After going over a mental list of things to pack for our game, I took off at a reasonable time so that I could arrive early and not feel rushed. I have never taken the game very seriously and live only to make a few worthwhile shots while I’m there. However, rushing leads to stress and stress is not a good factor when you’re down 10 or more strokes to your golf buddies. It didn’t matter to me who would win the round . . . I just wanted to feel as if I was in the same league as these guys, if only for one game. They were both retired and spent much of their time devoted to the craziness of golf and I didn’t want to look like a total idiot. I should probably not have set my expectations so high.
When I arrived, both Ronnie and Roger were already at the golf course. One had commandeered a cart and had asked the other to join him. They had might as well be wearing “matching socks” and I knew that it was them against me. No beer for the first nine holes . . . I would need a lot of water to keep my brain hydrated for this competition. I hadn’t played but just a couple of times in the last few months but I was ready to tee off. The first hole was a Par 4 and my two buddies took a whack from the tee box. Both were wet and mine hooked to the left, landing in the driving range near many marked range balls. When I finally found my ball I used an eight iron to get it on the green and about 12 feet from the cup. When I looked at my comrades they were taking a drop beside the same water hazard and both missed the green. The only thing keeping me from winning this hole was my putting. I drove up close to the green and patiently waited for both guys to “chip” up to where my ball lie and I couldn’t keep from smiling. I then went in for my putter but couldn’t find what I was looking for. “What the heck?” I kept looking and kept looking and finally realized that my putter was not in the bag. The sun was shining brightly now and I thought that I could see something with polished metal at the bottom of the bag. I reached down and pulled out a 28” junior putter. It was the same putter that I had bought for my granddaughter, Avaya some ten years before, when I had taken her out to this same golf course. I had pulled out the wrong putter when I had “lightened my load.”
It had been a fun time. Avaya had been 4 years old and she and her mom lived with us. Her mom was attending The University of Houston and was focused on getting a degree in education while working full-time. Avaya’s grandmother, who Avaya affectionately calls “Nonnie,” was active in helping to raise her granddaughter and she often asked me to entertain her. Avaya called me “Pa,” as she does to this day, and she had me wrapped around her finger, as she does to this day. I had mentioned to my wife that I was thinking about playing a round of golf and she asked “Why don’t you take Avaya with you?” I dismissed the idea at first but then thought that she might enjoy using a putter on the putting green near the clubhouse. I made my decision and told Avaya that we were going on another adventure.
After a quick lunch Avaya and I arrived at ACADEMY. I found some golf balls and we then took a look at the junior clubs. Showing some enthusiasm, she picked out a putter that she was drawn to and I spent $20 on it. 30 minutes later, we were both putting near the clubhouse. Although it held her interest for a while I could see that it wouldn’t for long. We loaded up a cart and drove to the first tee box. We had the course pretty much to ourselves and I let her “tee off” with her putter. We had a good laugh and then she seemed to be content with watching me. I had her drop a ball on the first green and we both putted to the hole. It went like that for a couple of holes and then she climbed behind the wheel of the golf cart as I was teeing off at hole 4 or 5. When I came back to the cart she looked up at me and I looked back at her. I asked “Do you want to drive us to the next hole?” That’s all it took. Amazingly, this 4-year old granddaughter drove that cart like she had been driving it all of her life and half of mine! She slowly braked at each stop and she waited patiently as I took each shot. Avaya and I both had a great time and laughed as if we were getting away with something. Actually, we were. If the owner of the golf course had seen her driving his cart he would have kicked both of us off of his course. One had to offer up a valid driver’s license in order to drive a cart and Avaya was 12 years away from getting one of those. I explained it to her and I took over the driving when we got close to the clubhouse. It wasn’t until we were out of sight that she took over again.
The years have gone by fast and the two of us often remark on this memory that we made together. She hasn’t been on a golf course since that day and now instead plays soccer, basketball, and volleyball in her free time. I’m proud of the young woman she has become and I look forward to seeing where her life will take her. She is smart and has a lot of integrity. She doesn’t boast, brag, or condemn. She’s a listener, and an observer, and her heart is empathetic to others around her. She is good at teaching and directing others and I think that she will make a difference in the world. What I like most about her is that she is often smiling and her eyes smile really big.
Ronnie and Roger both walked up to the green and saw me bending over to putt my ball in the hole. “Where did you get that putter?” one of them asked. “It’s an old one I had in my bag!” I answered. I two-putted the ball for par. “That’s a good putter even if it is short!” one of them exclaimed. “Yup, I think that I’ll use it for the rest of the game,” I said. I ended up shooting an 89 that day, and my putts were the best ever.