When Sean teed up his ball on the second hole his mind was still back on the first green. Once again he watched his long putt pause briefly at the crest of a downslope before sweeping left then right with just enough speed to drop in the cup. In the perfect quiet of that moment it occurred to him, “could this be the day?”
Sean was not well. He tried to ignore the persistent incontinence that recalled his prostate surgery but the risk of a damp diaper was the first thing he felt after every bad swing. His wife was unhappy with him, as was his daughter, and his boss. His car smelt of burnt oil and future bills. His mother complained about his father’s failing faculties. The list went on. But at this moment, the putt filled the horizon along with the possibility that this first improbable par would be followed by another and another. There was no hole on this course that he had not successfully mastered at one time or another. There was no reason he could not par them all at once, if this was that day.
He took two practice swings staring down the long par three. He heard the rushing wind of the club slicing through the air. He considered the line of trees right that sent their limbs reaching into the fairway waiting to grab the ball and toss it out of bounds, the large trap guarding the right side of the two-tiered green. The pin was on the lower tier left. Further left he had room if he pulled the ball. Half way to the hole a concrete channel cut directly across the fairway. He decided to play it safe and lay up below the hole thereby taking the danger on the right side out of play. Smart golf. Modest.
He took a little extra club so he wouldn’t swing too hard. One more practice swing to feel the weight shift and the hip torque and the plane of the swing. He placed his club behind the ball. He could still see the pin in his mind’s eye. He could see the gentle arc of the ball flight. On his backswing the tug against his right hip exactly mimicked his practice swing. Something felt a little off in his hands and, in retrospect he wonders if his attention drifted to his arms at that moment because now his hips seemed to be sliding forward and he could not recall actually seeing the ball. His neck started to twist forward and remain rigid at the same time resulting in a movement that could not be accounted for by normal cervical anatomy.
The sound of impact was less like the satisfying click of the well-compressed ball and rather more like the toe of a shoe brushing a cranky screen door. The ball took off high and straight, veered right into the trees solidly catching a branch and launching left towards the stone channel where it ricocheted backwards but not backwards enough to avoid plunging into the creek never to be seen again. The pain in Sean’s neck passed quickly. He next noted in quick succession the pains in his lower back, left knee, and gut, but each faded as he had to also wrestle with that infernal problem of bladder control and, with it, the infinite possibility of the day.
Age descended on him. The weight of his failed relationships and squandered opportunities pitched his upper body forward as he shuffled toward his bag. He acquired a limp. Bill made a noise that may have included a fragment of an encouragement as he put his tee in the ground and stared down the long par three.