Would You Rather be Deaf or Blind?

I have an article in this week’s New Yorker about hearing and hearing loss. There’s only one teensy mention of golf, in the second paragraph, but hearing is an important subject for all golfers, especially as we get older. Much of what athletes in several sports think of as “feel” is actually aural feedback rather than anything to do with the sense of touch. Arnold Palmer, when he was in his seventies, said he had of trouble playing golf if he wasn’t wearing his hearing aids. (“Without my aids, I lose all feel for what I want to do,” he told Golf Digest.) The reason is that good shots sound different from bad shots, and if you can’t hear that difference from one swing to the next, over the course of a round, you can lose your way.

The same is true in other sports. Liam Maguire, a hockey analyst in Canada, once said, “You can’t handle the puck if you’re not able to hear it hitting the stick. It’s amazing how much hearing plays into these basic capabilities.” A recent article in the New York Times described an 18-year-old deaf tennis player, who is notable because at 143rd in the world he’s the highest-ranked deaf tennis player ever. He has compensated for his deafness by learning to see things that other players hear, including the spin on a serve.

You would think that, for an athlete, not being able to hear would be less of an impediment than not being able to see, but that isn’t always the case. A hearing researcher at Harvard Medical School who is also a serious sailor told me that much of the ability to sail a boat depends on having fully functioning ears—both hearing and a sense of balance. An experience sailor, as long as he didn’t run into anything, might actually have an easier time sailing blind than sailing deaf. The Vision Cup, an international tournament for blind golfers, will be held in British Columbia in July. Is there a Hearing Cup? Maybe someone knows.

Masters Countdown: Who Was Clifford Roberts? (Part Two)

Charles, Clifford, Alpheus, Dorothy, Key, John, and Rebecca Roberts in 1907.

[continued]

In the fall of 1904, when Clifford Roberts was ten, his mother, Rebecca, took the children to live with relatives of hers in California. She was acting on the advice of a doctor in Kansas, who had said that a trip and “a complete change” might improve her still mysterious condition. Not long before, she had written in her diary, “I am going down hill as rapidly as possible and there seems to be nothing to stop it.” They made the journey by train and stayed for seven months, while Charles Roberts tended business interests elsewhere. (He wrote occasionally, sent fifteen dollars for Christmas, and sold most of the family’s furniture—including the dining-room linoleum—while they were gone.) For part of that period, Clifford lived not with his mother, brothers, sister, aunt, and cousins, but with his mother’s parents, whose house was in Lakeside, a train ride away. He made brief visits to his mother by himself every week or two, attended a different school from the other children, and seemed to enjoy, or at any rate not object to, his independence. Before returning to Kansas the following spring, the boys traded their schoolbooks for a checkers set, with which they occupied themselves on the long ride home.

John and Clifford both worked outside their house from early ages. They did odd jobs, raised and sold chickens and dogs, made deliveries for their father, served as clerks in the family’s various stores, milked cows, raised pigs, caddied at local golf courses, and sold onions. They helped with the harvest when their father was farming. They worked to pay for their own schoolbooks and clothes. They sold calling cards and the Saturday Evening Post, played baseball for a share of the gate receipts, and, as they got older, accompanied their father on business expeditions. They inherited his entrepreneurial drive. One day, the brothers caught another boy selling trout from a line they had set in a stream. Instead of starting a fight—something they usually did when opportunities arose—they sold him the line and invested the proceeds in a new one. Shortly after the family moved from Kansas to Oklahoma, in 1906, Rebecca noted that Clifford, now twelve, was “using his Spanish selling goods to Mexicans working on R. R.” By then, Clifford was spending long periods working at real jobs for adult wages. He and his older brother both quit school before the end of ninth grade.

