"Why don't you young lieutenants play through?" the colonel shouted from the ninth hole.
Just about every golfer has a great story. Here's mine.
I started playing the game around 1969. A professor friend from the University of the Pacific introduced me.
"If you want to move up in the world, you've got to learn to play golf," he told me. "It's about the important people you meet on the course."
At the time, neither one of us was wealthy enough to be on the greens with the "right people." The "prof" and I played at Van Buskirk in Stockton. The most important folks we met were Sheriff's deputies. They told a story about being robbed on the same course just a few weeks earlier. Unfortunately, none of them was armed. The deputies never thought a 9 mm would be a necessity — alongside a MacGregor putter!
But getting back to the colonel, it was 1971. I was playing the Fort Ord Golf Course with some fellow junior officers. Senior officers were in a foursome — just ahead of us.
The colonel in that group could see we were continually waiting for his party to finish, so he ordered us to "play through."
I took the first swing. I no longer carried woods in my bag. To me, they were like swinging a piece of electrical conduit with a five-pound weight on the end. I pulled out a 2 iron and lined up my shot. It was a beautiful, straight-as-an-arrow, 190-plus-yard drive. The Titleist ball bounced right off the pin. The 9th hole was on the other side of a small hill, so I couldn't see the immediate result of my effort.
I heard shouts of joy from the colonel's group. A major came running over the hill and approached me. I thought, "What have I done now?"
"That was one heck of a shot, Lieutenant!" the major said. "The colonel wants you to join his group — maybe give us a few pointers."
Suddenly, I knew what my professor friend meant about rubbing elbows with the right people on golf courses. Truth was, my play was just a lucky shot. I really stank at this game!
I tried to explain my dilemma to the major.
"Listen, Lieutenant." He growled back. "When the colonel orders you to play in his group, you will play! Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, sir!" I responded, and followed him over the hill.
After that, I was fortunate if I could hit the ball 100 feet, and usually not in a straight line. I observed the colonel and his crew just stare at me for the rest of the course. I knew what they were thinking: "Is this guy really this bad, or is he just messing with us?"
Needless to say, I was not invited to golf with the colonel again. Did it hurt my career?
Well, I was ready to move on to civilian life anyway, so it didn't make much difference.
But that was the end of my golf game. Even though I belong to a country club, I have never played the course.
You see, I just can't pick up a golf club today without seeing the colonel and that major in my mind — just staring and shaking their heads in disbelief!
Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer a satirist.