They just played The PGA at Bethpage Black. One of the regular bits of info the announcers dropped in was that golfers line up in cars and spend the night to get a tee time - which might be late in the afternoon - to play the course. You might say - this story is based in fact...sad, dumb, weird fact. Larry
The Traylor County Council recently discussed the controversial topic of changing the way local citizens get weekend tee times at Slippery Meadows Golf Course. The changes have been discussed for months in Council meetings, the Media and now in open court.
One witness speaking in favor of the change was Attorney Morris “Mo” Gaylock. He represents a Golfer who was recently sent to the State Psycho Hospital for the Mentally Untenable in Tilda’s Bend. Attorney Gaylock presented a portion of the man's Diary as evidence the current procedure needs to change to "a system less destructive to families, relationships, the body and the mind."
The current "Racking System" requires someone from a Foursome to remain on the grounds the entire night previous to a round of Golf on Saturday or Sunday in order to obtain a morning tee time. Those opposing the change say the Racking System is a tradition that separates wannabe golfers from real golfers. Mickey Dogslaw and Elmer Pittswheel, longtime members of the Men’s Club at Slippery Meadows, are behind the legal effort to block proposed changes.
Attorney Gaylock, who is also representing the Golfer in his divorce, presented these rambling notes of his client, taken from his personal Diary. As he began to read, Gaylock asked Judge Dackie Donson and the jury to “listen carefully to the tortured life that unfolds before you, as he puts us in his shoes for ‘racking duty.’”
5:30 p.m. Arrived home from work on time. Marilyn reminded me of 50th anniversary party for her parents at 7. Reminded her this was my week to rack. Think she understood the situation. As she took the kids and left the house, she said next time she'd see me would be "in Hell." Boy, is she ever right! Those anniversary parties can be brutal! Just enough time to chip a few balls before I shower for the party!
7:00 p.m. Arrived at 50th anniversary party on time! Must admit, wearing Golf shirt to a black-tie affair caused a few stares. Told "Dad" (I hate calling him that), that it was my Friday to rack. He nodded. But said, "Don't mention that to 'Mom.'" Turns out I didn't have to. She saw my Callaway hat from across the room. Said something like, "At least you didn't wear your spikes in here!" I didn't have the heart to tell her, I was wearing soft-spikes.
7:25 p.m. Getting antsy. The "pre-line" for spots is forming earlier and earlier. If I'm too late, I might not get a shot at a good number! Dinner's supposed to be at 8:00. That's waaay too late. I'll feign stomach cramps and leave in 15 minutes.
7:28 p.m. Marilyn asked me to leave, because I didn't "fit in." I think she was just being nice. As I left, Tommy asked me if he would ever see me again. I reminded him. "I'm just racking!" What a kid. Diary! Remind me about this: Tomorrow evening when I get home, I'll have to ask her why there are suitcases in the back seat of her car.
7:40 p.m. Arrived at the course! Sure enough three guys were here ahead of me. But, at least I know I'm in line to get a number to get a spot to get a tee time! What a relief! Last week, Al didn't get here until almost 11, ended up 31st in line! Luckily, he got number 2 out of the hat! What was he thinking? Nothing to do now until 11. Think I'll try some putting.
8:05 p.m. Lost 50-dollars putting with two guys I don't know. I need to be more careful about that. I'm pretty sure one of them had his name sewn on his bag.
8:15 p.m. Two more cars just drove up. Poor guys! There's four cars ahead of them! One of 'em's me! Maybe I'll listen to the radio for a while.
8:22 p.m. Whew! Forgot what talk radio sounds like these days after dark! Man, there are a TON of weird people on this planet. Thank my lucky stars I'm normal!
8:45 p.m. Just talked with Norm. Says they might go to a different system of picking tee times next year. Some kind of telephone deal. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't want to mess up my family life with a bunch of calls at 7 in the morning! That would be very disruptive.
9:07 p.m. Less than two hours 'til the draw. Wonder if I should call Marilyn. Probably still at that party. Poor Marilyn!