1906 Letter from Charles told us he had traded for store and was busy invoicing. . . .Clifford has 10 names for calling cards & magazine—will get 3 premiums. . . .Clifford not able to go to school in afternoon—so sorry for they had a geography test. . . .I made the best bread ever. . . . I was in bed all day—very dizzy & sick—but not so bad as when Charles was at home. . . . Could not get a man to clean carpets—so Clifford undertook the task—a hard one—but he stuck to it until they were clean & nice. . . . Clifford shot his first duck. Proud. . . . . Boys met traveling circus wagons & worked for tickets. Took twins—thought it fine. Right next to our block. . . ..Gave children worm medicine. . . . John & Clifford went to see a boy fire off a “Japanese mine” firecracker. It shot into John’s face—burning off eyebrows & lashes. . . . . Disappointed by new minister’s use of slang in pulpit. . . . We have hopes of John being cured—he is so young—but it is very uncertain.

Clifford grew up fast. He got into fistfights, stole rides on freight trains, chewed gum at school, smoked, entertained poorly-behaved friends at home while his mother was away, prompted one of his teachers to strike him, and shot pool—“such troubles as all boys make,” according to Rebecca, who smiled at the shenanigans of all her children and was a gentle disciplinarian. In 1909, she wrote, without apparent alarm, “All schools having a war with rubber shooters & paper wads. Clifford sent home. Charles went back with him—may have special tutor.” When the boys got into trouble, she seldom sided with their accusers—noting, for example, that Clifford’s teacher had returned only thirty of sixty marbles she had confiscated.

Despite occasional forays into juvenile delinquency, Clifford was the member of the Roberts family who on Sunday mornings was the most likely to be found in church. “Clifford went alone to Sunday School,” is a typical diary entry—this one from when he was seven. He won Sunday-school prizes, went to Christian Endearment picnics, often followed Sunday school with a regular service at a different church, and escorted younger siblings to Sunday school on days when no one else was going. Shortly after the family moved to Oklahoma, he took his little sister, Dorothy, to a Baptist church—a novelty for both of them—then later went with his father and older brother to watch a group of recent converts being baptized in a lake. “Clifford went to Catholic Mass with Carl Lully,” Rebecca wrote in 1908, when Clifford was fourteen and the family was living in Emporia, Kansas. “First time he had seen their service & quite impressed.” His steady church attendance won him special privileges, including an invitation to a fancy social at the home of his Sunday school teacher. “A four course luncheon served,” his mother wrote. “Everything of finest—finger bowl passed by maid. Brick ice cream, deviled eggs, angel food, candy, nuts, etc., etc.”

In their free time, Clifford and various siblings went with their father to see a baseball game “between fat & lean men,” saw a tent production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, saw pictures of Teddy Roosevelt’s inauguration at a movie theater in California, and took part in an Epworth League temperance program. Clifford didn’t mind performing before a crowd. At a patent-medicine show in 1903, he “helped with a spiritualistic exhibition.” In 1907, the family went two evenings in a row to see a show put on by a “hypnotist & mind reader” named Dr. Glick. Clifford, alone among his family members, volunteered to be a subject and, according to the diary, “did funny things—picking strawberries from floor—peddling them—motioning a man across a tight wire, etc.” On the third evening, Clifford went back alone and volunteered again.

Clifford appears to have had no trouble making friends. The diary mentions many playmates and overnight guests—including more than a few whom his mother considered “bad boys” or “roughs.” Clifford enjoyed and was good at marbles, football, basketball, and baseball, and he and his older brother were always arranging games of one kind or another. Clifford’s popularity may have been eased by the fact that he was strong and good-looking—although he was considered less handsome than John. His sharply arched eyebrows, which would contribute to a perennial look of alarm in his sixties and seventies, made him seem playful and mischievous when he was young. He parted his hair in the middle and had a strong taste for nice clothes. When he earned extra money, he often spent it on a tie, a shirt, or a suit. (“John & Clifford went shopping for Spats, sweater, cap & cruet tray,” Rebecca wrote in 1909.) In eighth grade, he attended a school May Day celebration wearing a “silk hat & Knickerbockers,” and in more than one family photograph he has the only pocket handkerchief. He began to meet girls. “Clifford went to dance—to look on—but he danced.”

