Once upon a green

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
Faced with the failure of his family’s sporting goods store after ninety years in business, coupled with a rocky marriage, amateur golfer Bobby Bolton's life wasn’t turning out quite the way he planned.
Everything changes when a new golf equipment supplier offers a one million dollar prize if Bobby can make the jump from being an everyday duffer to professional status in the space of one year, Bobby decides to take the gamble, although he remains highly suspicious of the mysterious golf club manufacturer’s motives.
When the supplier introduces Bobby to their strange custom-fitted clubs, he starts to win tournaments, but at a chilling cost, he hadn’t bargained for.
You don't have to be a golfer to enjoy this delightful story about a man who will do almost anything to become a professional golfer. On his perilous quest to win the prestigious Masters tournament, he makes a life-threatening deal that he soon comes to regret.
With the help of some friends and an unexpected ally, Bobby, show he has what it takes to perform under pressure
An entertaining story for golfers and none golfers alike.

Submitted: October 05, 2019

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Submitted: October 05, 2019

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A MILLION DOLLAR CONTEST

 

The specter of bankruptcy hurts.

Sometimes it hits you fast like a freight train, other times it creeps up slowly, like a thief in the night. Regardless of how it arrives, it lingers over every decision you make. And it’s hard not to take it personally. You end up wallowing in dread in a state of limbo until finally some obscure branch of authority arrives to tell you it’s all over. Your dream of building a business empire is gone.

It’s becoming very difficult to make any money in the sporting goods business these days, what with Amazon and huge chain stores cutting everyone’s profit margins to ribbons, but I’m doing my best not to be a quitter.

 Bolton Sporting Goods Inc, started by my Grandpa George Bolton almost ninety years ago, has provided a decent living for the Bolton family for the better part of three generations. I’m determined to try anything to avoid being the Bolton family member that ends up closing the doors for good.

 

After I listlessly pushed an untidy pile of unpaid supplier invoices across the scarred old desktop, I scratched my head with the stub of my pencil for the fifth time in a row, trying to make sense of it all. Every month the gap between income and expenses was growing bigger and not in a good way.

I just turned thirty-nine. Although it didn’t bother me all that much, I have to admit I was starting to feel that Father Time had me in his sights. I might be a little overweight since I have one of those potbellies that seems determined to resist all efforts at slimming down. Numerous small things bothered me these days. Things like needing glasses and getting up a bit slower from my chair.

Moving inventory around the store inevitably made me reach for pain-killers the next day. My wife, Norma, didn't help with the situation either. Her constant nagging about the lack of money was becoming a real drag on my spirits. Maybe a few little ones would have helped to shift her focus away from my lack of success.

I wished now that we had tried harder to have a family, but the time had just passed by with nothing to show for it.

 

Outside the store, a gentle rain had been falling all day. Business volume was even slower than normal. Other than a few people wandering in to try the latest PING drivers and the odd customer looking for new grips, there wasn’t much doing. I decided to fire up my computer and do a little surfing on the net.

I usually started by reviewing some price comparisons with my biggest competitors, but today, I found himself going through the golf improvement websites. When I typed in words Golf Improvement, I was astounded to see references to over 384,000 websites

I moved from website to website, sometimes breaking out into loud laughter at the more extreme gadgets and gizmos, all promising to lower the average golfer’s score virtually overnight. There were swing trainers, wrist monitors, compression wraps, and no end of devices guaranteed to help keep your head down. I knew first hand that most of the stuff was crap.

I started to chuckle when I saw an ad for the ‘BOOMERANG.’ It was a special golf club designed to provide resistance to the golf swing. It consisted of a conventional golf club handle with a very flexible wand-like shaft.

At the end of the shaft, a heavy orange ball was attached to provide weight resistance. In theory, if a golfer swings this contraption several times in a row, he or she will get used to the heavyweight. Then, when the golfer switches back to a regular driver, the club would feel as light as a feather, thereby promoting a faster swing speed.

I thought to myself, What a load of bullshit.

I stopped selling the training aid after Teddy Corbin, one of my long-time customers, reported a very bad experience. I recalled the day my customer had come into the store, fuming mad.

"Damn it, Bobby, this ‘BOOMERANG’ thing you sold me isn’t just a joke; it’s pretty damned dangerous too."

 I scratched my head and replied, "What you are talking about, Teddy? I haven’t heard any other complaints.”

 Teddy was still fuming, “I was in my backyard, swinging the thing in a full arc, just like the instructions said when all hell broke loose. Now, I admit I may have been swinging a little aggressively, but the blasted heavy ball broke loose from the end of the club. Damned thing took off like a rocket.”

 I tried not to laugh, “What happened to the weighted ball, Ted?”

Teddy looked sheepish, “The damned thing hit my next-door neighbor’s deck chair so hard it tipped over. She fell headfirst, screaming, into her swimming pool.”

Now I was laughing out loud, “Teddy, I’m sorry for laughing, but it is funny. Seriously, though, is your neighbor okay?”

Teddy smiled, “After dumping Mrs. Peabody in the pool, the ball ricocheted off her clothesline. Just about killed two squirrels and a pigeon too. I only hope she doesn’t try to sue me for emotional distress.”

When I stopped laughing, I assured Teddy that he would receive a full refund. I offered to write a letter of apology to Mrs. Peabody as well. Then I wrote to the manufacturer telling them the training aid was total crap and asking for permission to return my inventory.

 

 

The beginning of March and the golf season would be in full swing soon. I decided to shut down the computer and do some work on my inventory numbers to get ready for our annual ‘Open Season’ sales promotion. This year the promotion had to be successful, or it really would be game over.

Just as I was about to hit the off button on the computer, a very strange advertisement flashed up on my screen. At first, I was annoyed. I was almost certain I had activated the software program that was supposed to prevent these unsolicited pop-up ads. Like most people, I didn’t like this continuous invasion of his privacy.

These days no matter what product website you looked at, you could count on being bombarded with special offers for weeks on end. I put it down to the sophisticated artificial intelligence programs advertisers were using.

The unwanted ad showing on my screen had most likely been triggered because I had visited some golf training products’ websites. I was ready to push the delete button, but curiosity got the better of me. I decided to take a closer look at the advertisement flashing on my computer screen. It was certainly intriguing. It read:

 

ATTENTION ALL GOLFERS:

 

WANT TO HAVE A CHANCE AT WINNING ONE MILLION USA DOLLARS???

 

HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A LOW HANDICAP GOLFER? ARE YOU TIRED OF TAKING LESSON AFTER LESSON ONLY TO FIND YOUR “OLD SWING” RETURNING AFTER JUST A FEW GAMES?

OUR PATENTED METHODOLOGY AND STATE OF THE ART EQUIPMENT CAN MAKE YOU A “SCRATCH” * GOLFER – GUARANTEED.

WE’RE READY TO PROVE OUR WORDS!

