Spring is here, the masters approaches, and something strange and wonderful came in the mail the other day: an invitation to play in my first big pro-am golf tournament. I was nervous about it, so I found the guy at my course who has played in even more pro-ams than Gerald Ford and Tip O'Neill put together—Ned (Two-Dollar) Nassau. The last time Two-Dollar missed a pro-am, Steve Melnyk was a size 32.
"First thing you've got to know," Two-Dollar said, "is how to talk. You've got to sound like you know what you're doing. Like when you hit it into the rough, you say, 'Damn. Spinach.' "
"Right. Now, a three-putt is a 'three-jerk.' And don't ever call the green the green. It's 'the moss.' Out of bounds is 'O'Brien.' And 'juice' is when you get backspin on the ball."
"Juice? I've played 20 years and never got juice."
"Right. So when you hit one of those screaming five-irons that bounce over the green and off the Chipwich cart, just turn to your caddie and yell, 'Did I just hit a 90-compression Surlyn ball? I specifically asked for 100-compression balata, you graphitehead! That shot would've been stoney!' "
"Close to the stick. Now, if your shoes need polishing, you just say, 'My nails need a rub.' A really long putt is 'two-dollar cab fare.' Say you 'shot the route' with a 66. Even-par is "level." The 'barn' is the clubhouse. Practice saying something like 'Dang. If I hadn't hit it in the spinach there and then three-jerked that two-dollar cab fare, I'd have brought it back to the barn level."
"Could you go over that again?"
"Now, soon as you get to the course, find your caddie and fire him."
"Fire him. All the pros fire their caddies. You keep firing 'em until you're down to the grease guy from the local Jiffy-Lube. That way, when you play bad, you can blame it on him. 'Kid didn't know a seven-iron from a curling iron." "
"Look, if you want to fit in with the pros, you've got to act like a pro. No matter how bad the pros screw up, they always blame it on something else. Otherwise their clothing contracts would go to hell."
"Who cares? All those guys dress in those matching flammables, anyway."
"Yeah, but they're free flammables. Free is sacred on the Tour. That's why players get courtesy cars all week, play with free equipment and eat free food in the locker room."
"Could we get back to the actual golf?"
"Right. Now, say you hit it in the sand trap and it takes you 11 to get out."
"How about, 'The sand is too new?' "
"Not bad. But this is better. Mutter, 'If I had square grooves, I'd be picking that sucker out of the hole.' "
"Now," said Nassau, "when you get to the green, always repair a ball mark—but not necessarily your ball mark. Even if your ball dropped 50 yards past the hole, make like you're fixing a mark right next to the pin, then shake your head in disgust and grumble something like, 'Might as well try to make a ball stop on an O'Hare runway.' "
"Right. Now three things to remember about putting: slow, slower, slowest. If you've got an eight-inch putt, mark it, have your caddie clean the ball, examine it, set it back so 'Titleist' shows up on the TV cameras—think free, remember—walk back, look at it, look at it from the other side, plumb-bob it. step up to it, clean your putter face, and then, just when you hear Gary McCord up in the tower say, 'Let's go back to....' you putt."
"What if I miss after all that?"
"Complain about too many spike marks. Now, the most important part is how to act in the clubhouse. Say somebody comes up to you and says, 'How in Hades did you make 13 on that par-3 over the water?' You give them the pros' answer. 'Oh, thaaaaat. Well, the first shot I hit in there had the flag dead covered, but a gust of wind knocked it into the agua. Then, the second one was going to be about six inches away, but a photographer got me on my backswing. I'll get his badge taken away for that. And the other three shots from the tee? How are you supposed to play a tricked-up course like this? They oughta just put a tent over this joint and let Ringling Brothers run it. I've sent my letter to Deane Beman. I'm getting an injunction stopping the whole Tour.' "
"And you say all this stuff will make me look like a tour pro?"
"I'm telling you, reporters will be hounding you for interviews."
"What should I tell 'em?"
"What else, Divotbrain? Tell 'em about your lifelong love affair with the game."