Maintaining friendships was hard, however. The children changed schools and neighborhoods constantly, and they seldom finished a year with the same companions they had begun it with. Many of the family’s many moves were not only sudden—“Charles wrote for us to pack up & we commenced”—but also complete: Charles sometimes sold or auctioned much of their furniture rather than take it with them. All the moves were stressful, some more than others. (“Three moves is worse than a fire,” was a nineteenth-century American proverb.) Two days after Charles sold the family’s Emporia house—a showplace that he and Rebecca had scarcely finished fixing up—the new owners, along with their children and a maid, moved in with the Robertses. The two families shared a roof for more than two weeks, then Rebecca and the children went to stay with one of her sisters for another three weeks before setting out by train, at one o’clock in the morning, for yet another new life—this time, in a five-room house on a ten-acre “orange ranch” in Palacios, Texas, a small, dusty town on the Gulf of Mexico between Galveston and Corpus Christi. “Alpheus said, ‘Mama, you look as though you did not know anything,’ and that is just how I feel.”

1909 Had to take one small dose of sleeping medicine—the last. . . .  Am so sorry Dorothy & Key are to be disappointed again in not having a birthday party—but have neither money nor strength. . . . Received $50 interest on $1,000 note in Kansas.  Boys could not have begun high school else. . . .  John & Clifford sold $8.35 of fine figs—quite cheering. . . .  Charles is worn to a sick shadow, nervous dyspepsia wreck. Is uneasy all day & night. Has sued F. M. Elliott for $4,220.00 & we are living as skimped as possible in a land of strangers. . . .  Clifford saved life of a woman (in childbirth) by calling Dr. when her children did not know how. . . .  My hair is nearly all coming out—am so very sorry—for it was my one beauty.

[to be continued]

Masters Countdown: Who Was Clifford Roberts? (Part One)

Charles, Clifford, Alpheus, Dorothy, Key, John, and Rebecca Roberts in 1907, when Clifford was thirteen.

Clifford Roberts was the co-founder, with Bobby Jones, of Augusta National Golf Club, and he was the chairman of both the club and the Masters from their beginning, in the early 1930s, until his death, in 1977. It’s often said that Jones conceived of the club and Roberts financed it, but that’s not the case. Roberts, unlike Jones, grew up poor, and during the club’s early years he was close to broke. But Roberts idolized Jones, and he was determined to help him fulfill his dream of building a golf course in the South that could host a U. S. Open. That the club and the Masters survived the Great Depression and the Second World War is a tribute mainly to Roberts’s determination to keep them going. Time, as Roberts measured it, began the day he met Bobby Jones. But the years leading up to that encounter are in many ways as interesting as the years that followed it. They are the years that shaped the man who shaped Augusta National and the Masters.

Herbert Warren Wind wrote in Sports Illustrated and The New Yorker that Clifford Roberts was born in Chicago. (He wasn’t.) Ross Goodner wrote in Golf World that his real name was Charles D. Clifford Roberts. (Not true, although Goodner was close.) Frank Christian—a photographer and the co-author, with Cal Brown, of Augusta National & The Masters—wrote that Roberts as a child spent time in an orphanage. (He never did.) Charles Price, in A Golf Story, wrote that Roberts graduated from high school. (He didn’t finish ninth grade.) Curt Sampson, in The Masters, wrote that Roberts made $50,000 in 1923 and used the money to buy a one-sixth partnership in an investment firm called the Reynolds Company. (Roberts made $2,441.63 in 1923; Reynolds & Co.—the correct name—didn’t exist until 1931; Roberts went to work there in the mid-thirties; he became the firm’s ninth general partner on May 1, 1941.)

All these errors, and many others, are understandable. Roberts was stingy with biographical detail, and he almost never talked about his early years, even among friends. Jack Stephens, who was the club’s chairman between 1991 and 1998 and was close to Roberts during the last fifteen years of his life, told me, “I just figured Cliff had never been a child.”