IN THE NEXT 30 DAYS WE WILL BE SELECTING ONE GOLFER FROM YOUR AREA WHO CURRENTLY HAS A CERTIFIED HANDICAP OF BETWEEN 15 AND 20. WE WILL PROVIDE ALL EQUIPMENT AND TRAINING AT NO COST TO THE SELECTED GOLFER

IF THE GOLFER WE SELECT BECOMES A CERTIFIED “SCRATCH” * GOLFER WITHIN ONE YEAR FROM THE START OF THE CONTEST, WE WILL PAY HIM OR HER, A SPECIAL AWARD OF $1,000,000.00 (ONE MILLION US DOLLARS) TAX-FREE!

(Certain Terms & Conditions may apply)

 

FOR INFORMATION ON THE MILLION DOLLAR “SCRATCH” * GOLFER CONTEST PLEASE CONTACT US AT:

WWW.SCRATCHGOLFERCONTEST.COM

 

NOTE: * USGA definition of a “SCRATCH” GOLFER is: “A player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on any rated golf courses.”

 

ATTENTION: We will also be appointing exclusive distributors on a regional basis for our new line of equipment. If you have an interest in representing us, please contact us through the above website.

 

I shut my computer off and went home to bed. All night long, I dreamt of the huge difference a prize of one million dollars would make in my life.

The next afternoon I finished unpacking the latest shipment of new leather golf bags. The goods had arrived on a C.O.D. (cash on demand) basis because this particular supplier would no longer extend credit terms. This was the start of a dangerous trend. If other suppliers started to ship on the same basis, Bolton Sporting Goods Inc. wouldn’t have enough inventory to back the upcoming “Open Season” sales promotion

I shrugged off the hint of depression spawned by my loss of credit terms and prepared to close up shop. Tonight was the one night of the week I especially looked forward to Poker Night at the Uxbridge Golf & Country Club.

Poker, chicken wings, and beer were my all-time favorites, although they would never replace golf as my #1 passion. Norma, my wife, thought the Country Club was a waste of time, a luxury we couldn’t afford. During the height of our last argument, I put my foot down.

 “Norma, I don’t give a hoot what the Club costs. I work hard, and golf is my only outlet. The Club is the last thing I’m willing to give up.”

Norma retreated in a huff and wouldn’t talk to me for the rest of the week.

It was a chilly, springtime evening when I drove up through the entrance to the Uxbridge Golf & Country Club. Although I was a popular member, I always felt self-conscious, parking my red nine-year-old, Hyundai Sonata next to the long line of luxury vehicles that always seemed to be in residence at the Club. As one of the less wealthy members, I tried to overcome my feelings of “not belonging” by entering as many Club events as possible.

As usual, the weekly poker game table was set up by the fireplace in the Men’s lounge. The gathered men greeted me with a chorus of friendly insults.

“Oh my god, he’s back for more, boys. Hide your chicken wings and count your money”.

I laughed and shook hands all around before taking my regular seat at the table. Without being asked, the waiter dropped a large draft beer in front of me.

After the dealer shuffled the cards, the conversation shifted to the Club’s opening tournament scheduled for April 15th. The tournament was open to all Club members, with players grouped into flights of players with similar handicaps.

“Are you entering this year, Bobby?” asked Wilbur Leyland. Wilbur was the owner of a very successful auto dealership in town.

 I hesitated, "I'm not sure guys. It depends on which flight they decide to put me in."

The guys all laughed. “Don’t worry, Bobby, with a handicap of 19, you don’t have to worry about being put in with any of the really good players.” 

I laughed too and grabbed another chicken wing from the basket.

When the players took a break from the game, I told them about the unusual advertisement that popped up on my computer.

I shrugged. “For all, I know it could be more bullshit, but it certainly looked genuine.”

 "Wow, a million-dollar prize!" exclaimed Fred Singer, "unfortunately, our handicaps are way too high to even think of applying, but why don’t you try and enter the contest, Bobby?”

I just grinned and said, “Believe it or not, I already have.”

 

ABADDON GOLF CORPORATION

 

So far this week, three more shipments had arrived C.O.D., greatly increasing my concern about the viability of the business. I was in the process of fitting a new fiberglass shaft onto a damaged driver while simultaneously thinking about my shrinking options, when the phone rang, breaking my train of thought.

 A low female voice asked if I was Mr. Robert Bolton. I assumed it was just another one of those pesky telemarketers. Before she could start her speech, I told her I was wasn’t interested.

The woman just continued talking, “Please hold for our President, Mr. Jules Abaddon. He’s calling regarding your entry in our contest.”

At first, the call mystified me. Then I remembered my on-line application to a golfing contest, several weeks back. I waited patiently, and finally, a man picked up the phone on the other end. He had a deep voice tinged with a slight middle east accent.

“Mr. Bolton, my name is Jules Abaddon. I’m calling you personally to advise you that you are now officially on our shortlist of candidates for the Million Dollar golfing contest my company, Abaddon Golf, is sponsoring.”

For a few moments, I wondered if it was Fred Singer or one of the other guys from the golf club pulling my leg. I decided to play along with the joke.

“That’s great Mr. Abaddon, is there anything I need to know in advance before I get my million bucks?”

Abaddon chuckled, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have an extensive review process to undergo before we make our final decision. However, I can tell you that so far you are the only contest entrant that could also become a possible Regional Distributor for our new products. That combination stands you in very good stead.”

I laughed, “I’ve been in the sporting goods business for quite a while, and I have to say I’ve never heard of Abaddon equipment.”

“Precisely, Mr. Bolton. We make fabulous, very exclusive equipment, but our brand is unknown. That’s why we’re willing to invest a million dollars in the contest.”

“Why don’t you send me a few samples, and I’ll decide if I have any interest in being a regional distributor or not.”

“You sound skeptical, Mr. Bolton, so I’m going to send our Director of Marketing, Nicholas Stanton, to talk to you personally. He will contact you soon.”

I put the phone down and thought, although I wouldn’t put it past those guys at the Club to try to pull something, this phone call almost sounds legit.

 

The very next day, a black van pulled up and parked outside the store. I watched with interest as the front door of the van slowly opened. Several seconds passed before a very well-dressed man exited the van. A flaming crimson red pocket hanky adorned his light gray, pin-striped suit, was with. His long silver hair was swept back from his forehead.

The man had deeply hooded eyes, sunken in a gaunt weathered face. He moved slowly toward the doors as if suffering from some internal pain. I thought his highly polished shoes were a little too pointy-toed for current fashion.

The man introduced himself, “I’m Nicholas Stanton, Director of Marketing for the Abaddon Golf Equipment Corporation, but please, call me Nick.” Stanton had a deep hypnotic voice, totally out of character for his slight body mass.

After we shook hands, I started to ask some questions, but Nick immediately intervened. “Sorry, Bobby, no details until I finish the interview process. You’ll have all the answers soon enough.”

I shook my head. “I’m not sure I want to take part in an interview. Why can’t you just leave me a sample of your equipment, and I’ll let you know if I’m interested?”

“My mistake. I should have clarified the situation. The interview is not about being our regional distributor, it’s to determine if you qualify to be the lucky participant in our million-dollar contest.”

“Oh, that’s a different story. Fire away.”

Stanton then started a long interview process. He asked me in-depth questions on a wide variety of subjects, including my golf handicap, political orientation, marriage, religion, health, and my general mental state. Each time I responded, Nicholas Stanton, made copious notes on his portable computer.

