I quit playing competitive golf right about the same time that Tiger Woods turned pro. Coincidence? I think not. Hey, like I say, people hate me because I’m lucky. A week ago on Monday, however, I did play against Tiger for the first time, in a charity skins match to benefit the Shriner’s hospital in New Bern N.C. It is an event that has been hosted for the last 11 years by Sarah and Curtis Strange, in Sarah’s hometown, and this year the participants were Curtis, Justin Leonard, Tiger, and I. Spot the odd man out in that group.
As little golf as I play these days, I thought it might be a good idea to hit a few balls the week before — you know, to see which barrel it was coming out of. So I zipped up to Royal Oaks, where Justin’s coach, Randy Smith, manhandled my seized-up setup and swing into something less unsightly. A hell of an achievement. Of course, the next day, I couldn’t get out of bed. I should have known better than to wake up dead muscle tissue.
By Sunday, travel day, I was raring to go though, and I flew from Dallas to Raleigh, where I waited three hours to catch a crop-sprayer to New Bern. One seat on the left, two on the right, plane was full. Thirty minutes later, joined at the hip and shoulder, I and my new best friend tore apart, and I stumbled out curbside to meet my limo.
No limo. So I call Curtis, who tells me there is a limo, and it’s there, and the driver is looking for me. I tell Curtis there isn’t, it’s not, and he’s not looking very hard. I give Curtis a description. I’m wearing green Airwalks, skateboard shorts, a long sleeved T-shirt, and four days of beard. Think elderly Bart Simpson, with a worse attitude.
Ten minutes later, a car and driver, both of which have been waiting over at the private field, show up. They thought I had a jet, like the other three. Perfectly understandable. So I get to the hotel, get into my room, and then go and kick the doors of the other three, and run back inside. Also perfectly understandable. Then, I fill in my breakfast order — two eggs, slightly on the sunnyside up side of over medium, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, a toasted bagel with cream cheese, coffee, and Tabasco on the tray please — and I hang it on my doorknob. Leonard, the turd, who is right across the hall from me, is watching through his pinhole. And when my door closes, he sneaks out, and replaces my card with one from his room. In the morning, I am awakened approximately two hours earlier than necessary, and served a box of All-Bran, two cans of Lima beans, and a Bud Light. I can hardly contain my mirth.
Hmm, I’m thinking. There could be a way to turn this to my advantage. So I eat about half the box of All-Bran, chug one of the cans of beans, drain the beer, and go back to sleep. About an hour later, a very loud noise wakes me once more, followed by my alarm call. I was ready.
At the press conference, Curtis, the host, gets to choose his partner. He chooses me. Everybody can hardly contain their mirth. Bearing in mind that this man is your Ryder Cup captain, I feel that this does not augur well for the Belfry. A minor misjudgment perhaps.
To make a long and humiliating story short and humiliating, despite some elderly gamesmanship and cunning, and plenty of magnificently timed strategic flatulence, we got our butts kicked. Also, my evil plan backfired on me when I had to make a panic-stricken bathroom visit to a private house just off the 16th tee. We were all live-miked to a mobile PA system. I would have got away with it, if it hadn’t been for the acoustics in the bathroom.
It was so much fun, I could not adequately explain it to you. They made a lot of money for sick and injured children, some of whom were there. Tiger, who had just won the Bell Canadian Open the day before, signed about a million autographs, had 70 group photographs taken, and gave me his cold. Justin was equally brilliant with the huge crowd, always giving, always smiling. Somewhere down the road, I am going to crazyglue his shoes together. Sarah and Curtis, one of the tour’s great love stories, were the people who made it happen, and when the poster child for the event, a smiling little girl also called Sarah, walked out on her new prosthetic legs, all beautiful, and brave, and broken, I felt like hugging them both.
I got to play with Curtis Strange, Justin Leonard, and Tiger Woods, and I got a T-shirt with their names on it, and mine too!
What a day that was.