April 2009


Below is my story, “Low and Left,” which was featured in recently published Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Golf Book.

Low and Left

 

By Robert Bruce

“Do you think I should wait on him to move or go ahead and hit?” I asked my friend Mike.

“I don’t know,” Mike replied. “He’s pretty close.”

“Yeah,” I answered. “But he’s on the left side of the fairway. I never hit it left.”

Just ten years old, my golf skills were still in their embryonic stages—as was my knowledge of the sport’s etiquette. Most of my drives tended to weakly drift high and right. The occasional well-struck tee-shot would start straight, then fade down the right side of the fairway. But low and left? Never.

But with those last few heedless words, I started my backswing. A brief turn of the hips, a subtle rotation of the shoulders, and the ball rocketed off the clubface…low and left.

Rarely in life are we afforded the divine power of foretelling the future, seeing events unfold before they occur. Maybe when the car ahead on the freeway abruptly stops, and no amount of brake pressure will avoid the impending collision. Or when an errant baseball toss plummets from the sky toward a neighbor’s window.

As the small, white missile streaked down the left side of the fairway, I saw the future for an instant. I no longer hoped the ball wouldn’t hit the fellow golfer in front of me—that was a foregone conclusion. No, instead, I hoped it would merely hit him in the thigh, the butt, or at least the upper arm—someplace fleshy with a little padding. Just, please, not directly on bone. And, oh please, not on the head.

I would like to believe I heartily yelled “Fore!” on that summer morning. But, in reality, I barely mustered a weak and reluctant “Hey!” Mike heard me, but the fellow 170 yards down the fairway certainly did not.

Maybe if I just closed my eyes and prayed, I could pretend this never happened, that I never hit a golf ball with this man—possibly a husband, a father, a favorite son—just down the fairway.

But no such luck. The ball continued the seemingly eternal flight toward its human destination. Now just yards away, I realized that my Pinnacle was darting on a beeline toward the center of the man’s back—as if his shoulder blades were goalposts for a descending football.

My heart attempted to force its way out of my chest. And in a matter of milliseconds, my mind feverishly raced through dozens of potential outcomes, each more horrid and life-altering than its predecessor: broken bones, newspaper headlines, prison time, a funeral. What will Dad say? Will I be banned from the course? Will I ever play again? Do juvenile detention centers have golf courses?

And then, with a dull and horrid thump, the ball struck right in the middle of his back. Dead center. The lump in my throat grew two-fold. Though I tried to swallow, every ounce of moisture in my mouth relocated to the palms of my hands. I’m screwed, I thought.

The man halted his stride mid-step. He never fell down. He never slumped over. He hardly even flinched.

As if superhuman, some sort of mythical golfing god, he slowly turned around with his head slightly tilted toward his right shoulder. He stared at me with eyes that seemed to judge my entire brief life with one penetrating stare from 170 yards away.

I wanted to run. I wanted to point at Mike. He’s the one who hit you! I wanted to take some practice swings and nonchalantly act as if nothing happened, as if I were simply warming up for my drive—implying that the reckless offender must be playing on some other hole.

But, instead, I waved.

“Sorry ‘bout that!” I sheepishly hollered, waiting for the man to bolt into a sprint back up the hill.

The brute never said a word. He just continued to stare.

“Is he okay?” Mike asked. “That had to hurt.”

“I think so. What should I do?”

“I don’t know,” Mike replied, turning back toward his golf bag, as if washing his hands of any guilt by association.

“Sorry!” I yelled again, hoping a second apology would render the matter resolved.

We waited a few more seconds, still expecting him to charge back up the fairway, crazily waving a pitching wedge in his hand. You stupid kids! What do you think you are doing!

 

But then, stunningly, he turned back around and began a slow gait toward the first green, leaving my ball lying in the sparsely mown rough behind him.

In silence, I lowered my head and stared at the ground. I’m an idiot, I thought, realizing that I probably deserved this man’s vengeance.

But he didn’t shout. He didn’t throw my ball into the woods. He didn’t offer any animated hand gestures. He didn’t report my actions to the pro shop. He just walked away and continued his round, leaving me to wallow in my guilt and idiocy.

Twenty years later, I have no idea why that man walked away. Maybe he just dismissed me as a stupid kid, a ten-year-old not worth wasting his time on. Or perhaps the ball just didn’t hurt that much—although I can’t imagine how a line-drive tee shot from nearly 200 yards away wouldn’t bring pain.