10:23 p.m. Must have dozed off with the radio on. Cool air coming through the open window gave me a bit of a stiff neck. Battery dead. Hope somebody has jumper cables! Tried calling Marilyn. Still not home. Must be some party!
10:34 p.m. Charlie, from the Pro Shop just drove up. Looks angry as usual. I hear Charlie worked at two different jobs for 19 and a half years each...and was fired both times just before he became vested in his retirement plan. So, he got a part-time job at the course...but can't afford to play. Maybe that's why he's so nasty. Or, maybe it's just because he has to stay up all night every Friday during the Summer!
10:45 p.m. Must be 50 cars in line now! Guys are getting a little pushy. Charlie's had to wave a Big Bertha around in a big circle to keep us back from the hat. One more call to Marilyn. No answer. Glad to see she's having fun at Mom and Dad's 50th.
10:59 p.m. Drawing next! I'll let you know what happens!
11:03 p.m. What a rip! I was the fourth guy in line. I sat here all night. Right? Right! So, here I am...number four! I reach into the hat...and pull out #36! I could end up with a tee time in the afternoon! Nothing to do now, but wait all night...and hope somebody ahead of me wimps out.
PS: Marilyn still not home. Hope she didn't have car trouble.
1:07 a.m. Woke up with the shifter pushing my spleen. Lower back went into spasms. Shook it off, got out my five iron and did a 30 minute "loosening" program.
1:48 a.m. First "loser" is discovered missing from car. Number 12 is "outa' here!" I'm up to #35! Still a long way to go!
2:04 a.m. Can't get back to sleep. Should I call Marilyn? Better not. Don't want to wake her. Also, don't want to hear her complain about Golf. Better to wait 'til I get home tomorrow afternoon!
3:36 a.m. Must have dozed off. Argument between some guy and Charlie. The guy was yelling that he hadn't left...he'd only gone to pee in the woods, but Charlie kept yelling: "If you had to pee, you shoulda' seen me!" Bottom line? #26 is history! I'm up to #34!
4:01 a.m. It's easy to forget how dark and cold it is at this time of the day. Only three more hours until I can get a tee time and plan the rest of the day. Have to take a little "walk"... better tell Charlie.
4:55 a.m. Two more wussies hit the road. Wasn't there, but heard that one got a call from his wife to "get home, or else!" What a witch! Up to #32.
5:45 a.m. Doubt that there'll be any more drop outs. Looks like #32 is where I'm doomed to stand in line. Just saw Hank pay some guy 50-bucks for a better number. Wish I hadn't lost that money putting!
6:00 a.m. Charlie's wife arrives -- blows her horn several times in the parking lot and wakes everybody up. Thanks a lot!
6:05 a.m. Line starts forming. Nothing better to do.
7:00 a.m. After the longest, chilliest hour of my life...line starts moving. My feet feel like concrete. Maybe it's because I've only had a couple hours sleep. Or, maybe it's because I've been wearing my Golf shoes for more than 12 hours straight!
7:45 a.m. Just got my tee time. 12:38 p.m. Could have been worse. Several guys ahead of me left when they couldn't get an earlier time! Called the guys first, to let them know. No answer at home. Better call the phone company and report a problem! Hope I can straighten my neck without pain before I tee it up!
Emotional and riveting as the Diary testimony was, Jules Weiner, Attorney for Elmer Pittswheel and Mickey Dogslaw, said his clients would be “irretrievably, even more emotionally damaged than they already are” if the rules were changed “because it would mean others would avoid the kind of trauma their lives had seen as a result of the long-standing, racking rules.
Judge Donson called a recess “that might last several months. Because, I have better things to do.”
Last Winter, when the Knights of the Lost Order of Infuriated Frenchmen scheduled their annual Golf Tournament at Valley Heights Country Club, Snoot Dockery, the longtime Pro, was first to run up a warning flag. "I told Margie (Marjorie Wilburite, VHCC Business Manager/Wife of Traylor County Sheriff Orville Wilburite) we had to make a few extra rules for these folks. But, we just never got around to it. And, now, we see the result."
