Photo courtesy of Jeff Farsai Photography Long Beach CA.
Here are our past winners:
First Place: Imagined Revenge, by Jerry Wilson
Second Place: A Skin Game, by Mark Youngs
Third Place: With Dad, by Janelle Fila
IMAGINED REVENGE, by Jerry Wilson
The seventeenth hole at The Valley gets your attention. It got Max’s. And it gave me a rare taste of imagined revenge.
I liked Max. He was nice to me. Understandable, because in spite of his prosthetic leg and his seventy-seven years, he could spot me four a side and still beat me, so my affection for him never extended to the point of sympathy. With Max, sympathy was neither needed nor deserved. He had accepted that his glory days as a football and basketball star were now a distant memory, but that only honed his competitive side in sports in which he could still compete--bowling and golf. He was merciless. I didn’t bowl, but sportsmen who did painted Max as a gloating bully, routinely mowing down opponents a third his age with a confident smirk. Although I was spared humiliation at the bowling alleys, I couldn’t escape his lair at Green Valley Golf Course. He pounced on me in the club house. “Hey, Jerry, how about a quick nine tomorrow afternoon? Or eighteen--whatever you can afford to lose.”
“Sure, Max. I’m due to get lucky someday. See you tomorrow after work.”
The next day, I secretly sneaked out to the course early. A quick round before facing Max seemed in order. Nothing unfair or devious, you understand, just a little practice. I was striking them pretty well and the putts were falling; maybe this would be my day.
If a golf course is called Green Valley, it must adjoin a mountain. It does. The seventeenth tee is on top of it. From the tee, the green is a distant speck on the landscape two hundred vertical feet below. The hole measures two hundred eighty yards, but what would be manicured fairway on most holes is, on the seventeenth, a terrifyingly steep mountainside covered by a variety of sparse, unattended vegetation. Faint hearted and aged golfers take the adjacent winding cart path to the green. Bolder, more lusty players dare the more direct but challenging walk straight down the mountainside. Max didn’t know faint hearted. Heading down the mountain side, I began finding clubs that I recognized as his. A prosthetic leg in the weeds confirmed that Max had taken a spill. A few yards on, I saw him. And heard him.
Max seemed to have arrested his fall by grabbing a convenient, innocent little shrub, which he repaid for saving his life by thrashing the hell out of it with the only club he had left--a bent eight iron. The thrashing was accompanied by a background of frustrated tears and an impressive litany of blasphemous adjectives.
“Hi, Max. A little trouble negotiating the hill? Say, was that a forsythia shrub? Must have been kind of pretty. You don’t seem to care for it much. Think I would have used a wedge on it. Oh, you don’t have one.”
Max didn’t reply. Sometimes a look can say it all. It only encouraged me. These opportunities to get even happen only rarely. Besides, the rat had obviously been trying to sneak in a practice round on me!
“I think I found all your clubs. Must have been quite a fall. Sorry I missed it. Could you do it again? Oh, and is this your leg? I’ll give it to you if you don’t start beating me with it, ha, ha.” (Unprintable response by Max. Heated. Very creative.)
To his credit, and to my secret admiration, Max wouldn’t hear of postponing our scheduled match. He reduced his profane outburst to a few whispered mutters, reattached the leg, grabbed a quick beer in the club house, and went out and beat me four and two.
I grudgingly admitted defeat, but I was secretly happy for Max. His victory wasn’t over me; it was over adversity. And his gloating was really justifiable pride. He showed me how to deal with misfortune. You ignore it. And when adversity throws you for a loop (Sorry, Max), you get back up--after a brief exhibition of raging profanity--have a quick beer, and carry on.
A Skin Game, by Mark Youngs
A steady beeping grew louder and louder. Jerry jumped with a start and the beeping settled down to a regular rhythm as he further awakened. Looking around the room in a stupor, he tried to get his bearings. Out the window he could see the top of a building with rows of windows. A sign saying Sunshine State Medical Center stood atop the roof. Looking over his shoulder he could see an IV bag hanging from a stand. He followed the tube down to where it was taped to his forearm.
“What the hell?” he croaked, which made him cough and clear his throat. He noticed a door, open enough to see a toilet. The curtain surrounding his bed was pulled all the way back, leaving a clear view of the hallway door. The room was empty except for a stack of clothes on a chair in the corner, and a mason jar on a shelf under the wall‐mounted television. He wondered why he was strapped to the bed. Near his right hand was a call button. He fumbled with it until he could hold and push it with his thumb. A voice came over a speaker.