Charles DeClifford Roberts, Jr., was born on March 6, 1894, on his mother’s parents’ farm near Morning Sun, a tiny town in southeastern Iowa (current population: 836). He was known as Clifford from the beginning. For his first Christmas, he received “a toy chicken and a half interest in blocks and a monkey riding a goat mounted on wheels,” his mother recorded in her diary. (The other co-owner of the blocks was his brother John, who was sixteen months older.) He was a good eater. For Christmas dinner he had pudding, popovers, grapes, cranberries, baked oysters, and squirrel.

Clifford was the second of five children. His mother, Rebecca Key Roberts, was twenty-five years old and pleasantly attractive. She had a cameo the size of a hen’s egg which she wore at her throat. She was proud of her long brown hair, her clothes, and her skills as a baker. She owned a revolver, and she once fired it at a stray dog—“only scared it”—though she later traded the gun to an acquaintance. She had false teeth. She enjoyed the antics and enthusiasms of her children, and when Clifford, at the age of nine, became captivated by marbles, she sewed extra pockets in his pants so that he could carry more of them around. She was fond of ice cream. Her first diary petered out in 1898, but she started another in 1900—after giving birth to twins, named Robert Key and Dorothy—and kept it faithfully until 1911. “A Katydid jumped on Alpheus’s dress,” she wrote in 1905, when Alpheus, her fourth son and youngest child, was two. “He was so scared & called it a ‘gog.’” The diary makes fascinating reading, especially if you know that in 1913, when Clifford was nineteen and Alpheus was nine, she committed suicide.

1902  Read nearly all day—very blue and discouraged. . . . I left John & Clifford to keep house while I went up town in evening. There had been a fight and shooting on the street. . . . Boys distributed some Rip Van Winkle show bills and so each got a free pass. . . . Tramp here for dinner. . . . Boy here selling needles to keep from begging. . . . Still it rains. Things floating in our cellar. . . . Boys have carpenter fever—new nails and nail apron and making twins a play house. . . . Boys cared for twins, cooked and swept and washed dishes—all in their boyish way. . . . Gone all day & sold only 1 bushel of apples. Brought new milk strainer, shoe polish, steel pens & school sponges. Clifford churned.

Rebecca was a sharp observer and had a sense of humor, and although her entries are telegraphic—“Twins fat and well. Hope they may not be kidnapped as Cudahys was”—they vividly describe what seems to have been a happy life for her children and a troubled life for her. The family had many joyful moments (“Husband & I read late & Clifford & Key ‘had a spell’—they could not quit laughing & playing pranks until the lights were all out. Such merry times at our house”).

But the underlying themes are of dislocation and despair. “I am very miserable—life almost a burden,” she wrote in 1908, in a typical entry. Her husband was often absent, and he moved the family constantly. Rebecca had numerous ailments, among them severe headaches, back pain, “curvature of the spine,” a miscarriage followed by months of hemorrhaging, pleurisy, “nervous chills,” and a persistent melancholy that a modern reader does not hesitate to diagnose as depression. Winter was the hardest, and she often felt overwhelmed by her children. “I am hardly able to be out of bed,” she wrote in 1904, “but must keep going to care for my numerous family.” She took patent medicines—many of which would have contained narcotics along with a great deal of alcohol. (The most popular children’s cough medicine of the period, Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, was based on morphine. One night, Rebecca used one of her own medicines to quiet baby Alpheus, who was colicky and had been crying.)

She pursued electrical baths, osteopathy treatments, homeopathy treatments, hot water cures, and other fad therapies administered by a variety of practitioners. On many mornings, she was unable to get out of bed. At such times, she often left the housework and the care of the younger children to Clifford and John, beginning when Clifford was six and John was seven. The boys shouldered the burden cheerfully and with ingenuity. One day when Clifford was ten and his mother and John were late in returning by train from a visit to a doctor in another town, Clifford dressed Dorothy, who was three, in a new red dress, “made her new garters when he could not find her suspenders,” and took her with him to a party to which he had been invited. Rebecca was proud of her children for rising to the occasion, but she was unromantic about child-rearing, and she hired housekeeping help when she could afford it. “Ida Kellogg came to work,” she wrote in 1907, “— measles still showing, has whooping cough & only 10 years old—but willing.”

