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She wants to play a round, not play around

Special to The Times

I just want to hit the ball straight. Far would be good too.

What I don’t want, when I’m on the golf course pretending that recreation and frustration can co-exist, is to bond with my fellow players. This ain’t a team game, sport. And this ain’t happy hour.

Because few of my friends play golf, and because those who do live out of town or have work schedules incompatible with mine, most of the time I go to the golf course as a single, hoping to horn in on someone else’s tee time.

For me, playing single is not a cause. It’s the effect of wanting a game when nobody I know can come out and play. On the course, I’m collegial, but that’s a long 9-iron from trying to hook up.

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I just want to hit the ball straight. Far would be good too.

I’ve played alone, but usually in twosomes, threesomes, foursomes or, unfortunately, fivesomes. I’ve played nine holes in 90 minutes, and 18 in a teeth-gnashing 5 1/2 hours. I’ve played with people in their 80s and with boys whose voices haven’t changed. I’ve played with a woman so hung over she could barely drive her cart but still managed a near-scratch score and a sweet, twig-like septuagenarian who swung her club as if she were killing spiders. She played from the back tees, hit the middle of the fairway every time and kicked my butt from here to Troon.

Mostly, though, I play with men, because that’s who’s playing at noon on a Wednesday. Mostly, they just want to spend a pleasant half-day pretending to exercise in fresh air, conversing politely about nothing of substance.

Me too.

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Apparently not the fellow I was paired with recently who swung his clubs while tethered to his iPod. He donned a pained expression every time he had to yank out his earplug to hear me tell him we were up. Then there was the grunt-and-mumble 13-year-old -- also just the two of us -- who played all 18 holes cheesed-off because he didn’t have his favorite driver. But even they were more acceptable than the guys who, without invitation, want to enumerate all the defects they detect in my grip, my swing, my choice of club.

And for some of you other chatty Charlies lining up your putts, I’m happy to opine about whether it will break right, but no, I do not want to debate the righteousness of Rush Limbaugh and how the Patriot Act should reach further into our private lives, which I clearly wouldn’t mind if I didn’t have something to hide. And truly, I’m horrified and deeply sorry that you’re still fighting with the insurance company over the bill for the weeks of hospitalization you endured two years ago after someone’s tee shot whacked you in the head ... but this game’s hard enough without creeping me out. Can’t you just point to the dent just above your right ear and remind me to look both ways before crossing the fairway?

I just want to hit the ball straight. Far would be good too.

As a relatively new golfer of modest ability, I need to concentrate, not wonder if you’re trying to score a date. Thanks so much if you think I’m cute, but your strategy is not what the golf gods had in mind in naming the approach shot. Really, I’m playing as a single to pick up pars, not guys.

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This means you, Mr. Handyman who gave me your business card and invited me to call in case I needed some home improvements. And even you, Mr. Nice Guy who gave me an icy bottle of water on a brutally hot day and, my explanation notwithstanding, believed that I play single as a desperate appeal; you wrote your number on my scorecard, adding, “My days off are Monday and Wednesday.”

Be mindful, gentlemen, that I have at my immediate disposal an arsenal of weapons disguised as sports equipment. And that sometimes my aim is true.

Ellen Alperstein can be reached at weekend@latimes.com.

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