It's a Daily Occurrence
Getting out on crowded golf course first thing in the morning can create quite a scene. Larry
On a recent Friday morning in June, I decided to get in a quick 18 holes at the area's most affordable spot to tee it up, Traylor Park Golf Course. The attractive, if somewhat short, flat and treeless, former logging site on Town land in Traylor Park, is run by Legolas Demott, heir to the Demott Persimmon Factory Fortune and PGA Professional.
I arrived shortly before sunrise and was shocked to see a full parking lot. Having a Press credential is always helpful when the need arises. I knocked at the back door, waving my credential - and scaring about a dozen employees who thought I was with INS. After a confusing few minutes, Quito, a restaurant cook, let me in, waving his card...a green one.
In the Pro Shop - where only the security light burned - Legolas Demott was counting the cash in the cash register. He looked tense. His normally friendly demeanor - wasn't. He eyed me suspiciously. "You here to work...or play?"
I almost told the truth. Luckily, my keen Reporter's sixth sense told me to say otherwise. I pulled the press credential from my pocket - again - and waved it in the air.
"Good." He went back to counting the cash in the drawer. "If you'd a said 'play,' you'd be outa' here on your Friday ass."
What? I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The usually gregarious, devil-may-care, first-born son of Hoary Demott seemed sour...or anxious. Maybe both.
"Here for a story on the nightmare of Golf on a weekday morning?" He cracked open a roll of quarters and dumped them in with a flourish. "About time somebody noticed!"
I put away thoughts of playing as I tried to figure out where to start on this story I had only just discovered. But, I didn't need to worry. The clock was approaching 6:15. There was a loud banging on the Pro Shop door. The Pro didn't look up. I guess he didn't have to. "You're early again...Mr. Fosgate." Demott, closed the cash drawer a little harder than mechanically necessary. He glanced my way with a world-weary look that said, "See?"
It was Jenks Fosgate, a retiree from the Persimmon plant run by this Pro's Father. He pressed his face against the glass door and pointed at his watch. "Hey Pro! I got a doctor's appointment at ten! Let's go. Let's go!"
It was 6:10. Legolas sliced open a shipment of Golf balls. "Jenks is part of our 'Dawn Patrol.' Every morning he's here with his..." the Pro searched for the right adjective as he slid a few new sleeves of Golf balls into place behind the counter and turned back toward the door..."posse." He looked at Fosgate and pointed to the Pro Shop clock which read 6:11. "We open at 6:15, Mr. Fosgate."
Fosgate pointed to his watch again and yelled through the glass, "Doctor's appointment, d-mn-t!"
Demott nearly smiled in the eerie half glow of the emergency light. "I made a mistake, once, of opening up a few minutes early so the 'Jenkster' could make a doctor's appointment. Now he's got one every day." The Pro flicked on the shop's lights.
I looked out the door, past Fosgate and his "posse" to a line of Golfers of all ages and descriptions. While some seemed to be taking the wait in line in stride, most fidgeted. Even though it appeared their place in line assured them an early tee time, things were not exactly as they appeared. This was especially true for any Golfer who did not heed the large signs posted on the Pro Shop wall behind the cash register, on the door outside and at the entrance to the parking lot: Golfers will not receive a tee-time until all members of their group are on the premises. Preference to Foursomes. No Twosomes.
6:13. The more or less single line in front of the door was a bit more ragged. The Dawn Patrol still held their highly prized position on the pole.
But, behind, from 4th to about number 30, exact positioning was unclear. After the Pro Shop lights went on, those who had seemed unconcerned, suddenly began looking for a way to ensure an early appearance on the first tee.
For instance, Pug Utley and his son Doug - both hoping to get in a round of Golf before heading home from third shift jobs at Traylor County Gas & Electric's Plunker River Dripping Nostril Dam - chatted amiably with each other. But, when Toucan "The Bird Man" Thomas seemed to be making an attempt to slide ahead in line, two pairs of meaty Father and Son hands quickly redirected the Pet Store Owner back to his original place in line. A smattering of applause cascaded from the Golfing throng. (The Bird Man, later, told this Reporter he wasn't cutting in line. He was trying to catch a glimpse of his van in the parking lot to see if he had remembered to close the rear doors, after he got his clubs, because he had a shipment of cats and rare birds, inside.)
6:14. Gundy Parkhurst, somewhere around 20th in line called out to all who could hear him. "Ya'll better have your whole group up there when ya'll check in - or ya'll don't bother." His warning was greeted by a series of catcalls and hoots. "I'm serious ya'll. Pro don't take no crap. Read the sign. Right there on the door." The catcalls subsided as those who didn't know already looked at the large, hand-lettered sign on the door. "By the way," said Parkhurst, "I'm a Single lookin' for a game if anybody wants a 3rd or 4th." Within seconds, Parkhurst had bargained his way from 20th to 3rd in line.
