By R.J. Smiley

Eli loves golf! He was a good college player who is still competitive in state golf association tournaments. But with a new family and a good sales job that kept him of the road four days a week, it was hard for him to find time to play. Eli quickly learned that the best time for him to chase his passion was to play golf early, before most courses are open. When he arrived in a new town, he would call the local golf course and suggest that he arrive about daylight and play their course walking. Then he would pay his green fee when he completed his round.

Very seldom would the course operator have a problem with his proposal.

Late one afternoon after a long drive, Eli arrived in Hicksville. Siri informed him that there was a golf course very near his hotel. Eli called the course and made his proposal to the pro shop clerk on the phone. He was amazed that the clerk said no. He could not allow a player on the course before he had paid his green fee. End of discussion!

Eli awoke at 5:00 AM. As he did his push-ups and crunches he thought about golf on this beautiful morning. He quickly showered and dressed in his new suit and the tie he had gotten for his birthday. As he was driving to the restaurant the hotel clerk had recommended, Eli saw the golf course. Beautiful! Without thinking he turned into the totally vacant parking lot.“If I play, all they can do is give me a hard time – but I won’t go to jail,” he reasoned.

Eli removed his shirt and tie and slipped on his golf shoes. He did look a little strange in suite pants and a white t-shirt with golf shoes. Eli knew he had to hurry. His first appointment was only 2 hours and 30 minutes later.

Two practice swings and a perfect high draw onto the middle of the fairway. As the ball landed Eli noticed a Golden Retriever dash onto the golf course and grab his ball and run to the side of the fairway. “This is all I need,” thought Eli. He called the dog who still had the ball in mouth. The dog would come within about 20 feet – he wanted to play keep away. After a few minutes the dog dropped the ball and waited for Eli to throw it. Instead Eli sighted the flagstick with his scope. He chose a 7-iron for the 163-yard approach to the green. A nice high shot that started to the right of the pin and did not turn over. As the ball left the turf, the Golden was off like a Greyhound. The ball came to rest about 25 feet to the right of the pin. The Golden raced in and scooped up the ball on the dead run. Now Eli noticed he was running to the green to retrieve his new Callaway Chrome Soft from the dog. “Slow down,” he thought. “All I need to do is get all sweaty and be a mess all day. I have a full schedule of back to back appointments.”

Eli strolled on to the green as the Golden sat poised, butt up front paws in front ready to dodge Eli as he approached. After a few failed attempts to rescue his ball, Eli walked off the green. He looked back and saw his ball sitting on the green. He went back and picked it up but did not putt. “If I ignore him maybe the Golden will just leave me alone.” Not the case.

For the next three holes Eli and the dog played the game over and over again. “No putting practice today. Maybe only 9-holes.”

The fifth hole was a beautiful risk reward short par-4 with a swampy, algae covered, marsh on the right side. With his scope Eli determined that the flagstick was only 287 yards away – all carry. Eli removed his water ball (the one with two rounds on it) from his pocket, and teed it high. With the Golden intently watching from about 20 yards away, Eli made a big swing. Poor concentration caused Eli to hit driver in the neck. The ball started over the swamp directly toward the flag. “Carry!” Eli shorted, but he knew it was going to a watery grave.

As the ball splashed into the muck, the Golden raced to the waters edge and made a perfect, dog stretched, leap into the slop. The Golden hunted with his head under the muck. Once. Twice. On the third dive the, Golden struggled to the waters edge with a ball in his mouth. The retriever raced toward Eli and dropped the sloppy ball at his feet.

As he wagged his tail the Golden started drying himself by shaking all the water and slop in a huge circle. Eli was in the middle of the circle.

“What a mess. Now I have to go back to the hotel and take a shower and change my clothes. I am just happy I did not have on my new tie. I should have known not try to sneak on a golf course.”

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