This is the time of the year when Sunday evening's TV programming is dependent upon how long it takes the golfers to come up with a winner. It doesn't matter how long a period the network allows in the schedule – it is going to take an extra half hour or so to complete the rounds.
I have been asked so often why I do not play golf, that I finally decided to write the true story of my brief career in the game.
There is a saying that only a thin line separates comedy from tragedy. The way I played golf could be classified as either one depending upon your point of view. Be that as it may, I believe the way my golfing career ended is a good example of the close relationship between the two.
About 1960, at the urging of some of my fellow employees, I decided to try my hand at golf, so I bought a cheap set of clubs and went out each Saturday to develop my game. At first I thought my terrible playing was simply because I was a beginner, but as time went on and I showed little improvement, it gradually dawned on me that I would never be a Bobby Jones or a Gene Sarazen. I must admire the loyalty and fortitude of those friends who continued to include me in their foursome.
The normal golf course is 5,000 to 6,000 yards long. I probably averaged about a 10,000 to 12,000 yard hike as I zigzagged from the left rough to the right rough and back again. I recall one day in particular when I started out really hot. I completed the front nine in only 59 strokes, and I thought I was at last getting the hang of the game. Of course I couldn’t keep up this torrid pace, and on the back nine my game fell apart. I finished at 155, which I believe was fairly close to my average.
However, because of the beautiful scenery, friendship (though somewhat strained), fresh air and exercise, I persevered.
One day I came home from a round and discovered that while I was playing, Marilyn Monroe had committed suicide. Although there was, of course, no connection between her death and my game, the fact that this event occurred while I was playing could have been an omen foretelling the tragedy that ended my golfing career.
Finally, out of either pity or sheer desperation, someone gave me a certificate that entitled me to ten golf lessons at a nearby country club. For several weeks I went out there every Thursday evening and perfected all my hooks and slices.
I received my sixth lesson the day before I gave up golf forever. It was a late summer evening; the temperature, although still warm, held just a hint of fall’s cooler weather, the sky was deep blue with just enough high clouds in the west to present a gorgeous sunset, the scent of the flowers in the club gardens was in the air, and the fairways and greens were just beautiful. With all that beauty, plus the outdoor exercise received from hitting hook after slice after hook, I went home feeling great. I slept well that night.
The next morning at breakfast I opened the newspaper to the sports page and the headline leaped out at me, “Golf Pro Commits Suicide!” After my lesson my golf guru had hanged himself in the basement of his home! Oh, the paper cited personal and financial problems, but I knew what the straw was that broke that particular camel’s back. I gave the clubs away and never played again.
This happened many years ago, and since that time I have almost convinced myself that my abysmal showing had nothing to do with that poor man’s demise. And yet . . .