I nearly won my club's senior championship, this week. There is nothing exceptional in that, except for how it almost happened. Blame my wife. Or me. Or both of us. Or, maybe she made it all possible. Only the Golf Gods know.
Five holes into the first of two weekend rounds, I had been cruising at even par, with another ten-footer for birdie. Know the feeling?
But, as I reached for the putter, my blood ran cold. Deep in the darkness of my bag, obscured by a driver cover, I spied an extra club...the one I never play -- the little half-length ditty that I leave around the house and occasionally swing, but only for rhythm. It's the club my wife complains about because she describes it as, "Clutter."
"What is THAT doing in there?" I asked myself.
Panic. Of all the times for a senior moment, why did it have to be the senior championship?
"Ugh, guys? We have a problem." Any tournament golfer has a problem when he carries 15 clubs in a bag. Just ask Ian Woosnam. In the final round of the 2001 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Woosnam's caddy sent him to the first tee with an extra driver, and it probably cost him the championship.
"What problem?" inquired Rube, a friend and opponent.
"I have a fifteenth club in my bag. The rules allow fourteen. I don't know how it got here, I never use it, nor intended to use it, but the club is in there, and you need to know."
"Forget it, " said Rube. "It's an accident." Rube meant well, and he would never want to win that way, but golf is a game of honor. Rules are rules, and even if it didn't bother the guys in my group, I would have been cheating 60 other guys in the field. For Rube to say nothing would make him equally complicit. Worse, we had reached a remote part of the course, with nowhere to dump the club until after the turn.
"That's a four stroke penalty," said our pro when I turned in the card after the round. "It's two strokes per hole, to a maximum of four per round, but we appreciate your honesty."
So, wouldn't you know how, the next day, with all the pressure off, I played one of those rare, really fortunate rounds. Wayward balls bounced off trees into fairways, off rakes onto greens, and into holes after horrible chips. Maybe it was cosmic payback, I don't know, but it made one heck of a comeback. I went so low that, if not for the previous day's penalty, I would have won the overall gross, and still managed to share first place in my flight.
But, one mystery remained. Where did that extra club come from?
"Was it a short, little brown club?" inquired my wife, that evening.
"Yes, it was a short, little brown club. Do you know anything about that?"
"Oh. I might have put it in," she confessed. "That's what bags are for, right?"
Susie Homemaker, how do I love her? Let me count the clubs. "You might have put it in? That cost me the senior championship."
"Don't go there," she warned.
"I'm not blaming you, honey," I backtracked. "But, you need to tell me when you stick a club in the bag." I thought I handled that diplomatically, even graciously. An apology, or perhaps some sympathy from her would have sufficed.
"Let this be a lesson for you," she said sweetly.
"Well, it is, honey. A player is responsible for counting his clubs, including the ones he cannot see. I will never forget, again."
"That's NOT what I meant," Susie corrected.
"How many times have I asked you to pick up the clubs you leave lying around? If you had picked up your clubs in the family room, this would not have happened."
Why do wives always turn stuff around?