• ruthannelphillips

When a man loves a woman

I am not a golfer. However, I was raised amongst golfers. My father and brothers are excellent players. When I was growing up, all I knew was when my dad or brothers golfed in the nineties, they were unhappy, and when they golfed in the seventies, they were glad. I thought this was true for everyone. When I went to Hawaii with my friend and her parents at seventeen, they golfed in the low one hundreds, and I remarked that they must have played terribly. Icily, I was informed that "most players golf in the one hundreds, and anything less than that, is exceptional." This was when I realized I was surrounded by exceptional golfers.


The first time I played golf was at a best ball insurance tournament in the early nineties. I was the only woman there, and I had invited myself as a way to try and blast my way through the "Glass Ceiling" and "Good Old Boy" mentality that permeated the insurance industry at the time. Since I had never played golf before, I realized that my decision to play was probably rash and ill advised. I had never hit a golf ball in my entire life; Putt-Putt excluded.


Two days before the tournament, my brother took me to a public golf course to teach me the golfing fundamentals. These tips included how not to look like a fool on the first tee while everyone was watching, and how to throw out words like "dog leg," "birdie," and "bogey," as a subterfuge that I was actually a skilled and knowledgeable player.


I arrived to the tournament two hours early. My brother had recommended this so I could practice my putting, and possibly hit a few balls at the driving range. He was adamant that I could NOT duff it off the first tee, regardless of how badly things may proceed from there. After the first tee, he assured me, I could always lie, claim illness, or blame my partners for any inadequacies in my game.


Unfortunately, I found the open bar before I found the practice green. Four shots of tequila, two Bloody Mary's, and two hours later - remarkably, I did manage to hit a low, straight, but bouncing ball off the ladies tee. My brother would have referred to it as "adequately inferior." I relished the fact that I neither hit the ground with my club nor another player with the ball - and in my pickled state - I considered my first shot a huge success.


My father has always promoted my adult golfing career. He tells me that if I practice I will make an excellent golfer. Furthermore, he has advised that since my husband golfs, "you can golf together in your twilight years." I have heard him use this type of logic on my mother for the past forty years and to the best of my knowledge, my mother and father do not golf together. It appears to me that my father's attempts to get my mother to golf - in the twilight or otherwise - have been met with stubborn resistance and annoyance.


Believing that my father may have imparted some sage advice, I decided to give golf a chance and accompanied my husband to the Palmdale Country Club to get more information about leagues, lessons, and tournaments for women. When we asked the club pro about the services, he told us that there was a Best Ball Women's Tournament the following day and they were in need of one more player. I politely refused. I was still not confident about my ability to actually play golf - let alone being able to smack the ball off the first tee twice in one lifetime. Not to be dissuaded, the pro called for reinforcements and I was soon surrounded by the Ladies Golf Club begging me to play in the tournament. They said I would be doing them a favor. Please note those famous last words.


The following day, much to my dismay - and hers - I was paired with the reigning club champion. She was a methodical, pursed-lipped, perfectly manicured, immaculately dressed, sober woman - the exact opposite of me. And apparently; Golf. Was. Her. Life. Her hair was coiffed in the shape of a black, motionless helmet, and a pale pink visor protruded from her forehead. Needless to say, she neither appreciated my happy-go-lucky attitude or my unconventional style of play. I was the club's Rodney Dangerfield, and everything I did repulsed her.


For a small portion of the day, I was still under the mistaken impression that I was doing these women a favor by being in the tournament. But, by the tenth snort and fiftieth eye roll, I realized I was a disease on the course that needed to be eradicated. The more disgusted my partner became, the worse I did. For a time I attempted to please her. But later, I was hoping I would hit her with a ball, knocking out one of her teeth, while blood stained her beautiful lemon yellow and pink Lacoste sweater. Or perhaps my back swing could have given her a black eye that matched her lavender golf club covers.


That we finished in the middle of the pack that day was a testament to the skill and prowess of my partner. Overall, I was pleased with the result. However, my partner was not. Not. At. All. The next day she had withdrawn us from the tournament. Being in the middle of the pack was not an adequate spot for the club champion. With neither my knowledge, nor consent, we were removed from the tournament and my partner offered to give me a lesson.


Ouch. Lesson learned.


I actually cried. A grown, mother of three. Mother of teenagers even. I cried. And I didn't just cry, I bawled. I was humiliated and hurt and I hated golf and every woman who was a member of the Palmdale Ladies Golf Club. My husband bore witness to my pain, and as a gentleman golfer, he was outraged at the way I had been treated. And when a man loves a woman, especially a man who is a par golfer, revenge is sweet.


I did not play golf again for a very long time, but when I saw a flier for a Valentine's Day Best Ball Sweetheart Tournament at the Palmdale Country Club, I thought of my father's words about sharing the twilight years and I asked Pat if he wanted to play as a team in the tournament. He was incredulous that I would give golf another go and he happily accepted. The great thing about a best ball tournament is that only one of you has to be any good, and when you are surrounded by exceptional golfers, good things happen. Lucky me. My husband is exceptional.


And just like the perfect ending to a perfect romantic comedy, my husband and I kicked butt, proving there is both a god and good karma. Because not only did I get Closest to the Pin, we beat the club champion, won 350.00 bucks, and I got to take home the leading man.


Over the years, the story keeps growing. Like a great fish story, we relish the retelling and I always add new embellishments. Like how - after picking up our award - I sauntered by the club champion's table, and when our eyes met, I saw her look of surprise and recognition. And maybe, just maybe, she choked a little bit as she was sipping her drink, and darned if a spurt of purple grape juice didn't come out of her nose and stain her perfectly pressed mint green polo sweater.


Now that's a tale to enjoy in the twilight years.

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