On the first day of December twenty years ago, my friend Jim and I played our final round of the season. The temperature was in the low fifties, but heavy clouds were moving in from the north. The rain was supposed to begin that afternoon, and it was supposed to turn to sleet the following day, and the temperature was supposed to drop below freezing and stay there. It was the last real golf day we would have on our home course for months.
We had the place to ourselves, and we both played well. I hit almost every fairway, and Jim sank two chips. After eighteen holes we were even. The temperature was dropping, but the rain hadn’t come yet, so we decided to go around again. I was one down after eight, but I birdied the last hole and pulled back to level. The wind was picking up. We decided to stop there.
I felt sad that the golf year was over, but not terribly sad. My swing felt solid, and I figured it would keep till spring. We stood on the first tee for quite a while, just looking at the course. “A good finish to a good season,” Jim said, and I agreed. I was reluctant to leave, so I dug a few old balls out of my bag, and we hit them into the woods. We cleaned our stuff out of the bag room. I found an old hat of mine in the lost-and-found box. Then Jim and I shook hands, and we went home.
The rain came down so hard that night it woke me. A couple of hours later, my son, who was three, woke me again. He had had a bad dream. As I got him a drink of water and put him back to bed, I noticed that the rain had stopped. There was still no rain at six, when the kids and I got up for good. We had breakfast, and I read them some books. As I did, I kept glancing at the window. The sky was dark gray, and the clouds were churning. The temperature was in the low forties, but there was no rain and no frost. At nine, I called Jim.
Ten minutes later, we were back on the first tee. “The first round of the new season,” Jim said. And we teed off.