“You live for this tournament, don’t you?” Gwen asked with an undercurrent that intimated of misbegotten priorities, misspent youth and miss whomever it is you see while you escape to your old stomping ground.
‘Whaddya mean?” Banes replied with articulation befitting the circumstances. He knew that she was referring to the annual member-guest he played in every year at GC Golf Club.
Banes’ wife just glared at him and declared, “You know damn well what I mean.” He gave her a wink, grabbed his golf bag and made for the door when she added, “Just make sure you bring home the crystal.”
Ah, the crystal. The prize coveted by the wives of all the Neanderthals who played in this tourney. Banes and his partner Dick had gotten their hands on it year one, a Waterford salad bowl bearing the club’s attractive thistle logo. But now seven years later, he was due to once again return home bearing some booty. Or he sure as hell wouldn’t be getting any.
Banes had known Dick Yaprickya, as he’d always called him, since he could tie his shoelaces. Dick had been a legend around the golf club ever since the ballwasher incident, an unfortunate event that occurred at the tournament a few years ago. It happened shortly after he and Banes had teed off on number 7, when they heard some guys bellow out from an adjoining fairway.
Turned out it was a couple of their high school buddies, Cavanaugh and Hedge, who were also playing in the member-guest. While most players walked with caddies, Banes and Yaprickya, due to their proficiency at the game, were in the Z-flight and relegated to riding due to a shortage of bag sherpas.
They were about to drive off in their cart when the guys called their names and they turned and hurled a few expletives back at them. Problem was, Dick had his foot on the gas and proceeded to run over the ballwasher, shearing it from its mooring.
Next thing you know, the cart was stuck on top of the severed hunk of iron, and they weren’t going anywhere. Banes got out and tried to lift it off while Yaprickya gunned it, but all Banes got was a face full of mud.
By this time, Cavanaugh and Hedge were rolling on the fairway. That evening over cocktails on the back porch, the club president presented Dick with a driver’s license application while the crowd broke out in a chorus of “I’m A Ballwasher” to the tune of “Girlwatcher,” a catchy little tune they sang repeatedly that evening.
But there would be no ballwasher fiascos this year. Banes and Yaprickya were here to win, dammit. Baby needs new Waterford. And while there was no guarantee this year wouldl be any different than the last five, they were always assured of at least bringing home the annual gift to the players. Last year it was a coffee table book detailing the history of the club. This year, it was a small black leatherette suitcase on wheels. With any luck, Banes would be wheeling home the crystal in it.
Friday was a breathtaking day, particularly if you were walking the course with a stogie hanging from your lips. They would play three nine-hole matches today, followed by two the next. They’d be done by Saturday afternoon, and still have time to spend half the weekend with their wives, if they weren’t busy checking into the Betty Ford Clinic. Or the fat farm.
At breakfast they were treated to sausage, bacon, eggs, and bloodies. Lunch was a light repast of burgers, brats, dogs and beer. Then dinner found them shoving a boatload of fried shrimp and cherrystones into their pie holes, followed by brisket, tar tar, sauerbraten and 24-ounce steaks that were four inches thick. Dessert was an angioplasty.
And in between all the food was the incessant flow of beer, scotch or whatever lit their fire. For Dick Yaprickya, it was rum. Knowing that, Banes had a bottle of Mount Gay stashed in his bag that they began to delve into by the 2nd hole of the first match. Their opponents were both unnerved and horrified that they were hitting the bottle so hard so early. But for Banes and Yaprickya, there was always a lot of catching up to do, as it was the only time the wives permitted them to get together all year.
By the 4th hole, Dick was in the woods whacking at his ball, but it ricocheted off two trees and flew out of bounds. He meant to say “More rum” but instead mangled the phrase into what would become their war cry for the day: “RORE MUM!” When one of them made a great shot you could hear the “RORE MUM!” from three fairways away. Horrendous shots were also followed by the cry, as half the bottle of Mount Gay was consumed by the end of the match, which they somehow won. ‘We’re going to have to pace ourselves to get through these next two matches,” Banes said to Dick.
“Rore mum,” Yaprickya replied, taking another slug.
To keep their wits sharp, they decided to place a side bet for the eighteen holes they still had to play that day. They batted around the idea of most fairways or greens hit in regulation, but yearned for a more creative bet. What they settled on was the least amount of putts with a $20/putt differential. So if Yaprickya had twenty putts and Banes had thirty six, Yaprickya would win $320. They figured it was painful enough to keep them focused on their game.
