I’ve had occasion to golf with many people. In this case, through an intricate series of improbably connected events, I found myself at Augusta National, preparing to play a round of golf with a fascinating foursome, our caddies and a photographer.
I’m an okay golfer, which might be more charitable than I deserve, while the other three who filled out my foursome have a total of more than 20 major, and numerous other, golf championships to their credit. Sorry, no names, because I haven’t obtained their permission to make this story public. If I get their permission later, I’ll post an updated version.
Nothing was at stake in this round…it was just for fun. Three professional golfers — relaxed, casual out doing what they love to do — and me. I didn’t really feel a lot of pressure…I knew that no one in our group was expecting me to do anything spectacular.
We all played from the championship tees, just because I wanted to see whether I could make it through a round of golf from that distance without overly embarrassing myself. I’d love to say I held my own with these great professional golfers, but that would be wrong. I did manage not to embarrass myself overly, but my score was still over 100. Not the other guys’ scores.
Professional golfers have a reputation for graciousness that’s well deserved. These guys, while all business on their own shots, were loose, helpful, relaxed, laughingly patient and generous with good, useful tips for me, as I labored my way around this, the most beautiful golf course I’ve ever seen.
Augusta National is so beautiful as to force a gasp when seeing it for the very first time. I’ve played here a few times, and I’m still not used to it. I’m not sure I ever will be. I wouldn’t be surprised if something looking like Augusta National is what Adam and Eve gave up when they ate the forbidden apple.
Anyway, back to our round of golf.
All four of us arrived at the par-5 13th hole, a dogleg left about 510 yards long, protected by Rae’s Creek in front and bunkers behind. This hole has played an important role in many, many Masters championships. It’s on this hole that Phil Mickelson hit a monster 6-iron, from behind a tree and in the pine straw at the dogleg onto the green, to set up a very reasonable 6-foot eagle-putt. He missed the eagle putt, but got the birdie, and went on to win the tournament. Many said that shot was what sealed that victory. That hole.
Well, one of our foursome found his tee shot in roughly the same spot as Phil was when he hit that now legendary 6-iron. However, my playing partner was well and truly blocked by a tree (not sure if it was Phil’s very same tree).
This was a very casual round of golf…I was with my friend assessing what his options might be. The entire round I offered a lot of “advice” to my playing partners. I’d frequently say things like, “Want me to show you how to hit this?” Or, “Here, let me tell you what you should do…” I know these guys pretty well, so they took it with what seemed like genuine good humor and laughed a lot about it.
My trapped friend looked around and found what looked to me to be an impossible opening to a lay up about 100 yards away from the green. If, that is, he were to hit a short iron with an improbable hook. After thinking about it for a moment…truly just a moment — maybe three seconds…he hit the impossible shot with the improbable hook and the ball ended up about 100 yards from the green. Just as planned!
My other two playing partners were on the green in two shots — with reasonable eagle putts. I was just short of Rae’s Creek in three with a reasonable look at par.
But it’s the strange and hilarious story of the guy who hit the unlikely layup to 100 yards that I want to relate now.
All four of us started our walk toward layup guy’s ball sitting nicely in the middle of the fairway about 100 yards ahead of us. As we walked, out of the trees, coming from no one knows where, bounded a large dog. He looked like a big ol’ sheepdog as he headed straight toward the ball in the fairway.
All of us watched, jaws agape, as the big dog scooped up my friend’s ball, turned and trotted toward the 13th green. He bypassed my ball, arrived at Rae’s Creek, and slid down the bank right into Rae’s Creek. There he stood, in the middle of the creek, in front of the green looking back expectantly at us.
My friend who had hit the ball that the dog had stolen, started out on a sprint toward the big dog, waving his golf club and yelling at the top of his lungs. Think golfers aren’t competitive all the time? Here was a guy with, ummm…let’s say “quite a few” major golf championship trophies on his mantel at home, sprinting after a thieving sheep dog who jeopardized his par, in a no-stakes round of golf, at the 13th at Augusta. The photographer accompanying us frantically snapped away.
As my friend sprinted, hollering the whole way down the fairway, the dog stood in the creek, ball in mouth, tail wagging furiously, looking as though this was all just the best, most fun thing ever!
My other playing partners and I finally realized just how hilarious this scene was, and burst out in gales of laughter. As we trotted after our sprinting friend, we were practically crying we were laughing so hard. The whole time, our photographer snapped furiously away. Interestingly, no one thought simply to replace my friend’s ball back where he’d hit it and then chase the dog off the course. Here are two guys worth many millions of dollars, four caddies, a photographer and me, all chasing another guy worth many millions of dollars as he chased a big, ol’ ball-hawking dog down the 13th fairway at Augusta!
Eventually this whole cavalcade arrived at Rae’s Creek, where stood the big, cheerful ball thief, tail now wagging furiously. No one had a clue what to do, so the theft victim started to clamber down the bank toward the dog, I guess he thought he’d try to coax or take his ball away from the dog.
As he drew closer to the dog, the dog looked at him, gave a big, cheerful woof and out popped the ball right into the middle of Rae’s Creek, where it started a slow, gentle meander downstream, finally coming to rest on the bottom where it rocked gently back and forth in the current.
As the big soggy, shaggy dog watched the ball trickle slowly downstream, he shook himself and sprayed us all with a whole bunch of Rae’s Creek water. Nice touch! The poor guy who lost the ball to the dog was now pretty well soaked.
Now all nine of us stood there … all having great difficulty controlling our laughter, and one still intent on retrieving his ball, when another of our playing partners said, “Why don’t we just go back to where you hit the ball and put another one down and hit from there? No penalty.”
We all stopped and looked around at each other.
“Sounds good to me, said the guy who hit the ball in the first place. But,” pointing at the dog, “what about him?”
One of the other guys looked at the dog, brandished a 3-wood and yelled, “Get lost!”
The dog cocked his head, looked mournfully at us, and splashed off down Rae’s Creek and into the woods where he disappeared. As if he’d never even been there.
We all started the trek, chuckling, guffawing, giggling and snickering, back to where the ball had lain just a few minutes before.
We left the original ball in Rae’s Creek where it lay, a souvenir for some later golfer who would be completely unaware that he owned a golf ball played by a really famous golfer with ummm…”several” major championships to his credit.
As we continued our round none of us, including the photographer, could prevent ourselves for the rest of the round from breaking down periodically in spontaneous fits of laughter.
On my wall in my living room hangs an 11″ by 16″ color photograph. It shows in the foreground the backs of two famous golfers’ heads and mine. In the middle is a really famous golfer caught from the back in mid-sprint toward Rae’s Creek and the 13th Green at Augusta National, club raised high over his head. In the far background you can see the head and shoulders of a big, ol’ sheepdog-looking dog sitting in the middle of Rae’s Creek looking at the sprinting champion golfer.
It’s one of the funniest pictures I’ve ever seen, because I know the whole story, and it still causes me to smile when I look at it. When I tell visitors the story, and who all is in the picture, they tend to laugh uproariously too. Now, you know the story as well.
(Note: xPraetorius edited and posted this, as he does all posts, while aPraetorius wrote it.)