Comments & Curiosities: Fore! Oh wait, two! Maybe one

It was golf, it was fun, and it was different, as in, real different.

Monday's Mesa Verde Charity Golf Classic & Awards Banquet was a benefit tournament for Costa Mesa United, the group that, along with Monday's golf fest, has doled out some $500,000 to youth sports programs around the city and played a critical role in getting Jim Scott Stadium at Estancia High School and the Olympic pool at Costa Mesa High School built.

There were Costa Mesa luminaries at every turn, including, but not limited to, Mayor Gary Monahan, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, Planning Commissioners Sam Clark, Jim Fitzpatrick and Colin McCarthy, Newport-Mesa Board of Education President Walt Davenport and members Katrina Foley and Judy Franco, former Mayor Mary Hornbuckle, soon-to-be City Manager Tom Hatch and soon-to-be-former City Manager Allan Roeder, who was in danger of a record round, but the danger passed quickly.

According to event organizer and Costa Mesa Councilman Steve Mensinger, the theme was "An Event at Every Hole," and boy was there ever. If I have played a round of golf with rock bands, skateboarding and martial arts demonstrations, Estancia and Costa Mesa High cheerleaders and athletes wherever you looked, and uniformed members of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines from Camp Pendleton greeting everyone on the 18th tee, I don't remember when that was exactly.

Add to that, the Ursini family's trademark smokin' barbecue and an al fresco martini bar and In-N-Out Burgers courtesy of super-realtor Valerie Torelli, who has more than enough energy to power a small city for 180 days. The post-hacking banquet honored the Segerstrom family, whose support for schools and youth organizations over the years has passed "remarkable," and is about to pull up beside "legendary."

But the bell ringer in my opinion was the camel at the sixth hole — and we're not talking about stuffed — complete with handler and belly dancers. You don't see a lot of belly dancers on golf courses, and even fewer camels. This one was pretty cute, for a camel. It was a young she-camel, and very well behaved.

Camel behavior is an issue with me because of my first encounter with one, which was in the Bronx Zoo, on a third-grade field trip. I was fascinated with my very first close camel encounter and climbed up on the handrail to get a better view.

Of all the things I had not yet learned about the world, of which there were many, no one had told me that camels can spit, really well. The camel lumbered toward me, batted its long eyelashes, gave me what I was sure was a smile — then launched a ball of spit that covered me from the top of my head down. Of the many things I have learned about the world since then, many of which I have forgotten, I have no trouble at all remembering that camel's spit.

OK, fine. But here is the question that deserves a place in the folder with "Why can't you tickle yourself?" and "Can you get in the 10-Item-Only checkout line with a dozen eggs?": Camels and dromedaries have either one hump or two — but which is which?

Not to worry. We're here to help. Write this down. One hump, dromedary; two humps, camel; three humps, you're drunk. Thus, the camel at the Costa Mesa United tourney, clearly a one-hump model, was a dromedary. Does that mean you shouldn't call it a camel? Is that wrong? Will it get its feelings hurt? It will not.

According to camel-ologists, a dromedary is also called an Arabian camel, versus a Bactrian camel, which is the two-humped model, but they are both camels. But here is the thing, and this is fascinating, sort of. All those very cool South American beasties — llamas, alpacas, vicunas — are all camels, just like their Arabian cousins. Can you believe it? A llama is a camel. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Another strange camel factoid, as if the rest of this hasn't been strange enough, is that almost all the camels in the world are domesticated. If a wild camel is what you're after, and I would be careful, you'll have to go to Australia of all places. In the 1840s, a handful of camels were shipped to Australia and used to explore its vast and really dusty interior. That idea came and went, but the camels stayed. One hundred-seventy years later, that handful of Aussie camels has grown to more than a million feral camels roaming the Outback and looking for little kids to spit on.

I think that's it. Camels, dromedaries and golf — it's a winning combination. It just depends on whether you like your golf with one hump or two. Don't get too close, and if it's pursing its lips — I would run. I gotta go.

PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at

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