Ill health was taken for granted. Clifford’s father had gastrointestinal trouble, a rupture, and “heart failure palpitation.” John, with whom Clifford shared a bed, stammered and suffered seizures that various doctors diagnosed as St. Vitus’s dance, “worm spasms”—for which he was treated with “vermifuge tonic”—and (correctly) grand mal epilepsy. Clifford had trouble with his eyes, suffered from “malaria & biliousness,” and endured devastating bouts with poison ivy. Days when everyone was well were rare enough to be noted in the diary. Clifford knew children who died of pneumonia, scarlet fever, small pox, “brain fever,” tonsillitis, typhoid, and tuberculosis. “Boys sent Chinese lilies,” Rebecca noted in 1902, when a seven-year-old classmate of Clifford’s was buried.

Charles DeClifford Roberts, Sr., was a restless small-time entrepreneur who tried his hand and failed at a broad variety of undertakings. “My father always was interested in seeing what was on the other side of the next hill,” Clifford said with understatement many years later. Charles was apt on a whim to trade the family store for a farm in another state—then, after harvesting a single crop of wheat and oats, to trade the farm for a business somewhere else, and then to sell that business and invest the proceeds in another. He bought and sold everything from candles and thread to farm equipment and fur coats. He speculated in real estate and arranged the sale of other people’s property. He once owned two fish-and-oyster houses in Texas. He bought bankrupt businesses and liquidated their stock. He sued hucksters who had cheated him. In 1906, in Oklahoma, he received a large rail shipment consisting of flour and shoes.

The hectic pace of Charles’s wheeling and dealing suggests compulsion as much as enterprise. Few of his deals greatly improved the family’s standard of living, which rose and fell within a narrow band at the lower limits of the respectable. Almost invariably, his first step after acquiring a new store or piece of property was to attempt to trade it for something else. Rebecca—who was never consulted—lamented most of these transactions. As soon as she had decorated a house to her satisfaction, it seemed, he put it up for sale. Charles’s quixotic dealings didn’t bring him happiness, either. He suffered from insomnia and sometimes paced the floor, terrified that his world was coming apart. He died in San Benito, Texas, in 1921, after being struck by a train, and his death may have been a suicide. At the time, he was suffering the effects of a stroke, his second marriage was under considerable stress, and he was supporting himself and what remained of his family with the help of regular checks from Clifford, who was struggling to make his own way in New York.

Charles and Rebecca’s marriage was not desolate. They were often happy together when he was at home. He was loving with the children, gave expensive presents when business was good, wrote poetry in the evenings, and took Rebecca’s illnesses seriously. But he worked long hours and traveled for weeks at a stretch. When the twins were young he had to be reintroduced to them upon returning. (On one occasion, they recognized him only after he had sung a song they knew; on another, they wouldn’t let him hold them until after they had watched him eat breakfast.) He wrote home irregularly. He moved the family so often and on such short notice that a reader must study the diary carefully to detect when the locale has changed. The constant shifting took a heavy toll. At one point, Rebecca wrote, “I can hardly bear to think of the tremendous task of moving—hardly able to live—even quietly.”  Other entries have a sardonic edge: “Charles’s Texas fever is all gone & he is now confident that New Mexico will just suit us.” In later years, Clifford often described his background simply as “Midwestern.” In a letter to Eisenhower, in 1967, he wrote that he envied Ike’s ability to remember “boyhood escapades,” as evidenced by a recent article in the Saturday Evening Post. Much of his own childhood seemed to him a blur, or a blank.

[to be continued]

Me Talking About Donald Trump in Japanese

Last week, a television crew from a Japanese news program interviewed me about Donald Trump, who was about to play golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The frame above depicts the moment, in 2012, when I momentarily mistook Trump for a bag-drop attendant and nearly slipped him five bucks. Here’s the whole segment:

The Joys of Golf, No Matter the Weather or the President

A few years ago, a Google app on my phone offered to navigate me to “work.” I didn’t know what to make of that, because my office is in my house, so I clicked the tab and discovered that Google had deduced, based on how I spend my time during a typical week, that I must work at 10 Golf Course Road—the address of my golf club. Google must also think I get laid off every winter, because between early December and early April I hardly ever go to the club. I live up in the hills in western Connecticut, a hundred miles north of New York, and our course almost always shuts down within a week or two of Thanksgiving.