The interview took more than an hour to complete. When Stanton finished, he pushed the send button and sat back.

 “My boss doesn’t like to waste time, Bobby, we should hear back from him shortly after he reviews your interview and contest application.”

“Can I offer you a coffee, Nick?”

“Thanks, but I’ll take a pass. While we’re waiting for Mr. Abaddon’s decision, let me outline the strategy we’ll be following, providing, of course, you are the one selected as the lucky contest candidate."

 Nick continued, “Our primary goal will be to make you the poster boy for Abaddon golf clubs. The challenge will be to turn you from a nineteen handicap to a scratch golfer in twelve months, using our special equipment and training techniques. If we’re successful, every golfer in America will be beating a path to our door.”

I listened to Nick’s spiel with a degree of skepticism. Starting from a high handicap at my age and physical condition, the goal of being a scratch golfer was almost impossible. Even some of the well-known golf professionals struggled to keep that level of play year after year.

I was starting to wonder if this whole thing was just a waste of time. Valuable time I could be spending on finding a solution to the real problems I was facing with the business.

Stanton was still talking, “Don’t forget, Bobby, if we do this together successfully, you’ll get a million bucks, and our company will catapult into the lead as one of the top suppliers of golf equipment in the world.”

Nick went on to explain that the upcoming million-dollar scratch golfer contest was being structured as a highly publicized, suspense campaign. A favorite marketing strategy of Mr. Abaddon himself.

I asked, “What exactly do you mean by a suspense campaign?”

Nick laughed. “First of all, we’ll create an artificial shortage by not offering any of our new equipment until after the contest ends. Then, only very select golfers will be allowed to use the clubs, under highly regulated conditions. We are going to position our equipment as the most prestigious, exclusive, sought-after golf clubs on the planet."

“You make it sound easy, Nick, but there’s a ton of competition out there. Lots of guys making good gear for sale these days.”

Nick laughed. “That’s a large part of our mystique, Bobby. You can’t buy a set of Abaddon golf clubs outright. To get our clubs, a golfer has to go through an extensive review and approval process. If they pass, they will be permitted to lease a set under the terms and conditions of a strict legal contract.

I shook my head and laughed, “You got to be kidding me, Nick, none of the golfers I know would ever go for that arrangement.”

 Nick was just about to respond when his computer indicated an incoming message from the head office. He read the contents and smiled.

 “Mr. Abaddon has given your application his personal approval. It looks like you’re our Million Dollar contestant Bobby, congratulations.”

Although I was still skeptical, I tried to look happy, but I was thinking, I’d give up my Million Dollar contest spot in a minute for five thousand cash in hand.

Nick shook hands and told me a custom fitting of the new equipment would be arranged over the next few days.

I watched as Nick left the store and returned to the black van. I couldn’t help feeling the whole thing was some kind of a scam. I thought I guess, I’ll find out soon enough.

 

Over dinner that night, I tried to explain the events of the day to my wife. "I know it’s a pipe dream, Norma, but just think what a difference it would make in our lives if I could win a million bucks."

Norma laughed scornfully, "Bobby, I’ve watched your golf game for years. Let's face it; you’re just a duffer. You’ll always be a duffer. You have about as much chance of becoming a scratch golfer as a snowball in Hell."

She got up and walked to the stove, "Also Mr. Golf Professional, what exactly happens to our income if you stop working at the store for twelve months and you don't win the contest?"

I went silent. I had to admit Norma made a very good point. I changed the subject to avoid any more bickering.

After a sleepless night, I decided I couldn’t take a chance on a whole year with no income. When I arrived at the store the next morning, I called Nick to give him the news.

“As much as I love golf and would give just about anything to become a scratch player, I can’t take a chance of ending up broke if I don’t win the contest. So, thanks, Nick, but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline the offer to be the contestant.”

Nick responded, “Don’t be hasty, Bobby, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Let me talk to the boss and get back to you.”

Two hours later, Nick called back with a response. “Bobby, Mr. Abaddon will personally guarantee you will earn at least as much as you would have if you had stayed on at the store, even if you don’t win the contest.”

On that basis, I figured I couldn’t lose on the deal. “Okay, Nick, you can count me in.”

 

THE CUSTOM FITTING

 

 

After Nick delivered a signed letter from Jules Abaddon personally guaranteeing the minimum income deal, events started happening lightning fast. The following day the black van arrived at the store again, but this time three guys I assumed were technicians piled out.

They were all wearing black uniforms with ABBADON GOLF printed in large red letters across the back. After unloading a large assortment of unrecognizable electronic equipment, the technicians wasted no time. Before I knew what was happening, they started using the devices to measure me from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.

The men were surly, only grunting non-commital responses to my questions. I also thought they had a strange, unsettling odor about them.

Nicholas Stanton finally showed up and took charge. "Let me explain our approach, Bobby. It's a three-part program. The first part is an intensive physical training approach, with emphasis on core strengthening. The second part is a program package of golf techniques and psychological training. Third and most important, is the specialized mating of our equipment to the individual golfer.”

 I was overwhelmed. There was so much stuff to remember; I had no idea the entire training process would be so intensive. I just wanted to hit golf balls.

The three technicians made me lie flat on a specialized table they had set up earlier in the back storage room of the store. After connecting me to numerous electrical leads, each one providing detailed measurements of my body mass, Nick said, “We’ll take all this data back to our shop, Bobby, for the design of your custom-fitted clubs. They should be ready in a week or so.”

I could hardly wait to get my first look at the new revolutionary Abaddon clubs. It was starting dawn on me that the contest might be the real thing.

 

As my mysterious training program intensified, a buzz of excitement arose around the strange events taking place at Bolton Sporting Goods. Even Norma got involved by volunteering to run the store in my place. Normally, she refused to set foot on the premises.

Various specialists arrived and departed every day. Weight training, swing coaching, detailed studies of course management, all taking place in a blur. Wilbur, Fred, and Teddy Corbin, my playing buddies, kept dropping into the store. They were all eager to see my progress.

Each time the guys showed up Nick Stanton or one of his helpers politely but firmly told them the back rooms of the store were off-limits for the duration of the contest.

Although I thought hypnosis was more bullshit, I had to admit, I found the intense sessions quite relaxing. But sometimes I often felt very disturbed when I came back to reality. It was almost as if I was being nudged in a direction that wasn’t quite palatable with my core values.

After a session, I could never quite recall the exact words Stanton used during the hypnosis, but they always seemed to be quite persuasive.

I shrugged off my misgivings because today was the day everyone was waiting for. My custom produced Abaddon clubs were due any minute for the final adjustments.

Nick said in a very serious voice, “Bobby, this is the most important part of our patented exclusive process.”

I shook my head, “I’m not sure I understand Nick.”

 Nick approached me and looked me directly in the eyes. “This is the final step; this is where we “bond” a player to his clubs. The player and the club will truly become one.”

I thought it was all a bit of marketing hyperbole, but I nodded politely anyway.

