Long Live Don Quixote

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Sports  |  House: Booksie Classic
The 1995 Masters Golf Championship and the game of golf, in general.

Submitted: May 22, 2015

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Submitted: May 22, 2015

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Long Live Don Quixote

Excerpt from 'Out of the Loop' via Amazon

morganmcfinn.com

 

 

It was just another hot and lazy afternoon on Maenam Bay in the Gulf of Siam. However, it was early April and the world's greatest golfers were assembled and asleep in a place called Augusta. These gentlemen are the pilgrims of a myth; the Myth of Don Quixote.

Augusta National Golf Course is the most revered shrine in all of human sport. It is, perhaps, as close as any piece of real estate has ever come to resembling the beauty and majesty of Eden. If only Adam and Eve had spent more time playing golf instead of picking fruit.

And anybody who objects by suggesting that the game of golf wasn't played in the Garden of Eden is obviously deficient in their understanding of the full nature of paradise. As the mellifluous Mr. Robert Browning wrote, "Ah, but a man's gross score should never exceed his handicap, or what's a heaven for?"

Admittedly, the game did take a turn for the worse when those first two duffers were told to pack their bags and vacate the premises. Shortly thereafter the game suffered a damning blow when Cain bopped his brother over the head with a club that has long since been referred to as the "mashie.

Some fifteen years ago, Pope John Paul II requested that the Professional Golf Association change the name of this club because of its nefarious biblical origin. The PGA agreed on the condition that the Pope

soften his stand against allowing golfers to use head covers. Fortunately, the name five-iron was available, which fit in very nicely between the already existing four-iron and six-iron.

It remains a mystery why the six-iron was named the six-iron instead of the five-iron, since there was no five-iron at the time. Must be another example of God working in his mysterious ways.

Now, once a year, the chivalrous warriors of golf, those knights of the round hole, converge upon Augusta to do battle with the elements of Mother Nature and the equally turbulent elements of the human psyche. Though of a different era than the man of La Mancha, their quest is very much in the same spirit. They are all imbued with a yearning to realize some sense of noble purpose in a world saturated with mean and mercenary preoccupations.

Imagine what one must be capable of imagining in order to suppose that there is a kind of virtuous glory in jousting with windmills while astride a haggard ass; or in whacking, smacking, blasting, and tapping a little white dimple-faced ball until it falls into a hole in the ground. Why is it that such seemingly banal drudgery is so resplendent with human pathos and heroic drama?

That’s a rhetorical question. It's just there for a bit of showmanship, for effect, if you know what I mean. If you don't know what I mean . . . well, quit fidgeting and keep on reading….

The reason that such seemingly banal drudgery is so resplendent with human pathos and heroic drama is because the game of golf is a brilliant reductio ad absurdum of man's fate. (Man's fate, as it is, thanks to those two hackers from Eden who screwed everything up and got us into this mess.)

Are we not all, in one fashion or another, through the course of our lives, trying to stay on the fairways and avoid the rough? (Put your hands down, folks. That's another rhetorical question.)

Most of our lives are fraught with potential hazards. Golfers refer to them as sand traps, water holes, and unplayable lies. Metaphorically speaking, each of us, from time to time, finds himself in a sand trap or in the drink. 

And anyone who has ever tried to explain to his spouse why he reeks of an unfamiliar scent, knows perfectly well what unplayable lies are all about. 

You simply have to maintain your composure, toss a brick into the air to gauge the direction of doom, and keep flailing away. Be cool and stay focused on the target. Singularity of purpose, mental discipline; these are the keys to success in golf as well as other mundane pursuits.

For example, when Jack Nicklaus was lining up a birdie putt, odds are that he wasn't thinking about getting laid. Arnold Palmer might have been, but that's probably why Nicklaus usually won and why Arnie smiles much more often.

Well, enough of this in-depth analysis of the game's psychology. It's all a bit of a stretch anyway, and I'm sure most people are sick of having so much of their lives reduced to a common denominator of sports analogies.  Besides, professional athletes make a hell of a lot more money playing ball games than the rest of us make bouncing back and forth between the debilitating stress and the excruciating boredom of doing what we do.

I, for instance, spend much of my time doing absolutely nothing. And this isn’t an oxymoron. "Doing" is one of the categorical preconditions of human existence. Read Sartre's Being and Nothingness if you don't believe me. (Caution: it's a very long, debilitatingly stressful, and excruciatingly boring tome. Be sure to reserve a padded cell at the local lunatic asylum if you intend on reading it cover to cover.) We're all doing something, even thoughas in my casewhat we're doing is nothing.

And doing nothing isn’t easy. Try it sometime. Try meditating; sitting still, doing nothing.

