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A Day on the Links by Glen V. Ruff
*Annotated by ABC 4 Sports Director Wesley Ruff for Father’s Day*
My dad started writing poems and stories (with hand-drawn artwork) when I was in high school. He wrote this one about playing golf with my brother at the old Spanish Fork Golf Course and Country Club probably around 1975. It still makes me laugh, because it’s all true and brings back some great memories of a Utah golf course that no longer exists, and a time that unfortunately is gone as well.
Our story takes place at the Spanish Fork Municipal Golf Course and Country Club. A pretty fancy name for a nine-hole course built on an alkali flat, just north of the little town of Spanish Fork; not that it doesn’t have class or a certain air about it. The “class” comes from the local pro, “Little Max.” A great, good-natured man who dishes out the beer and golf lessons with equal ease, and whose singing and remarks over the mic are half the reasons to play here.
WR: Little Max, as my father affectionately called him, was Max Gardener, the head golf pro at the old Spanish Fork Golf Course, and was the first pro when they moved to the new Spanish Oaks golf course. He was awesome and one of the friendliest guys around. He was always humming or singing, and he was a pretty decent player as well.
Slim and I are here to battle the course and each other for the weekly family championship. Slim is the nickname of my eldest son. He can hit a golf ball a mile, but generally has trouble as to direction. Me, I’m a slicer, but I have a pretty fair short game. It’s mainly short off the tee, come to think of it.
WR: My brother’s real name is David, but when he was a baby, he was long and skinny and my dad gave him the nickname of Slim. That’s all I’ve ever called him. I never call him David; he’s always been Slim to me, although he is not as “slim” as he once was!
We begin on number one; naturally, you say, but as every third hole ends up back at the clubhouse, most people just start any place they can squeeze in. You must remember this is not St. Andrew’s, and things are a little more relaxed here.
First, we must establish our alibis, like “Smashed my finger at work, sure hurts to grip my club,” or “My back has been giving me a lot of pain lately, I hope I can make it around.”
Finally, all the preliminaries aside, we begin the great match. Slim has the honors, a carry-over from the last match.
As he prepares, he takes four or five vicious practice swings, each one resulting in a huge divot being blasted out of the ground and sent flying down the fairway. You can hear Max’s groan in the background. He will have to move the tees as we go because slim does a little damage to each one.
Just when I think he’s more intent on trying to get deep enough for the water, he steps up and hits a beautiful 350-yarder. Too bad it went straight right to number two fairway.
I lunge at mine and get 300 yards, 150 to the hole and 150 to the right as my slice takes me to the rough. Now the rough here reminds me of the sidewalk in front of my house: hard and bare with just a few weeds in the cracks.
I’m away so I lash at the ball which, by the way, is trying to hide under a very ugly but recognizable weed. I escape permanent injury as my three wood lodges in the roots of this mistake of nature, but it will be several days before the swelling goes down in my wrists. The ball kind of stays low and jumps down in the grass, like a scared rabbit hurrying from one hiding place to another.
Slim is ready as the ball goes screaming past my head; he disappears in a cloud of dust and up-rooted weeds. He is in the fairway, but his hook has moved him closer back to the tee than to the green. He corrects that with a very nice third shot that almost makes the green. I blade a seven-iron and go over.
As the first hole is a par four, we are both in very good shape. He chips 10-feet past and my Texas wedge is next to the cup. We both two putt for couple of easy double bogeys and go to the second hole.
Two is a long par five straight away. Rough on the right, alkali and cattle on the left. Slim lets go a big banana, just missing an older lady chipping on number-one green. Good lie, though. I sky mine short of the ladies’ tees, but still in the fairway. While Slim is busy trying to explain to the older lady that he wasn’t trying “to gun her down,” I slip my ball on a “fairway tee” and catch a pretty fair three wood. Slim as the adrenaline going after arguing with the old gal and hits a bad-temper shot a ton. The ball crosses the rough, the fairway and bounces safely off a fence post, scaring hell out of some half-starved Herefords who are soaking up the afternoon sun.
