Fore! Make Way for a Returning Duffer--It's Tee Time

I have decided to get back into participation sports. Some time ago I came under the spell of television and was seduced from the courses, the courts and the fields to my easy chair, where I could spend hours--sometimes whole weekends--eating tidbits and watching young men and women sweat.

I have discovered that one pays a penalty for such sloth. Idleness compounds the depredations of aging. My legs have become unreliable. They are weak and unsteady. This deterioration is compounded, I suppose, by diabetes, but mostly, I think, it is television.

I made a tentative move the other day to go back to golf. I laid down my clubs 15 or 20 years ago. All I ever played was nine-hole pitch-and-putt, 3-par golf. That was enough for me. However, my foursome scattered, and I didn't care to play alone or with strangers. It was easy to chuck it.

The last thing I remember doing with my bag was putting it at the back of the linen closet. It was a red bag my wife had bought me, hoping to encourage me. I thought it was too red, but I came to like it.

I wondered where to start. Duke Russell had invited me to breakfast recently at a place called EAT, on Los Feliz Boulevard near Griffith Park. EAT is the most unpretentious of names for cafes. You see it at truck stops along highways. It's basic.

EAT happened to have some outdoor tables beside a nine-hole golf course. It was a pleasant setting and I watched the golfers teeing off. Many of them were seniors. It looked like a good place for re-entry.

The other day I drove back alone. I inquired at the starter's hut. He said the fee was $2.50. I asked if they rented clubs. He said yes, 25 cents each. You needed at least two. I asked if one could play alone. "If we aren't busy," he said.

It looked too busy for me to play through alone. Besides, I was afraid I might embarrass myself. I wasn't sure I could even hit a golf ball with a 7 or 9 iron. I asked if they had a practice range. He said no, but they had one at the Griffith Park Golf Course, only five minutes away.

Surprised at my sudden determination, I drove to the Griffith Park course. There was a clubhouse cafe, cozy as an English pub. I decided I'd better eat, if I was going to hit balls. I had ham and eggs, a sin, then went out to the practice range. It was a two-decker. There were a few open tees. I saw a man and woman drop a token into a large machine, which then delivered a basket full of balls. They said you could buy a token at the club for $2.50.

I went round to the club and bought a coin and rented a 9-iron. I got a basketful of balls and found an unoccupied tee on the lower level, under shade.

Others, men and women, were busy smacking balls out onto the practice range. They seemed too busy to notice me. I put a ball on the tee, tried to remember what to do and smacked it. It had fairly good loft. It went out about 30 yards, off to the right. Better than I'd expected.

My next shot scooted off to the left about 20 feet. I noticed, though, that there were quite a few golf balls scattered in that area. So I was not the only duffer. I hit about half the balls and never got a shot better than my first one. I sat on a bench to rest. Finally I went back to the tee and hit three more balls. Nothing spectacular.

A sign said I could get a half-hour lesson for $20. It would probably be worth it. I must be doing everything wrong. I don't expect a lot of myself, though. I just want to be able to hit the ball well enough to get it on the green in four or five shots. I'd take a seven on every hole.

I took the clubs back and retrieved my car keys, which I had left as a deposit. I felt rather good. It was not a private country club, but I liked the atmosphere. I looked at some T-shirts in the golf club and thought I'd have to get some clothes.

When I got home I looked in the closet to see if my golf bag was still there. It wasn't. I must have given it away. I am always giving something away to shut myself off from the past.

My wife is excited about my starting up again. She has volunteered to play with me on Mondays, Monday being her day off. Duke Russell has also offered to join in.

So I've got a threesome going already, and I'm not even sure I can get on the green.

Well, the walking will do me good, and it will be nice having ham and eggs under the trees.

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