At a driving range this summer, a friend asked me if I knew how far I hit my longest drives. As with other measurements, I, like many guys, tend to exaggerate. "About 300 when I catch it." I believed it when I said it. He wagered against me, and we spent the afternoon pacing off my tee shots. Me best drive of the day: 260 yards.
"I guess I'm not that big," I said, dejected.
"Relax," he said. "Your wife doesn't seem to mind."
Of all the clubs I don't belong to Muirfield, Mickey Mouse, Mile-High it's probably my lack of membership in the 300 Club that's been most vexing. I've always wanted to join the loose affiliation of big boppers populated by Tour pros and long-drive champs. I've dreamed of busting it 300 yards without the help of Colorado air or elevated tees. Like that kid in the movie who grows up to be Tom Hanks, I've always wanted to be...big.
The number remains a benchmark, a line in the fairway that separates the manly men from the boys. I know, I know: Drive for show, etc. Well, there's no business like show business. I'm a man, man, and I want to drive like one.
But could I, a scrawny everyman who lacks exceptional clubhead speed, join this exclusive group? I would stop at (almost) nothing to find out. I considered three paths to power: technology, technique, and testosterone injections. Gary Player swears some pros are juicing, so I figured, if it's good enough for them...
HIT THE 'ROIDS, JACK?
"So, you want that stuff?" said a trainer I'll call Don. "You can get it, no problem."
We stood in a gym in San Francisco, land of Barry Bonds and BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative), the epicenter of artificial bulk. Don, a power lifter with the build of Mr. Universe and the bald head of Mr. Clean, was giving me the skinny on the Clear and the Cream.
"The body is a beautifully engineered machine," Don said. "But that doesn't mean we can't improve it."
He rattled off a slate of tongue-twisting terminology: trenbolone, modafinil, erythropoietin. The same pharmaceuticals allegedly used by sluggers and cyclists alike could, in proper doses, increase my stamina and add lean muscle mass, the kind that helps launch missiles off the tee. Contrary to myth, a well-crafted drug cocktail wouldn't give me bulging Jose Canseco-like biceps, but it would make me sinewy and strong. We're talking almost instant extra yards. The potential downside? A shorter lifespan, liver failure, and body parts that either grow (my skull) or shrivel.
"Honey, I shrunk the kids!" Don said cheerfully, gesturing toward a region too personal to mention.
"Hmm," I wavered. I'd lost enough balls on the links.
I turned instead toward a change in nutrition. More lean protein. Less saturated fat. Chitlins were out. Skinless chicken breasts were in. A smart diet, Don insisted, along with stretching and strength training, would add meat to my drives without the risk of chemical castration. But that was for the long haul. Me, I get impatient in the "8 items or less" line. I wanted yards now. A quick fix. Happily, there was a better, faster way.