By Niles Reddick
Once the last freeze of winter had passed, my friend Kevin and I decided we should practice golf at the driving range. We cleaned up our golf shoes, loaded our bags into the back of my truck, and drove across town. We were both surprised how crowded the parking lot seemed and supposed our great idea wasn’t a singular or brilliant one as we imagined. Fees paid, we took our gear and buckets of balls to an uncovered part of the range, finding two slots next to each other.
Kevin had always been good at golf. He was taller, in better shape, and younger. His swing was excellent and he’d been playing since he was a child. I’d never had golf lessons, had picked it up late and practiced or played sporadically, and had coaching or tips from Kevin. I had always been a quick study, so it didn’t take long for me to figure it out, but no matter how much practice, or how well I hit the balls, they never seemed to go far. Whether it was the lack of upper body strength or my hitting like I was hitting a baseball on the ground, I don’t know. I watched Kevin, and sure enough, his first drive went off without a hitch, the ball speeding through the air, and hitting the sign. “Kevin: great hit. I even heard the ball hit that Boo sign.”
“What?” He laughed. I noted the guy in the next lane chuckle, too. Even his elementary-aged children asked him where the “Boo sign” was. Kevin signaled me over and said, “The sign reads 100 yards, not Boo. When’s the last time you had your eyes checked?”
Well, I’d be the first to admit that I needed to go. Seemed like people were always sharing on Facebook or Instagram they’d put off their eye doctor or dental appointments and the next thing you know, their teeth were rotten and they had coke bottle glasses. “Man, I didn’t realize it was that bad. I canceled the past couple of years, thinking they just wanted my co-pays. I’ll call next week.”
We kept hitting balls and Kevin began to send directions my way after each hit: “Wrap that thumb, change your hand positions, or feel the flow with your back and bend your legs.” It was frustrating, annoying, and didn’t help. It made me more nervous than anything, and I closed my eyes and swung as hard as I could. When I looked out, I didn’t see the ball at all, and I heard Kevin laughing. The ball was still there, but a chunk of the grass and dirt had flown several feet.
I knew I would not go back to buy another bucket of balls, and with only three left, I decided to do the best I could. The first one wasn’t bad. It was straight and probably landed about thirty yards out. The second one, however, was the worst. I didn’t see it either, but that was because it was like one of those fly balls in baseball. It went straight up, seemed high, and then picked up speed coming down. It hit the guy next to me in the head and knocked him out cold.
His kids were screaming and someone yelled to the manager to call an ambulance. I had already grabbed my clubs, noted he was breathing, and headed through the concession area to the parking lot. Kevin followed behind, and as we got in my truck, we could hear a lone siren in the distance. I felt bad for the fellow, but there was nothing I could do for him or his children, and I feared a lawsuit. I never saw anything in the newspaper, so I assumed the fellow had been okay. I hoped so.
The next few times Kevin called about going to the driving range or playing a round, I had other things to do. I had all but given it up and my bag and clubs became a place for spider webs, dust, leaves, and anything else that made its way into our garage. Next time we had a yard sale, I decided to put the clubs out there to see what I could get.