this side of the pond think of foursomes as four people playing golf together.

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