It was club day at the golf course but the car park was nearly empty. I had decided it was at least worthwhile getting out of my car – perhaps the rain would seem less substantial if it fell on me rather than the windshield. Hank emerged from down by the office and looked up expectantly. “Are you planning to play?” he asked. He said, “I was about to leave because there is nobody here wanting to play”. I was not surprised by his revelation – it was overcast, raining, blowing from the south, and pretty damn cold. Also, I suspected the greens were already approaching unplayable given there was a newly formed stream running down the 3rd fairway.
“I might give it go” I said. “Let’s check out the greens – see if they are flooded”. We had a bit of a look from a vantage point near the office. Things didn’t look too bad, and the sky was looking a little brighter. Serious golfers are ever optimistic about the weather and, in any case, serious golfers have serious wet-weather gear. We agreed to play.
I returned from my brief warm-up to find Hank sorting through his golf bag. I wasn’t sure what he was looking for but he eventually found it. He muttered something about this and that and “I am currently sleeping in my car” he said. I pondered this for a while and then felt I no choice but to inquire: “Why are you sleeping in your car?” Hank looked up, as he returned tees, markers, balls, and assorted junk to his bag. “The police are after me. There is warrant out so I am staying out of their way – I can’t go home.”
I was slightly nonplussed by this, but Hank had plenty more to say. “I have been in trouble with them before. One day they turned up and handcuffed me and threw me in a straightjacket. Boy did I get mad. I don’t like being restrained – I got partly free and broke the nose on one of them.”
“Oh”, I said.
Hank continued. “And these new meds don’t seem to be working that well. I might seem calm on the outside, but inside I am filled with rage”.
I don’t know Hank well at all and I briefly imagined myself muttering something about the weather looking much worse and hurriedly returning to my car. However, I recalled that I had survived at least two rounds of golf with Hank. Not only was he a good player, but he played by the rules – and therefore, his character, in my eyes, was beyond reproach. We set off for the first tee.
The greens were flooded to the extent that we didn’t do much putting. Golf balls do not roll through water very well. For short putts we hit them very hard and straight (if we could); since the hole was filled to the brim with water, if you were straight and you made the hole you were in! For long putts, you simply had to chip instead, aiming to carry nearly to the pin because the causal water would stop you almost every time.
The weather was kind to us for the first 8 holes and then we were drenched. By the 12th I was thinking about packing it in. However, Hank had shared more of his life – he used golf like a medicine – this round was a part of his therapy. If I had left the course he would have played on alone. Since hypothermia was a possibility (for both of us) I didn’t think I could leave him alone. Also, there is a certain pleasure in defeating the elements and completing a round of golf in atrocious conditions. What’s more, it is a wonderful test of your technique and a great reminder to not grip the clubs too tightly – when everything is wet you can barely grip the clubs at all.
We returned to the clubhouse completely soaked but in good spirits. Hank was grateful for my perseverance. “See you next week” I said confidently, knowing that whatever the weather, and police permitting, Hank would be there.