One Sunday a decade ago, we had four dollars left in the pot after paying everyone off. Hacker (real name) always handles our extra cash, but he was at home nursing his wife, who had just had cataract surgery, so we were on our own. We did remember one of his rules, though: “Money never flows backward.” In other words, no refunds. So we held a playoff.
It was actually a throw-off: two balls from where you were sitting, overhand or underhand, toward the No. 1 hole on the practice green, first in wins the four bucks. My first try didn’t even reach the putting surface, and my second rolled about six feet to the left. Nobody else did much better, except for Harry, who lipped the hole twice. After a brief discussion, we declared him the winner.
This was partly a symbolic gesture, because Harry had just retired and his wife had called in an old promise: as soon as he left his job, he’d told her years before, they’d move to Pennsylvania, where she had family. We’d never really had to deal with somebody moving away before—at least, not somebody like Harry, who was practically a part of our course. With Harry gone, who was going to say “Where’s my leak?” when a drive unaccountably bent to the left, and who was going to say “Let me adjust my glasses” when somebody made the kind of remark that was known to tick Harry off? Less selfishly, what was life going to be like for Harry? Pennsylvania has golf courses, but how many of them have a rule printed right on their scorecard saying that Harry isn’t allowed to keep score?
Not long ago, down in Pennsylvania, Harry did something else we weren’t happy about: he died. He had been in poor health for a while, and then things got worse. This was a serious blow, because Harry was one of the founding members of the Sunday Morning Group, which turned 20 this year. To celebrate Harry’s life, we mixed up a big batch of his favorite cocktail: brandy and green crème de menthe:
It looked and tasted like cough medicine, but we did our best with it—although I kind of think that, if drinking everything in the Thermos would have brought Harry back to life, we would have decided to let him go. I poured what was left in the dirt behind the Dumpster because I was afraid it might kill the grass.
Now we have to figure out what to do with Harry himself, since his widow is going to send us his ashes. He always said he wanted to be thrown into the pond on the fourth hole, because so many of his golf balls are at the bottom of it, but the ashes would probably just float over the spillway and disappear downstream. Several of the guys, including me, have said they’d like to buried under one of the pavers on the patio by the putting green, so maybe we’ll invoke the standard Sunday Morning Group power of attorney and put him there instead:
Or maybe we’ll stir him in with the divot mix on one of our par 3s. That would be appropriate because Harry himself built our divot-mix boxes, 12 or 15 years ago. Everyone could take a scoop and fix a couple of divots.