“Nurse’s station." He laid his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes. He could feel something was not quite right.
Allen drove the cart, negotiating the moguls as they crested the rise in the fairway.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Jerry said looking out at a pond that appeared from nowhere. “Did you know this was here?”
Allen pulled up to his ball, a good 30 yards short of the pond. “Nope. My first time playing here, too, Jerr. You’ve been flyin’ by me all day. I’ll bet you made it down there easy.”
“Yeah. You’re hoping so, anyway”, Jerry said taking a swig of water. “Just my luck that I’d find some crap on eighteen, when I’m on the verge of taking you guys for a change.”
Both got out of the cart and stepped back to their bags. Allen pulled out his pitching wedge, while Jerry pulled out his three wedges and a ball retriever. As Al got ready for his turn, and the other twosome was setting up for their shots on the other side of the fairway, Jerry walked on ahead to locate his ball. He had a good sense of where the ball should be, and he feared the worst, knowing he hit it pretty good. “Man, what I wouldn’t give,” He thought. “Just to beat these guys one time.”
While he walked, he watched the other three shots. He could not see the green from down where he was, but guessed they were all looking pretty good. As Jerry approached the pond, he could see a ball lying at the edge of the water, less than half submerged. He shook his head and took a close look at it.
“Ouch!” said Al. “That’s a tough break. “
Jerry decided to play it rather than take the penalty. He took off his right shoe and sock, stepped into the water, and with a mighty swing, blasted the ball out of the water and toward the green. Everyone watched the ball. Nobody saw the gator.
Jerry looked down at where the bandage ended his leg. Earlier the doctor had described the amputation just below the knee. He took it hard, but had pulled himself together before his friends came in to see him.
“Thanks for getting me in here so fast, guys. Not sure why I don’t remember anything about it, but can’t wait to hear the story.” He nodded toward the shelf. “One thing is really bugging me, though. The nurses have no idea what it is, but said you all brought it in. What’s with the mason jar?”
All three started chuckling. “Well Jerr, it’s like this,” Al said. “We all hit some pretty decent shots into eighteen. I was all set with a tap‐in for the win. But, SOB that you are you holed out that water shot. You took the final eight skins, a clean sweep. Those are your winnings” The mason jar represented all eighteen skins.
WITH DAD, by Janelle Fila
It’s a typical summer day: 7:21 a.m. and already muggy. Gnats dance around my ponytail, hovering in the sweat trickling down my neck. The driving range is empty except for a group of middle-aged dads in pressed khaki shorts and Oakley sunglasses. A salesman’s wet dream, as if spending top dollar on Nike Vapor clubs makes you Rory effing McIlroy. The wannabes immediately start ripping drivers. I grab the wedge I bought used on eBay for 37 dollars.
A golf cart motors past us, inspecting the shorn grass for unacceptable swirls or divots. My dad had the same early morning ritual before every tournament. I inhale the minty smell of grass and can almost feel the callouses on dad’s gloveless hands. The deepening shade of his neck was as predictable as the Ohio seasons: pink like undercooked meat, tomato red, the cracked brown of old leather. I only saw his vanilla chest at night when he undressed, folding the pea-green polo so he could see the Coach embroidered over the breast pocket.
The assholes next to me aim for the mower.
The golf course employee pauses as a lukewarm breeze whispers through the grass. He raises his hand in a half-wave and I wonder if he remembers my dad, if he has the same memories of awards and titles and championships won. But he looks past me, his hand resting on his forehead as he shields his face from the sun. There is no recognition in his searching eyes. My dad’s dead and I am his ghost.
To my left, three balls sail through the air, clumping around 160 yards. I can almost see dad’s grimace as the amateurs swing for max distance, taking turns trying to out power their friends. I swat a gnat away and keep swinging my wedge, dad’s coaching loud in my head.
“Resist the temptation, peanut. The high of one perfect shot isn’t worth the damage to your long-term game.”
I wish Dad were here with me, coaxing me to speed up my swing or put more torque in my hips, but since the scandal he couldn’t bear the sight of Eagle Stick’s raised greens and sandy bunkers. I haven’t forgotten the belligerent yelling for every imperfect shot or the shame I felt for every second place finish. But I do miss our early morning target practices.