The "result" was an 18-hole Charity Tournament that started Monday at 1 p.m. and finished Tuesday evening at 6. It was 29 hours that included several arrests and finger-pointing all around. The event left competitors, organizers and the staff at Valley Heights totally exhausted.
To get a perspective into the goings-on, this Reporter decided to interview each of the principals involved. The interviews were conducted separately because, in some instances, restraining orders are now in force.
I started at the offices of the group which sponsored the tournament: The Knights of the Lost Order of Infuriated Frenchmen. I met with Guy DeChamois, Historian for the group.
The Quebec, Canada native greeted me with a hearty "Bon jour," a kiss on both cheeks and a book entitled "History of the British Open Golf Championship" opened to page 561. There, I saw a picture of Jean Van de Velde, the Frenchman who is best remembered for his "Tin Cup" performance on the final hole in 1999. Needing only a double bogey to win, he threw away shots willy-nilly and lost the championship in a playoff.
"Personally," said DeChamois, "I never liked Golf and didn't follow it. I was content with my life of being surly in restaurants and yelling obscenities at Anglos from behind the wheel of my Citroen." He grabbed the book from me and snapped it closed. "But, when the great Van de Velde put the corkscrew in the collective heart of every French-blooded Frenchman, we became even more infuriated."
"I don't understand." I said, simply.
The Historian threw the book at me. It sailed past my ear, bounced off the wall and fell to the floor, open to page 561. "Why? You have to ask, why? Because, don't you see? He has given every Frenchman a bad taste in my mouth. And, as a group we are best known for having the good taste, don't you know?”
"Let me rephrase," I said. "What does Jean Van de Velde have to do with a Golf tournament that lasts 29 hours?"
"Heures," he corrected. "It was because of the lesson of Van de Velde, that we determined never to take action until we had considered every option. This makes each player in our group take up to 20 minutes to decide on the proper shot."
"So, you're saying-"
"-What I am saying is that the tournament took 29 heures to play because we did not want to look foolish!"
I had my answer. I stood to leave. DeChamois followed me to the door. "Be sure to mention in the story the filet mignon was overcooked."
The door slammed behind me, hitting me in the hiney. VHCC Chef Bif Stewart was next on my list. He was in the County Jail, after being arrested for swinging a meat cleaver in the direction of DeChamois. But, when I got there, Sheriff Orville Wilburite told me the Chef couldn't have visitors. He was on suicide watch.
The Sheriff explained. "He's despondent. No one ever complained about his cooking. Ever!"
While he wasn't directly involved in the Golf part of this story, the Sheriff was involved in it's finale. So, I asked Wilburite for his take on the elongated tournament.
He sat down behind his desk, slid out a drawer to act as a footrest, leaned back in his chair and puffed on his pipe. "Any damn sporting event that takes more than three hours to play - except the Super Bowl, o' course, is a waste of everybody's time."
"Truth is, when it got to be dark, I got worried about my wife. She should have been home and she wasn't. So, I took the next logical step, started treating the whole deal as a hostage situation and put a call in to my S.W.A.T. Team."
As it turned out, most of the County's S.W.A.T. Team was in the Golf Tournament. That meant only two Team members showed up in their gear. And, that meant a slower response time. The Sheriff explained. "Each member of the S.W.A.T. Team has a specific job on their way to a crime scene. June Ann Lovecrest drives the truck, Billy Dee rides shotgun and loads 'em, too. The other 12 guys help each other put on their body armor in the back of the truck. But, because of the unusual circumstances, we didn't have nobody who knew how to drive the truck or load, shotguns. But, we DID have two guys who knew how to get dressed. Actually, we couldn't drive the truck, because June Ann had the keys...and she was in the Tournament."
"So, what did you do?"
"I got in my car and drove over to the Golf Course to see what the hell was going on. And, when I got there, I couldn't believe it." What I believe any impartial witness would describe as a "tear" welled up in Sheriff Wilburite's good eye. "In the dusk after sunset, I saw my wife on the practice green night-putting with her boss - that kid Wip Myazoff."
