‘We had yelled at the future Ryder Cup captain’: These reader ‘dust-ups’ were colorful
You couldn’t be held to just one story.
If you’re just joining us, about a month ago, I hit into a group. Or, more specifically, I rolled into a group; my ball came to rest 10 or more yards short. And it was accidental; I’m as mild as they come. OK, I’m making excuses. It was bad. One of the fellas in the group ahead thought so too — when he walked back to my ball, pivoted 90 degrees and hit my tee shot into the woods. He and I then got creative with our English and sign language on the next tee box before huffing off back toward our games. I know I shouldn’t have done it. I wish I could take it back. But I did it. And I shared my incident with you. Then I asked for your help:
You, dear golf reader, have stories of heated incidents, of dust-ups, of colorful language and colorful characters.
Much, much better ones even. I’m sure of it. And I want to hear them.
And the stories came. For weeks. From all over the globe. They were all great. Much, much better than mine.
And now I’m sharing.
This all is in no way meant to say you should do these things on the golf course. Nor should you expect them to be done to you. But we’re human. Stuff happens (the language gets more flowery below, trust me). We learn. And we sometimes do so by sharing. One of you actually summed it all up pretty well.
“Hope you read through this, because it is almost therapeutic to share such a ridiculous round of golf with someone who will chuckle and get it.”
With that, here is the second part of your stories; the first can be found here. And I’ll be ending the series with some advice on how to handle an incident, should it happen to you, or if you happen to be the source. I received a good deal of counsel, too. The stories have been edited for brevity and clarity, and the names have been taken off, as the stories alone are what you should know.
Hope you enjoy.
‘We had yelled at the future Ryder Cup captain’
A few years ago, pre-Covid, an old friend and I from Ohio reconnected at TPC Tampa for a round of golf. Just a twosome, we weren’t anticipating a fast round, so we simply were enjoying each other’s company and a beautiful golf course in February. Far better than my home in Nebraska and his in Atlanta that time of year.
We actually were moving along at a fairly good pace when we putted out on 15 and headed to the 16th tee. From there, we waited patiently for quite some time and then finally hit our tee shots down the 16th fairway.
Arriving at our shots, we waited and waited while the guy in front of us was putting from about 15-20 feet. He missed. His partner tapped it back to him. He missed again. Another tap-back and try. He missed a third time.
Finally, we’d had enough and yelled almost in unison, “Come on.”
He turned toward us, raised both arms in the air and yelled back, “We’re not going anywhere!” And then walked off the green in disgust.
We played up and sheepishly took our time, waiting on the cart path well short of the 17th tee while the group in front of us played ahead.
When we finished the round and were having our clubs cleaned, the guys asked us if we had enjoyed ourselves. We told them that we had, not mentioning our “incident” on the 16th.
Then one of them asked, “Did you meet Mr. Stricker?”
Steve Stricker was the guy practicing his putting on 16, the Sunday before the Valspar tournament.
And we had yelled at the future Ryder Cup captain and one of the legendary putters in the game to move along.
Had we known it was him, we would have willingly watched him putt for hours.
I always wanted to apologize.
‘I was thinking: How the hell did this escalate to this level so fast?’
I was walking by myself one weekend afternoon, and I had been patiently playing behind a twosome who was playing “Army Golf:” left, right, left, right. When I got to the 11th hole, a par-4 that plays uphill approximately 300 yards, the two players were on the green putting, so, I decided it was time to fire away. There was a slight breeze into me, so no way could I drive the green.
Perfect drive on a great line.
The drive landed around 270 yards and bounded hard, climbing the hill toward the pin — and rolled between the two guys putting on the green. They exploded. Both raised their arms and began screaming, “WTF.” They walked back to their cart, did a U-turn and started driving back at me, the whole time yelling obscenities. As they were getting closer, I could feel my heart rate picking up and was thinking about what club I needed to grab in case I needed it. These guys pulled up to 10 yards away, and both jumped out of their cart aggressively, still shouting, “WTF,” with their hands raised above their heads. I was thinking: How the hell did this escalate to this level so fast?
Both got to about five feet and busted out laughing and said, “Holy s***, that was the best shot we’ve ever seen — it lipped out of the hole.” Needless to say, my first almost-double eagle was a memorable shot that had my heart racing for the wrong reasons. These guys pulled off an excellent joke that I will always remember.
My playing partner threw his club — then I gave it to another group
I was playing a muni in Livonia, Mich., one day and was joined up with two other singles for the round. One of them, quite larger than my 5-foot-8 height, began drinking alcoholic beverages on about the third hole. Everything was cordial until we got to 17, a short par-3.
We all hit our tee shots and marched toward the green. I happened upon a 9-iron in the middle of the fairway, picked it up and jogged over to the next tee box, where the group ahead had just finished teeing off. I asked if they left a club, and they said they did and thanked me. When I got back to the green, the huge guy walked up, chest-bumped me — to be honest, his chest hit my face — and he started swearing at me and asking if I wanted to fight.
Turns out, after he hit his tee shot, he wasn’t happy with it and launched his iron 70 yards ahead without me or the other player seeing it! After profusely apologizing and saying it was my mistake, the guy stormed off after the group ahead in search of the bag with now 15 clubs!
