(Writer's note: This is the second installment from my novel, Off The Fairway.)
Shakes was sitting on the butt end of the huge black staff bag that was lying on the ground and emblazoned with ‘Billy Edwards’ on the side. Smoking a cigarette, he nervously kept checking his watch. “C’mon B.E. You said nine o’clock. Don’t let me down again. Don’t let them down again,” as he peered over to the grandstand by the first tee that was starting to fill with patrons. Nine fifteen…9:30…9:45. This will be the last time he does this to me, thought Shakes, I got five pros begging me to bag for them and I’m sitting here waiting on this crackhead.
Finally, at 9:55, the black Buick roared into the parking lot. Billy stumbled out and motioned for Shakes to come over to the car.
“Yo B.E., we ready to do this?” said Shakes as he approached the Buick.
“Piece of cake, Shakes. But listen – go over to the player’s tent and grab me two bananas, a bottled water and some Tylenol. My head is killing me. I’ll meet you on the putting green.”
Shakes shoulders slumped, his fears realized about his man and why he was late.
But before he left, Shakes had a demand.
“Lemme see your eyes, B.E.”
Billy was wearing his signature wrap-around Oakleys, which he claimed were to protect his eyes from the harshness daily exposure to the sun could cause. What was closer to the truth was that they were to keep the world at bay. If the eyes were the windows to the soul, well by God, Billy was not going to let anyone peer there.
Except Shakes. Billy obliged by flipping up the Oakleys for Shakes’ inspection.
“You happy, Shakes?”
“Yeah, I reckon,” said Shakes as he handed Billy the putter out of the tour bag before placing it over his shoulder and trudging off in search of fruit and pain reliever for his man.
Billy made his way to the practice green. I should ditch Shakes, he thought, Motherfucker is like a goddamn wife and parole officer wrapped into one. Lemme see your eyes…who the fuck does he think he is? Then the rational voice kicked in. Let it go, Billy. It’s Sunday and you’re one shot out of the lead. Game face time.
Billy opened a brand new sleeve of Titleist ProV1s and dropped them onto the practice green. Starting with some six-footers, he ran three straight into the heart of the hole, retrieved them and repeated it two more times. Nine in a row. Good, the nerves seem okay, he thought. By that time Shakes had returned with Billy’s order – two bananas, three Tylenol and a bottle of water. Billy wolfed down the first banana, washed it down with a swing of water, downed the Tylenol, took another gulp of water, and put the second banana in the golf bag.
“Let’s see what swing I woke up with today, Shakes,” as they headed to the range.
Starting with half-swings with the pitching wedge, Billy methodically worked his way through his bag, hitting every other club - nine iron, then seven iron, five iron, three iron, 3-hybrid, driver, then half pitch shots with the sand wedge. Every shot was purely struck, each one with a soft right-to-left movement indicative of a tour pro draw, each shot landing within ten feet of the flag, taking two hops before dutifully spinning backwards. The man is amazing, conceded Shakes.
“Okay Shakes, what time is it?”
“Ten thirty-five, B.E., we’re up in fifteen minutes.”
“Good. Let’s hit some more putts.”
Going back to the putting green, Billy, using only two balls this time, worked on his lag putts before ending with ramming in ten straight four footers.
“Let’s do this,” said Billy.
“Ladies and gentlemen…” barked the announcer on the first tee, “This is the final twosome of the day. Now on the tee, from Orlando, Florida, Freddie Phillips.” The gallery exploded with applause interlaced with hollers of “Go get ‘em Freddie!”
Phillips, a rail-thin but wiry six-foot, 165 pounds, acknowledge the crowd, placed the ball on the tee, took two practice swings, then unleashed a screaming hard draw that started down the right edge of the fairway before gently curving towards the heart of the short grass, 290 yards away.