You can read the rest on the website  of The New Yorker, right here.

Are Today’s Young People Sufficiently Knowledgeable About Quicksand?

Last week, the weather around here turned severely golf-antagonistic. In the photo above, which I took this morning, you can see my principal snow-depth gauge: the table on the patio in my backyard. Poking up just beyond the table is a dome of snow on my back-up snow-depth gauge, my Weber grill. And to the right you see my latest piece of meteorological equipment, my step ladder. During the summer, I used the step ladder to make sure that wrens hadn’t (again) evicted the nesting bluebirds from the bluebird house hanging from the eaves of my screened porch, and when winter came I forgot to put it away. In addition to aiding anyone who wants to break into the second floor of my house, it now provides supplemental snow-depth readings. What instruments we have agree: we won’t be playing golf again for at least a few weeks.

I’ve passed the resulting down time in a variety of ways, including by being interviewed by a reporter from a television station in Japan. President Trump and Prime Minister Abe were about to play golf together in Florida, and, because I myself have played golf with Trump in Florida, the reporter had a few questions about what Abe might expect from the encounter.

Most of those questions had to do with Trump’s skill as a golfer and, specifically, with how far he hits his driver. I didn’t let the reporter pin me down, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t give away any classified information. One thing I noticed is that, for a native Japanese speaker, the name “Mar-a-Lago” is more than slightly problematic. I asked the reporter what people in Japan generally think about the Trump presidency, and he said, “[long, long pause] . . .interesting.” I suggested that maybe Abe could do the world a favor by keeping Trump distracted and occupied for a while—say, four years.

I’ve also passed the time by studying the misfortunes of other golfers, among them one who is suing a local golf course over quicksand. I spent much of my childhood thinking about quicksand, probably because of Tarzan movies and television episodes, but I get the impression that many people nowadays don’t necessarily know how to get out of it, or even what it is. This guy says he stepped into some on a course that my friends and I often play, and that he sank to his chest and had to be pulled out by other golfers. As a result, he says, he suffers or has suffered: left knee pain; a left-knee MCL sprain; difficulty walking; difficulty standing; difficulty ascending and descending stairs; a change in gait; left-knee effusion; left-knee swelling; fear for his life; and general suffering, both physical and mental.

Hmmmm. I have all those things, too. They weren’t caused by quicksand, though, because unlike the guy who filed the lawsuit, apparently, I know that being pulled forcefully out of quicksand is the surest way to be injured by it. Just stay calm, and move slowly, and sort of swim to the edge (on your back if necessary), and slowly climb out. Contrary to popular belief, quicksand doesn’t draw you toward the center of the earth. You float in it, as you do in water—which is what it mostly is.

I’ve played many rounds on the golf course in question and never noticed any quicksand—although there are a number of clearly labeled wetland areas that golfers are required to stay out of. The complaint says the quicksand was in the rough, under some leaves, but doesn’t identify the hole. I learned about the lawsuit on one of my favorite websites, which belongs to Rob Harris, an avid golfer who also happens to be an avid lawyer. Regarding the quicksand case, he writes that, assuming the plaintiff’s allegations are supported by the facts, the most likely outcome will be a settlement, because “being swallowed by a golf course, while not an unprecedented event. . . will not play well in front of a jury.”

Critical Weather Tool for Winter Golfers

Each winter, my friends and I patronize several public golf courses within a hundred-mile radius of where we live. The courses are ones that stay open through the winter as long as they aren’t covered with snow, but sometimes it’s hard to know for sure whether they’re open or not, because we have to leave home before anyone is likely to be in the golf shop to answer the phone. That means we sometimes arrive at a course only to discover that we won’t be playing there that day after all:

Tunxis Plantation Golf Course, December 21, 2014

Actually, on the day shown in the photo above, we found a course that really was open, after making a bunch of calls from the parking lot. Recently, I discovered a trick that would have saved us a lot of driving that day. The Wundermap feature of the website Weather Underground includes links to webcams associated with many of the public and private weather stations in its vast network. If there’s a functioning webcam near a course you’re hoping to play, you see check the actual conditions, in real time, before you leave home, like this:

Oops—no golf today.