The last time I saw Dad he was packing boxes. He wouldn’t let me help because I still wanted to play at the best club in the state, the club that fired him. He moved north, crashing on Heather or Jennifer or Sabrina’s pullout, bleary-eyed and hungover as he bitched to Jack Daniel’s about the unfairness of life. I heard he taught at other courses, flirting with Barbie doll trophy wives and sucking up to their rich husbands, beginners so soft they would never see an eagle unless the bird shit on their head. I wasn’t surprised when I heard he died. Skin cancer would have gotten him if the drinking hadn’t. But everyone knew heartbreak was the true cause of death.
My arm muscles burn from my warmup swings. Next to me, the amateurs’ drives peter out, first at 150 then 100 yards. A man wearing a floppy safari hat demands a do-over. He drops a ball on the tee, wiggles his hips, and digs his cleats into the grass. The shanked drive barely rolls across the 50 yard line. A curse explodes across the green.
My hands tingle as I reach for my driver. A bee buzzes past my ear. I take a deep breath and inhale the sweet scent of clover, jasmine, and honeysuckle. I think of my dad and what might have been. The men laugh and tease their unlucky friend.
I crank my first ball straight into the sky, with an arc so perfect it’s like gliding down a rainbow. The ball bounces just past the 200 yard marker. After three seconds of shocked silence, the men whoop and holler. The man in the safari hat swears. I hear clapping, proud beats of calloused hands as they thump together repeatedly. It sounds like it’s coming from heaven.
The Team at Golfwell.net want to give honorable mention for the following great stories:
THE GOLF DAY, by Sam Reeves
I remember the freezing cold air brush roughly past my face, nipping at my nose as it slid, like invisible ice past my cheeks and ears, my eyes locked on the last hole; even though the overhead storms grew worse and worse in the periphery of my vision. The clouds above hung heavy, and grey almost as if all colour was being enveloped within their murky mists. Tiny droplets, tear shaped and blissfully cold, began to escape their misty encasement and fall onto the field, partly affecting my visibility, not to mention my grip on the putt. I remember this shot being the end game, the shot was for the win and there was an absolute zero percent chance i was allowing it to miss. Eyes began to burn into the back of my neck, as beads of sweat disguised their-selves among the rain. Everyone halted their speech as i began to lift my arm. In my mind i had played the shot out .... Over and over... Over and over again, each time i became more and more doubtful of my success but i shook my head, throwing all taunting images from my brain out my ears.
My arm raised a quarter through the swing now, as one million thoughts scurried through my brain. I felt my muscles contract as i gripped the putt harder, a vast array of arteries and veins passed the energy, through which i would attain my victory. My arm raised half way through the swing now. The clock my mind had generated was ticking down i knew that this was it, there was no more time for doubts; no more time for the hesitation within to burst free. This shot had to be sunk, not just for me but for everyone who feels such a passion, as i. I felt the effects of gravity grow upon my arm as my swing gradually stopped its accent and continued the path it had just trodden. My arm was on the last part of the journey a simple matter of degrees separated my putt from the ball.... And the ball from the hole.
As my arm returned it felt like time had frozen... Or was it just the storm had frozen me? My opponent had retreated back to a safe zone, due to the sheer ferocity of the winds. She begged me to follow her but my victory was not to be stopped now. The last second of my swing i added a small amount of power, and felt the vibrations from the metal smacking the golf ball, shimmer up the club, do i dare look up? I thought.
The slight whistle of the ball cutting through air allured me into averting my gaze upwards, but alas the storm was so angry i had lost the ball from sight! I desperately scanned the field for my ball, until the unmistakeable sound of a golf ball falling into the hole rung in my ears. Could it really be?
I ran to the hole and my eyes fell upon the most beautiful sight i had ever seen, my ball landed, i had won! In a bout of madness and happiness i screamed and ran about the now torrential conditions jumping with pride. This was my crowning achievement in golf nothing was more important to me than winning this. My opponent shook my hand and we went inside, the look in her eye told it all, she knew that i had sought this moment with all my soul. I had finally done it!
For the first time....i had won crazy golf against my sister.
Invasive Golf, by Joshua Done
Reginald Delphi stepped out of the pro shop and into the hot gritty wind of the course. He supposed the game the teams were playing was still considered golf. The nine holes were there, the clubs were there, and the scoring system was there, but he still felt that something was missing.
