Monday, August 04, 2008

Driving into trouble

Last week I took Colm and Tess to the driving range and putting green just hit some balls. Both of them seemed mildly disappointed that we didn’t golf for real. What I discovered is that this meant not just golfing but riding in the golf cart. Normally I walk the course, but with Beth out of town it really came down to ride the cart or stay home. Easy.

I was eager to play again after having thoroughly stunk up the place a few days earlier with my brothers and my dad. One of my brothers offered to let me hit with his clubs, but I knew the fault lay with my swing. I just had no idea what the problem was. With two holes to play my dad passed along an observation. He suggested to me that I needed quieter hands, especially on my back swing. Despite a terrible round overall, I hit the ball solidly those last two holes. I was almost elated. I had something to focus on – quiet hands. I couldn't wait to put those quiet hands into action again.

I set up the kids with a putting contest for our round of nine holes. Two M&Ms for the winner of each hole, one for the loser. My first drive took off like a laser splitting the middle of the fairway and coming to a stop about twenty yards from the pin. Chip and two putt made par. I was off to a good start. Meanwhile Tess and Colm were haggling over who was closest or whether they should measure after the first or the second putt.
Tess won. Colm affected a scowl though it was hardly convincing. The second hole brought another par – on in regulation but a ten foot putt to save par. Quiet hands. Colm took the second putting contest. Everyone was feeling good. It carried through the third hole, another par for me. As I drove us up the steep cart path to the fourth hole tee box, I was beginning to wonder where this round might be going. Tess and Colm were wondering out loud when they were going to collect their candy. I opened the bag and put it in the glove box.

I grabbed my driver and went to tee off about twenty yards away. As I lined up and prepared to take my club back I heard a scream and then the sound of the cart motor. I looked back and for a second I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The cart which had been parked facing me was driving 180 degrees away, crossing the path and headed for the sage brush. Tess was behind the wheel screaming, Colm was nowhere in sight, the cart wobbled precariously as it hit the rough ground and then it pitched down and over a slope along a steep side hill. By the time I had absorbed these facts my club was on the ground and I was in a full sprint. My biggest fear was that the cart would topple over. I reached the cart grabbing it’s rear frame just as it came to rest high centered on some sage brush. Inside, Tess was gripping the wheel and Colm was trying to clamber off the floor. Both of them were crying.

Tess explained that Colm had slipped on to the gas pedal while trying to reach the candy in the glove box on the driver's side. The cart's wheels were cranked right and had turned away from the tee box and begun to arc around. Tess had tried to straighten it out, sending it and them across and down into the sage brush. It was a brief but terrifying ride for both of them. Colm was upset as much my his role in triggering the incident as anything else. He stood still, his chin lowered nearly to his chest, tears streaking his cheeks.

There in the prickly sage brush, high above the rest of the course with a commanding view of the Grande Ronde Valley, the furthest point from the clubhouse, holding each of them, consoling them, collecting my own wits, still not quite able to believe what had happened or worse, what had not happened, I simply embraced our good luck. As the kids quieted down and I carried them back to softer and safer ground, I pondered what to do next. There was no way to back the cart up the way it had entered. Perhaps we’d have to trek back to the clubhouse and get help. I scouted the slope down to the closest point with the winding cart path. It looked steep but passable. I hopped in the cart which teetered as I settled in. I pushed on the accelerator but the wheels only spun. I went back and leaned into it, pushing for all I was worth. I felt it moving. I was a little worried that it might take off without me but I managed to dislodge it, get in and drive cross country to the path down below. The kids watched and their expressions seemed to lift as they saw me driving back to them on the cart path.

“Who wants a ride?” I shouted.

“I do,” said Tess. Colm scrambled in behind her.

“Wanna drive?” I said.

“No way,” she laughed.

I looked at Colm and said, “You?”

He shook his head trying to conceal a smile and he said meekly, “I want a M&M.”

I parked once more. The kids jumped out, and I retraced my steps to the fourth tee and attempted to regain some kind of focus. Quiet hands, came the message from my suddenly unquiet mind. A few minutes earlier I had intimations of a special round. Those intimations had been on the mark; they just hadn't had anything to do with golf.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dads have a way, don't they? Be it the simple advice of "quiet hands" or saving you from a terrifying golf cart accident... Yay Dads!
Love, Erin

5:29 PM  

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