Golden Golf: Till Death Do Us Part
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been beaten silly at my local muni by a 90-year-old guy named Saul, who bunts his tee shot down the fairway, dribbles a couple shots onto the green and wobbles in his one-putt for par. Meanwhile I’m figuring out the meaning of the adage, “The woods are full of long hitters” and chalking up another double bogey.
You know him. There are guys like Saul at every municipal course and private club in the world. He’s been playing the game forever, has a set of Wilson sticks from 1953 and is still playing the same Top-Flite ball he pulled out 14 years ago. He can’t lose the damn thing — he doesn’t hit it far enough to lose sight of it, even though his eyesight isn’t very good anymore. He can’t damage it — he doesn’t hit it hard enough. And he can’t retire it … why would he? A new one might change his luck.
Not that Saul needs luck. He plays what I call “golden golf,” and he’ll play it until the day he dies. He plays every day, nine holes, knows the golf course and every roll on it, knows everyone who plays or works there, even gets a free round once in a while.
Not everyone wants to get paired up with Saul, and I can understand why. Playing a round with him can be frustrating, particularly when you’ve been beaten silly who knows how many times by his bunting game and his glacial shuffle down the fairway. I’ve contemplated this plenty of times, usually from two fairways over, looking for my ball behind trees.
One day it occurred to me that I didn’t even know Saul’s last name, or much of anything else about him. So, the next time we played I asked him about his life, his work and such. Turns out Saul moved to California from Brooklyn in 1953, worked for years in the aerospace industry, retired and got bored. So he took up golf, a game he had always enjoyed but never played much. Soon enough, he was playing nine holes a day and, though he lost more and more yardage off the tee over the years, it was now about all he really looked forward to in life.
Saul is among many who feel the same way. Life for them is golf, golf and more golf, with a few Grand Slam breakfasts and early bird dinners at Denny’s in between.
Mostly, it’s a safe, predictable round where not much happens. Golf keeps our senior citizens off the streets and out of gangs. Of course, age also has its privileges. One of the favorite stories at our course concerns a day on which Saul was paired with young man who was reluctant to go out with an older player, fearing it would slow him down. When they reached the ninth fairway, the young man found himself with a tough shot: There was a large pine tree right in front of his ball — directly between him and the green.
After several minutes of debating how to hit the shot, Saul said to him, “You know, when I was your age, I’d hit the ball right over that tree.”
With that challenge placed before him, the youngster swung hard and hit the ball right smack into the top of the tree trunk, It then richocheted back down to the ground, not a foot from where it originally lay.
Saul offered one more sage remark, “Of course, when I was your age that pine tree was only three feet tall.”
Recently, Saul has been missing from his daily round. I asked after him at the starter window, but they didn’t know his whereabouts. We fear the worst. But then again — as with marriage — with golf we have vowed, “Till death do us part.”
If it be so, may Saul be bunting with the angels.