A linksman's downfall: Driven crazy by a driver

March 09, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

His name is Joe and he's a friend. But he is also an addict. You wouldn't know it to look at him. Family man, regular job, house, mortgage, receding hairline.

But there are hundreds of thousands just like him in this country. At one time, he would have denied his addiction. Now he is open about it. He laughs bitterly when describing the inner demon he can't control.

"This is the time of year when it gets the worst," he said. "Let me tell you what happened the other day.

"I went to this place. It's where I go when it gets so bad that I think I'm going to jump out of my skin.

"But I've been trying to resist it. So even though I went there, I made up my mind that I was going to be strong. I'd fight it."

As he talked, his left hand twitched.

"I walked in and went right to the back of the place. Sat down, didn't look at anything that might set me off.

"The pro comes up to me and says: 'What do you need?'

"I told him: 'I want one pair, size 11, regular width. Waterproof. Regular spikes. Brown if you have them. If not, any color will do, except two-tone. Hate two-tone.'"

Now his right hand twitched.

"Everything was going fine. I bought the shoes. I had just slipped one on and they fit good. I started to relax. I could tell that my craving was being satisfied. I'd buy the shoes, satisfy my craving and get out with only a minor hit. Then it happened. Oh, it was awful."

Both twitching hands came together, fingers hooking.

"This other guy came walking up and he's carrying a club and he says to the pro: 'Customer bought this driver here last season. Now he wants to trade it in on something else.' "

Both twitching hands were now joined as one. He looked down at them with glazed eyes and mumbled: "To be or not to be? Overlap or interlock? That is the question."

But what happened next?

He shook his head and came back to the moment.

"Yes. So I'm just getting fitted for the new spikes, which, incidentally, have graphite in the sole and titanium in the spikes and toetonium in the toe. The very latest in golf shoe technology.

"Then this damn fool comes over with that club. And do you know what it was? It was a Fat Phyllis driver, the chubbiest driver on the market, with a 46-inch iridescent Goofonium shaft and the new Fingerkisser grip. I mean, that is as high-tech a driver as there is in the civilized world. And some fool was trading it in."

Now his wrists were flexing and his left arm was stiff. He resumed the sordid story.

"The pro told his assistant: 'OK, take it in trade.' And I couldn't help myself. I gasped: 'I want it, I need it, I crave it, I demand it, I'll buy it.' "

You are a sick person, you know that.

"Yes. And I can't help myself. I thought I could get by with the titanium-spike shoes. But just the sight of that magnificent driver pushed me over the brink. I had to have it."

And you bought it.

"No. The pro put his hand on my shoulder and said: 'You don't want it. It isn't right for you. Wrong flex point. I have just what you need. Believe me.'

"And the next thing I knew, I was looking at the newest driver on the market: Obese Ophelia. It had a bigger head than my wife's. Prettier, too. It had a 50-inch, glow-dark, vibration-calibrated, resonance-resistant Loonite-Moronium blend shaft."

You didn't buy it.

"Of course I did. Like a moth to the flame. I can't help myself. But you should see it. The greatest driver ever made. It will add at least 20 yards to my tee shots."

That's what you said Massive Martha would do, the one you bought last year. And that is what you said about your last 15 drivers. According to my calculations, with 20 yards extra per driver, you should hit the ball at least 500 yards -- making you the most awesome golfer in the world. But despite spending a fortune, you have never hit a ball more than 220 yards. Don't you see what folly this is?

"Of course. But what can I do? You know, I went to see a shrink about this."

What did he say?

"He said he is getting 20 yards more with his Gigantic Gertie."

Have you thought about becoming a putter addict? Putters are considerably cheaper than drivers.

"Are you insane? Putters are for old wimps. No, the driver is where it's at. I believe it is the greatest phallic symbol of sports. That is why buying new drivers has become the addiction of middle-class, middle-age guys."

Ah, the golf driver as a phallic symbol. A profound thought. Did you mention that observation to your shrink?

"Yes, I did. And he said he agreed entirely because golf caused his wife to loot their savings accounts and to run off from him."

With a golf pro?

"No, with his golf bag."

A sad story.

"Yeah, but with her gone, he gets to play 36 holes on Sunday."

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