Green grass, he decided at length. It was missing the green grass that he would have found on Earth or one of the inner colonies. Out here, where the terraforming process was still an ongoing effort, the water necessary for a green course was prohibitively expensive.
Spitting to clear some of the grit from his mouth, Sgt. Delphi made his way quickly to the group of golfers that had gathered around what he would have considered a pond under normal circumstances. What filled the depression, however, was anything but pond-like. A gelatinous mass was in the depression, bubbling and burping as the sun beat down on the course.
“I had a report of a non-native life form on this course.” Delphi said.
“Yeah.” The tallest of the three men said. His colonist accent made the word sound more like ‘yeh-ah’. He stuck his thumbs into the pockets of his vest, which created a comical image as his dislodged tie flapped in the dirty breeze.
“That looks pretty normal to me.” Delphi mumbled, bending down to lift a portion of the goo out of the depression with a finger, only to fling it back when it passed inspection.
“Not the morass colony.” The man said. “Something was in it. Something that wasn’t on this planet before we got here.”
“So you called a bio-customs agent because what? Bog monster ate your golf club?”
“If this is another waste of my time Tommy, I’m going to have to write you up for false report.”
“No, honest.” The man said, going a little red under his mustache and muttonchops.
“It pulled in our cart, wheels, clubs and all.”
“Really?” Delphi said in surprise, examining the dust paths on the ground in more detail. He pulled out a recording device, which automatically began taking pictures and video of anything that caught the agent’s gaze.
The wind had already begun to obscure the vehicle’s tracks in the light dust of the course, but the signs were still there. The cart had rolled up beside the morass colony and the men had gotten off to make their strokes. The vehicle had then been suddenly and violently dragged sideways into the native swamp creature’s embrace. That wasn’t natural. A morass colony had no active will of its own or way to grab people or things. It was little more than a giant colony of single celled organisms that conglomerated in a pseudo system, closer to a bacterial infection than a real animal.
“Hold this.” Delphi said to Tommy, handing him the recording device. The man’s grubby hands instantly smudged the smooth metal of the device. Delphi grunted, reminding himself to clean it when he got back to the station.
Pulling out a double-ended flashlight, Tommy began shining a pure white, high radiation level light at the corner of the morass colony where the cart had been dragged in. The colony shrank away like a snail recoiling from salt. At the bottom, chewing on the rubber of the cart’s tires, was a skitter maul. The group of men watching the bio customs agent work recoiled in horror. The skitter mauls had a dangerous reputation, normally hitching a ride onto new planets in produce or fertilizer crates to colonize new planets almost by accident. They were a dangerous and invasive species, hazardous to both human and native life… and it had to go.
Delphi flipped the light around and began shining a red light on the creature, eliciting a shriek as it let go of the tire and charged. Fast as a whip Delphi upholstered his long barrel plasma Growler and shot the creature three times, splattering acid gore that sizzled in the red light, burning to nothing.
“Well.” Delphi said, wiping down his barrel. “Looks like you don’t need a citation this time.”
A GOOD WALK SPOILED By Tom Cowan “Respect the markers,”
Phil called to Kevin on the eighteenth tee, for the fourth time. Kevin glared before replacing his ball five feet back. Phil wasn’t a stickler for the rules. In fact, he was a novice, but this was Kevin, who took pleasure in belittling Phil’s game. Kevin had spent much of his youth playing the local City course. Phil played occasionally at local bar outings. Kevin had ridden Phil mercilessly until Phil had enough of him and accepted the challenge.
“You and me,” Kevin roared, “ten bucks a hole, plus fifty for overall scores.”
“I don’t think so,” Phil replied.
“I’ll give you a stroke a hole.” Phil thought back to a conversation that he had with Kevin’s regular golf partner, Nick. “He’s not that good anyway,” Nick had said. “He takes a lot of what you’d call liberties.” Emboldened by that conversation and a few beers, Phil relented. “Fine, I’ll make sure I have my rule book handy.”
They shared a cart, with Nick and Phil’s friend, Tom, filling out the foursome, and Phil had wasted no time letting Kevin know he’d be watching.
Kevin’s over-sized driver pinged as each tee shot outdistanced Phil by several yards, but frequently sailed off the fairway. Phil’s three-wood, part of a $25 garage sale purchase, proved more accurate. Phil watched and counted every stroke so Kevin couldn’t use creative math where sevens magically became fives, another alleged Kevin specialty.
