The Annual Golf Outing Every year at work we had a golf outing.

To people such as myself, mortified by the mere mention of that four lettered word, I feared this day above all others and dreaded this day which always began with a rain dance that never worked. The boss loved golf, therefore everybody loved golf and this outing was mandatory just like a jail sentence. Not only did all the managers attend, but some impresarios from Volvo and the banks that handled the financing of this Swedish runabout participated. Back in my sandlot baseball and two-touch football years I was often among the first picked when we chose sides but years later when it came to golf I was dead last with whoever got stuck with me. We played a game called "best ball" with four man teams totaling four teams. Each team member would tee off and whoever had the best shot, or ball, that was the one that counted. This applied to all eighteen holes so although it took several holes to determine the best, I sank to the bottom quicker than you could say "four" or "heads up". By the third hole people were backing away from me and nonchalantly folding their hands as if relaxing but actually this was a defensive act designed to protect some of the more vulnerable parts of the male anatomy. This was an annual event, a tradition, that is probably still observed today. I participated in six contests. Eighteen holes, six games, I swung at the ball theoretically 108 times but when I gave it all I had and missed the ball entirely I was offered another go at it out of both pity and curiosity. By the end of the game I had a following possessing a bizarre desire to see what a golf ball can do to a windshield or a hapless duck who had the bad luck of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I was dangerous behind the club and while some players wore what they felt were stylish hats, my team members wore hardhats or motorcycle helmets when it was my turn. I posed a considerable threat when larger clubs and greater distances were involved. Once I made it to the putting green safety was less an issue than time. This is quite possibly the best situation known to man to explain the term frustration . Back and forth I d go, passing the hole in one direction, another direction and eventually every direction. After a while, the amount of swings I took were less important than the time I was eating up. Team members were polite, it s a gentlemen s sport but there were times I pushed even the most patient to their limit. By the third hole we d all laugh good naturedly at my attempts. By the fifth hole they were silent as tempers were concealed. By the eighth hole everyone seemed to be gripping their clubs with a deathlike grip and perspiring more than usual. Conversation disintegrated into small talk and I wished I could just disappear into thin air. By the eleventh hole team members began offering advice but this came in short concise sentences where each word was weighed carefully and there were pronounced pauses between each one. Hold..the..club..like..this. When people grit their teeth it can be difficult to understand what they re saying and to ask what? would only aggravate the situation.

To me, sand traps were manmade miniature dust storms and could be seen from low flying aircraft and the clubhouse where those lucky enough to be through for the day were recounting the game s events while enjoying libation and the entertainment I provided. Around the sixteenth or seventeenth hole my fencing skills were pressed into action and I discovered I was much better at sword fighting than golf. I could actually hold off three at the same time with a nine iron when push came to shove. Indeed, just like the old Robin hood classics with one clever swing of my cutlass I could send my opponent s saber flying from his grip leaving him defenseless to my Spalding nine iron. At one point I even leaped onto a statue of Prometheus, possibly, and held off two assailants simultaneously as sparks flew and I performed this deadly ballet and showed no sign of fatigue but actually seemed to muster my strength and gain momentum. By now we were well beyond insulting each other s moms and the decorum we relished an hour ago lay dead at our feet. This was how the game usually played out. There were countless other adventures I left out like the hole in one I pulled off on the tenth green once. Immediately beyond the teeing ground was a water hazard. The Canadian geese passing through the neighborhood considered this a fine resting spot, safe from hunters, but to me this was a hazard in the truest meaning of the word. A small pond, it featured a vertical pipe, open on the end to maintain the correct depth. This two inch diameter pipe was somewhere near the center of the pond and water continually flowed into this pipe so the water s depth was constantly consistent. When teeing off a driver is required which has nothing to do with cars or trucks but it means it s a golf club with a large head. Physics has taught us many valuable lessons and through technology and space age technobabble, they have learned that the larger the club the farther the ball would go. Some of these drivers had exotic names that would actually scare the ball into going great distances. One such club is called Big Bertha and any golf ball with a full set of faculties would head for the hills once it learned the business end of Big Bertha was heading its way. The rental clubs I was using didn t feature anything as exotic but it worked good enough for me. I took Little Lucy and prepared to tee off on the tenth hole. The cup was four hundred and seventy-five yards away, par five. Par meant the number of strokes a skilled golfer should require to get to the cup. Personally, I found if you multiply this figure by nine you d come up with a more realistic number. This means I had forty-five strokes to get the ball in the hole. Everybody s eyes were on me and their hands were on their family jewels as I gave that little white ball a mighty whack. As hard as I hit it, it only managed to make it halfway over the pond where it landed exactly inside that two inch diameter draining pipe. This was the one and only hole in one I ever got. Miniature golf is a different story, however: I even managed to beat grownups as well as children in this real sport. The following year I faced my demon, grabbed the bull by the horns and prepared for my fourth game of Best Ball with the same familiar crowd. The short straw got me and I wondered who might pose the greatest threat as a swordsman. The game hadn t officially started yet and everyone was just loosening up and swinging their clubs, laughing, having a fun day in the sunny fresh air. It s amazing how quick milk can become sour and even more astonishing how friends can become mortal enemies and engage in hand to hand combat. The world is what we make it and when golf is involved I d call off all bets.

As much as I d like to vanish, I thought it best to blend in so I began practicing my swinging sting of death with my driving club. I felt invincible for the first time and I thought I might even be getting the hang of it. Then, with all my might, every ounce of strength I had, I gave that club the mightiest swing I ever had and.. and the dam thing slipped out of my hands and flew directly straight up an disappeared into the sun. For one crazy moment I wondered if that old saying whatever goes up must come down applied to golf clubs. All I could think of was one word titanium . This is a relatively new alloy that is lighter than plastic but stronger than steel. I realized when this bad boy came down someone could get seriously hurt. Imagine that. A golf outing for Volvo employees, the safest car on the planet and someone gets killed or seriously maimed. I squinted up into the sun and saw the driving iron going end over end as it was still gaining altitude. Might the club attain escape velocity and go into orbit? No such luck. It slowed and in an instant it was homeward bound. I was doing calculations in my head and trying to figure out its trajectory and who it was heading for. The bank president? My boss? The representative from Volvo? I was prepared to run and do a diving tackle and save someone s life even if meant I d be wearing Little Lucy in my head for the remainder of my life. Lucky for me it landed on the roof of a golf cart. The golf cart contained the ground superintendent and another man. The superintendent was a rather large man, I think you could have made a tent out of his pants. After the club bounced off the roof of his cart he casually removed the cigar from his mouth and remarked with an exceptionally dry sense of humor Well, I can see we re not all pros today.