Adepts of Oriental philosophies are very keen on this. I sit still and do nothing on a regular basis. Unlike a Buddhist monk, however, I'm also drinking a whiskey soda and smoking a cigarette. Call it a Western variation on the practices of Eastern mysticism. It's relaxing and sometimes rather enlightening, but there's very little money in it. Unless you're a famous guru or yogi or some such saintly figure, most people aren’t going to shell out a lot of cash to watch you sit still and do nothing. They'd prefer to watch golf.

I feel the same way, and there's no greater golf tournament than the one held every Spring at Augusta. It's called the Masters.

During my sojourn by the bay, I've always taken time out of my busy schedule to watch this tournament. I book a nice, clean, air-conditioned room at The Lodge on Bophut Beach. There's satellite TV, a small refrigerator, comfortable furniture, and a beautiful palm-shaded view of Bophut Bay. 

This year I settled in with a liter bottle of good old Irish whiskey to witness the final two rounds. The live coverage was from 2:00 to 5:00 a.m.

Too early and too late for my liking.

The tape-delayed telecast from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. suited me fine.

The third round of a tournament is what's known in golf parlance as "moving day.” During this round, the players try to maneuver themselves into a good position for winning the championship on the final day. There were many magnificent golf shots, and at the end of round three, a dozen players were within four strokes of the lead.

The fourth round was guaranteed to be brilliant. So many great golfers were in striking distance of the Green Jacket. The Green Jacket, by the by, is a sports coat ceremoniously awarded to the winner of the Masters. It is the most coveted piece of clothing in golfwhich, of course, isn’t saying much, because most of the attire associated with the game of golf you wouldn't want to be caught dead wearing. Especially if you were in an open casket.

An exception might be made for the Green Jacket, but only at an Irish wake.

It's probably worth noting that, in addition to this green item of apparel, the winner also receives a check for close to half a million dollars. This prize money increases every year, and will no doubt continue to do so until it proves to be sufficient funds necessary for the champion to find a shirt, slacks, socks, and a pair of shoes that look good with the jacket. 

My preparations for the final round began two hours before the telecast was scheduled to commence. I bought a bag of ice, three bottles of soda, and two limes. Then I picked up a loaf of fresh whole wheat bread, cream cheese, a jar of olives, a tin of anchovies, and a sack of cashew nuts.  I still had well over half a liter of Irish whiskey left.

This is a big event for me. My own little private picnic.

Back in the room, I arranged all the necessary furniture for maximum comfort and spread out the feast. Everything was within easy reach. Then I mixed a drink, took a sip and a shower, toweled off, draped a sarong around my waist, grabbed the remote control, and eased into a cushioned wicker lounge chair. All that remained to be done was light a cigarette, put my feet up, and flick on the TV. This I did. It was time. The final round of the Masters.

Then, as the picture came into focus, the commentator’s voice became clearer. "It's all come down to this one-foot putt, ladies and gentlemen," he announced dramatically. 

Uh?

"And . . . it's over. Ben Crenshaw has just captured the Masters Championship…. What an emotional moment.”

“What the…. No! No! No!”

I couldn't believe it. The taped telecast had been moved ahead by two hours. All I saw was a one-foot putt for the championship. Hell, I could have made that. 

The next thing I see is Crenshaw trying to shove his left arm into the right sleeve of that green thing.

Slipping into a straightjacket occurred to me. I was so mad I could have screamed. An emotional moment, indeed.

Someone banged on the adjoining wall from the next room. "Stop all that screaming, damn it! What are you, crazy!"

Well, okay. Perhaps a howl or two cleared the pipes. But, I mean, really. What's a fellow to do in the face of such calamity?

That not being a rhetorical question, I decided to regain my composure and jot down some possible courses of action:

One: Sit still, drink the remainder of the Irish whiskey and pass out.

Two: Phone the Bangkok Post and the TV network to find out who's to blame for the foul up. Then, threaten to sue the hell out of the guilty party for causing my emotional trauma.

Three: Switch off the TV and chant mantras.

Four: Drink the remainder of the Irish whiskey and pass out.

Five: Wrap up the picnic; go back to Maenam Beach; feed the bread to the fish, the anchovies to the birds, the olives to the chickens, the nuts to the fishermen, the cream cheese to whatever vermin will have it; and share the Irish whiskey with Irena, the rosy-cheeked Dutch girl in the bungalow next to mine.

Six: Drink the remainder of the Irish whiskey and pass out. 

Well, I mulled over these options, and though the bookmakers were favoring one, four, or six, I decided to go for the Dutch treat. 

As it turned out, Irena knew nothing about golf. "So, so borrring," she said. But she loved the Irish whiskey, and by ten that night she was pretty fond of me, as well.

So, I guess there is something to be said about picking fruit instead of playing golf.

Nevertheless, if I ever see Adam and Eve, I'm going to pull the mashie out of my bag….

 


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