What made it really interesting was that any putting from off the green didn’t count as a putt. So they became the lunatic fringe, always hoping for the apron of the green rather than the center. This mystified their next opponents much like the rum did during their first match, and before they could recover, Banes and Yaprickya duked it out on the greens, and wound up with thirteen putts and fourteen respectively. Not bad for nine holes. Two matches down, and they had seven points on the board having won 3-up and 4-up. Dick let out an extremely loud and extenuated “ROOOOORE MUM!” and Banes passed him the bottle shutting him up before the guys on the first tee could come over and shove their Pro V1s in his trap.
“Maybe we ought to double the putting wager on the next nine,” Banes suggested.
“You got your ATM card witchoo?” Dick slurred when he finally freed the bottle from his lips. “C’mon, I’ll buy you a burger with my future winnings.”
They inhaled a couple of obscenely large and rare burgers and then proceeded to the first tee for their last match of the day. Waiting for them were Cavanaugh and Hedge, who in the last two years had padded their handicaps enough to slide into the same distinguished flight as Banes and Yaprickya.
“Side?” asked Cav as they teed up. “Absolutely,” Dick replied and told the guys about the putting side bet he and Banes had going. They decided they wanted in, and the four of them wound up playing for $40 per putt per team.
“Good luck, girls,” Cav said before rocketing one right down the middle. Hedge followed him and sprayed his off to the right into the driving range. “Better reload,” he muttered and smacked one right next to Cavanaugh’s. “Second guy’s good.” Yaprickya took them out with a Mount Gay-fueled draw that started out over the bunkers on the right side of the fairway and then bent left landing in the center of the short grass twenty yards beyond Cav and Hedge.
Banes came at them from the opposite direction, and sailed a fade to fairway right just short of his partner. That left Cav and Hedge each with about 120 yards to the green, Banes with 115, and Dick with only 100.
Cav pureed a wedge, but a tailwind caught it and took it over the green into the back bunker. “Son of a beach!” he cursed. Hedge swung an easy nine and hit it pin high, but hung it out to the right in the four-inch rough.
“Door’s open,” Dick said as Banes got ready to hit. But the door slammed shut when Banes shanked it into the fescue.
“Hey Ravi Shankar, stick with the sitar,” Dick said to his partner.
“Hey Yaprickya, worry about your own damn ball.”
Dick did just that. He hit a dead solid perfect 52° wedge to within three feet. Banes handed him the bottle and dropped another ball hitting a beauty a foot inside of Dick’s. ‘Well, I may not be in the hole, but my putting bet is still alive.”
Dick and Banes ham and egged it to go 3-up coming into 9, and a putt ahead in the side bet. Cav and Hedge pressed, figuring it’s the only shot they have at evening the bet, and the adrenaline surge was palpable.
“You’re on, you pathetic low life three-putters,” Dick graciously accepted the press.
The finishing hole was a short par four at only 340 yards with a slight dogleg right, but there was plenty of trouble between tee and green. Cav and Hedge played it smart, taking out irons and staking their claim to the fairway. Dick pulled some grass out of the ground and tossed it in the air observing that the wind was behind him. Armed with that newfound knowledge and his Big Bertha driver, he stepped up to the ball and took a huge whack at it. The ball was beautifully struck, but pulled a tad, and it sailed into the long grass just short and left of the green.
“Bertha don’t you come around here anymore,” he said to his club.
“Grateful Dead, how appropriate,” Hedge said basking in the glee that comes from lying in the fairway with a press riding on the hole.
Banes was about to step up to the tee with a 4- iron, but decided life is too short to practice safe golf. So he went back to his bag for his driver.
“Now you’re cooking with gas,” his partner said. Banes took a supercharged practice swing chasing the butterflies away, and then struck the ball with a nice, rhythmic full swing. His Titleist sailed out over the chasm on the right, and then drew back looking like it might actually make the green.
Only one thing stood in its way – an immense oak tree.
“Ninety percent air,” he prayed, but it was punctuated by the sound of his ball striking wood. “Anyone see where that dropped?” he asked, but all he got was shrugged shoulders.
Cav and Hedge were halfway down the fairway when Banes passed them doing his best Sergio sprint. He scanned the horizon but it was clear his ball wasn’t on the fairway or the green. He wandered over to the tree and sitting just to the right of its massive trunk was his ball.
“How the hell am I going to get a club on that?” he wanted to say but the only words that came out were, “RORE MUM!”
Their opponents hit some well-struck balls and left themselves a couple of long putts for birdie. Dick was hip-deep in the long grass looking for his ball. And Banes stood over his ball wishing he had a left-handed club in his bag.
