Unbroken (by the Stupid Weather)

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My home course has been closed since shortly before Thanksgiving, so we’ve been playing around. I was traveling (without golf clubs) two Sundays ago, but everyone else played at Tunxis Plantation, which is about an hour from where we live, and last Sunday we went back. I rode with Other Gene. Snow was falling when we left home, and it continued to fall as we drove, and when we were maybe fifteen minutes from Tunxis I realized that it was probably going to keep falling and not melt by the time we got there. And that’s what happened. So we held a conference in the parking lot:

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We called every golf course we could think of and discovered that Fairchild Wheeler, in Fairfield, was not only open but “with greens.” The Wheel is just an hour from Tunxis, so that’s where we went. Tim showed up as we were pulling out, but he decided to be a good husband by returning home and giving his wife holiday-related opportunities to be angry at him in person. When the rest of us arrived at the Wheel, a maintenance guy with a leaf blower was removing snow from a putting surface:

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We played the Black. The young woman at the desk in the golf shop let us go out as a fivesome after Hacker (real name) assured her that we would play faster than any threesome on the course. And he was telling the truth, because there was a threesome directly ahead of us and we waited on pretty much every shot, including this one, on a long par 3:

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Hacker and I took on Gene, Gary, and Kevin (who was visiting from law school). We beat them by three shots, but rather than pocketing our winnings we used them to pay for most of everybody’s lunch.

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During the cheeseburger course, Gene suggested that we adopt some kind of ongoing off-season competition, analogous to the FedEx Cup, and we all agreed that that was a good idea. Recently, I wrote about some guys in Massachusetts who call themselves the Winter Tour because they play all winter. Borrowing that name seemed easier than making up a new one, so that’s what we decided to do. Hacker, as always, will devise the format and the scoring system; my assignment is to talk to the people who make Jagermeister—the official cold-weather intoxicant of the Sunday Morning Group—and persuade them to become the Winter Tour’s lead sponsor.

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If they give us just hats, say, we’ll agree to call ourselves something like “the Winter Tour of the Sunday Morning Group (in association with Jagermeister).”

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But if they give us shirts in addition to hats, plus maybe some actual Jagermeister, we’d be willing to go as far as “the Jagermeister Tour (in association with the Sunday Morning Group).” Their choice. And if they’re really accommodating we’ll add their logo to all our other branded merchandise, including our regular hats and our bumper stickers.

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The company’s headquarters are closed till after the New Year (when the Winter Tour will be playing at Shennecossett, in Groton ) so the actual negotiations won’t begin until then. I’m assuming there won’t be a problem. I’ll post an update as soon as I have the details.

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International Shorts Rule Now in Effect

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The Sunday Morning Group gives an extra handicap stroke to anyone who wears shorts after November 1 (and two strokes after December 1). It was so cold and windy on Sunday that Gary, our terrific superintendent, lit a fire in the clubhouse for us after he and his crew had finished mowing the greens. Only two guys wore shorts: Fritz and Mike A.—and Mike didn’t get anything for it because we played off zero that day and he already gets fourteen shots, the S.M.G. maximum. But he believes in not letting the weather boss you around.

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The wind was blowing so hard that it kept tipping over the rocking chairs on the S.M.G. patio:

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Still, eleven guys showed up, including Corey, our terrific pro:

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Nobody had remembered the Jägermeister, the official cold-weather intoxicant of the Sunday Morning Group, but Corey found a bottle of something in the clubhouse, left over from the member-guest. There were fruit flies lying on the bottom, but not that many, and they weren’t moving.

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The wind blew so hard while I was hitting a shot on the sixth hole that my pushcart took off like an iceboat, ran full speed down the steepest part of the fairway, and crashed nose-first into the creek. The front wheel buried up to its hub in the opposite bank, but the cart didn’t tip over, and nothing fell out:

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Afterwards, we did skins in the clubhouse, which was still warm from Gary’s fire.

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Then five of us went out to lunch.

The Frost is on the Jägermeister

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Google Now is an app that automatically displays certain useful information when you launch Google on your phone or other mobile device. Exactly what it displays depends on a number of factors: your current location, data you’ve provided to other Google services, and subjects that you’ve asked the app to follow for you, such as professional golf. It knows where my house is, because I’ve entered my home address on Google Maps, and it knows I’m interested in the results of certain post-season baseball games, because I’ve looked them up, and when I’m traveling it suggests nearby activities. It still has a few bugs, though. For example, it thinks I “work” at my golf club—presumably because when I leave my house each day that’s the place I’m the most likely to go. Come on, Google! You sound like my wife!

