John and I had been playing music together for a year or so. Great guy, great drummer, great practice pad in his basement. What could be better?
Better was when he invited me to play golf with him and a couple of buddies. We decided to play a municipal course in our hometown that I’d always wanted to play. It had a couple of legends associated with it: formerly a private club, designed by a famous golf course designer, private club moved out to the suburbs when the “city” grew up around their course, city bought the course and took it over, now the highest-rated city course. But the biggest legend of all involved a story about a famous person about town who was robbed at gunpoint on the 14th tee.
When I told my wife we were playing said course, her reaction was “are you crazy? You know that someone got robbed there? Are you going to leave your wallet in the car? Will you call me when you are finished, please?” Of course, that only increased the challenge and stoked my ardor to play this course.
We teed off at 4 p.m. on a sunny late-August day. The course played as advertised; we had to use every shot in our bags to navigate around the front nine. Sure, it had seen better days, but the greens still ran true. I even put a tee shot on the par-3 hole number 5 within a foot of the cup. We were sailing around the course with no one behind us and no one in front of us. That just about describes paradise for a weekend golfer.
We made the turn about 6 p.m. just as the shadows were starting to lengthen on the course and the temperature was starting to drop. Play slowed down a bit and we noticed a police helicopter circling over the neighborhood next to the course. My buddy John crushed his drive on the 13th tee and carded an easy birdie with a one-putt. As we drove down the long cart path from the 13th green to the 14th tee, he leaned over and said “remember, this tee ahead is where the guy got robbed. But that was a long time ago.”
That’s when we saw the Guy in the Red Shirt walking towards us. This Guy was not a golfer, or at least he was not dressed like a golfer. And he did not have any golf clubs. We avoided eye contact as we drove past him on our cart.
When we reached the 14th tee, we were surprised to see two foursomes waiting for the foursome on the tee to finish their drives. We took a detour on our golf cart down to the 14th green and asked the guys coming off the green about the holdup. They said “Did you see the police helicopters flying over here a few minutes ago? There were four guys who went running across the fairway over there and that really slowed things up on the course. The police over there must be looking for them.”
He gestured down the cart path, and there we saw two police cruisers and four police officers. We drove over to see them and asked one of them what was going on. He said “We’re looking for four guys who went running across the course a few minutes ago.” When I asked him what they looked like, he described the Guy in the Red Shirt. “I think we saw one of your suspects walking briskly up the cart path between the 13th green and the 14th hole.”
When I tried to describe how to get back to that spot, I could see that the officers were confused. So I said “it might be easier for me to just show you the spot.” They took me up on my offer. “Get in the back of the cruiser, and don’t worry about the seat belts. There aren’t any.”
There I was, riding up a cart path at a golf course in the back of a police car. (The seats in the back are hard plastic, which makes you wonder what the jailhouse beds are made of.) We got to the spot where we saw the Guy in the Red Shirt, and of course he was long gone.
My buddy John said to us “Hey, the sun is really starting to sink. Since the back nine is clogged up, how about if we go back and play holes 6, 7, 8 and 9 again then call it a day?”
We got to the 6th tee and my three playing partners all teed off. It was a long, narrow tee box with a big drop off down to the fairway. (Look out for the dogleg right and the thick woods over there!) As I was getting out my driver, I saw a police officer at the very back of the tee. Lying on the ground beneath him was a guy with his hands tied behind his back. It was the Guy in the Red Shirt. O….kay!
The officer did not instruct us to leave immediately, and it looked like he had the situation well in hand. There were no guns and nobody was bleeding. So I did what any golfer would do in this situation: I teed it up and got ready to drive the ball down off the tee onto the fairway (while avoiding the woods on the right.)
Just as I was getting ready to start my backswing, I saw a second police officer coming up the left side of the tee box from the fairway below. This officer had his back to me and his gun was drawn, though it was pointed away from me. I guess he was looking for the three other guys.
Without thinking, I took a mighty swing at my ball and it sliced right into the woods, never to be seen again.
I said to my partners: “Guys, I’m thirsty. Why don’t we call it a day and I’ll buy the first round.”
When I wrote John later that night to thank him again for the game and for an unforgettable golfing experience, he replied “I bet you’ll never play golf with me again!” My reply: “Are you kidding? That was the most fun I’ve had playing golf in a long time!”
It was a day to remember. The only way it could have been better is if that tee shot had gone into the hole at number 5. Maybe next time!