Only one thing to do. He took out his Zaap putter and started taking some left-handed practice swings. The Zaap had a two-inch slot on the back of the head that made it easy to scoop up the ball after a putt.
“If I strike it just right, I might get lucky,” he thought to himself.
Meanwhile, Dick found his ball and managed to hack it out of the long grass to the fringe of the green. He was a happy man until he saw Banes with the putter.
‘What are you, out of your mind?!?”
“Eat me,” Banes replied. Yaprickya just shook his head and said, “Take a good look around, Banes. It’s the last time you’re ever gonna see the place.”
“Eat me,” Banes repeated before taking a swipe at the ball lefty with the back of the putter sending it shooting out in a low trajectory much hotter than he’d have liked. It slammed into the side of a pot bunker and bounced nearly straight up landing on the green at the top of a tier before cascading slowly down toward the cup where it stopped seven or eight inches from nirvana. Dick just looked at him, and picked up on the newfound phrase, “Eat me.” He liked it and latched on to it like it was a mantra that took him one step closer to enlightenment. “Eat me,” he repeated, hugging Banes. “EAT ME!”
“YOU DOG YOU,” Cavanaugh groused. “You nearly just eagled the damn hole. One of us has to sink this, Hedgie,” he said not so much as an observation, but as a command to himself and his partner.
Only problem was his putt had to essentially roll off the green and back on if it was going to have a chance of going in the cup. While he was coming to that realization, Hedge lined up his birdie attempt and was about to putt when Cav said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t leave it short.”
It was a good putt, but had just a hair too much steam on it and didn’t take all the break and instead rimmed out and came back at Hedge like a boomerang. “How did that not go in?” he wondered.
“Pick it up,” Dick said, giving him the rest. He then lagged from just off the green to within a foot and they gave him the par.
“That’s a one putt,” he reminded Banes, rubbing in the fact that he’d just won their side bet. Cavanaugh was well aware of what it meant to their bet, too. He pulled out his lob wedge and with the kind of concentration only a man wearing plaid pants can summon up, hit a high arcing shot that landed two feet beyond the cup and just when Banes and Yaprickya thought they’d won the match, the bet and the press, the ball spun back into the hole with authority.
“YEAH BABY!” Hedge whooped, giving his partner a high five. ‘We may have lost the match, but we won the press and halved the bet. RORE MUM THAT GIRLS.”
But the bottle was dry. They made a beeline to the clubhouse to remedy the situation and sat on the back porch reliving the day and eventually some of the misdeeds they committed while in high school together.
“Remember that night you were out here drinking with Fresno and you accidentally set the rain hut on fire?” Hedge asked Dick.
“Accidentally?” Yaprickya raised an eyebrow. “You should have seen us run when the cops and the entire firehouse descended on us. Fresno didn’t really know the lay of the land and ran full bore into one of the pot bunkers on 12. Even over the sirens you could hear the bone in his thigh crack. He spent the next six months in a cast.”
“Yeah, and you spent it on probation,” Banes reminded him. “You were lucky they didn’t lock you up for that stunt.”
The conversation meandered until Cavanaugh overheard one of the members talking about this year’s gift to the players. “That piece of shit on wheels?” Cav asked none-too-softly. His Irish was clearly up. He thought the suitcase was an abomi- nation, and railed about it until someone said, “Tell us what you really think.” So Cav went into the locker room, got his gift and his 9-iron, and re-emerged asking, “You wanna know what I really think?”
With that he started wailing on the suitcase until his club snapped in two. That just pissed him off even more, and much to the delight of the crowd he began kicking the bag and jumping on it until it resembled breakfast at IHOP. But instead of topping it with maple syrup, he went over to the grill, grabbed the lighter fluid and dragged the flattened suitcase into a neighboring sand trap before dousing it with the fluid.
“Anyone got a light?” he asked, and Hedge came to his aid with a match. As the thing burst into flames, the audience burst into applause. Then, one by one, the rest of the Cro-Magnons retrieved their roller bags and tossed them into the flames until they had a roaring bonfire of the insanities.
Needless to say, there were some bloodshot eyes around the breakfast table in the morning, but it was all business as the players went to the first tee. Crews had been hard at work for hours already, manicuring the course, cutting the greens and rolling them, and cleaning up the horrific mess the cavemen had made the night before.
Yaprickya and Banes had won all three of their matches Friday, but Saturday morning the weather changed and a steady drizzle threatened to put out their fire. Banes put on a new rain suit. Dick wore a flimsy wind shirt.
