AS A BOY, The Man was taught to be humble, and so at first he was reluctant to write about his recent incredible round of golf, lest others feel diminished and inadequate.
But then The Man thought, aw, what the hell. And rushing to the word processor, his fat little fingers dancing lightly across the keys, he composed the following chronicle of those magical 18 holes:
The day dawned crisp and clear, barometer rising, winds out of the west at five mph, which you don't care about and neither did The Man.
The Man was not there to measure atmospheric conditions. The Man was there to play golf.
And play golf he did.
Over the first nine holes, The Man blistered the course with an all-around display of driving, approach shots and putting that looked like something off The Golf Channel.
"You are The Man!" the rest of his foursome would shout when The Man hit a particularly adroit shot. And Lord knows there were quite a few of them.
At the turn, The Man was informed by his buddy Jim that he had shot a 45.
The Man does not keep score himself. Because scoring is not what The Man is all about. Passion for the game, dedication, a will to win, this is what The Man is all about. (But mainly The Man doesn't keep score because Jim likes to keep score in order to record his putts, a peculiar habit The Man neither understands nor approves of.)
Anyway, the back nine was more of the same for The Man: his drives soaring straight down the middle of the fairway, his iron shots launched in long, arching, pinpoint bombs onto the greens, his putter on fire.
After finishing the 18th hole, The Man's foursome gathered in the clubhouse for the ceremonial tallying up of the scores.
Usually at such times, The Man cringes and braces himself for the worst. But this time he was eager to learn how he'd done.
The scores were read one by one. Finally Jim intoned: "And The Man wins with an 86."
EIGHTY-SIX! The Man was giddy. HIS FIRST TIME BREAKING 90! This is only The Man's second year playing golf, after knee surgery cut short a brilliant career on the basketball and racquetball courts. So an 86 sat very well with him indeed.
Jubilant, The Man cried: "A round of Cokes for my friends here, who, while they displayed little of the artistry and clutch shot-making that The Man did, nonetheless played respectable golf themselves!"
(It was 11: 30 Sunday morning. The Man does not buy beers for his buddies at 11: 30 Sunday morning. The Man has his standards.)
So for the next few minutes, The Man basked in the glow of his accomplishment, accepting the congratulations of others, including the head pro, whom The Man told charitably: "If I were you, pal, I'd be a lit-tle worried about my job about now."
It was shortly after this that events in The Man's life took a sudden downward turn, as you will see.
A few minutes after leaving the golf course, The Man arrived home and found his 15-year-old son at the kitchen table, making a sandwich that, as usual, was the size of a shoebox.
"Who's The Man?" The Man shouted, waving his scorecard high in the air.
"You are The Man!" the 15-year-old cried, exactly as he'd been taught. "I sense a significant event on the golf course."
"The Man broke 90!" The Man cried. "No, check that. The Man didn't just break 90! The Man shattered 90!"
"Wonderful news!" the kid agreed, quickly gathering up his sandwich and bolting to another room, lest The Man begin regaling him with a hole-by-hole description of his exploits, which would put the boy to sleep quicker than a blast of sarin gas.
Finding himself alone, The Man examined his scorecard, intending to replay each brilliant hole in his head and savor the almost- mystical elevation of his game.
Which is when The Man noticed something. No score had been recorded for the par-3 17th hole, which The Man had bogied.
Fighting a wave of panic, The Man immediately got on the horn to his buddy Jim, Mr. "Sure, Sure, I'll Keep Score."
"There, um, appears to be a discrepancy on the scorecard," The Man said, trying to keep his voice steady.
"Yes," said Jim. "I, um, messed up."
"Are you saying," The Man practically whispered now, "that The Man did not shoot an 86?"
"With a 4 on the 17th, The Man shot a 90," said Jim quietly. "I'm very sorry."
As a boy, The Man was taught to persevere, to keep his nose to the grindstone, and so he will bounce back from this unnerving episode the way he always has, becoming a stronger, more mentally tough player.
Because he's still The Man.
The only question now is: Will he ever speak to Jim again?
Aw, what the hell.
Pub Date: 9/18/97