"Is that a euphemism for doing something else?"
The Sheriff practically yelled in my face. "No! But, I don't like anybody but me putting with my wife in the dark."
I leaned back. “So, what happened next?"
The Sheriff shrugged. "I whacked Myazoff a couple times, cuffed him and put him in the back of the patrol car. After that, Margie explained why she was still at work. That's when I figured out it wasn't her fault...or Mr. Myazoff's. It was the Frenchies."
I had to ask. "So, what happened to Wip Myazoff?"
"Well, technically, he didn't do nothin' wrong. Marge and him was putting at night - 'Cause they didn't have nothin' else to do."
"Passing the time." I added, helpfully.
Wilburite nodded. "But, while I was clubbin' him. He did resist some. You know, like he'd put his hands up in the way of his face and neck. And, I hate that. So, I hauled him in for resisting arrest. He's in the cell with the Cook (Chef Bif Stewart) from the Club."
"I thought you said the Chef was on suicide watch."
"He is. I got Myazoff watchin' him."
With the legal side of this story "put to bed," it was time for me to head out to the Golf Course and get the rest of the story from Head Pro Snoot Dockery. I found him, asleep in the Bag Room, on top of a pile of discarded Golf towels. I asked the obvious question.
"You sleep on a pile of dirty Golf towels?"
Dockery shrugged. "I like the aroma. It's grass and dirt and spit and chemicals and hope and despair and who knows what else ground into terry cloth. It's the smell of Golf, son." He held out a grass-stained towel with a Traylor County Bank and Trust logo on it. "Go on. Sniff it."
I changed the subject quickly. "Tell me about the K.L.O.I.F. Tournament," I said.
The old Pro threw the dirty Golf towel in my face. "It's the reason I'm sleeping on a pile of these filthy, stinking Golf towels.” He groaned, stood up and stretched. The sound of snapping bones, cartilage, muscles and sinew filled the room. "I didn't know why the Tournament Committee gave all the players two sleeves of those glow in the dark Golf balls. But, I sure found out - after the Sun went down. Before sunset, it was taking a little over an hour a hole. But, after it got dark, it was taking nearly two hours. Then, I guess, exhaustion set in. 'Cause we'd have people tee off, head out to the fairway to find their ball, and fall asleep while deciding on a club. At one point, we had six groups on the fourth hole...all of 'em sleeping." Dockery shook his head sadly. "If I wasn't already divorced from my third wife, this tournament woulda' done it."
"So, you and your staff stayed at the course throughout the night and the following day?" I tried not to sound incredulous, but I guess my amazement betrayed me.
Dockery yanked at a soiled Golf towel that had hooked itself to his belt buckle. "I know this sounds odd to the outside world. But, Golf is a service industry. And, we have to offer hospitality to our customers. It's our business. Stupid. But, true."
I nodded and jotted his quote. "But, why would you want to encourage this particular group to return - ever again?"
"Now, you sound like my Assistant Ty (Benderling). About 3 a.m., he started asking when he could go home. Home...with guests still all over the Golf Course. He wanted to go home." Dockery snorted, then spit something gooey into one of the old Golf towels before throwing it back on the pile in the corner of the Bag Room.
“What did you tell him?“
"Cop an attitude like that one more time, and you're fired! You wanna be in this business, you gotta put your personal life on hold. He knew that comin' in." He spit into a towel and reached down to shine his shoe. "Look, I didn't enjoy bein' here all day, all night and the entire following day - including for the Awards Ceremony and dinner 24 hours late. But, I was."
"Why? Why didn't you just go home?
"Well, for one thing I got a free meal." His smile faded. "But, I gotta tell you, the steak was overcooked."
Larry Caringer has been writing humor for broadcast for a long time. Now, he's writing it for you. The stories, here, are from a collection of short stories from his book "Golf Beat: A Year in the Life of Persimmon Pines."