Winter Golf on a Course That Doesn’t Close

In my part of the country at this time of the year, avid golfers become migratory. Some fly hundreds of miles south and don’t return until spring, but most of us circle the ground closer to home, like Canada geese searching for open water. We study the sky and the Web and the Weather Channel, and when we hear rumors of snow-free fairways we hit the phones. Quite often, the Sunday Morning Group lands at D. Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course, a muny about an hour from where we live. “The Wheel,” as regulars call it, stays open all year. Area golfers whose home courses are closed often winter there.

Twelve of us made the trip on Sunday. We had meant to go the Sunday before, but just enough snow fell to shut down all the golf courses within a hundred miles of our town. The Wheel has two eighteens, the Black and the Red. We played the Black, which most of us prefer, although when we started there was so much fog that it was hard to be sure which course we were playing. The fog lifted, then returned, then lifted again, then returned again—and I discovered that my laser rangefinder doesn’t work when a golf hole looks like this:

The fog burned away for good while we were playing the second nine. At the base of the 150-yard marker pole in the middle of one fairway, I found an owl pellet, containing the indigestible parts of whatever the owl had eaten recently (in this case, mostly mice). The owl must have been perched on the marker pole when he coughed it up:

In the grillroom after our round, we ran into some old friends: The Boys, a transplanted winter men’s group from other local courses, including H. Smith Richardson, also a muny, a couple of miles away. The Boys use two custom scorecards when they move to the Wheel: one for when the ground is frozen and one for when it’s not. (They change the stroke indexes of a few holes when the fairways are like concrete, to compensate for extra roll.) Here’s the back of their frozen card:

Their organizer is Mark Haba, who runs a machinery company in Bristol. He collects the money and makes up the day’s teams, using a system that involves printed charts, a zippered binder, and six numbered poker chips. “We count two balls,” he told me, “one gross and one net.” They also play what they call “Chicago” skins—which, as near as I could tell, are just skins. They had thirty-two players on Sunday; their complete roster, including alternates, lists a couple of dozen more:

The main difference between The Boys and the Sunday Morning Group is gastronomic: they eat pizza; we eat bacon cheeseburgers:

Also, unlike us, they don’t give extra handicap strokes for wearing shorts (as Fritz, Barney, and I did on Sunday).

Other than that, we’re basically interchangeable—as cold-weather golfers tend to be.

Inauguration Day Special: My Night at Mar-a-Lago

I spent one night at Mar-a-Lago back in 2012, after playing golf that afternoon with the man about to be sworn in as the President of the United States. At dinner that night, Trump served himself roughly a lobster and a half’s worth of shelled lobster claws and split lobster tails from the seafood buffet, then went back and for big plate of sweet-and-sour shrimp on rice. While we were having dessert, two giggly little girls from New Jersey, whose parents were part of a group from Trump’s golf club in Bedminster—“one of the richest places in the country”—came over to our table and asked Trump to dance. He said that he would dance with them in Bedminster. Then he asked them if they wanted to be supermodels when they grew up. (They said yes). Then he asked them to kiss him. (And they did.)

You can read a little more my Mar-a-Lago visit on the New Yorker’s website today. My New Yorker colleague Mark Singer, who has written a lot about Trump, including this book, emailed me recently: “Trump, standing on the lawn at Mar-a-Lago and hitting balls into the Intracoastal Waterway with a 3-iron, told me that Claude Harmon called him ‘the best weekend player’ he’d ever seen. Such an innocent time. . . . I suspect it won’t be during my lifetime when historians come up with a fully coherent explanation of how/why it came to this. I have no faith in my ability to predict what lies ahead; everything I thought I knew was mistaken.”