It wasn’t planned. Not at all. It was a weekend i had been looking forward to for at least six months, if not a year. i had kept the weekend free from obligations for marketing my book to ensure this weekend was free: Thursday for travel, two days of golf with folks with whom i have golfed for two and a half score years, with Sunday free for recovery.
It didn’t turn out that way and, as with many things in my life, even the turn of events surprised me in a different way from what i expected.
Last Monday, the dermatologist looked at my arm and studied my record he held in front of him. “Don’t think we should wait,” he said authoritatively. When i got the biopsy report about a month ago, it didn’t sound bad, like melanoma bad. Some annoying little skin bump with a fancy name i told myself. i delayed the procedure until i returned from my wonderful trip back home with wonderful experiences at Vanderbilt and the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, ending with a great weekend with my brother and his family in Boston.
So the doc’s reaction rather surprised me.
“Well, i’ve got this golf tournament out in the desert next weekend.” i explained, “It is a group with whom i’ve played golf with for a long time, and it is in honor of the guy who ran the whole things for years before he died several years ago. Couldn’t we wait a week?” i pleaded.
“Being a golfer, I understand,” Doc Hardy responded, giving me a glimmer of hope. “But,” dashing that hope glimmer, “It’s already been put off longer than it should have been,” sealing my fate.
Now concerned, I asked what i did not wish to hear answered, “Can i still play?”
Doc went into a detailed explanation comparing my situation to a twin-screw ship losing an engine. i knew, in spite of holding a thread of hope, the next exchange was not going to turn out well for golfing. After his explanation, he gave me a chance, “We’ll move up the change of dressing to Thursday morning. We can make a final decision then.”
i was not overjoyed.
i conferred with the rest of my foursome. They reassured me i should do what is prudent, something they and my wife knew was not a forte of mine. The new leader of the group, Jim Hileman, who shared Padre season tickets with me for twenty years or so, told me they could work it out if i didn’t play, but i should attend regardless. i thanked them all.
Thursday morning. The medic , Edward Perez, a retired submarine riding corpsman, took the dressing off my arm. Now, mind you, the cut was about the size of a quarter but pretty deep — i chose to not to look close enough to know just how deep — the sutures seem to crisscross several times, the bandage applied ran from the base of my hand to my elbow. When the elaborate dressing was removed, it looked as if we had somehow been teleported from the Mohs surgery room to a butcher shop.
“You can chip and putt,” Doc said, “But no full swings. Too much stress on the wrist. Could pull the stitches out. We would have to start over,” he said with his best clinical face on.
i said, “i want to do what won’t make the situation worse.” i’m thinking, “These guys are very conservative, as they should be, but when i get there, i can try out a few swings and check it out.” i didn’t tell them, but they both knew. i knew they knew.
Friday morning came, and i had not made a final decision until i was walking down the stairs from the pro shop to the carts. It hit me the stress would come when i cocked my wrists at the top of the backswing. That is when i decided i wouldn’t play.
i informed the group. They, again, were supportive. i putted a bit before they teed off. i fore-caddied, i pin tended, i looked for lost balls, i held clubs while our three players chipped or putted. i laughed with them. i cheered for them. i drank a few beers.
We finished respectfully, winning a few, losing a few.
There were six groups, two with just three players. In its heyday, the San Diego Telephone Company Golf Association, loving referred to as San Diego TELCO, had to limit members to 100. Year ending tournaments were first class, big prizes, lots of door prizes, big tournament dinners at the conclusion. Members retired and moved. Some experienced accidents or illness and could no longer play. Some passed away. A few new folks joined but not enough to stem the tide.
Art Fristad and others like Marty Marion, Phil Greco, and my friend Jim Hileman, kept it going: monthly tournaments at different courses in the Southwest corner. The numbers continued to dwindle. Monthly tournaments went away. The association remained an official entity. And yearly, those that remain are out in the desert, playing fun games for two days.
The tournament is now named The Art Fristad Desert Classic. That is as it should be. It is really a statement about a group of men from an accomplished, successful past. We are not politically correct. We are together. Politics, religion, and other differences do not matter. Friends. Competitors together. Laughter. At each other. At ourselves. Good stuff. We are what i hope is not a vanishing breed.
And Thursday and Friday, i experienced zero stress free golf. i did not have to worry about my next shot. i did not think about what i should or shouldn’t do. i’m not a very good golfer, but i love to play. i don’t have a lot of interest in walking around a course with a bunch of guys hitting the ball that is beyond my limited capability. i’d rather be banging it around a course myself. But this weekend, i found watching my friends play the game i love a great experience. i rejoiced at their good shots. i moaned at their miscues. i laughed at their really goofy moments.
It was a great and different experience. You should try it sometime.
Thanks, Jim Hileman, Pete Toennies, Jeff Middlebrook, and all of those in San Diego TELCO Golf Association.