IMG_4051I am not a golfer.

I’ve tried to be.

My fourth year at Xavier University I found myself going into the second semester only needing one more class to graduate.   I had enough of a scholarship to pay for more than one class and so, along with what I needed, I took a bunch of random stuff that sounded fun.  Should I have taken a computing class, or a business class, or an additional language class?  Yeah, probably.  But….

I took an acting class in which I ended up doing scenes with Darnell Williams, who was on the basketball team and who the Internet tells me is now the head basketball coach at Kentucky State.  He was good.  I believe that was the semester I took a terrorism class.  Pre- 9/11 we mostly focused on the IRA.  I took an additional theology class because I liked the professor a whole lot.  I took coaching golf.

Seniors got to sign up for classes first so me and a bunch of my friends all registered for the golf class, which in practice was really more “playing” than “coaching.”  It was ostensibly a class for education majors but really was just a chance for us to goof  around and hit golf balls.  The roll was fifteen of the guys I hung around with and about six future teachers, who I am sure hated us.   That semester, I played a lot of golf, mostly at the par three course down the street from campus.  I was never any good.

In golf, “slice” is the term for when the ball goes way to the right of where you are aiming.  I slice.  I mean, I really slice.  I slice like peach pie on a summer afternoon.  I slice like New York style pizza, which is thinner, so it slices easier.  I slice like some famous hockey player slices across the ice.  I didn’t take coaching hockey. I’m like Vanilla Ice, in that I slice like a ninja, although not so much with the cutting like a razor blade.  I’m terrible, is what I am saying.

Golf is one of those things that doesn’t look hard.  The ball isn’t moving.  Nobody is trying to prevent you from hitting it.  You have a device scientifically designed to help you do just that.  But I’ll be damned if it isn’t practically impossible in practice.

After graduation I continued to play and continued to not get much better.  Finally, sometime around 2003, after hundreds of lost golf balls and zero improvement, I announced my retirement from golf by throwing my clubs into my parents’ pool.  I didn’t touch a club again for more than a decade.

Until Cass announced she was taking an interview for a job at Top Golf.

“But Cass,” I said. “We are not golfers.”

She was not swayed.

A few days later I was driving over to Costco when I noticed someone erecting a gigantic four story net along the side of the road.

“Hey Cass,” I said, upon returning home, “it looks like someone is building a Tyrannosaur enclosure over off the 7.”

“Yeah,” she said, “that’s Top Golf. I’m interviewing there tomorrow.  We talked about this.”

“Of course,” I said. “I remember.  Because I always listen to you, because you are important to me.  But Cass, we are not golfers.”

Again, she was not swayed.

She took the job.  It turns out, we are Top Golfers.

There are more than twenty Top Golfs all around the country and they are building more constantly.  It’s not just hitting golf balls; it is a whole multi-story entertainment complex.   Besides being the world’s fanciest driving range, it is also a restaurant and a bunch of bars and a cool place to just sort of hang around.  The balls all have microchips in them so that every shot that hits a target is automatically tracked. You rack up points the more balls you put into the targets.  It like a bowling/darts/golf hybrid.  You play the game in your “bay” which has a table and a couple of couches and a few flat screen televisions.  It’s heated and air conditioned, although not at the same time, so the weather more or less doesn’t matter.  It’s wildly popular, waits of several hours to get a spot aren’t unusual on weekend nights.  The food is good. Drinks are good. It’s a lot of fun. We love it.

It helps, of course, that Cass assists in  running the place.  T1 likes going, and his natural athleticism makes him better than he should be, but T2 swaggers around like he is the Prince of Top Golf.  He swaggers more when he beats me which, because there are targets at a variety of distances, you don’t actually have to be a golfer to play and, because I am terrible, is more often than I would like.  T2 is a very bad trash talker.  He taunts you on every poorly hit ball.  He dances after every point he scores, pretending that his club is a cane and he is a vaudeville star.  He coughs, or just outright yells, during your back-swing.  He is a monster.

The other day the whole family went to have lunch and hit some balls.  I was as usual, slicing away.  The facility has two golf pros and one of them came over to ask Cass something.  He watched me out of the corner of his eye for a minute and then made a quick suggestion relating to my hand placement.  I did what he told me and…my slice disappeared.

The ball flew straight and true, as if shot from the bow of whichever Greek deity was in charge of frustrating sports.  I was amazed.  I was excited.  I was very pleased that there was no way that T2 was going to beat me.

I hit the ball as perfectly as I ever have in my life.  It was a miracle. Maybe I AM a golf person.

Two days later T2 and I went to back to Top Golf hit some balls on his day off of school.  I had forgotten whatever it was that the golf pro had told me to do.

There isn’t a pool at the Loudoun County Top Golf into which I could throw my club. It wasn’t, strictly speaking, my club anyway, as they provide them.

Slice returned, I still managed to beat T2.

But barely.

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