Sunday, September 13, 2015


Making the ping sound
Al in process of clobbering the ball

On the way home from China Delight last week, I noticed Big Al’s truck parked at the driving range. It seemed like a great evening to spend some time with my kid brother, so I dropped Kay off at the house and headed back for Golf World.

The area had about six guys hitting balls. As I walked down the path, I passed two guys leaving. One must’ve been a pro, ‘cause he was telling the other guy how to improve his golf swing.

Have you ever had someone try to improve your golf swing? You just want to slap ‘em. “Keep your elbow straight. Not that one! Quit slouching! Look how you’re holding that club?” Dad was one whale of teacher… and I was one lousy student.

But, let’s get back to Big Al… who happened to be sitting on a foldout chair under an awning. There was a guy walking in front of me carrying a leather golf bag full of clubs of all denominations. Anything over five clubs is just showing off, you ask me.

Al escorted the guy with the big bag into the office and got him squared away with a wire-basket of balls. Oh, I forgot to tell you that Al wasn’t at Golf World to golf. He occasionally manages the place for the owner. Al is related to the owner by marriage. I don’t mean he’s married to the owner, you understand? He just… O’ forget it.

Me? I’m not related to the owner, so Al would probably make me pay for my own bucket of balls. Fortunately, I didn’t care to hit any balls that evening. I got my share of hitting during my last visit. That’s when Al let me use one of those drivers with the huge club-head. The head of this club was as big my cereal bowl. And, it was made of titanium.

No one knows what titanium really is, but it’s used to make everything from bulletproof vests to non-stick Jello molds… oh, and golf clubs. It’s really good with golf clubs. I never hit a ball so far in all my life. And, each time I hit one, it went “PING!” What a great sound. “PING!” Unfortunately, I only got to hear about 10 pings, ‘cause I wore myself out fast. The club is so light that it makes you want to really bear down and swing. If I had to hit a whole bucket of balls, I’d have a cardiac.

But, I didn’t hit any balls on this particular evening. Instead, Al and I sat out there till dusk and talked about important stuff. Mostly, Al answered questions. – “Al, how is the acting going? How many auditions did you have last month? Where are you going on your next trip? If I borrowed your camping trailer, would you haul it for me?” -- Stuff like that.

Al had nursed his cigar down to about an inch and a half by nightfall. Al gets everything out of a cigar there is to get. And, as luck would have it, the only golfer remaining was getting every minute of golfing time he could. It was a couple of minutes before closing, when the guy asked for another bucket of balls.
A picture of the balls; not the machine that
picked 'em up. That's top secret.

I don’t know how you determine the official closing time at a golfing range. If someone asks for another bucket of balls just before closing time, does that mean he gets to stay until he hits them all?

Apparently, that’s what Al thought the rule was, ‘cause he let the guy stay. However, he did ask the guy to hit at the far end, so that we could pick up balls while he finished off his bucket. – That meant that I was going to get to ride with Al on the ball-vacuum machine.

Do you know how the machine picks up balls? It’s got these big roller things with grooves that run over the balls and somehow chunks ‘em into a one of about five baskets. I’m sure that one of the parts of the machine was made of titanium. Chinese titanium.

It is so neat to be riding at night on a golf ball-sucking tractor, across a well-mowed, field. I asked Al how fun it was to drive the tractor. He said, “Do you wanna drive this thing?” -- I asked him if he’d let me. He nodded and said, “No.”

At one point, I hopped off the tractor and grabbed a pitching wedge and started knocking the hard-to-reach balls onto the middle of the field so the tractor could get to ‘em. The way I was swinging the club, it would’ve taken me three days to get all those balls in the right place. So, I started picking ‘em up and throwing ‘em in the middle of the field.

A little while later, Al parked the tractor, grabbed a seven iron and joined me. At one point I looked over at him and said, “Al, when we were kids, did you ever imagine we’d be together on a driving range picking up golf balls? He thought for a moment and said, “No, I didn’t see this in our future.”

Neither did I. But, had I imagined it, I must say it turned out to be a lot more fun than I would’ve dreamed. For some reason weird stuff makes for the best memories. You ever notice that? – Next time.

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