This is not a new story. There are thousands of stories like this across Canada; weekly golf groups who tee it up at their local club. But for many reasons groups change. Ours is changing. It last changed three years ago when I joined as a fourth to begin the season of Men’s Night at Hidden Lake. Successfully passing the audition, I was invited back. I haven’t looked back and our weekly games have enjoyed layers of light competition. We’re all seeking to play our best, we were on unique teams within our Men’s league, and then there was the skins game we played as a foursome to see who was buying the beer.
The thing I appreciate the most about my golf group is how we’ve developed genuine friendships. Al is the organizer; he books the tee times and is most active within the club. He’s the one that would call the pro shop if pace of play is an issue and minutes later a Marshall drives by to give a report on the issue. He’s a Men’s Night captain and keeps up updated on all things going on in the Club. Sandro is the one who pulls in to the parking lot 5 minutes before our tee time; checks in, walks up the tee and stripes it down the middle. Sandro plays a boring game (hitting it straight isn’t as dynamic a style as others in our group are used to). Quieter perhaps, but not shy to share one liners of his own. And then there is Don. Don may well have been the one to chime in to say to me, “Come join us” that late April afternoon 3 years ago. Always one to remember details, he would follow up from the week before with genuine questions about work, kids, or other developments in our lives. Truth is I feel our whole group is like that, but Don has always enjoyed conversation as we walk down the fairway towards the fescue to look for my lost ball. This will sound odd, but the comaraderie just seems to mean more to Don.
None of us are scratch golfers. With indexes over 10 we all have the ability to catch lightning in a bottle for a stretch; notably one 18 hole stretch where Sandro played a +1 72 round this summer. It was like watching a pitcher throwing a no-hitter; we knew but dared not say anything. We’ve also experienced the other (ok, I have). Driver yips resulted in almost a year and a half of mishits, often in the 30 yard range and my mantra was ‘it’s all about having a par putt’. If there were grounds to kick a guy out of the group that may have been it. But the truth is we were a group, and one that enjoyed each other’s company and the challenge the day brought. That challenge always hit a feverish pitch on the back nine.
The skins game was something we likely over-complicated; we changed partners every three holes. Each hole worth two skins – one for low score on a hole and other given to the other team for highest score on a hole. It’s a little convoluted, I’ll admit. We created a season long competition this year and Sandro and his consistency made him a runaway winner. But at the risk of getting all maudlin, we were all winners. Because having one of your playing partners’ buying your beer has been so enjoyable, like it tastes better.
With Don moving just after Thanksgiving, we’ll have a new member in our group next year; someone new to buy me beer on Wednesday evenings, if I am lucky.
As mentioned, groups can change. I have played with some cool people. I met George at Talking Rock north and east of Kamloops, BC. George learned magic to entertain his grandchild and on each hole on a back nine, showed me a new magic trick (he was damn good, too). Josh in Calgary (@golfismental who also makes some snappy hats) has become a good friend and I was fortunate to tee it up at his home course in Calgary one spring. We bust each other’s chops about putter styles (shout out to #malletnation). My one buddy surprised me when I joined him for a round at Grand Niagara; our playing partners…Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler. That was cool. And don’t even get me started about that PEI golf trip. Fact is, there are so many awesome people you can meet in this game. And for me, Don is right there on my list of great people I’ve played golf with.
Sometimes it’s about the free beer. But always, always, it should be about the friendships.
Thanks Don, it’s a fortunate group that you’ll join next year. Thank you for your friendship!