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Divorce Papers On The First Tee

Cruelty on the tee! I was on the tee with my friend Terry, when he was served divorce papers at the qualifying for the USGA Amateur Championship.

“Now on the tee from local muni USA, Terry S. Play away please,” announced the stuffy old starter for the USGA Amateur Championship, local qualifying at The Minikahda Club. 

Like many low handicap golfers, Terry S. had become a golf addict. If you are a “player” you understand what I am talking about. When he was not hitting balls or playing golf he was thinking about hitting balls or playing. Many mornings he would get up before dawn, skip breakfast without seeing his wife and kids, to go hit a few balls before work. Terry S. was a finish carpenter, and a good one.

When the golf bug really bit Terry S. he was just a casual golfer, with a high single digit index and a regular game on Saturday and Sunday. He had a young family and a big mortgage. Then one day in the barber shop while waiting for his every-six-week haircut, he was reading GolfDigest and discovered a tip on chipping that changed his life… literally!

He had played golf since high school but never really worked at it. Terry S. just played a couple of times a week and only hit balls to warm-up. With a natural swing and an athletic body, he was the best player of his group of friends, who told him how good he could be if he just spent a little time practicing.  

Chipping was his Achilles heel! With the series of pictures he ripped out of GolfDigest he went directly to the closest golf course. He emptied his ball pocket and began. With the new found proper technique, the flight pattern and roll-out became consistent. After a few more chipping sessions he shot his lowest round ever, 73. He was hooked. If a chipping tip and a little practice could make that much difference what else could he learn? How far could he go? Could he be a Lee Trevino like success story and someday compete for the Masters or the U.S. Open? The more he practiced the better he got. The next Spring, with his handicap down to 4.2, he entered his first tournament.

Trying to look pro-ish, Terry S. wore a new Greg Norman golf shirt, Christmas present from his wife, and a crease in his khakis. On the first tee, he was so nervous that he could hardly get his tee in the ground. He took a mighty swing and a huge divot; his ball went straight up and landed short of the fairway cut, on his way to a first hole triple. It took Terry a few holes to settle down, but he came back strongly and finished third with a respectable score of 73.

The tournament players he met invited Terry to join them in a regular money games that moved around different venues. Sometimes, they even played some private clubs. He needed to play the good courses against good players to get better, they told him. His green fee expense went up and he started skipping out on work early or missing days. His wife started to bitch more and more about his golf as he wrote a few bad checks to cover gambling debts. His life was in a downward spiral, but his game was getting better!  

His wife finally kicked him out! He was staying with friends, and occasionally had to sleep in his car, but his game was getting better! He even won a few shortstop tournaments. 

He was on his way. More practice. More competition. He was on his way. 

Now, he was standing on the tee ready to make his mark on golf. His first USGA event, he had made the big time! 

Terry S. teed his Titleist 3, with red T and S neatly written on each side of the 3. Always a 3, his lucky number. Terry S. took one practice swing and stood behind his ball holding his driver at eye level to get the exact line. He took a deep breath and settled into his perfectly balanced stance when a voice from the crowd said, “Are you Terry S.?” Terry nodded affirmatively. “Mr. S., I have some papers for you.”

Terry’s Titleist 3 never saw the golf course landing somewhere in the parking lot marking the beginning of a “NC” (no card) finish.

The cruelest thing I have ever seen on the first tee of a golf championship! 

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