Daddy was a 9-iron down at the municipal golf course on Route 92. A short, thin man who held his head at a sharp angle, he allowed other men to rent him out for $5 a day. They’d grip him around his thin shanks, swing him over their heads, and bash golf balls around with his dented, grass-stained skull. He didn’t mind their sweaty hands on him, or their blaming him when their shots went bad, or the hours spent in a confining bag with other clubs. He’d talk to his fellow clubs, the woods and irons both, about getting out of the bag and getting a better job one day. But that old stick loved the game—the outdoors, the cart travel, the sand and mud in his face, the being tossed in the water hazard on occasion, and even being left out overnight on a fairway by a forgetful player. He didn’t retire until age 65, his spine bent and his grip unraveled. Sam, the stylish young graphite club who replaced him, said there’d never be 9-irons like Daddy ever again on our links. Sam liked to tell how, one day on the 17th green, Tiger Woods used Daddy to chip into the hole for a birdie. Sam was lying, of course, since Tiger has his own 9-iron, one much nicer than Daddy. But it shows how we all felt about Daddy. Later, Daddy took up fishing, becoming his own pole. The day he drowned—yanked into the drainage basin by a half-pound bluegill—was sunny, with small wads of cumulus clouds in the sky.
July 14, 2004