When the clubs finally arrived, Nick took possession, slowly unwrapping the clubs one at a time, with great fanfare. I had to admit they were hot looking golf clubs. Jet black shafts and club heads with the Abaddon logo outlined in crimson red. The grips were a striking crimson red as well.

When the clubs were all unpacked, the technicians had me stretch out on the special table. After a period that seemed forever, I was finally wired up to all of the electrical leads for the second time.

I tried to relieve the tension by cracking a joke. “I feel like I’m getting ready for my annual EKG. Should I at least take my pants off?”

No one smiled. The technicians were too focused on the flashing instruments.

Nick started with the driver, “Hold the driver with your right hand, Bobby. Now, close your eyes and visualize hitting the longest drive of your life.”

After I did the visualization as instructed, I peeked through my half-closed eyes and was stunned to see the grip of the driver momentarily turn bright fluorescent green before reverting to its normal crimson red.

Nick slowly repeated the process one at a time with the rest of the set. In each case, he had me visualize the best shot I had ever made with each of the respective clubs. Also, in each case, when I recalled a great shot, the grip flashed green momentarily.

Nick was finally satisfied, “Bobby, this is extremely important. This set of clubs are now exclusively mated to you. Every time you select a club, the grip will flash green to confirm you are the rightful holder. If anyone else picks a club up, the grips will remain red.”

 

 Nick went on to explain, “This is why no one is allowed to buy our clubs outright. Our clubs are only available by signing a lease agreement that stipulates that Abaddon Golf Corporation has the sole rights to ownership. When a player’s lease agreement ends, the clubs must come back to the company. We can then reprogram the grips for the new holder.”

I half-listened to Nick, but what I really wanted to do was get out on the course and try out the equipment. So far this season, I had managed only eight games using my old equipment, but at least my handicap had dropped from 19 to 16.

“When can I try the new clubs out on the course, Nick?”

Nick smiled, “Next week, Bobby, in the opening tournament at the Uxbridge Golf & Country Club.”

 

THE CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP

 

I stood on the first tee, looking nervous because I was nervous. Very nervous, in fact. A big crowd had gathered at the tee to watch the match. I estimated that almost the entire Club membership had shown up to cheer for their favorite players. Up to this point, despite my protests, I hadn’t been allowed to touch the new clubs.

As the designated  Million Dollar contestant, I was wearing a complete golf outfit provided by the Abaddon Golf Corporation. The ensemble consisted of a black hat, shirt, and pants, all bearing the small ABADDON crimson logo. Norma had taken my picture, telling me that at least I looked like a golf pro, even if I was still a duffer.

I took the driver out of my bag. Although my hands were sweating, I did feel a faint tingling as the grip momentarily flashed fluorescent green. The club felt like it was a living part of me when I took my first practice swing.

The first hole was a difficult 425-yard par four with a green surrounded by deep sand bunkers. A finger of the lake cut the fairway in half at the 225-yard mark. The temperature was cool, with the wind blowing directly into the face of the golfers. Usually, I would lay up to avoid going into the water on my drive.

I could feel the impact of my core strengthening exercises when I executed a flawless picture-perfect, relaxed, full swing. My driver felt almost weightless, seemingly alive to my touch. The gleaming white TITLEIST PRO V ball soared high into a cloudless sky. It hung there for a few moments, looking like it would never return to earth.

A gasp went up from the crowd when the ball sailed serenely across the water hazard finally came to rest almost 300 yards from the tee. I stared in amazement. Usually, on a really good day with a following wind, I might occasionally hit the 200-yard mark.

My golfing buddies, Wilbur, Fred, and Teddy Corbin started madly cheering me on as I prepared for my shot into the green. At 125 yards into the wind, I would usually use a nine iron or maybe even an eight iron. But when I went to take a club from the bag, I noticed the grip on my sand wedge had turned a slightly deeper red than the others. On a hunch, I selected the wedge and hit a high soft shot landing about 35 feet from the pin.

Before the match, Nick presented me with a special custom-made putter as a gift from Mr. Abaddon himself. I almost laughed when I first saw it. The club looked like an antique. The shaft was some exotic hardwood, crowned with one of the crimson red grips. I thought I had seen almost every make of putter, including the new ones that resembled a miniature space-ship, but this one took the cake.

The putter head was hand-carved out of some hard, ivory-like substance. It was almost oval except for a slot that intruded into the head about half-way. I took the putter from my bag, again feeling a tingle as the grip flashed fluorescent green before returning to its regular crimson color.

Jack Layton, my opponent, was only five feet from the cup. Jack could par the hole with a four if he sunk it. I walked around the green, examining the roll from several angles. I finally stood over the ball and with shaking hands, stroked my new putter towards the hole. The ball traveled smoothly, catching the break in the green at precisely the right time. It hovered monetarily before dropping with a clunk for a one-under-par, birdie.

Layton sunk his putt. The players departed for the next hole with me in the lead by one. Layton didn’t have a chance. I went on to win hole after hole, finishing with a five-over-par 77 for the Club Championship. Even Norma was impressed.

 

A BINDING CONTRACT

 

The next morning Nick Stanton came into the store smiling. “Congratulations on behalf of ABADDON GOLF, Bobby, great tournament.”

I laughed, “Nick, it must be the clubs. I’ve never played like that in my life.”

Nick just smiled and said, “Mr. Abaddon wants me to talk to you about becoming a master distributor of our equipment after the contest ends."

“What exactly do I have to do as a regional distributor?”

Nick replied, "First of all, you’ll have your choice of geographic territories. The only area not available right now is the Washington D.C. location. We’ve already assigned that area to a politician who is an avid golfer and owns quite a few golf courses."

We spent the rest of the morning reviewing the distribution details before Nick reminded me that I had not yet signed my lease agreement for the exclusive use of my custom-fitted clubs.

"I just haven't had time to go over it with my lawyer, Nick, maybe another day or two?"

 Nick said, "Sorry, Bobby, Mr. Abaddon was upset that you used the clubs in the tournament without the agreement in place. He wants a signed copy today.”

Nick turned the agreement to the signature page before handing it to me for signing. “Don’t worry, Bobby, the agreement is just a standard lease with an extra  provision granting us sole rights to the use and ownership of the clubs.”

With a flourish, Nick handed me a gold-plated pen for signing and waited. I had some reservations about signing something without my lawyer’s review, but I loved the clubs and was starting to feel I might even have a slim chance of winning the million-dollar prize.

Nick laughed. “Go ahead and sign, Bobby. What have you got to lose?”

I shrugged and pushed the button on the pen to open the point. The button had a rough edge and made a tiny prick in my finger. As I signed the document, a small drop of my blood fell on the white paper.

I was embarrassed, “Sorry, Nick, let me get some tissue paper and try and get this off.”

Nick smiled and said, “No problem, my friend. I’ll just tell Mr. Abaddon you loved our deal so much, you signed in blood.”

The three ill-smelling technicians who were watching the signing with interest, all started to chuckle at Nick’s comment.  I’m not sure why, but I felt a shiver going up against my spine.

 I wish now I had waited for my lawyer’s opinion.

