The year was 1979. I was retained on a softball team with a bunch of guys who were weary of my complaints about their racist and anti-semitic jokes because I was too valuable to dump. Their idea of a good time was to regale each other on their extra-marital conquests while wives and kids sat at the next table eating pizza after our games.
Each year one of the ring leaders hosted a golf tournament near Seattle with his dad, brothers and their friends. As the pluperfect outsider, I had never been invited nor was interested in being included on the trip. For reasons I didn't realize at the time the boys insisted I join them that year. It wasn't an ask.
My dad was an avid golfer and tried his hardest to encourage me to play. I learned how and even won a lower echelon club tournament as a college student. Due to my political awakening in college, I didn't pick up a golf club for nine years. Prior to the trip I had played a few times but was by far the worst player in the group.
Pop was glad to hear about the tournament when I visited him in Detroit that summer. He took me out on the lawn and offered a few pointers to remember.
The misery began on the way to the airport. The guys started with black jokes, then Jewish jokes. It continued on the plane when they gave me a hard time for putting us in the non-smoking section (That still existed ). After a few drinks at the Holday Inn their bullying ramped up. Two drinks has always been enough for me. It was just the beginning for them. I left the bar early and wanted to go home but was talked out of leaving by my roomate who was one of the only sensible guys on the team.
Golf didn't help. I was awful. The way the tournament worked is that you played for two days to establish your handicap then were paired with one of the dad's pals on Sunday for the match. By the end of the day Saturday I had by far the worst score.
Sunday morning the matchups were announced and something that has never happened to me before or since took place. the guy I was paired with had an eerie resemblance to Pop. I walked up to him and said:
"You tell me what clubs to use and we will win today."
From that moment on I was "in the zone". One by one we knocked off better golfers until the second to last hole, a long par three. I pulled out a 3 wood which I was never able to hit and smacked my drive that kept going until it was near the hole. The format was to play every other shot so my partner sunk the putt and we were on to the last hole. Most of the golfers were drinking beer and smoking cigars during the day. I had a bottle of water.
On the final hole I was faced with a fifteen foot putt for the win. It felt like at was two feet away. There was no doubt in my mind it would go in. When it did I went crazy. Vindication, exultation, joy, happiness, pride mixed together in a drunken celebration. We headed for the plane soon after the finish and I kept my winning champagne drenched outfit on until returning to Palo Alto.
On the plane it was mentioned to me that I seemed to not be having fun during the match. No I answered. I was having the best time of my life. I finally knew what athletes meant when they said they were "in the zone". I was carried along for the ride that felt like an out of body experience. I couldn't help but feel Pop's presence the entire day.
Pop died the next winter. We never played golf together again. I know that he was somehow with me that one last time.
Causes Don Surath Supports
Alzheimers Association, Jewish Home of San Francisco, Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education, American Bone Health, American Diabetes...