My Father, a.k.a. Johnny Persimmon Seed

Persimmon tree planted by my father, eleventh hole, Kansas City Country Club, September 28, 2013.

autographically Persimmon tree planted long ago by my father. Eleventh hole, Kansas City Country Club, September 28, 2013.

Many years ago, my father planted two persimmon trees, a male and a female, in the rough on the eleventh hole at the Kansas City Country Club, where he was a member. Persimmon is the wood that the best wooden woods were made from, and he felt that every golf club ought to pay tribute. (Persimmon is as hard as ebony. It’s still used for pool cues and archery bows, among other useful implements.) Our behind-our-house neighbors had a huge persimmon tree, which dropped plum-size fruits into their yard and ours. My friends and I used to collect the squishiest ones and throw them at each other—another important application. My father never extended his persimmon-planting program beyond the eleventh hole at the Kansas City Country Club, but the idea was a good one and someone ought to take it up again—maybe me.

american persimmon

I was in Kansas City for my fortieth high-school reunion, and I played golf at K.C.C.C. with my classmates Dick, Hinkley, and Pajamas. They’re still in the witness protection program because of stuff we did when we were teenagers, so I can’t show you a photo, but you can read a little bit about them here. I also played a round at Indian Hills Country Club, which, like K.C.C.C. and Swope Memorial, was designed by A. W. Tillinghast. The guys I played with at Indian Hills are much younger than I am, so I can show their faces:

Adam, me, Scott, Ricardo, Indian Hills Country Club, September 26, 2013.

Adam, me, Scott, Ricardo, Indian Hills Country Club, September 26, 2013.

While I was in town, I also made mandatory stops at Winstead’s and Arthur Bryant’s. Bryant’s is the world’s best barbecue place. The health department shut it down for a few days recently, because of a misunderstanding concerning cockroaches, or something. The sandwiches are so big that they give you extra bread, which you can also use as supplemental napkins.


Bryant’s barbecue sauce, if you aren’t familiar with it, is unlike any you’ve ever tasted. New batches are aged in the restaurant’s front window, and the jug in the photo below may have been there when I was in high school. The dark liquid near the top is of unknown composition.


I keep a case of Bryant’s sauce in my sauce cellar, in my basement, along with a case from Gates & Sons, which is Bryant’s main competitor. The two sauces are so different that you don’t have to choose one or the other. You can enjoy them both, or you can do what my wife and I often do, which is to mix them together. In any configuration, they are so much better than other so-called barbecue sauces that it’s almost ridiculous.


The Muny Life: Orlando, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Elsewhere


I’m just back from Kansas City, where I grew up. Among other things, it’s the home of Winstead’s, which makes the best hamburgers in the world. When I was a kid, you could order from your car by shouting into a thing that looked like a speaker at a drive-in movie theater, and then a waitress would bring your stuff on a tray, which she would hook over a partly rolled-down window. There’s no more curb service at Winstead’s, but there’s a drive-through window, open 24/7. You can also eat inside. When you go, here’s what to order (no substitutions, please):

Double cheeseburger with extra P.M.K. (pickles, mustard, ketchup) and grilled onions.
Single cheeseburger, ditto (for topping yourself off—just take my word for it).
Fifty-fifty (half onion rings and half fries; ask for the fries to be “well done”).
Large cherry limeade (or, if you insist, large diet cherry limeade).
Frosty (technically speaking, this could be considered a dessert, but the proper way to eat it is as a side dish).

When I was in high school, my friends and I occasionally ate four meals a day at Winstead’s. You’d be crazy not to go, even if you weren’t planning to travel to Kansas City. Between trips there last week, I visited my mother and played three rounds on two terrific municipal golf courses, which I’ll write about in the September issue of Golf Digest, in my regular monthly column. Here, in the meantime, is a photo of the putting grip of one of the guys I played with, who I’m pretty sure is one of the three or four best putters in the world (his friends call him Drano):


My Muny Life column in the May issue of Golf Digest was about Dubsdread Golf Course, in Orlando, Florida. The photo below is of two of the guys I played with there: Fletch, a semi-retired accountant, and Brian, his son-in-law, who is in the building-supply business. Brian lives near the course and gives Fletch hybrid clubs and gentle swing advice, plus the occasional grandchild.

Fletch and Brian.

Fletch and Brian, Dubsdread Golf Course, Orlando.

During another round, I watched a guy on the driving range talk on his phone, which he was holding in his right hand, while hitting one-handed wedges with his left hand and smoking a cigarette. As Dr. Johnson said, in a different context, “It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”


In the June issue, I wrote about Cobbs Creek Golf Club, which is just down the road (and creek) from Merion Golf Club, where the Open was held last week. Here’s the maintenance building at Cobbs Creek, which, like the clubhouse and the course, dates to the early nineteen-hundreds:

Cobbs Creek Golf Club, Philadelphia.

Cobbs Creek Golf Club, Philadelphia.

After one of my rounds, I met Hank Church, a regular, who didn’t play but dropped by the clubhouse to see his friends. “I had ten inches of my large intestine removed sixteen days ago,” he said, and he lifted his shirt to show the scar, which was barely visible. He wasn’t ready to swing a club yet, he said—but almost. And, like many of his friends, he served as a marshal at the U.S. Open, in his case on the eleventh hole, which is the one where Bobby Jones closed out Eugene Homans in the 1930 Amateur, thereby completing his Grand Slam.

hank Church, Cobbs Creek Golf Club.

Hank Church, Cobbs Creek Golf Club, Philadelphia.

For the July issue, I wrote about Dyker Beach Golf Course, in Brooklyn, where my friends and I often go to play during the winter, when our home course is covered with snow. A few months ago, eight of us set out a little before five in the morning so that we could get to Brooklyn in time to play as guests in the regular Sunday-morning game of Shore View Golf Club, a men’s group that plays at Dyker. John Perez, the club’s president, supervised the picking of the teams, using a handicap-based method that he referred to as Captain and His Men. It was kind of dark in the grill room when he did that, so one of the guys used his cell phone as a flashlight when it was his turn to choose:

That's John Perez at the far right. Dyker Beach Golf Course, Brooklyn.

That’s John Perez at the far right. Dyker Beach Golf Course, Brooklyn.

That day, my friend Hacker (real name) and I played with Ronnie Clyne, who works for a headhunter. “I grew up on the Brooklyn waterfront,” Clyne told us. “If you played golf, we beat you up and took your lunch money.” Like most Shore View guys, he’s self-taught and deeply addicted. “I had a hole-in-one once, at a course in the Catskills,” he said. “As I picked the ball out of the hole, a tear rolled down my cheek. It was the closest thing I’ve had to a religious experience.” Here’s Ronnie cleaning goose crap off his golf shoes on one of the tees:

Ronnie Clyne, Dyker Beach Golf Course, Brooklyn.

Ronnie Clyne, Dyker Beach Golf Course, Brooklyn.

And here’s Hacker (looking very serious) with the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in the background:


On the morning we played with the Shore View guys, I picked up Other Gene. and Gary, our superintendent, at Gene’s house. They were waiting in front when I arrived, at 4:45 a.m., and when I opened the trunk of my car Gene’s dogs, which are huge, started barking inside his house. Gene was worried that the dogs would wake up his wife, so he kept saying “Shhhhhh, shhhhhhh, shhhhhh”—very quietly, so as not to make matters worse. I was standing next to him and could barely hear him, so I assume the dogs heard nothing, their famous ears notwithstanding. At any rate, they kept barking and, if anything, got louder. Miraculously, though (we learned later), Gene’s wife slept through the whole thing.