 

“BOOM-BOOM” BOLTON

 

The next few months went by in a whirlwind of activity.  Abaddon Golf signed me up for every local, regional, and state tournament available. And, I kept piling up the wins causing my handicap to drop like a rock. The news media were going mad. The excitement of a potential million-dollar prize, coupled with my advanced age, created a huge following on Facebook as well as all the other social media.

One reporter headlined his story: “BOBBY “BOOM-BOOM” BOLTON WINS AGAIN.”

The catchy nickname soon caught on. Norma reported that sales at the store were booming too. There was even talk of a new line of golf clothing featuring the new stylized “BBBB” logo.

That night at dinner, I talked to Norma about my reluctance to sign the Abaddon legal agreement.

“Why, Bobby?”

“I don’t know. When Nick pushed me into signing, he handed me his pen. It had a rough edge that cut my finger. A drop of my blood fell on the contract, and those weird technicians started laughing. The whole thing just felt wrong somehow.”

 

Norma nodded and said, “I thought of something else too, Bobby. We don’t know much about this company at all. What if they don’t have the money to pay you if you win the contest? Maybe they’re counting on getting the benefits of all the free publicity and then reneging on the deal.”

I hardly slept that night, worrying about the issue Norma had raised. I decided to call Nick first thing in the morning to express my concerns about the ability of Abaddon to deliver the prize if I won the contest.

I was just about to call Nick when my golfing partner, Teddy Corbin, dropped in for a visit.

"Hi, Bobby, great tournament last week. You’re killing these guys."

“Thanks, Teddy. I can’t quite explain my new game.It must be improvements in the equipment.”

Teddy looked around, lowered his voice, and continued, "I see that creep, Nick, isn't here, Bobby. How about letting me see these fantastic clubs up close?"

I hesitated, but Teddy kept pleading with me. “Okay, but just a fast look Teddy, then get the hell out of here before Nick sees you.”

We cautiously proceeded into the back room, where the new clubs were held under tight security. I had been told numerous times not to allow others to examine my set, supposedly because the technology was patented.

Teddy was delighted, “Wow, Bobby. These clubs look terrific.”

 Before I could warn him to look but not touch, Teddy reached out, grabbed my driver by the crimson red grip. He took a massive practice swing. Instantly, a flash of electricity surged from the handle. Teddy shuddered and fell on the floor in a dead faint.

I tried not to panic. I called 911, then attempted to give Teddy artificial respiration. The ambulance was pulling away when Nick Stanton showed up.

Stanton was furious when I told him about Teddy. “Bobby, you’ve been told numerous times. This set of clubs is specifically bonded to you alone.  If a caddy or other player simply handles the clubs, there’s no problem. But your agreement states, in no uncertain terms, you should never allow anyone else to swing or try to play with your clubs.”

 Again, I wished now that I had read the agreement for myself.

I decided to take the offensive. “Now that you’re here, Nick, we have another problem to solve. How do I know that ABADDON GOLF has the resources to pay out the million-dollar prize? I’m fed up with all this crap. I’m backing out right now if you don’t give me some assurances that the money will be there if I win the contest.”

Nick glared at me for a moment, anger flashing from his hooded eyes. He turned his back and sent a text message to his boss. After ten minutes of frozen silence between us, Nick got a phone call.

He listened intently, then with a smirk said, “Mr. Abaddon has made arrangements with Price Waterhouse to hold the prize money in escrow. Price Waterhouse will make the sole determination if you have filled the contest requirements. On certification, they will release one million dollars directly into your bank account."

I couldn't think of any more reasons for not proceeding with the contest, so I said nothing.

 Nick said, "I came here to tell you about something far more important than the health of your wimpy friend Teddy or to reassure you about the damned prize money."

I was still mad. "I'm listening," I said.

"We just got word that your entry is approved. You are now a contestant in the USA Mid-Amateur competition.”

I had only vaguely heard of the competition. “Why is this tournament such a big deal anyway, Nick?

“You really are a dolt Bobby; everyone knows about this tournament. Just think what it means. The winner gets an automatic invitation to participate in one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world.”

“Which tournament is that?”

Nick grinned.  “The world-famous Masters Tournament at the prestigious Augusta National Golf Club.”

“Oh, shit!”

 

SUSPICIONS ARISE

 

If I thought the previous training schedule was tough, I was sadly mistaken. The new schedule was infinitely more difficult. Morning to night, seven days a week, the drills continued. Pitching, putting, and sand bunker shots galore.

I could understand the reasons for the regular routines, but some of the exercises were really weird. Particularly the sessions where I had to lie perfectly still on the special table attached to the instruments, while picture after picture of the Master's golf course layout flashed on a screen. After a few weeks, I found that I could play a complete round of the Augusta Golf Club in my head.

Meanwhile, the publicity machine was working in overdrive to the point that not a day passed without some form of a Bobby “BOOM-BOOM” Bolton story appearing on the sports pages. Public interest reached an all-time high when, after a tightly contested match, I was declared the winner of the USA Mid-Amateur tournament, entitling me to receive a coveted invitation to the Masters.

The night after the tournament, Norma woke at 3:00 AM to discover my side of the bed empty. She cautiously went downstairs to my den and found me staring at the fireplace with a half-full glass of dark rum in my hand.

“What’s wrong, Hon, can’t you sleep?”

I gave her a sleepy smile, “I don’t know Norma, but something is fishy about this whole contest idea. I’m starting to wonder if somehow I’ve gotten involved with organized crime or even the Mafia itself.”

Norma was astounded, “Why would you even think that, Bobby?”

“I’m not sure. Too many coincidences. First of all, my business slows down. Then I start getting my goods shipped C.O.D or cash on demand. Then I get this big chance to win a million dollars. Maybe this is some form of money laundering.”

“I’m not sure I understand, Bobby.”

“Well, if the plan works the way they want it to, they launder a million bucks by making it a golf prize. In return, with all the publicity, they sell millions of dollars in golf clubs and equipment. The process creates an on-going source of legitimate funds.”

“What are you going to do, hon?”

“For now, I’m just going to concentrate on our trip to Augusta and the Masters' tournament. When I get back, I’m going to hire a lawyer just in case we need one in a hurry.”

Norma nodded her agreement, “You know Bobby, I’ve always felt there was something sinister about Nick Stanton. Maybe you're right.”

“I hope not. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”

 

A DREAM COMES TRUE

 

Finally, the big day arrived. As we slowly drove up the magnolia covered driveway to the entrance of Augusta National Golf Club, it almost felt like a religious experience. One of my lifetime goals had always been to attend a Masters's tournament in person instead of watching it on television with my buddies. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would attend as a qualified player instead of as a patron.

I was traveling with Vic Nobel, the head pro at the Uxbridge Golf & Country Club. Vic had volunteered to act as my caddy for the tournament. Wilbur, Fred, and Teddy Corbin were driving to Augusta with Norma to cheer me on.

Just after our arrival at Augusta, a problem arose. Because I was using unknown golf equipment, the tournament officials insisted that they examine the clubs to ensure they conformed to all PGA specifications.

A call went out to Nick Stanton. “Nick, the tournament people want to see me tomorrow morning with a full set of Abbadon clubs. Haven’t you guys even had your clubs pre-approved by the PGA?”