‘They thought it was hilarious that a little old man was taking on all four of them over a golf ball’
Back in the mid-’90s, I was playing a round with my good friend, Randy, and his dad, Red, at a public executive course in Sun City, Calif. Randy and I were both big, strong guys in our 30s at the time and Red was close to 70, but he could hit it a long way for his age. Picture a retired Popeye with a golf club and that was Red.
The course was very crowded, and play was slow. We had just finished playing 15 when the group in front of us took a shortcut to the clubhouse and we found ourselves playing behind a foursome that looked, shall we say, tough. Four real big guys. We watched them play 16, and it was easy to see that they were beginners and didn’t have a clue about what they were doing. But they were having a great — and loud — time.
Anyway, we got to 17, a short, dogleg-left par-4, and after waiting for them to get out of range, Randy and I hit irons to the end of the fairway. Red announced that while he couldn’t reach the green, he was going over the house on the left, which would leave a short chip to the green, and he hit it pure. Randy and I were sweating bullets thinking he’d hit into the group in front and that we’d be lucky if all they did was beat us up, but as we tentatively walked up the fairway, they were putting out and it appeared we had dodged a bullet.
As soon as the green cleared, we hit our shots and headed over to help Red find his ball. I could tell he was very upset, and before we could get to him, he was heading to the 18th tee, club in hand, yelling, “Which one of you *@&%$#& sons of a @&/^**$* punks took my ^$@*^#^#@ ball!” Randy was yelling, “Dad, dad, no big deal, take a free drop!”, but Red was surrounded by all four of these scary guys before we could get there. Randy and I looked at each other, knowing that while we wanted to run away, we had to man up and try to save Red.
We walked up to find Red and the leader of the group having a friendly discussion, after which all seven of us went back to look for the missing ball (which was found in the rough). Turns out, they thought it was hilarious that a little old man had the stones to take on all four of them over a golf ball.
He confronted … ‘The Assassin’
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, I worked at Lake Chabot Golf Course in Oakland, Calif. The course was owned and operated by former Oakland Raider tight end Raymond Chester (who, as an aside, was a wonderful man and very good to me during my employment there). It was not uncommon to see many former Raider alumni visit the course. Darryl Lamonica, George Atkinson, Marv Hubbard and even Jim Plunkett were frequent guests who developed a love for the game in their retirement from football.
One late afternoon, an incident occurred on the par-5 8th. The tee shot is blind, requiring the player to hit his or her drive over a hill to an unseen fairway that begins to slope dramatically downhill after about 200 yards or so. Back then, there was no real protocol in place to determine when the group in front of you had cleared the fairway; the general custom was to wait a few minutes and then simply fire away. (There is now a flag that is removed while playing and then replaced when finished so as to signal to the group on the tee that things are all clear — but I digress.) On this particular occasion, the player in question waited a perfectly reasonable amount of time and then sent his tee shot sailing over the hill, splitting the fairway in the process. Only problem was that the group ahead had not yet cleared and were still waiting in the fairway to hit their second shots. One of the players waiting did not hear a “fore,” but did hear a ball land. He turned in response and watched as the ball bounced into him. Fortunately, or unfortunately, all that was hurt was his pride and/or ego.
The “injured” golfer — helped by a wee bit of liquid courage — felt it his responsibility to get into his cart, drive back to the tee box and convey in no uncertain terms the degree of his displeasure at having been hit into. By the time he arrived at the tee, he was fairly lathered up about the entire affair and demanded to know who the offending party was. He was then informed that the “launcher of the ball” was none other than Jack Tatum. “The Assassin.” One of the most fearsome defensive players in the history of the NFL and every bit as physically intimidating in retirement as he was when he roamed the secondary for the Raiders. Jack apologized for the unintended breach of golf etiquette, but it’s unclear if the offended party ever heard the apology as he was busy racing back to his group as quickly as one of those dilapidated old carts could take him. Jack would never have done anything to the poor guy — his fearsome reputation on the field was no longer the persona of a person I knew as having a very gentle, almost shy disposition.
He hasn’t hit someone else’s ball ever since
I was playing a local municipal course and hit my ball left of the fairway. Another golfer was playing a hole that was coming back toward us. I see this guy looking for his ball right where my ball landed. He hit a ball, and I’m pretty sure it was mine. Let me add that I’m a 17-handicap so I really kinda suck and don’t generally get too upset. But this day, I was playing well and wanted to keep things going.
As I approached the spot where my ball was, I saw another ball and it was not mine, so I’m sure it was his. At this point, the guy was in the adjacent fairway, his back toward me as he waited for his partner to hit. I took a swing at the ball I found to hit it in his direction and said something about how he hit my ball. I made solid contact, and it hit the guy square in the middle of his back.
He turned and started walking toward me and he was big. Like 6-foot-5 and probably 250. He got closer and I was clutching my club for self defense.
He then said, “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have hit your ball.”
I felt immediately relieved because this guy could have snapped me like a chicken bone.
I haven’t hit someone else’s ball ever since.