Ive been in golf a long time, but I still remember my first taste of golf. It tasted like persimmon and brass with a hint of fescue. It was in my backyard in Tennessee, circa 1958, and Dad was giving Auntie Grizz a golf lesson. Her real name was Griselda, but Grizz was more fitting, as she was a big, powerful bear of a woman.
I was warned, repeatedly, to beware Auntie Grizz and her vicious backswing, but as I was three years old, I had trouble paying attention to instructions. I was also under the naïve impression that backyards were for small children to play without fear, rather than adults to work on golf swings with dangerous weapons.
Auntie Grizzs weapon was a Louise Suggs 2-wood and I walked right into it. I can still feel it, that impact to the jaw, the crackling noise my molar made as it split into several pieces and the sudden disorientation of having adults actually paying attention to me. Yes, I was screaming and spitting out broken teeth, a veritable fountain of frothy red blood, but I did that fairly frequently and nobody went hysterical on those occasions.
I was always falling off the slide, ramming my head into other childrens knees and getting bitten in the face by a neighbors doberman, but nothing ever elicited the chaotic response that Auntie Grizzs 2-wood accomplished; all sorts of grownups were weeping and shrieking and accusing and threatening and shoving wet towels in my mouth and worrying if Id be disfigured.
Auntie Grizz was worried about her 2-wood and Dad was afraid I would be psychologically scarred and end up hating fairway woods.
Later, after all the old people calmed down, I figured out why Auntie Grizz, Dad, Grandma, Grampaw, Great-Grandma Mitty and even my mother lost their composure: It was because the entire incident involved golf.
Golf was apparently very important in our family. Dad wanted to be a touring professional, like his hero Ben Hogan. Auntie Grizz wanted to learn golf because it involved hitting things and Grandma supported the social ladder climbing aspect of golf. She wanted to have Sunday dinner at the Country Club.
Great-Grandma Mitty was anti-golf; she was given to saying things like, "Show me a good golfer and Ill show you a bum!"
My mother, Nancy Jean, was seriously affected by the Auntie Grizz incident, and showed a great deal of Tommy Bolt-like potential by flinging the 2-wood into a nearby backyard, where it struck a dog and angered the neighbors. Backyard golf was forever bannedwhich is probably why I have such an irrational hatred of real estate golf developmentsand then Nancy Jean then called our preacher, the Reverend Nando Barnes and demanded he come over immediately and perform an exorcism, in order to remove the wicked spirit of golf from Dad.
It must have failed, or Baptists arent licensed to perform the ritual, because instead of getting exorcised, Dad taught Reverend Nando how to hit a draw. The poor man was fired months later for wearing spikes in the pulpit, when all he was trying to do was gain an edge on making the 12:35 tee time at Tom Scullys Skyway Golf Course in Jackson, Tennessee, right beside the airport.