These are some of the greetings I received upon my arrival at the driving range prior to the Friday Inferno Cup match. I felt like Obama ordering a cup of tea at the Scottsdale Republican Women’s Club. I started becoming “weapon conscious” keeping a keen eye out for anyone reaching into his golf bag. Others limbering up for what apparently was to be a futile competition kept shanking balls in my direction. Surely, it was only coincidence.
The cause of the unbridled wrath seemed to be the pairings for the day. With three man teams and the Inferno Cup on the line, all teams were balanced with a jeweler’s precision… except for one. The average team handicap totaled 42.2 strokes. However, Commissioner Kildare had contacted me and said that good friends, club champion Bryan Noonan and Drew Price, rarely got to play together and for today’s match, they’d like that chance. The problem was soon obvious. Their combined indices totaled less than the average number of three foot putts I miss in any given round. To make matters worse, the game for the day was one best gross ball added to one best net ball. To add a third person to this group that would bring their combined handicap even close to the average, I would have to comb the bowels of every assisted living center in Scottsdale and then convince Jim Murphy to allow a wheelchair on the greens for just one round. It wasn’t going to happen. I had to place one of our regulars in that group and hope the club’s snipers were out of practice. The honor went to Dan Hourihan. Their team handicap was 17. The next lowest team handicap was 40.
I tried to convince the boys that the pairings were not as unfair as they seemed to believe. I was singing in a vacuum and nobody could hear the music. I thought I heard someone say, “Get a rope.” I ran to the putting green.
The match began and a fierce competition ensued with each golfer knowing that it was one of the last three chances to climb in the Inferno Cup Standings. If someone dropped a ten foot putt, you could hear the cheers three holes distant. With the possible exception of the guys on my team, everyone was really trying. Partridge was especially trying.
Nonetheless, the first team finished and turned in a 136 total – the leaders in the clubhouse. The second team reported – 137. Then the third – 137. The fourth team turned in the card – 136. The fifth and sixth teams signed cards with totals of 138 and 136. Six teams were separated by a total of two strokes with three teams tied for the lead at 136. But even with such a tight grouping, a sense of gloom seemed to permeate the Member’s Grill. The seventh and final team, Noonan, Price and Hourihan remained on the course. As we waited, I noticed furtive glances cast my way. A noose lay coiled under Woodsy’s chair. The Spotted Gabriel made curious hand signals at the other end of the room and threw them in my direction. The glares of the assembled masses warmed my wine, the anesthetic of choice for my impending doom. Someone’s statement that Noonan, Price and Hourihan would probably come in any minute somewhere around 120 actually froze in mid-air and fell to the table and shattered.
More hand signals from more golfers. More furtive glares. The natives were getting restless.
Then it happened. Hourihan rounded the corner first. His ever present grin intensified my fear. My lower lip began to tremble. Then Price arrived. Finally, Noonan walked in and handed me the card. I entered the scores into the computer as best I could while looking through the tears. I hit the button and sobbed. How bad would the slaughter be? Would they win by 10, 20, more? Would my death be quick or slow and painful?
I wiped away the tears and looked at the screen . . . Noonan, Price and Hourihan . . . total score . . . 137! All seven teams were separated by two strokes. When the dust settled, when the tears dried and scorecard playoffs were analyzed, the “unfair” team, finished in fourth place, exactly in the middle of the pack, one stroke behind first place and one stroke ahead of last place. I looked up at the crowd of golfers with their torches still held high and the rope in Woodsy’s hand, but they all had wide eyes and dropped chins.
“I told you it was fair” I said. “Would I ever do anything that wasn’t completely just and equitable?” (Unless it was to my benefit.) I survived another day. The Commissioner grinned. Gabriel gloated; he got first place and moved up in the standings thanks to his teammate, Gary Graham, posting a gross eagle on the last hole and winning the playoff.
- Drew Price – 73
- Mike Nichols – 75
- Gary Graham – 76
- Gary Graham – 63
- Dennis Kildare and Ken Vlah – 66
There were nine skins split between seven golfers and for the first time, I am delighted to report that one of the skins wasn’t mine.