ONCE A Year I playa round of golf with my three oldest pals, the only lifelong friends I have. Weplayed junior high football and drove cross-country together. We were groomsmenat one another's weddings. A few years ago we almost literally killed eachother during an on-course argument. "That's my ball in the fairway!"one of my buddies shouted.
This is an article from the April 28, 2008 issue
"But you'replaying Maxfli," replied another.
"No, I'mplaying Precept!"
"But I'mplaying Precept!!"
It caused us toreevaluate our friendship and got me started writing a play about four buddieswho wonder why they still get together to play. The plot goes to the primalheart of the sport, which is what makes golf so dramatic to start with. It's adangerous combination: men with years' worth of grudges and metal weapons inremote forests with few witnesses. What other game could conjure suchdrama?
Sure, a free throwor field goal to win the game can tighten the throat, and the bottom of theninth or the final lap can rile the stomach acids, but every shot in a round ofgolf can cut a 4 1/4-inch hole down to one's essence. It places an unmatchedlevel of pressure on the player; there are no refs, teammates or coaches toblame, no early exit to the dugout, no helmet or windshield to hide behind. Thescrutiny can force people into revealing extremely personal, often ugly,character traits. Remember when Woody Austin attacked a putter with his ownhead? When Davis Love III smashed a sprinkler head with his club? Or whenSergio spit into a cup after missing a putt?
Golf's truth serumcauses even more unpredictable reactions from amateurs. I was 10 years old thefirst time I played with my dad. It took only two holes for me to realize thatthis mild-mannered M.D. was one angry s.o.b. (I learned the term"self-loathing" later—from a golfer.)
My friends and Ilive thousands of miles away from one another, we have less and less in commonwith each passing year, and, despite our attachment, all we seem to do isargue. When we play, the nostalgic niceties fall away by the time we reach the1st green. We remain fathers and husbands with respectable careers, but on thecourse the bullies, whiners, wiseacres and idiots who live within us comebubbling to the surface.
Why do we do it?Five years worth of rewrites later, I'm still searching for that answer. Maybeit's because now that we've shared these hidden sides of our personalities,facets that even our wives haven't seen, we feel bound together. We're more andmore different from one another, but despite the years and distances, golf hasmade us closer than ever.
Maybe I'll getsome more answers when my play, Men with Clubs, which I finally finished, hasits premiere. The guys are flying in to see themselves up on stage.
I made a tee timefor the following day.
Jones's Men withClubs premieres at the HotCity Theatre in St. Louis on April 25.
TRUST ME by JAMES P. HERRE
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