One of the benefits of getting older (yes, there indeed are benefits), is reuniting with old friends you haven’t seen in years. So to you twenty-somethings preparing to see old classmates at your 10th anniversary class reunion, those don’t count. I’m talking about friends from decades ago, which can only occur when you get to be around my age.
I played golf last night with my old friend Buzz. Real name Carmen, which, if I were tagged with that name, I would go by Buzz too. (And again, for you twenty-somethings, his last name isn’t Lightyear…jeez)
Buzzie was two years behind me in high school, and he has two amazing traits - an extremely easygoing personality and a lethal golf swing. The combination of those two traits led to a career in professional golf, both as a club pro and on the mini-tour level. And that lethal golf swing that, 35 years ago, left us all slack-jawed when he would rip a 270-yard rifle-shot controlled draw, is still there. Okay maybe it’s now 260 yards, as Buzz is now 50, but he can still pump it past 98 percent of the golfers out there. He plays forged Titleist irons. Translation: He can play. He’s one of those guys that has a dime-sized hole worn out on his 2-iron right on the sweet spot. And I can tell you that is the true mark of a player. Not a tour bag, not a form-fitting Nike shirt, not a set of hand-made whatevers. It’s a dime-sized worn sweet spot on a 2-iron.
Buzzie’s Achilles heel is, and always has been, his putting. I & My Man Mike used to joke that we would shoot a ‘Buzz 72’ - translation - 16 greens in regulation, 35 putts. I used to say that if you combined Buzzie’s ball striking with my putting, you’d have a helluva player. But that’s giving me way too much credit - Buzz is a helluva player all by his own.
Another nice trait he has is, from a totally self-centered point of view, is he thinks I am the greatest putter in the world. I’m not. As an aside, he also thinks I can sing. I can’t. But he swears that I am the best putter he knows, and you know what - I will let him keep thinking that. So we played golf last night and knowing that he thinks I can putt, I felt obliged to not let him down. Fortunately I didn’t, as I ran in a 25-foot for birdie on the third hole and a 20-footer from the fringe on 13 for another bird. That just let out the ‘Damn Jer….you can still putt’ comments. Which, of course, I ate up.
It bears noting in the 14th tee Buzz proposed we spice up the action by playing the last 5 holes for a buck each. Now up to that point Buzz was kind of scraping it around, playing the kind of golf that virtually any player on the planet would accept, but definitely not up to his standards. But once we put a little cash on the line? The laser controlled draw reappeared, flagsticks got fired at, putts dropped.
And five bucks passed from my hand to his.
We also exchanged lessons, prior to playing for money of course, where I pointed out a couple of things in his putting stroke and he helped me immensely with my swing. This happened on the 11th hole, where I was doing my usual spraying it all over the place form of Army Golf (left, right, left, right…). I commented to myself ‘Man I got to get back on my heels at address...’ and then I proceeded to hit a skank pull-hook pitching wedge 20 yards left of the green. Buzz came over and gave me a one-word lesson. He said ‘Balance’. Of course, I asked to elaborate, and he replied that the weight should be on neither the heels nor the toes - it should be in the middle of the foot. He pointed to my golf shoes and said ‘See the bottom shoe lace? Right there.’ I then dropped a ball, took his advice and put the weight right where he told me to, and proceeded to stick a pitching wedge five feet from the pin. I looked at Buzz and he just smiled. And for the rest of the round I actually hit it respectably good.
This is the mark of a good teacher. Simplicity. And you can’t get any simpler than a one-word lesson.
Dinner followed and we caught up on things. And the good news is Buzz will be in town for a few weeks so we will have the opportunity for more rounds, more one-word lessons and more laughs.
But I ain’t playing him a buck a hole anymore.