Golf provides all the drama for a writer’s latest script

April 22, 2008
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Once a year I play a
round of golf with my
three oldest pals, the
only lifelong friends I have.

We
played junior high football and
drove cross-country together.
We were groomsmen at one
another’s weddings. A few
years ago we almost literally
killed each other during an oncourse
argument.

“That’s my
ball in the fairway!” one of my
buddies shouted.

“But you’re playing Maxfli,”
replied another.

“No, I’m playing Precept!”

“But I’m playing Precept!!”

It caused us to reevaluate our
friendship and got me started
writing a play about four buddies
who wonder why they still
get together to play.

The plot
goes to the primal heart of the
sport, which is what makes golf
so dramatic to start with. It’s a
dangerous combination: men
with years’ worth of grudges
and metal weapons in remote
forests with few witnesses.

What other game could conjure
such drama?

Sure, a free throw or field
goal to win the game can tighten
the throat, and the bottom
of the ninth or the final lap
can rile the stomach acids, but
every shot in a round of golf
can cut a 41.4-inch hole down
to one’s essence. It places an
unmatched level of pressure
on the player; there are no
refs, teammates or coaches to
blame, no early exit to the dugout,
no helmet or windshield to
hide behind. The scrutiny can
force people into revealing extremely
personal, often ugly,
character traits.

Remember
when Woody Austin attacked
a putter with his own head?
When Davis Love III smashed
a sprinkler head with his club?
Or when Sergio spit into a cup
after missing a putt?

Golf’s truth serum causes
even more unpredictable reactions
from amateurs. I was 10
years old the first time I played
with my dad. It took only two
holes for me to realize that this
mild-mannered M.D. was one
angry s.o.b. (I learned the term
“self-loathing”
later.
from
a golfer.)

My friends and I live thousands
of miles away from one
another, we have less and less
in common with each passing
year, and, despite our attachment,
all we seem to do is
argue.

When we play, the nostalgic
niceties fall away by the
time we reach the 1st green. We
remain fathers and husbands
with respectable careers, but
on the course the bullies, whiners,
wiseacres and idiots who
live within us come bubbling
to the surface.

Why do we do it? Five years
worth of rewrites later, I’m
still searching for that answer.

Maybe it’s because now
that we’ve shared these hidden
sides of our personalities, facets
that even our wives haven’t
seen, we feel bound together.
We’re more and more different
from one another, but despite
the years and distances, golf
has made us closer than ever.

Maybe I’ll get some more answers
when my play, Men with
Clubs
, which I finally finished,
has its premiere. The guys are
flying in to see themselves up
on stage.

I made a tee time for the following
day.

Jones’s Men with Clubs premieres
at the HotCity Theatre in
St. Louis on April 25.