Clay Black is not unlike a lot of people, who, with a background of sports activity, discover golf and become hooked on it.
Until about four years ago, the only golf Black knew was the miniature variety. He is 34, lives with his wife in Hanover, Pa., and works for the Carroll County government in the Bureau of Development Review.
A lifelong resident of Carroll County until his move to Hanover four years ago, Black grew up with a love of sports, playing Little League baseball and later softball.
"A group at work plays golf, and from their talking about it, it looked like something to do. It seemed a challenge," Black said recently.
Challenge has been a key word for nearly half of Black's life, or since he had his left arm amputated above the elbow to stop a cancerous growth. He was 18.
"The operation was at Georgetown University Hospital, and after five years of checkups, the doctor said I was fine and there was no need to see me anymore. Still, about five years later, I went back, just to verify the situation, and once again was told I was healthy."
Healthy enough for the North Carroll High School and University of Maryland graduate (business management major) to continue playing softball, for instance. A member of the Manchester Fire Co., he still plays on its team.
It is golf, though, that has become a passion.
"I just love to play. There is a par-3 course outside of Spring Grove [Pa.], and I recently played 72 holes in about four-five hours. I was trying to get my swing down."
Black often plays in a group -- one is his former boss -- and he has to play by the same rules as the others. "There's no favoritism, but I'm not consistent enough. They'll wonder what I'm going to do next. Then I'll get a couple of good holes, and they'll say, 'How can he do that?' "
His friends at work are into tournaments, and Black, who averages about 120 for 18 holes, said he didn't get involved because he didn't want to embarrass himself.
Then there was a fund-raising tournament; he watched others, and decided, "I can play with them."
Black discovered he really could play with them when he competed in one of the regular tournaments of the Eastern Amputee Golf Association earlier this summer.
It was held at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club, and for the man with a public-course background, it was an experience. "I saw what a really nice club looks like, and now I'm really hooked." Finishing second in the second flight only whetted his appetite.
So, he will make a second EAGA tournament appearance when he plays in the New England Open, near Manchester, N.H., this month.
Black has discovered one of golf's tenets: "It's not as easy as it's made out to be. You watch on TV, and the pros miss, too. Greg Norman was talking about the game, saying that people think it's easy. All they have to do is hit that ball somewhere down there . . . but it doesn't go there!"
Now that he is into tournaments, Black figures it's about time he had his first lesson. "I've never taken them because I didn't see how the teacher could relate to me. At Hershey, I talked to a pro, and he said it was all the same -- it was how you got the club on the ball."
He is aware of some of his problems: "I try to rush things. And I lack concentration."
There is the golfer's lament, too. "The thing that is most frustrating is I wish I could make the shots [all the time]. My handicap doesn't bother me; I just want to be as good as I can."
Bart DeLuca turns 14 this week, and that's good news for boys who compete in the 10-13 division of area golf tournaments. The Gilman School freshman from Rolling Road Golf Club has been the scourge of his division this summer, winning four titles and finishing runner-up twice.
The victories included the Bobby Bowers Memorial and the Middle Atlantic PGA Juniors, and he lost out on a match of cards in the Middle Atlantic Golf Association Juniors at Chartwell CC last week. "This field is the best since the Bowers," DeLuca said after a 2-over-par 35-39--74 that lost out to a 36-38--74 by Michael Ball of Bretton Woods.
The entry deadline for the women's championship of the Middle Atlantic Golf Association is Aug. 26, and for the U.S. Senior Women's championship Aug. 31. . . . Calvary United Methodist Church in Annapolis will hold a golf tournament Sept. 12 at Marlboro Country Club to benefit its Habitat for Humanity project. Information is available from (410) 266-2988.