In those days, it was a scruffy nine hole layout. Holes were referred to by their names, rather than numbers. At each tee there was a bucket of sand and a bucket of water. You took a handful of sand, soaked it, and made a small pyramid on which to tee up your ball.
On the first tee there was a pipe into which players could drop a ball. When their ball came out the other end, it was their turn to tee off. Unfortunately, in those days, the English golf ball was a tad smaller than the American ball, which didn’t fit in the pipe.
As a result the Americans had to wait until all the Canadians had hit their drives.
My fascination with the game blossomed in the preteen years. There was a driving range in our Detroit West side neighborhood. It had no floodlights, and closed at dark. Some of us lads used to play at being commandoes, don our black softball sweaters, darken our faces and crawl on our bellies under the fence to liberate golfballs.
We needed plenty. The municipal course at Rouge park, about four miles away by the Plymouth bus, crossed over the Rouge River about a dozen times.
When I graduated from Law School at the age of 23, my darling wife gave me a two wood. I loved that club, and spent many an hour wailing away with it at the driving range on Meyers Road.
For my sixtieth birthday, my family gave me a set of Ping irons. They had to be fitted, and it took several weeks before they were to be delivered. In great anticipation, I asked our golf Pro, Bill Morey, if I could become a scratch golfer. He said that if I could reach the greens in regulation, the rest of it was a matter of practice.
So I developed what I called my PICK system: Practice, Instruction, Conditioning and Knowledge. Over the next weeks, I practiced every day, took lessons every few days, worked with bar bells and exercises and acquired a small library of golf books and tapes.
One day, as I was about to practice, the Pro told me that my irons had arrived. My son Tom insisted that we immediately go out and play. I shot 37 on the front nine, just one over par. On the back nine I was lying 37 in the green side bunker on the eighteenth hole. I took out my new sand wedge, which I had never swung before, and knocked the ball into the hole.
37 – 38; 75. The best score I ever had in my life. I promptly added two more letters to my PICK system: E for Equipment and L for Luck.
It is now the PICKLE system. Appropriate, since golfing is such a pickling game. I have never been better than a bogie golfer. Still I have experienced the amazement of scoring five holes in one. Go figure.
Earlier today, I posted a blog borrowed completely from my good friend, Brian Cairns, head professional at Fox Hills in Plymouth and 2015 Senior PGA Professional of the Year. To his astute counsel on the need to control your emotions on the links, I add my own version of the 23rd Psalm:
The Lord is my caddie: I shall not yip.
He getteth me down in two on green places
He keepeth me away from the still waters
He restoreth my game: he leadeth me in the paths of birdies for his name sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of divits, I will fear no whiff; for thou art with me; my woods and my irons they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of my opponents; thou annointest my head with sunscreen, my cup runneth over.
Surely birdies and bogies shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will always play better tomorrow.