Nick wasn’t too concerned, “Leave it to me, Bobby, I’ll handle these bozzos in the morning. You concentrate on your practice rounds and leave the details to me.”

Practice rounds came next. The difficulty of the course and the complexities of the greens staggered me. I walked each fairway with Vic Nobel, my caddy, making detailed notes about the terrain and potential trouble spots.

When we arrived at the practice area for putting, I saw Nick Stanton huddled with a group of five PGA officials, a full bag of Abaddon clubs lay on the grass beside the group.

I was puzzled because none of the officials seemed to be too interested in actually examining the clubs. They were standing in a loose circle around Nick, seemingly spellbound with whatever message he was delivering. When Nick finished talking, the five men nodded their heads in unison and walked away.

“Are the clubs approved, Nick? And what the hell did you say to the officials, they walked away from the meeting like zombies.”

“The clubs are now approved for play, Bobby. Don’t ask for any details.” Nick walked away without looking back.

I knew it was stupid, but for a brief moment, I wondered if Nick had hypnotized them.

 

Over by the Clubhouse, amid a group of spectators, a solitary man was taking great interest in the meeting between Nick Stanton and the PGA officials. He was a plump, elderly fellow wearing wire-rimmed glasses and a purple golf hat. The hat looked out of place because the old gentleman was wearing a three-piece dark blue business suit.

The man approached me just as I was retrieving the Abaddon clubs from the spot where Nick left them after his meeting with the PGA officials.

“Nice golf clubs, young fellow, do you mind if I try one?”

I hesitated, “I’m very sorry, sir, but these are new clubs manufactured by the Abaddon Golf Corporation. They have a very strict policy restricting the use of the clubs by anyone except for authorized individuals.”

The man’s ears perked up at this information, but he just smiled and walked away. I couldn’t help noticing that although the man was elderly, his skin didn’t appear to have a single wrinkle.

Strange dude, I thought.

The night before the big match, I took Norma, Vic Nobel, Wilbur, Fred, and Teddy to dinner. Everyone was excited about my impending battle against some of golf’s greatest players. The food was great, and the wine was too. Everyone had a few glasses except Vic and me. We had both sworn off alcohol until the match was over.

At the end of the meal, Norma raised her glass and proposed a toast. “To my husband, Bobby “Boom, Boom” Bolton. I still can’t believe you’re here as a contestant in the Masters, Bobby, but I want you to know I’m very proud of you, win, lose or draw.”

I went to bed that night tired, but afraid I wouldn’t get much sleep. I was happy that the whole experience was bringing Norma closer again, but I still had a nagging feeling that something was inherently wrong with what was about to happen tomorrow.

 

 

THE MASTERS-OPENING DAY

 

Each of the eighteen unique holes at the legendary Augusta National Golf Course has a name as well as a designated number. On the opening day of the match, I was standing on the tee for "TEA OLIVE," the first hole. "TEA OLIVE" was a 455-yard, par-four dog-leg with a very difficult green.

The weather was superb with bright sunshine, gently bathing the numerous blazing red azalea flower beds. Although I was mesmerized by the stunning beauty of the course, I was also trying every yoga technique I could think of to try and calm my nerves.

I could see Norma and the guys standing in the crowd. Nick was also there hovering around in the background. When the announcer introduced Bobby Bolton as the USA Mid-Amateur champion, the crowd gave me a nice round of applause.

 Vic Nobel, the caddy, shook my hand. “You can do this, Bobby.”

I took a deep breath and tried to ignore the massive crowd. Then with a textbook swing sent my opening drive 343 yards down the middle of the fairway. I looked over and saw Nick with a smile of satisfaction on his face.

I shot par on the first three holes and was starting to feel much more confident. Hole #4 "FLOWERING CRAB APPLE" was a tough 240-yard par 3. When Vic started to hand me a four iron, I noticed Nick standing in the crowd, slowly shaking his head.

Sure enough, when I looked at the bag, I saw that the grip on my five iron was a deeper shade of red than the other clubs.

“Give me the five iron. Victor,” said Bobby.

Vic was worried. “Are you sure it’s enough club, Bobby?”

I nodded, took the club, and executed a smooth full swing. I didn’t realize what had happened until the crowd started to chant “BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM” over and over again. I was in the cup for a hole-in-one.

 

The next two days passed almost dream-like for me. I had been plodding through intermittent rainfall for most of the final day and didn't quite realize what had happened until Vic excitedly grabbed my arm.

“Bobby, if you sink this putt, you’ll be tied for the first- place lead!”

I took my custom-made Abaddon putter, slowly lined up my 12-foot putt, and sent the ball spiraling into the center of the cup. Vic started jumping up and down, pumping his fist with excitement.

There were only four groups still to come in. A relatively unknown player, Thor Ericsson, from the Doral Golf Club in Miami, playing in the final group, had been in sole possession of first place until I sunk my putt for the tie.

I joined Norma and my golfing buddies in the spectator area behind the 18th green. We were watching the last group approaching the green through the rainfall, which was slowly increasing in volume. The group included Thor Ericsson, the co-leader, and two well-known players who were both trailing badly.

Vic said, “Bobby, Ericsson had a bad drive. He needs to make his putt to remain in a tie with you. If he misses it, you win the Masters. If he sinks it, then it will just be you against him in a sudden-death playoff.”

I hadn’t seen Thor Ericsson up close until this point in the tournament. I took a long, hard look at the powerfully built, handsome young man walking with a very confident stride to the green. Thor's caddy handed him a putter with the handle wrapped in a towel as protection from the rain.

Watching intently, I was shocked to my core. For an instant, I was sure I saw a faint fluorescent green flash glow from under the towel when Thor Ericsson grasped the grip of his putter

A roar rose from the crowd when Thor Ericsson sunk his difficult putt, ensuring a first-place tie with me. The patrons scattered when the rain started to fall in buckets. The soaking wet tournament officials huddled together under umbrellas to determine a course of action. They finally announced that because of weather conditions, the sudden death 18th hole playoff would take place the next day at 10:00 a.m.

 

A DEVIL OF A DEAL

 

I sat in my hotel room, trying to make sense of it all. I was watching the delayed telecast of the tournament on the color television. Most of the camera action was on Thor Ericsson because of his leading position. Sure enough, every time Thor's caddy handed him a club, the grip was wrapped in a towel. Despite the covering, I was sure I saw a faint fluorescent green flash each time Thor took the club.

Nick Stanton was staying at a nearby hotel. I phoned him.

"What the hell is going on, Nick? Thor Ericsson is using the same equipment as me. You guys assured me that I was the only player with Abaddon clubs. No equipment was supposed to be on the market until after the contest. As far as I’m concerned, you guys are crooks.”

Nick replied smoothly, "I think you must be mistaken, Bobby. Why don't I come over to your place? We can have dinner and talk things through."

I hung up and brooded. I wished now I had taken some time to investigate the Abaddon Corporation more thoroughly. I took out my notebook computer and started to surf. I started by punching in the word ABADDON.

