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Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 8/5/2004

A journey into the game's never, never . . . never land

OK, Roberta, here's the deal. We've known each other for years. We've tipped an occasional glass together. We've dined together in intimate settings, although you always insisted that our spouses come along. We've shared kid stories, complained about our jobs [at least you did before becoming a big-time columnist], and we appear destined to grow old together in this joint.

I like you. For a card-carrying liberal Democrat who is married to an editor you're not a half-bad person. I always enjoy your company.

Well, almost always. The golf course is another story. We played a round of golf, if you want to call it that, last fall, and I vowed never again. Then you called the other day and proposed another visit to the links so you could tape a segment for your new TV career. [You never did mention how much they're paying you for that gig, and you certainly never mentioned a guest fee.]

So I gave in and said OK. Now, I say again, never. Never again.

Never, never, never.

Let me pause to tell the readers something at this point. Roberta de Boer and I met for a round of golf last fall at The Legacy. Claire Batista, one of the best teachers around, donated 30 minutes of her time to walk Roberta through the basics. Then we headed to the first tee. More than two hours later we walked off the fifth green and Roberta asked, "Are we almost done?"

No, Bert, a golf course has 18 holes.

Here are a few answers to your more recent questions, most of them posed during the middle of my backswings last week at Whiteford Valley.

I don't know why it's called a pin. I don't even care.

You grip the club that way because a guy named Harry Vardon said so back at the turn of the century. No, not 2000. One of those other centuries.

Yes, it's OK to play in sneakers. Just not those sneakers.

No, I can't explain the lure of the game anymore than you can explain Carty. It's being one with nature. It's man against the land and the elements. It's camaraderie and competition. It's cursing and drinking. Take your pick.

Yes, a mulligan is a wonderful thing. You usually get one on the first tee. If it's a really friendly game, your playing partners might let you save it until you need it. You used eight of 'em in three holes. That's a slight abuse of the concept.

No, the Babe I was referring to was not Ruth. Her last name was Zaharias and she was the greatest female athlete in the world and a founder of the LPGA. Her descendents, so to speak, are in town this week for the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. They're playing four days of golf for $1.1 million. No, it's not too late to buy a set of clubs for your daughter.

Finally, I do know why there are 18 holes.

Back in the very beginning, when a Scotsman ruined a perfectly good barren, wind-swept sheep pasture and laid out the first golf course, he started out with a full bottle of the best local single-malt hooch. He had a little nip after every hole. There were 18 shots in the bottle, and when it was dry he quit. Probably passed out too, although the ancient Scots were a hearty breed.

Had you been along, he'd have needed another pint.



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