By the time they reached the 9th tee in their first match of the day, the wind had shifted into high gear and the rain was coming down sideways. It was a miracle if you could swing the club and keep it from going further than the ball. What turned out to be even more miraculous was that they won the match and were 4 and 0 going into their final battle.
The thrill of that realization was tempered by the rain coming down. Dick, who was absolutely drenched, looked at Banes and said, “Let’s go in.”
“What are you crazy? We’ve got to play those guys coming up 9.”
“I gotta take a dump,” he said. It was somewhat inconvenient in that they were about as far from the clubhouse as you can be.
“There’s no time,” Banes said. “Hold it till we get done with this last match.”
“I’m going to the maintenance shack,” Dick insisted before darting off into the woods towards the little building used by the guys who work on the course.
The other team arrived, and they stood in the rain with Banes waiting for Dick to show. Polite conversation devolved into derisive jokes. “Maybe it’s stuck. Can you imagine shitting out one of those steaks we ate last night?” asked the obstetrician on the team. “Yeah, Doc, go get your forceps and help him out,” his partner urged.
They laughed while Banes chewed on his fingernails through his golf glove knowing that if Dickie boy didn’t show soon, he’d have to play these guys single-handedly.
What seemed like a century later, Godot reappeared in a yellow poncho that was about five sizes too small for his Flintstonian frame. ‘Where the Sam Snead have you been?” Banes asked. “And where the hell are your clothes?”
And this is where Dick Yaprickya told a little tale of woe that would go down in the annals of the GC Golf Club as a fitting sequel to his legendary ballwasher fiasco.
“First thing I saw when I entered the maintenance shack was a microwave. So I stripped down to nothing but my FootJoys and placed my sopping clothes in the oven.”
The three of them groaned in utter amazement.
Dick continued, “Since they were light colored, I put it on the poultry setting, and nuked them while I tended to my business. Then I smelled something disgusting, and by the time I could get back to the microwave, all that was left was a charred and melted heap.”
So here he was on the tenth tee in a borrowed poncho clearly belonging to someone several inches shorter and a few dozen pounds lighter, while the rest of his foursome was busting a gut.
”You can’t possibly swing a club in that thing,” Banes said and set about figuring out how Yaprickya could play the match. The answer was on his golf bag: an oversized, half-drenched Garden City Golf Club towel he’d had the foresight to pick up in the pro shop that morning.
Dick wrung it out and wrapped it around his waist, securing it with the metal clasp that moments ago held it to Banes’ bag, and ditched the poncho. As if on cue, the skies cleared, they teed off, and walked on down the tenth fairway into the sunlight.
It was a heated match that rarely shed blood. By the time they reached the last hole, they were right where they started: All square.
18 was a 157-yard par three over a pond to a large but difficult green protected by pot bunkers, which Hedge and Banes both found with their tee shots. Cavanaugh hit it to 10 feet, and Dick responded putting his ball about a foot closer to the pin.
Dick turned to Cavanaugh and said, “Just call me Rock Hudson.”
“Why’s that?” Cav asked.
“I’m inside you.”
“You are one twisted son of a bitch, you know that?” Cavanaugh put his arm around his old friend and gave him a hug.
As they approached the 18th green, a number of golfers were sitting on the clubhouse porch and at the sight of Dick in nothing but a golf towel, they rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation.
Banes and Hedge both made good bunker shots and salvaged pars. Now Cavanaugh could take a good run at his birdie opp. He looked at the putt from both sides, and then straddled his line so he could get a feel for the break. “Maybe a cup out?” Hedge threw in his 2¢. “I like that,” said Cav. A silence fell over the green as he took a practice stroke and then gently tapped the downhill putt which looked good the whole way until the ball stopped on the lip of the hole. “Ohhhh!” the crowd on the back porch groaned.
As Dick stepped up to his putt, someone in the crowd yelled, “Let’s go Yaprickya!” and Dick putt a good stroke on the ball and it found the bottom of the cup.
The crowd roared as Dick whipped off the towel and did a little dance in his birthday suit, waving the golf towel over his head in the brisk October air.
“Must be cold out there!” someone yelled from the porch.
When Banes arrived home later that night, he handed Gwen a bouquet of roses and this year’s prize, a crystal vase with the thistle logo etched on it. She put the roses in the vase, placed it on the mantle and said, “Congratulations, Tiger. I knew you could do it.” With that she gave him a kiss.
“You know she’s right,” Banes thought to himself. “I do live for this weekend.”