No one knows for sure who first laid that definition on the game of golf. Legend says it was everyone from Mark Twain to Winston Churchill, but legend says this without a grain of proof. What’s more, it’s not even the funniest thing said about the game–that honor will forever belong to the late, great Robin Williams. His skit as a drunken Scotsman explaining golf to someone who has never played the game may be the funniest thing available on You Tube, and a reminder of how much we lost with his passing.
My very first job–if you could call it an actual job–was caddying for my Uncle Jimmy as he played his weekly 18 holes at the old City Park golf course. There were no golf carts in 1951, at least not at City Park, so we walked the entire course, me lugging my uncle’s golf bag over one shoulder, bitching to myself and counting the steps to the ninth hole break. (Memory may be playing tricks here, because it seems to me we played on Sunday mornings, meaning I would have missed attending Mass. Not that I would have minded, since church was always a major pain in the ass for me, but it was a big deal to my mother.) The job paid a buck, as I remember, along with a hot dog and a Duffy’s orange pop between the ninth and tenth holes–plus another Duffy’s at the 19th Hole while my uncle and his golf buddies downed a few and tried to figure out what the hell had gone wrong with their game that particular day.
One of those golfing buddies was a doctor who had lost his right leg above the knee at Anzio. In spite, or maybe because, of this handicap (a golfing term freighted with irony in his case) the doc played a ferocious–sometimes angry–game of golf. Hooks, slices, balls buried in sand traps or floating insolently on water hazards, all produced a stream of invective profanity unmatched for color and variety, stuff I’m sure the doc didn’t learn at Harvard Med. Have to say the doc’s vocabulary, and familiarity with human anatomy applied to profane purpose, was a revelation for a good (at that time) Catholic schoolboy. In fact, the doc held the record until I arrived at the Navy’s boot camp in San Diego where profanity had long been considered an art form.
The doc apparently had no use for an artificial leg–which the VA would surely have provided. Instead, he navigated the course with the aid of a crutch, his right pants leg pinned–or maybe sewn–in place. He’d lock his left leg, tuck the crutch firmly into an armpit and grimly attack the ball, as often as not swinging with one arm, rather than two. I think now he likely wasn’t the best duffer on the course, and that he slowed down my uncle and the rest of their foursome. If so, they never showed it; I remember those outings as filled with laughter, jokes and a wealth of creative profanity. And that if we were too slow we simply stepped aside to let other guys play through.
The doc’s only concession was using a little wheeled trolley to haul his bag of clubs around. When I mentioned to Uncle Jimmy that a cart like that would make my job a lot easier, he agreed–then allowed as to how it would also save him a buck every Sunday, along with the price of a hot dog and an orange soda.
I dropped the subject.