In the Pro Shop, Demott watched the final seconds to opening count down on his clock and I scribbled notes. "Watch this. Here's where everybody starts better dealin' each other. It can get ugly." He turned and called into the Bag Room. "Diego. Time to get outside and find the Singles." Diego saluted and hurried outside.
In the next few seconds, the somewhat straight line of Golfers suddenly turned into a milling mass of deal makers and deal breakers, disappointment, disgust and disbelief. In much the same way the Galaxies coalesced billions of years ago, Foursomes formed, fell apart and reformed in different ways. Twosomes linked up with a Single, disengaged and found other Twosomes, leaving Singles to either link up with other Singles or go home and come back some time after 10 when things settled down.
6:15. Legolas Demott opened the Pro Shop door. A smiling Jenks Fosgate was first through the door, driver's license in hand. "Senior discount," he said as he made a beeline toward the cash register and slapped down his greens fee. He reached into the jar on the counter and took out two 50-cent balls recently retrieved from the pond on the 3rd hole. "Senior Discount on these, too?"
Legolas Demott was ringing up the extra dollar. "You ask me that every day, Mr. Fosgate."
"It's a joke, Legs - lighten up. When I was Foreman for your Daddy at the Persimmon Plant - I joked with him all the time."
"Good joke, Mr. Fosgate. Sorry. Have a great day Gentlemen!" He motioned the Dawn Patrol forward. "You fellas are number one on the tee." Diego returned to The Shop, leading a small, dejected-looking troupe of Golfers. Demott nodded and pointed to an area by the putter display. "Wait there." The forlorn group shuffled into place as the Pro started running the cash register as if he was a concert pianist...never looking at the keyboard...always making eye contact with the customers - And, always asking the most important question of all: "Is all of your group here and ready to play?"
They were, until he got to the sixth group. “Ms. Slurry. You paying for your group?”
An uncomfortable pause. A half smile. "Oh my. No. They'll pay you when they get here."
Rules. Demott looked past the woman to the anxious eyes of the addicted behind her. "I can't give you a tee time unless you have your entire group here and ready to play."
"Legolas, I went to school with your Father's second wife." A pause for effect. "My girls will all be here within the hour. Gertrude had a thing and she picks up the other girls, after.”
Behind her, Pug Utley pushed into the conversation.
"She can play with us. We got three." Pug and his son, Doug, were now teaming with the man they had unceremoniously sent to the rear of the line only minutes earlier - Toucan Thomas. "Why that would be lovely," said Ms. Slurry.
"What about your friends?" asked Demott.
"Hey!" It was one of the Singles. He was wearing a red cap and plaid shorts. "I'm a Single. Your guy said I'd get the first Threesome that came up. She's gotta wait for her group."
Ms. Slurry's smile faded. She spun on her heel. "What pig said that?"
The man, who had started to walk toward the cash register stopped as if he'd been shot. There was a fire in Ms. Slurry's eyes. She clenched her fists. The man in the red hat sized her up. If he had to, he could take her. But, instead of fists, he went verbal. "Didn't take long to 'better-deal' your friends, did it?"
The sticks and stones rule didn't seem to apply to this set of words. They hurt. Ruth Slurry sagged. Demott stepped in. "All right. All right. Take it easy, guys. Ms. Slurry, it's the rules. The Singles fill in to make up Foursomes."
"But, what if I say I'm a Single?"
"Then, you join the pool over there." Demott wasn't finished but, Ruth had heard all she needed to hear. She left the line and headed for the "pool."
"I'm a Single. Put me in with the next group."
The man in the red cap howled. "I told my wife I'd be home early. You can't do that!"
The Pro nodded. "He's right, Ms. Slurry. You can't. You left the line - lost your place and now you're in the Single's pool - the last one in - and you'll be the last to get into a group."
"What if my girls show up?"
"Back of the line. That's the rules."
Color drained from Ms. Slurry's face. She turned toward the door. "I'm going to join a Country Club!" It sounded weak...not believable. Defeated, she walked out the door - to light applause from the Singles' Pool. It was brutal for her, sobering for me and a great opportunity for a few jokes from everybody else.
If I wasn't going to play Golf, I decided, I might as well go to work. I thanked Legolas for his time. "Leaving so soon? This was nothin'. You need to hang around for the 'Wanna get in 9 during lunch' crowd." I assured the Pro I had all I needed; and left.
As I walked back to my car, I saw Ruth Slurry in the parking lot trying to explain to her just-arrived, soon-to-be former friends why they weren't going to get to tee it up on this fine morning. Suddenly, I was glad I don't play much early-morning Golf - and that I don't rely on Ruth Slurry for anything really important.
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."