Another three wood I reach the green with my nine iron. Slim drove in the bunker, but gets down in two for par. I bogey, to go one down.
The third is a short par three back to the clubhouse. Slim hits a nine-iron to the back of the green while my five iron is still short of the bunker. I chip on and snake in a long putt for an easy par. Slim two-putts but keeps his lead.
Four is a par-four, little dog leg left over a small pond of alkali water and cow manure. Slim is going to try and drive the pond, so he takes a few extra practice swings, turning the tee into a disaster area of bare ground and scattered divots. Slim’s swing may not be of the classic mold, but it is fast. His back swing alone has been estimated at 200 mph. His theory being – do it fast before anything bad happens. He jumps on the ball and starts it low and straight at the pond. It turns right and kind of tracks the right bank of the pond, coming down inside the water hazard, but not in the water.
My slice put me in the fairway, the fairway of number six, but a topped three wood, a fat five wood and I can get on with a nine iron. Slim, meanwhile, has got ready and makes a swing like he was beheading a snake, out comes the ball, chased by a load of mud, water and I could have sworn there was a frog in that mess. He rolls a nine iron to the fringe and gets down in two. I take two putts to go two down.
Number five is a long par 3 – well, long for me. OB left. Slim hooks it OB then sends a hard “worm burner” 10 feet from the green. I go 70-yards right and take two chops to reach the green. We both get in from there in two. I get one back and take the honors.
WR: Playing with my mom and dad and brother at the old Spanish Fork course are some of my best golf memories. We played there almost every single day in the spring, summer and fall. We would go as a family as soon as my dad got off work and we finished with dinner, and most nights we would stay until it was too dark to play. Max would leave and lock up the pro shop, and tell us to lock the gate to the parking lot when we left.
It’s time to make my move. Number six is a par four dog leg right. No OB, trees left, but out of my range; rough and car path right. I can let it all hang out. I rise up my right leg and kind of jump down at the ball as my arms, muscles tight with tension, lash wildly around my body. I catch it pretty good. It slices way right, comes down on the car path, bounces and rolls as I scream encouragement, “Go, you beauty, go!”
Slim says, “Nice drive, dad,” and after tearing up the tee area, lets fly with a high hook, way left to the seventh fairway. We agree to try and meet at the green and wander off in almost opposite directions.
Slim hits a beauty, almost on and, after I shank one 60 yards more to the right, I go over with the third shot. A cuffed chip, two putts and I go another stroke down as Slim gets down in three and has the honors back.
Seven is a par five, dog leg right OB all along the right side, and after the turn, OB on the left, too, as the fence around the sewer plan borders the fairway.
The wind is calm – well, calm for Spanish Fork. That means it’s only about 20 mph right in our face. That’s another thing, although you are always changing directions on the course, the wind is always in your face.
We pause for a couple of Buds as we get up enough courage to leave the safety of the tee.
The old gal Slim had trouble with is just chipping on six and tells us to keep it moving. That’s a liberal translation of what she really said. I can’t repeat it, but that was the general idea.
Slim digs up four or five beautiful large divots. Then sends the ball deep left in the trees between six and seven fairways.
To keep from slicing, I smother a duck-hook straight left, just behind the same old gal. After listening to more verbal abuse from her, I toe a three wood back to the right fairway. Another three wood slices around the outside of the OB stakes. A very good shot!
Slim’s shot prunes some limbs and leaves off the trees but makes it to the fairway. A very nice four wood and he’s only 40-yards from the green. My five wood puts me in the bunker as Slim then blades his chip 20-yards past the green.
My ball is in a big footprint and I make a desperate chip to get it out and re-damaged my already sore wrists. The ball comes out and somehow stays on the green. Slim blades another one past the hole, but still on. We both putt good, getting down in two. He keeps the two-shot lead and the honors as we move to number eight.