Whatever the reason, I learned a fundamental rule of golf etiquette that day: don’t dare hit into the group ahead.

And, on the rare occasion when someone hits into me, I don’t yell or throw a fit.

I simply stare.

Image: Dave D/Flickr

Image: Dave D/Flickr

The virtual version, that is.  Sorry about the cheap marketing trick.

The USGA and an online golf game organization called the World Golf Tour have organized an online golf tournament at the virtual version of Bethpage Black, the site of this year’s U.S. Open.

Starting May 25, visitors to the U.S. Open’s official website can play a round on the virtual Bethpage and qualify for the “Virtual U.S. Open,” which will take place on June 22 and include 156 qualifiers. Other than a hearty dose of virtual pride, the winner will get a pass to the 2010 Open at Pebble Beach.

The World Golf Tour allows you to play online golf for free without installing any buggy,  spyware-ridden software. Pretty cool. Since Bethpage wasn’t included in last year’s Tiger Woods game (not sure about the 2010 version), this may be your only chance to play Bethpage without driving to New York.

In addition to Bethpage, virtual, playable versions of The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, Wolf Creek Golf Club, and Bali Hai Golf Club are also available on the site. The graphics look pretty freakin’ sweet.

golf-clubs

Image: Robert Bruce's iPhone

I present to you the two newest members of my golfing family: a Ping G10 3 wood and a Cleveland CG12 56 degree wedge.

These are the latest clubs to join the family in my nearly completed process of updating my golf bag with 21st century technology. Joining my backup set–and every self-respecting golfer has a backup set–will be my twelve-year-old Taylor Made spoon and a ten-year-old Cleveland wedge.

Haven’t been on the course yet, so it’s hard to tell how the wedge feels. But after hitting the 3 wood on the range, I gotta say that I love this club. Maybe I can actually reach a few par 5s with that bad boy. I’ve talked about my love of the Ping G10 driver before, and this 3 wood is no different. A worthy addition to the bag.

All that’s left to update my bag is a 60 degree wedge and a 2 hybrid. After ten years in the golfing wilderness, I’ve almost found my way back home.

picture-165

My amateurish photo of today's driving range festivities. (Image: Robert Bruce's iPhone)

I had a Eureka! moment today–a moment I’m ashamed to say somehow escaped me for the last year.

Golf at lunch. So simple. One open hour every day, an hour in which you can do whatever you choose: eat, read, sleep, shop…or golf.

Last summer, I wrote on my thoughts about balancing golf and life. It’s a tough deal these days, and I don’t even have a kid yet. So this is where the lunch hour comes in. For some reason, I’ve been using my lunch hour over the last year to actually eat. What’s up with that?

Today, I changed up things. I drove five minutes  around the corner to a nice driving range/par 3 course/practice facility.  As tempted as I was to play a quick nine, I only had an hour, so I settled for range balls.

Tomorrow, I plan on using the time to putt, or perhaps spend some Christmas gift card money on a new 3 wood and/or hybrid. Either way, I’ve set a new trend for my lunch hour: food is nice, but I’ll take golf.

chicken-soup1Can I market myself for one moment?

Today is a bit of a cool day for me. One of my golf short stories is featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Golf Book, sponsored by Golf Digest. The book, in bookstores today, can also be found on Amazon.com.

I feel blessed that I’ve been getting paid to do something I love–write–for more than eight years now. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been published on many a magazine and website during that time–some credited, most ghostwritten.

For the most part, my work has had a spiritual, Christian theme. But I grew a bit burned out on that genre a year ago. So I decided to branch out and stretch my writing muscles a bit. After all, who wants to get pigeonholed into one genre?  That’s when the idea of this blog came about.

Having always loved sports, especially golf, I’d love nothing more than to write freelance sports articles one day. So I submitted a short 800 word article to the Chicken Soup people after seeing a writeup in Golf Digest.

Who knew that a few months later I would be getting my first book credit? It’s humbling to see my name alongside some notable golfers and journalists. I really didn’t think I had much of chance, to be honest.

Bottom line: check out the book. Hope you like it.

Maybe I’ll post the story here later this week.

For those who read my blog for The Haney Project recaps, the show is on hiatus until May 11th.

Tune back in then to find out if Chuck is able to keep flattening that swing and losing the hitch following the DUI mishap.

For a recap of last week’s episode, click here.

Most of the Gillette commercials featuring Tiger, Derek Jeter, and Roger Federer have been pretty lame.

This one is, well, quite funny. Good job by the Gillette Marketing Department. 

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