“Now on the tee, from Las Vegas, Nevada, Billy Edwards.” The applause was also loud, but not with the same ferocity as for Freddie. Not that it mattered to Billy. He was in his zone. “He got The Look” as Shakes would say. “You could drop a screaming chicken next to Billy, but if he got The Look, he won’t even know it’s there.”
Billy teed his ball, stood behind it with ‘The Look’ as he picked out his target. Left edge of the right bunker. Commit, was the only voice in his head at that moment. That was why Billy loved playing golf. The voices were silent when he was inside the ropes.
The ball cracked off the clubface with the unmistakable ‘Whhhhhh…SLAPPPinnnggg’ sound seemingly reserved for only the best players in the game. The ball started exactly where Billy visualized it, left edge of the right bunker before gently moving about ten yards to the left; the same draw that Phillips put on his drive. With one exception – on the second bounce the ball leapt past Freddie’s drive and galloped out about thirty yards beyond. The gallery responded, first with the awe-filled ‘ooooh’ sound then with applause then with screams.
“Go get him Billy...Way to Ronstadt him!”
Billy gave a glance over to Freddie as if to say, Get used to hitting first into the greens today, Cuz. It will be Blue Bayou all day, in confirmation of the Ronstadt remark from the gallery. Billy then strode confidently down the first fairway with Shakes three steps behind.
The final round of the Show Me State Open was underway.
“Let’s talk about your family,” said the counselor.
“My family – you mean my ex-wives or my biological family?” said Billy.
“Your biological family, your upbringing. I want to know what kind of life you had growing up.”
“Oh okay. I didn’t want to talk about those two bitches anyway.”
“Hold on…two bitches? Your exes?”
“Yeah,” said Billy. “The first was an immature kid who used me to get her green card and the second was a gold-digging cunt.”
“Do you always marry women who aren’t right for you, Billy?”
“Maybe I will fuck me, Billy. Anyway, your biological family. Parents, siblings. Tell me about your childhood.”
Billy let out a deep sigh and thought, What the fuck does this have to do with anything? but he knew the only way he was going to get keep playing the tour was to endure this loser social worker who makes about the same amount in a year that he makes finishing in thirty-fifth place in a given week. “Okay. I’m the youngest of four. My dad was a plumber and my mom an accountant. I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, right outside of Akron, a very middle-class upbringing. No real trauma that I can recall.”
“Did anyone in your family have a drinking problem?”
“Yeah, my dad. He worked hard and drank hard. I can’t blame him, though. He put the food on the table.”
“Well that’s good. It seems you put blame on your ex-wives enough as it is.”
“Anyway, let’s talk about your dad. He drank a lot?”
“Yeah. He got sober when I was thirteen. Hasn’t touched it since.”
“Interesting. How did he do that?”
“He went to AA.”
“How did that make you feel?”
“How did it make me feel? What the fuck kind of question is that? What difference does it make how it made me feel? My mom was threatening to leave him. He saw the writing on the wall. So he stopped. As far as how it made me feel, happy I guess. I mean he just wasn’t part of my life when he was drinking. I rarely saw him.”
“And after he got sober?”
“Oh, it was great. He was a golfer, and took the game back up when he got sober. He saw how my game was progressing and decided that we could make some money hustling on local courses. When I was fifteen we would go out to courses and my dad would set up money matches – him and me against a couple of saps. We would kick their asses and my dad would flip me a twenty for the effort.”
“How much did your dad make out of those matches?”
“I don’t know, maybe a hundred bucks or so.”
“So he was your pimp.”
“He was your pimp, Billy. He used your skill to make money. He used you. Don’t you think it would have been fairer had he split the money evenly?”
“I suppose, but that wasn’t the point. He bought me my first set of clubs. He got me lessons with the local pro. I wouldn’t have made it to the tour without him.”
“My point, Billy, is that at a young age you were exposed to the idea of using people for personal gain. Doesn’t matter how you have processed it. I’m sure you loved your dad. But your dad used you.”
“I guess I never looked at it that way.”
“That’s why I’m here, Billy.”
“I know. Fuck me.”