Most of the references concerned the Abaddon Golf Corporation and the million-dollar contest, but as I scrolled through the search, I stumbled upon an obscure definition of the word Abaddon.

I almost fell off my seat when the Google search showed that ABADDON was the Hebrew word for the Devil or Satan. Before, I was nervous. Now I was afraid.

Being tied up with Abaddon was turning out to be a situation far worse than being mixed up with the Mafia or organized crime.

I thought. The pieces are all starting to fall into place. That awful rotten egg smell surrounding the three technicians has to be sulfur. The weird carved ivory head on the putter given to me by Mr. Abaddon has a slot in the middle. Could it be an actual animal’s cloven hoof?

I looked at the computer again. Oh No, I thought.

Supposedly the purpose of the contest was to turn me into a scratch golfer. According to the computer, "Old Scratch" was just another name for Satan, as well. Now I was worried and becoming more frightened with each new piece of the puzzle. I’m not religious or superstitious, but my instincts told me I was in trouble.

I found my briefcase and started rummaging through, frantically looking for a copy of the signed agreement. I quickly scanned the document, and my heart took a sickening plunge when I got to the details on page ten.

Nick Stanton had assured me verbally that the contract only covered Abaddon Golf Corporations' sole rights to the ownership of the clubs. But In the printed version it read: ABADDON RETAINS THE EXCLUSIVE SOUL RIGHTS TO ALL EQUIPMENT AND USERS.

I was stunned. If I was reading this document correctly, Abaddon, the Devil/Satan, now owned control of my soul because I had allowed myself to be electronically bonded to the clubs. I had to find a way out and find it fast. As I read the balance of the contract, I discovered a possible loophole in the fine print.

 

When Nick finally showed up at the hotel for the meeting, he had the three bad-smelling technicians with him. I pounced on him.

“You bastard. I’m out of here right now, Nick. I finally read the contract. In my opinion, you guys broke it by also giving Abaddon clubs to Thor Ericsson to golf against me. The clubs were supposed to be exclusive to me. You sure as hell won’t be getting my soul or any more publicity from my involvement in this mess."

To my astonishment, Nick didn't even try to deny any of the accusations. "You’re very naive, Bobby, if you think you could have got this far without a little help from your new friends. Do you actually think an old, overweight duffer like you could have achieved any of this entirely on his own?”

Nick continued in his patronizing way, “As far as Thor Ericsson goes, Mr. Abaddon just wanted to cover his bets by having two players. He wants a Master's win and a green jacket for Abaddon Golf at any cost. It’s my job to make sure he gets what he wants.”

I grabbed my briefcase and computer and started to leave the room.

“Going someplace, Bobby?” Nick enquired with a wicked laugh. "You signed our contract in blood, as I recall. There’s no going back now. You don’t seem to understand that when you bonded with the clubs, it was with both body and soul forever.”

I decided to take a gamble, “If you don’t let me out of this crooked deal, I’ll hold a press conference with all the reporters. When I give the details and blow the whistle, it will be game over for you and your boss. The only way to stop me is if you kill me before I meet the press.”

Nick shrugged, "This is way beyond my pay grade. I’ll call the boss and let him decide."

Although Nick was talking to Mr. Abaddon from inside the bathroom, I could hear a very heated discussion taking place. Nick returned, wiping the sweat from his brow with his crimson pocket hanky.

 "For some reason, the Chief seems to think this is all my fault. He’s extremely unhappy, and he’s taking it out on me.”

I was fuming too. “Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, Abaddon can stick his pitchfork up your ass, Nick. Did you tell him I’m going to the newspaper and television reporters?”

Nick frowned, “That was the news that set him off. He doesn’t like publicity, but he also doesn’t like to lose, ever. It appears you have one chance and one chance only to keep your soul. The only way he will tear up the contract is if you can manage to win the Masters tournament entirely on your own.”

I gulped. “Can I still use the clubs?”

“Nope. No help from us and no use of Abaddon golf equipment. He also said to tell you if you renege or talk to any reporters you, your lovely wife, your caddy and your golfing buddies can count on coming to an untimely end.”

On that note, Nick stomped out of the room. The evil-smelling technicians, after glaring at me, left too. The stench of sulfur still hung in the air.

 

After Nick departed, I donned my raincoat and went searching for Norma. I had to make sure she was safe. I dreaded the thought of having to explain the ramifications of the Abaddon contract to her. I took the elevator to the main floor, and, as I started to walk across the lobby, I saw the strange man who had asked about trying the Abaddon clubs.

The man was still wearing the three-piece suit, wire-rimmed glasses, and a purple golf hat even though he was sitting indoors in the lobby. He smiled when he saw me approaching.

“Good luck tomorrow, Mr. Bolton, or should I call you BOOM, BOOM?” The man laughed as he stuck out his hand and introduced himself as Joe. I didn’t catch his last name.

“No, call me Bobby, everyone else does. By the way, Joe, I apologize again for not letting you try the Abaddon clubs, but as I explained earlier, the company has a strict policy regarding the use of their clubs by anyone other than the designated player.”

Joe gave that enigmatic smile again, “I’m sure they do. Abaddon always seems to work in mysterious ways.”

I was puzzled by his response, but I didn’t push it. “As it turns out, Joe, I should have let you try the clubs anyway. As of this morning, I’m no longer playing for Abaddon Golf.”

“That’s interesting, Bobby, but won’t it be difficult switching equipment just before the sudden death playoff?”

“It will be very difficult, but all I can do is go out there and give it my best.”

Joe shook hands again. His grip was warm and comforting. “That’s the right attitude, Bobby. And don’t worry, you may have more support than you’ve been counting on.”

As Joe walked away, I couldn’t help wondering, “I just don’t understand how a guy that old can have such a smooth and unwrinkled face?”

 

SUDDEN DEATH PLAYOFF

 

The next morning the rain had stopped, but the winds were gusting from all directions. Low dark clouds hung menacingly over the course. I was worried about equipment until I found out that Teddy Corbin had brought his clubs in the car, hoping for a game on the road.

“Teddy, I don’t have time to explain, but I need to borrow your clubs right now.”

Teddy shrugged and gave me the car keys. Victor, my caddy, was mystified at the switch in equipment as he helped me struggle with the clubs to the first tee. Teddy’s clubs were Taylor Made M2’s. Good quality but nowhere near the feel of the Abaddon set.

Thousands of patrons crowded the course, excited about the upcoming duel between the two relatively unknown golfers.

I stood on the tee at “HOLLY” the 18th hole, and my heart sank. The hole was a massive 465-yard long par four. I didn't have a chance. I barely heard the official explaining the rules for the play-off.

 "Ladies and Gentlemen, this will be a Sudden Death competition. The first player to win a hole wins the match. In the event of a tie, we will replay hole #18 again."

I won the toss and was first to tee off. The crowd clapped and started to chant "BOOM, BOOM" until the officials called for silence. I sent up a silent prayer and gave it my best swing. The ball arced high and came to a gentle stop in the middle of the fairway some 225 yards out. A worthwhile effort in my old game, but useless in this arena of mega hitters.

