YEAR OF THE SNAKE CONTEST
My parents took up golf in their mid-fifties and enjoyed it for the rest of their lives. On the theory that too much early pleasure might, like smoking, interfere with my maturation process, I put it off until my early seventies. 427 words.
Arguably the most beautiful beachfront acreage on Oahu is Kahuku's emerald nine-hole on an August Sunday morning. Here I am under a clear blue sky, one-fifth of a hastily cobbled-together fivesome: me, a New York Jew, a tourist from Atlanta, a local Filipino, and a French expatriot. "Five complete strangers?" I ask myself. "What've I got to lose?"
The local guy and the expat take left-handed practice swings. The Georgian torches a fat black cigar with a wooden match. The New Yorker finishes off a peanut butter and banana sandwich. "Energy," he says and drops his tee shot dead in front of the green. Inches in front.
They play the first two holes close to even. I'm only a little behind. When I shank my third-hole tee shot, the expat offers, "You looked op."
"I do that sometimes," I say.
The Georgian aims his iPhone at the rocky peninsula you can see from the fourth hole tee and clicks.
"Nice place for a house," the New Yorker says.
"You get one helicopter?" the local guy asks.
The expat sinks a forty-foot putt on the par four fifth hole for eagle, fist bumps all around.
"Anyone notice I birdied that hole?" the Georgian asks.
More fist bumps.
I double-bogey that same fifth hole, flub the sixth so bad I don't even putt out, then triple-bogey the seventh. But somehow on the par four eighth I loft two consecutive monster drives, and the second lands twenty yards past the green.
"Steroids," the Georgian says.
"Strong tail winds," I say and proceed to carve out my second triple bogey in a row.
On the ninth hole the local guy drives straight up the middle of the fairway. Again. "Straight up the middle," I say. "Again."
"Lucky," the local guy says.
"Not luck w'en it 'appen ever' time," the expat says.
"More lucky yet," the local guy says.
I crush by far the longest tee shot of any of us on the par-five ninth, then finesse my way to an astounding quadruple bogey. It's over. The Georgian fires up another black stogie and we all shake hands.
"Anybody keep score?" the New Yorker asks.
"Hah!" I reply. "Didn't wanna embarrass you guys."
"Broke my pencil," the Georgian says.
"Los' mines," the local guy says.
"I am Franch." The expat smiles at me. "Mebbe you 'ear we do not gofe?"
Each small piece of me goes on alert. Do I laugh? Or cry? He offers his hand, and we shake a second time.