WR: Dad started playing golf with some friends, and one day got a hole-in-one, so he bought a new set of clubs, gave me his old set, and got a set for my brother. That’s how we got into the game. We never took any formal lessons, but Max would wander out and give me some tips while I was hitting balls on the alkali hard-pan between holes 1 and 2.
Number eight is referred to as “Max’s Mattress.” A very tough par three. The slanted green has a deep valley running down the middle. To three or four putt this green is quite common. Left is OB, trees on the right, one good place to lose a few strokes.
Slim hooks OB and I get a chance to get back in the hunt. I slice way right through the alkali dust. Slim’s next tee shot is long, putting him over the green, a very poor place to be. I play a nine-iron short, but on line. One more chip and I’m on and ready to grab some strokes. Slim blades his chip which rolls up the back, picks up speed and goes off the front of the green.
I try not to laugh, but can’t keep from snickering a bit. He blades another chip that goes like a bullet up the green, hits the flag, jumps three-feet up in the air, sort of hangs there like it doesn’t know what to do, then, just like that, it disappears in the bottom of the cup.
Now it’s Slim’s turn to snicker. I’m only three-feet away, but two putt, the second which does a sick wobble around the hole before going in. Only one chance left.
WR: Dad is older now, coming on 89. But we still get out and play a couple of times a year. He can still hit it OK, but he gets frustrated that he can’t play like he used to. My mom was the club champion at Spanish Fork 5 or 6 times. In fact, her name is still on the plaque there in the clubhouse. Her back is shot and she hasn’t played for years, but playing with my dad and brother is always a highlight for me.
Nine is a long, long par four. The highway parallels the left side which is OB. On the right is a pond, shaped to stay under anything that slices. Across the road is the small Spanish Fork Airport. The runway is aimed right in front of the ninth tee. Planes crossing in front and people going by in cars, yelling instructions, add to the handicap. I often wonder how you would score an airplane.
The drive here being so important, Slim really does a job on the tee area. It will be months before it recovers.
After all that warming up, he hits one 350-yards – right down the middle of the road. It bounces over a VW, whose driver slams on the brakes and almost rolls trying to avoid being hit. More verbal abuse. I never did like VW’s or the S.O.B.’s who own them. After trading insults and threats, he puts on his car and digs out, while being passed by two girls on their 10 speeds. I hit while Slim is trying to find a ball with just the right amount of smiles on it. My slice covers the entire length of the pond before splashing in. as it’s a lateral hazard, I still get some distance.
Slim’s “B.F. Goodrich – We’re the Other Guys” clears the pond and rolls forever in the rock-hard rough.
I take my drop, by carefully placing the ball on a small tuft of grass. I make a pretty fair pass at it, but get more height than distance. Once more with my trusty three-wood and I’m within range.
Another huge cloud of dust and Slim’s ball appears like magic in the fairway. His nine iron is on, but my topped seven iron rolls up closer. He two putts, while mine does a snake dance and drops home.
WR: I always have a great time playing with dad. He still thinks he can beat me, even at 88 years of age! He still plays really fast-no warm up swings, just step up and hit it. He’s got two holes-in-one, which is exactly two more than I have! He’s the man!
Slim wins again – but what a tough match. We go report to “Little Max” and grab some more beer.
“Boy, Max,” I begin, “did we ever hit that ball sweet today.” Max keeps singing as he puts the Buds on the counter.
Next week I’ll win for sure. I just figured out what I was doing wrong. I’ve got to get my right hand over a little more and…
Wesley Ruff: My dad was the one who got me into golf, and who instilled in me a love of sports in general. From playing basketball in the driveway, water skiing, ping pong, bowling, and especially golf, it allowed us to spend time together and relax, and also to try to beat each other. All great memories. I hope there are many more to come. Happy Father’s Dad! I love you!