Owen Sound Golf and Country Club

I feel for the Owen Sound Golf and Country Club. For the course itself, that is. I don’t know the board of directors, most members, that I’m aware of, and even the bank, whichever one it is. But those 18 fairways and greens are crying out for careful, timely manicuring to avoid becoming a natural reclamation area. In some contexts that could be regarded as a good thing. But if you’re a golfer, as I am, or was, I’m sure you’d hate to see that happen. I’m even tempted to take it upon myself to load up the old riding lawn mower and see what I can do to help out. And I bet I’m not alone in that regard.

That can’t happen, of course; for one thing under the circumstances it would be trespassing. For another, there’s a lot more to golf course maintenance than just cutting the grass. I might do more harm than good. And for yet another, I’m not quite foolish enough to follow through on that impulse.

But I sure hope somebody, somewhere is in a legal position on an emergency basis to do something to protect the course. If not, then the sooner a receiver is appointed to take that and other matters in hand the better.

I’m not an OSGCC member, but on a pay-as-you-play basis I toured the course twice some years ago. I don’t know what kind of shape it was in when it closed, but at the time it seemed like a good course, based on my comparative experience.

That mostly goes back to my youthful days, when my golfing career, if I may be so bold as to call it that, began as a young teenager with a $69 set of clubs. I mostly played municipally-owned pay-as-you-play clubs in the Toronto area, especially Humber Valley, a pretty easy course; and the much harder Don Valley course, where I lost a ton of balls.

I had a junior membership at the Woodbridge Golf Club when I was still in High School. My buddy and I used to have to tee off before 8 a.m. His Dad drove us there and made us a threesome. I can still see his odd stance and swing, but especially his look of utter disbelief when I hit the best golf shot of my life (and perhaps the history of the game) off the first tee one morning when I was still half asleep.

This is worth a separate paragraph. As every real golfer knows, a well hit drive sings. In this instance my Titleist went straight down the fairway of the first hole, a 340-yard, par four, like it was shot from a cannon. No, on second thought, it was a lot prettier than that. It was a thing of beauty, as it just kept going down the fairway about 10-ft above the fairway grass, on and on, and on; and then, wonder of wonders, about 200 yards or more out, it started to rise, up and up, and up. And then finally it settled gently on the fairway, somewhere up near the green.

About 200 yards up the fairway my buddy, and then his Dad, hit their second shots. We walked on. They hit their third shots to the green. We walked on. “Where’s your ball,” my buddy said. I had been the first to tee off and they were still fussing to get ready and hadn’t actually seen me hit my drive. “Oh, up there somewhere,” I said, pointing toward the green.

Finally there was my ball, about, I recall, 20 yards short of the green. “What a drive!” my buddy said. His Dad snorted derisively and gave me a very sceptical look, to put it mildly. He obviously didn’t believe I had actually hit the drive that far. He seemed rather to think that I had cheated, and somehow managed to drop the ball up there beforehand by some sleight of hand.

I can only imagine what the British-accented commentators might have exclaimed, and the oohs and aahs of a crowd of thousands, if I had hit that drive during, say, the Masters tournament at the lush Augusta, Georgia course where it’s played.

Of course, I must confess, that drive was almost pure luck. (I say “almost” because you do need to have a certain amount of natural ability, including a basically good swing, to strike a golf ball in just such a way.) But for the most part I was a duffer. For every half-decent shot I hit, there were dozens of hooks, slices, grounders, and even a complete miss now and then.

But every duffer who has hit a beautiful drive, lives and loves and plays the game in hopes of hitting another one. Then, at some point reality hits home: you’re not going to the Masters, ever.

But it’s like motorcycling, which was another youthful obsession. There’s no cure: once a golfer, always a golfer. Once a biker, always a biker, as all the grey beards riding $30,000 machines today can attest. (More about motorcycles next week, it being summer and all.)

At least one more time while I’m still able, I’ll play a last round of golf, and hear the ball sing one more time.

And now I hope it will be at the Owen Sound Golf and Country Club.

Originally published in The Sun Times in 2011.

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