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Last Sunday, we had our first frost delay of the year. Reese, whose turn it was to bring lunch, also brought two bags of apple-cider donuts and a bottle of Jägermeister, the official cold-weather intoxicant of the Sunday Morning Group. The bottle made a handy weather gauge, because it was as frosty as the greens. While we waited for the bottle to clear, we putted on the floor of the golf shop, which, unlike the clubhouse, is sort of heated. Addison jammed a red plastic beer cup between two golf bags full of demos, and we aimed for that.

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Our golf shop closes for the year at the end of the month, and if you have golf-shop credit you have to spend it before then. Now is a good time to do that, because everything is on sale.

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Stanley wears size-thirteen-and-a-half shoes. The biggest ones Corey had in stock were thirteens, but Stanley almost bought them, because he figured he could stretch them. Then he came to his senses. Meanwhile, Gary, our terrific superintendent, was mowing the practice green, which had finally melted—almost time to tee off:

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Golf on the Winter Solstice

This isn't the Sunday Morning Group, but it's close. It's a bunch of self-styled Druids celebrating the 2012 Winter Solstice at Stonehenge, an archaeological site not far from the Salisbury & South Wilts Golf Club, which was founded in 1888, a year before my club at home. This photo is from the National Geographic website.

This isn’t the Sunday Morning Group, but it’s close. It’s a group of modern-day Druids celebrating the 2012 Winter Solstice at Stonehenge, an English archaeological site not far from the Salisbury & South Wilts Golf Club, which was founded in 1888, a year before my home club. (This photo is from the website of National Geographic.)

The world didn’t end on December 21, 2012, although we had so much rain during the night that I occasionally worried we were done for. The storm continued through most of the morning, and, as a consequence, just three of us showed up at 10:00 for the Sunday Morning Group’s second annual Winter Solstice Scramble and Holiday Party, With Gift Exchange. Gary, our superintendent, built a fire in the clubhouse fireplace, and he, Hacker (real name), and I sat in front of it and used our cell phones to send sarcastic emails to everyone else.

Gary and Hacker: where's everyone else?

Gary and Hacker: where are Doug and Mrs. Doug, among other people?

The rain slackened after about an hour, and we could tell from Raindar that it was going to end soon. By 11:30, we had seven participants, including Mrs. Hacker, who had been delayed by a fallen tree.

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We ordered four pizzas from Upper Crust Cucina, the official caterers not only of the Sunday Morning Group but also of the Men’s Member-Guest. Then we played a five-hole warm-up round with one club each while we waited for the pizzas to be delivered. (Upper Crust doesn’t deliver to anyone but us, so don’t bother asking.)

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During the one-club, we saw six deer on the ninth fairway (photo below). When the pizzas arrived, we paid for them out of the Sunday Morning Group’s Slush Fund, which Hacker keeps in an envelope.

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The pizza was terrific, as it always is, and during the gift exchange I received, from Hacker, a coffee cup that looks like a softball-size golf ball. He hadn’t bought it—he had just found it on a shelf—but I still like it. You can see part of it in the bottom right hand corner of the photo below, between my Thermos brand coffee travel mug and the communal bottle of Jägermeister, the official cold-weather intoxicant of the Sunday Morning Group. I poured my Diet Pepsi into it, as a gesture of gratitude and respect.

P1040928After lunch, four of us played eighteen holes with all our clubs, and I lost twelve dollars, on account of having forgotten how to play golf, apparently. We got pretty close to a great blue heron, which hangs out near the stream that runs across the lowest part of our course, between the out-of-bounds woods on the right side of the fifth hole and the pond on the fourth. You can see it taking off in the photo below. It’s the gray blur above the bridge:

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Here’s one of the places where the heron had been fishing. Ordinarily, this stream is about a foot wide.

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We discussed holding a contest to name the heron. One possibility: “Uncle Frank,” after our dearly departed old friend Uncle Frank. It’s remotely conceivable that the heron actually is Uncle Frank, in bird form, although it doesn’t smoke or tell funny stories, and it doesn’t appear to be married to a retired soap-opera star.

We didn’t have as big a turnout for the 2012 Winter Solstice as we did for either the 2011 Winter Solstice (see photo immediately below) or the 2012 Summer Solstice (see photo below that). But seven is still pretty good for a day when nobody in their right mind played golf.

Winter Solstice tournament field December, 2011.

Winter Solstice tournament field December, 2011.

Summer Solstice 2012.

Summer Solstice all-day golf event, 101 holes, June, 2012.