This was bizarre.
I used to know this kid named “Pat.” He was pudgy, wore these awful glasses — oh, God, they were terrible. I think they call them transition lenses; you know, the type that changes shade when the sun shines on them? Those, those were awful.
Pat squinted a lot and had this really high voice. I imagined kids made fun of him a lot at school, that he didn’t have very many friends and that he didn’t really enjoy adolescence. But I only knew him from golf.
We met when I was nine and he was ten at a junior golf tournament outside of Rockford, Ill. That tournament was my first as well as his and we both struggled through nine holes, convinced that golf was an abominable activity that we’d both fail and wish we’d never played.
His mom would walk with my dad and they’d trace their steps and see if they knew each other from high school, and when they found out they didn’t, they let their conversations revolve around their sons and golf.
But then I won and he placed fourth or fifth and we loved golf again. And we played off and on together for the next five years or so. Then high school came and Pat lost the transitions and we lost touch altogether, save the occasional hello or nod of the head at tournaments.
I was pretty sure I’d never see him again. I didn’t really care one way or the other — my dad told me how he heard Pat was playing golf at some Division II school near me. I was disinterested, still.
And then last Saturday we were in the same group. Pat didn’t have glasses anymore, didn’t have the same high voice and wasn’t quite so dorky. He still squinted, though, and still had a hell of a short game.
His mom walked along and asked how my dad was, asked how I was, asked where I went to high school and that she was sorry she didn’t remember. She asked a lot of things. Asking these things took up about five minutes in a five-hour round.
Pat asked me a lot, too. I asked him a lot. This asking and answering routine lasted through the first and second holes. And then it was the proverbial “oh shit” moment — we had no more asking or answering to do for the other 16. So, we just played golf.
It all seemed so pointless. We could have had our reunion on the putting green, going through the same four- to six-question interview without all the headache of playing together for five hours. We could have run into each other in a grocery store and exchanged family photos and he could have told me about his insurance business and I could have told him about God knows what.
But, no, we had to spend five hours together. And I was nervous and his mom asked about my dad and if he ever came to see me play.
I wished I played baseball — wished that Pat was a left fielder and I a shortstop; he might hit a double to right center field and I would meet him at the bag and go, “Hey Pat” and that would be that. Maybe we’d catch up a little bit after the game, but he wouldn’t be there the whole time.
But then, at the end, Pat told me it was his last tournament, as he was graduating; I realized we played together in his first. It felt like the sort of cheesy capstone that could only happen in golf.
It felt like the sort of cheesy capstone that could only be termed as “nice.” It was nice.
E-mail Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org