Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Hole In One

"Dave, I am five years older than you. I will always be a better pool player because I've got five more years of experience playing the game." Well, he did have his own cue stick.

"Dave, I am five years older than you. I will always be a better poker player because I've got five more years of experience playing the game." Well, we did usually play in his basement, with his cards.

For years, that's what I heard from my friend, Frank. No matter what I strove to do in the realm of sports, he would, almost always, beat me as far as he was concerned. Of course, I could never quite grasp his logic, but I did, and do, understand the power of confidence and the pitfalls of a self inflated ego when playing one on one sports. Granted, percentage wise, he did beat me, but I've never based results on experience only. Experience doesn't deal an ace into your hand. One thing sticks out in my mind though. When he won, he took great pleasure rubbing salt into the wound, but I recall times when I was filled with tons of confidence and mopped the floor up with him, too. I remember a night of pool playing and strategy won for me. Did I ever rub it in? Of course not. I always told him, "Frank, you might be five years older than me and in some things, better, but you're not taking my intellect into account. If you figure my brain power into the equation, you'll find that, in the end, I am way smarter than you." I don't think he ever agreed with me, but he never argued, either. "You see, Frank, western thinking often tends to dichotomize phenomenon into either/or categories, whereas, a both/and perspective might prove more fruitful in analysis."

One summer, I headed up from Florida to my best friend, Stewart's house in New Jersey. I usually arrived for our annual "Big Chill" party in Beach Haven a day or two early. I liked it that way because I had some time to revisit old haunts and run into old friends in Flemington, where I was from, before we made our trek "down the shore" for the week, a phrase only a Joisey native would recognize and completely comprehend.

Usually, our beach parties lasted one long weekend before many of our friends had to drive home to resume their usual work routine. That generally left Stewart, his wife and kids, and me to fend for ourselves. Sometimes, Stewart and I would gather a few male friends together and we'd drive up to New York City for a night of fun. We'll leave it at that. One particular year, Stewart planned a mid-week golf outing for me, his former business partner and a mutual friend. Well, it sounded like a fun day, but if you did a reality check, I was never close to being a real golfer, by any means, and neither were the other guys, really.

I think I discussed the upcoming golf game with Frank that weekend because I can still hear him tell me that I'd never be as good a golfer as him, in spite of the fact that I can't recall ever seeing him play, let alone talk about the game until he knew I was going to play. And because of Frank's sniveling, narcissistic and condescending insolence, I became highly motivated to prove him wrong. I decided to do something few people do. I was going to hit a hole-in-one.

I didn't know exactly when the time was going to be right for me to hit the hole-in-one, but I was confident I would. We borrowed a video camera to capture our game and the precise moment I would make golfing history, if not to most of my friends, then at least, to Frank. That was all that mattered.

The day started off innocuous enough. It was a sunny summer morning, quite typical of July in New Jersey. We all met at the golf course for our 9:00 AM tee time. I think we got there around 8:00 or so, to have coffee and donuts. Plus, I needed to rent clubs because I am left handed. We milled around talking to fellow golfers, biding our time for when I would become a living legend, and began shooting video footage of our pre-game antics, warming up for the big event. Ironically, the video camera we used belonged to Frank. Talk about rubbing dirt in someone's face. More like a divot, actually.

Stewart knew from past experience playing at Lakewood Country Club that the front nine was open and flat and the back nine was tight and hilly, so we played the back that day. The signature 15th hole is a par 3 that requires a shot over a small river to the green. I had no idea how our game was going to go, but after playing a few holes I was ahead of everyone else. This was completely strange since I would readily own up to the fact that my golf prowess was nowhere close to how I thought the other guys would play. I guessed wrong, obviously. I wouldn't say I was tearing up the course, but I did see some grass fly. I even managed to hit a few balls into the woods. "Thunk," I heard a few times as the ball bounced off a trunk. But hey, I was the leader. On paper. Rule #1 on scoring - bring your own pencil. With an eraser.

Sometimes, we worked the camera. Other times we just played and had fun revving around in our gas powered carts. I don't know why Stewart chose to turn the camera on for that fateful 15th hole, just as I was ready to whack the ball over the river and onto the green. I took a couple of practice swings and then, BAM, just like that, it was done. The whole thing was captured on video, including a closeup of the ball rolling into the cup.

"Was that a hole-in-one?" one of the guys yelled to the foursome playing ahead of us.

"Yes! It was a hole-in-one. Great shot, Dave!" Wow, I was ecstatic. I dropped my club and jumped up and down. I couldn't believe I did it, let alone the fact that the video camera was rolling. What a stroke of luck.

"Wait 'til Frank hears about this," I said. Stewart and the other guys took turns congratulating me and shaking my hand. Then, we all laughed.

"Good thing I had the camera on, Dave," Stewart said. "He would never believe this." Oh, the magic of television.

We finished our 9 holes and went back to the pro shop to turn in our scores, my clubs, and to let them know about my hole-in-one. All of the guys walking around congratulated me. I have no idea how they knew, but I guess news can sometimes travel as fast as a New York second in parts of New Jersey. Wow! The resident golf pro gave me an application to fill out that he would sign off on and send to the PGA for a hole-in-one certificate. This whole thing was so surreal.

"Let's head on over to the clubhouse for a drink." Stewart said. That brought me back to earth.

"You know I can't afford to buy everyone a drink, Stew." I responded. The custom is to buy everyone a drink at the 19th hole after you hit a hole-in-one. I could never understand that. It should be the other way around. The guys told me not to worry, that they'd chip in. They must have, too, because a couple of beers later, the camera panned the long bar with everyone holding up their drinks to toast me.

"Congratulations, Dave, on your hole-in-one!!!" they all yelled. Soon after, the bartender brought me a shot of tequila and told me it was on the house. Down the hatch that Cuervo went. The crowd roared with enthusiasm and with that, our golf outing came to a glorious end.

Each year, I edited all of the footage we shot during our entire "Big Chill" week. I tried to turn it into something that flowed and something that made us all laugh. Frank always had a final dinner party the night before I flew home. After eating, we would gather around his television set to watch how I wove everything together. When Frank saw our golf adventure, he couldn't believe it. No way was I going to outplay him at anything. "NO WAY!" he screamed. "No way you hit a hole in one. I can't even do that!" Of course, he had to ask the other guys if it was true.

"Yup." He had to believe it. "We saw it with our own eyes."

"Frank? I one-upped you. I don't think you'll ever top me on that one."

"Alright. OK. You got me, Dave, but you know I don't play golf much."

"Neither do I, Frank, neither do I. "

Maybe Frank is better at some things, but I will always know how to outsmart him. Especially when the proof is captured on video.

©2008 David B. Knechel

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