Golfers belong to an odd club

April 26, 1994|By Kevin Cowherd

I spotted the golfer right away. He was wearing a peach-colored polo shirt, bright green pants and a white visor, and of course everyone at the party was avoiding him as if he had a dozen sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest.

Naturally, he came right up to me.

Just as large dogs invariably approach the person who is most frightened of them, so will golfers seek out the person who least understands their fascination with the game.

"So," he said, taking that imaginary little golf swing they all like so much, "do you play?"

No, I said. Quickly, I looked around for an escape route.

The front door was out of the question, blocked by three beefy guys drinking Heinekens. And an elderly woman sipping diet soda was standing in front of the screen door that led to the patio.

The woman looked frail, though, and there existed the possibility that a stiff shoulder block could dislodge her and free up the exit.

Look, no one wants to cause a scene at a social gathering. But if it comes down to enduring a dreary monologue from a golfer or trampling a senior citizen in a panicky bid to flee, the decision is strictly a no-brainer: Granny is going down.

"Yeah," the golfer was saying now, "shot an 88 at Longview today. Didn't start off well, though. On the first hole . . . "

Here he had not even spoken three sentences and I was getting drowsy already.

Clearly, there was no time to lose. Pretending to stumble, I bumped into the woman next to me, causing her drink to spill.

After apologizing profusely, I offered to get some paper towels to clean up the mess and ran to the kitchen, where I hid for a half-hour.

When I saw the golfer again, he had some other poor sap backed up against the pool table and was no doubt continuing the riveting hole-by-hole description of today's round.

I don't know . . . maybe it's me. But I have never understood golfers.

My neighborhood is crawling with them. I see them on the weekends, stumbling to their cars with their big, heavy golf bags at 6 in the morning, their hands shaking violently from too many cups of coffee and too little sleep.

"Golf is a great way to unwind," they tell me.

Then they spend the day on a crowded golf course, slicing balls into the woods and cursing, hooking balls into the lake and cursing, five-putting every hole and cursing.

Then during a lengthy stop at a bar to calm their nerves, they're gobbling fistfuls of Rolaids and chain-smoking Marlboro Lights and lifting beers to their mouths with trembling hands while telling everyone what a relaxing time they had.

Yeah. It sure looks that way. If they relaxed any more, they'd be slipping into fatigues, grabbing a rifle and climbing to the top of a water tower, if you catch my drift.

And yet, the sport continues to grow. New golf courses are springing up everywhere, and more and more people are taking up the game, despite rising costs.

Greens fees now run about, oh, $700. A new set of golf clubs costs in the neighborhood of $5,000, assuming you don't want the plutonium shafts, which cost a good deal more.

Those figures may not be entirely accurate -- I just made them up, really -- but you see my point.

Or maybe you don't. My point is, be prepared to rob a bank or burst into a convenience store at 3 in the . . . OK, I just remembered what it is I find most irritating about golfers: that imaginary little swing they all like to take when they talk to you.

I used to have a neighbor, Hal, who did this all the time.

You'd be in the middle of a conversation with him and suddenly he'd start taking these imaginary golf swings, like Johnny Carson used to do at the end of his monologues.

As you can imagine, this was incredibly annoying, to the point where you wanted to grab him by the lapels and yell: "Hey, do you understand what you're doing with your arms?"

The thing is, only golfers have this bizarre habit.

If you're talking to a softball player, he won't suddenly pretend to take a throw from the outfield and slap a tag on a runner sliding into second.

A tennis player won't suddenly pause in mid-conversation, toss an imaginary ball in the air and pretend to serve.

But golfers take imaginary swings all the time when they're talking.

It makes you wonder what the game has done to them. It really does.

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