The crowd was silent. Thor Ericsson adjusted his stance to help avoid hitting the deep bunker lying 335 yards out on the left side of the fairway.

I hung my head in dismay. I was on my own trying to defeat a young professional golfer who had the full backing and support of the unholy Abaddon gang. Thor smacked a massive drive right down the center of the fairway.

I couldn’t watch, so I turned and faced the crowd. I could see Norma and the guys smiling their encouragement. The three technicians were bunched right behind my wife, glaring out at me. But then I also saw Joe, his kind old face positively radiating goodwill under the purple hat. He was sitting on a folding chair with a clear view of the action.

The old man saw he had caught my attention. He nodded with a smile and gave me a pronounced wink. Then I heard the crowd moan. I turned and saw that Thor's wonderful drive had been caught in the shifting wind and was heading directly for the sand bunker.

I smiled and thought to myself, After seeing that shot, maybe I'm not on my own out here after all.

I hit first. I still had a long 245 yards to the pin. I took a full swing with my three wood and sent a great shot about 185 yards in the general direction of the green. Thor Ericsson tried a rescue club from the deep sand bunker. It was well struck but just caught the lip of the steep front bank and dropped back into the sand.

The crowd moaned again. This time the young golfer chose a more lofted club. I was watching and again saw the distinct fluorescent green flash when Thor took the grip. Thor hit a great long shot towards the green, but when the ball landed, it struck a stone or some other impediment and veered sharply right into a grove of trees. Thor had now taken three shots; I had taken two.

I had a good lie about 65 yards to the hole. Vic Nobel, my caddy handed me a wedge and said, “Take a deep breath, Bobby, even if you don't take this match, you’re still a winner to everyone who knows you."

 

I thanked him and took the shot. My adrenaline must have been working overtime. My approach shot flew high and true but landed on the extreme back of the green and rolled off down a small hill into some heavier grass. The crowd moaned again.

Thor pulled off a miracle by maneuvering his shot through the trees and landing some four feet from the pin. Thor was now sitting at four strokes with an easy putt for a five, one over par.  I was laying three in some very long grass. The best I could hope for was to land close enough with this shot to ensure the next putt for a tie.

I decided it was safer to do a short bump and run shot using my eight iron. I was just about to take the club from Vic when I noticed Joe, the old gentleman with the purple hat, looking over towards the green and slowly shaking his head. I went back to the bag and took my lob wedge instead. The old man nodded and flashed that large wink again.

Vic was petrified at my club choice. Being an instructor himself, Vic was very aware that a lob wedge is a very difficult club to use. The golfer must take a full swing, even though the distance to travel is short. The slightest miss-hit can send the ball many, many yards from the target.

Vic said, “Bobby, are you sure that’s the club you want?”

I wasn’t at all sure, but I looked again at old Joe, seeing him confidently nodding, so I said, “It’s all or nothing at this stage, Victor. Thor will get his putt for sure. I need to be close enough to get my ball in with one putt for a tie.”

I knew if I miss-hit the shot, the match would be over. I gulped, kept my head down, and took a full soft swing. The great Phil Mickelson couldn’t have done any better. My shot arced high into the air and landed softly three feet past the pin. The ball had terrific backspin, and the crowd held its' collective breath as the ball slowly rolled backward, hesitated momentarily, then fell directly into the cup, giving me a par four. Thor was beaten.

The crowd started the BOOM, BOOM chant again. Norma and the guys rushed out onto the green and covered me in giant hugs.

 After giving a quick interview to the television crew, I hurried over to the official scorer's cabin with my scorecard. Out of the corner of my eye, over near a grove of trees, I spotted old purple hat Joe amid a heated discussion with Nick Stanton, Thor Ericsson, and the three technicians.

I couldn’t hear the words, but I could tell from the look on the other’s faces that Joe was winning the argument. Joe kept pointing to the sky and then pointing at the ground, shaking his head while he did. Finally, Nick fled for the parking lot, followed by his minions.

Joe raised his purple hat and arms in a victory salute to Bobby, smiled, and then just seemed to disappear into the crowd.

I couldn’t help thinking, Today, I played against the Devil, but somehow I don’t think I played him on my own.

 

 

A CELEBRATION DINNER

 

At the victory dinner that night, Norma and I were joined by Vic Nobel, Teddy, Wilbur, and Fred. I was still wearing my Masters Green Jacket. After a few glasses of wine, I told the group the whole story of Abaddon and about my confrontation with Nick Stanton, Abaddon’s enforcer. They were enthralled when I described how purple hat Joe seemed to intervene on my behalf.

I didn’t tell them about Abaddon’s threat to kill everyone if I had reneged on the deal.

Teddy Corbin asked, “Do you think it’s all over now, Bobby?”

“I certainly hope so. Ted. I have a feeling that Joe represents a force that’s substantially stronger than anything that Abaddon can muster.”

Vic Nobel, was on his third martini, celebrating the win. He rose unsteadily and proposed a toast, almost making it rhyme.

“Here’s to Heaven, and here’s to Hell, you didn’t need either of them, Bobby, because you played so damned well.”

The manager of the golf club capped off the evening when he announced their group meal was compliments of the club to celebrate my win. He also had warm cognac snifters delivered to the table as well.

The next morning all of us bleary-eyed travelers packed up our gear and started the long trip home from Augusta, Georgia. It was an experience that none of us would ever forget.

I was still wearing my Green Jacket. I even wore it to bed that night.

 

A CHAMPION GOES HOME

 

When we returned home, we found a registered letter from Price Waterhouse. The contents included a check for the one- million -dollar prize along with a signed release from the Abaddon Golf organization. Obviously, old Joe had put the fear of God into his opponents.

I felt guilty about the money. I wasn’t sure how much of the competition I had won without outside influences.  Norma and I talked it over, and because of the unusual circumstances of the win, we decided to donate all of the money to The First Tee Charity in support of young golfers. I had a feeling Joe would approve.

I was a happy golfer.  I was sure the intensive training over the last few months would lower my handicap at the Club to the low single digits. My sporting goods business was booming because of all the publicity generated by the Masters and the million-dollar contest.

We were even considering the possibility of adopting a little one. I hoped a new child might be the beginning of the fourth generation of the BOLTON SPORTING GOODS enterprise. All was well in the Bolton family.

However, Jules Abaddon, as he referred to himself, was anything but happy. He sat brooding behind his massive desk, staring into the flames of the fireplace. That bastard, purple hat Joe, had ruined his elaborate plan again at the very last minute.

He thought he had found the perfect answer. Millions of golfers who would literally give their souls to attain a “scratch” handicap. Now all his plans were in ruins. He would make sure Nick and the technicians would feel the pain of his fury.

Abaddon didn't like to lose even a single round in this eternal game. He was playing against some pretty tough opposition. Maybe not all is lost, he mused. I still have my Washington politician with all his golf courses as a Master Distributor.

 Maybe I’ll take a little trip to the Capitol and see if we can crank things up a bit."

And so, he did

 

The End

 

Visit https://www.amazon.com/author/wessnowden  for more books by Wes Snowden

Comments/reviews to: wessnowden98@gmail.com appreciated

 

 

 

 

 

 


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