Now on the eighteenth tee, Kevin held a two-stroke lead. In his effort to finish with a flourish, he over-swung, sending his ball barely 50 yards, well short of the fairway. Phil concentrated, his swing smooth and true, and it landed center-fairway, 150 yards out.
Kevin’s second shot from deep grass made the fairway, but his third was again off-fairway.
“I’ll hit, then drive you to your ball,” Phil told him before hitting his third shot from the left side, but Kevin grabbed a fairway wood, saying, “That’s okay, I’ll walk.”
Phil didn’t like it, knowing Kevin’s reputation, but they were on opposite sides of the fairway, so he couldn’t protest too much. He took his time, set his feet, and slammed a shot onto the green within twenty feet of the pin. He hopped in the cart as Kevin went into his swing, lacing the ball from deep rough, to five feet from the pin. That should be the match, Phil knew, but then Kevin did something strange: he began to bend, his hand extended, but stopped and looked back at Phil, who was close now. Phil pulled up and climbed out, looking down at where Kevin’s ball had been. Bent from the shots impact, a white plastic tee sat.
Phil bent and pulled it out, holding it up to Duffy.
“Wh-a-a-a-t’s that?” Kevin asked, taking it from Phil’s hand.
“Don’t you use this kind of long plastic tee?” Phil asked.
“No, I mean, mine’s different.” Kevin stuffed the tee in his pocket.
“You teed up to improve your shot. Not only did you cheat, Kevin, but you lied, too. I’m not paying off on this bet and I’m going to make sure that everyone knows why.” Phil turned to walk away.
“Wait, please,” Kevin pleaded. “I’m sorry. I really am. I just didn’t think you were this good. I swear I’ve never done this before.”
“Bull,” Phil answered.
Phil knew he shouldn’t, but felt badly for the blowhard. “I’ll tell you what: You drop another ball…”
“Okay, thanks Pal.”
“…and, you take a two-stroke penalty, Pal,” said Phil.
Kevin had no choice. He dropped another ball, and Phil nodded acceptance. His replacement shot came up short of the green. It took him two more strokes to hole-out for an eight. Phil still had his twenty-footer to make to win by one. He swallowed hard, took a full breath, exhaled half-way, and prayed. The ball curved right, bent back and dropped in the hole.
Kevin approached, hand extended. “Nice game, Phil,” he said. Phil took the hand. “Thanks, Kevin. Truce?”
Keven smiled broadly. “Truce.”
The Devil’s Game, By J.J. White
More than likely, you’re what the experts call an average golfer, which means you have a handicap between a 14 and a 25 and on most weekends you can’t break 90. Yet once in a blue moon you manage to hit the perfect five iron 165 yards, a little right to left beauty that settles on the green like a satiated hummingbird. “Why can’t I do that all the time?” you ask. It’s simple. Golf was invented by the Devil.
Before you quit on me, here, let me explain. If you played the game of golf poorly each time you hit the links, then you’d quit the game. What the Devil does is throws a few crumbs of success your way to keep you coming back for more torture. Suffering is his business.
Whether you’re religious or not, let’s look at the facts of the game as if we were in a courtroom. I will present evidence to prove my case that the Devil, aka Satan, aka Beelzebub, invented golf to make our lives on Earth a living hell.
People’s Exhibit #1: God can sometimes be a cruel God, but never a sadistic God. Only a sadist would allow an innocent golfer to hack their way across seventeen holes of unrelenting turf, slashing at the ball 116 times, only to par the last hole in order to entice the poor sap to come back again next week. God would have made you quit. Only the Devil would draw you back to his lair.
People’s Exhibit #2: The game was supposedly thought up by the Scots. Your mother warned you never to trust men who walk around in skirts all day, and the Scots are well known to be devil worshippers and perpetrators of torture. If you don’t believe me, hire a caddie on your vacation in St. Andrews.
People’s Exhibit #3: Would God purposely place a foursome of beginners in front of you and a group of obnoxious golf pros behind you? I think not.
People’s Exhibit #4: How many times have you taken a double bogey on three par fours in a row and had to write down 666. Coincidence? You tell me.
People’s Exhibit #5: Why is it when you’re a single, the starter always pairs you up with a cigar smoker? It’s because you’re an idiot and a glutton for the punishment meted out by the Prince of Darkness.
And the most compelling evidence that the Devil is at work in the cruel sport:
People’s Exhibit #6: Millions of lost souls waste their lives away on the links every Sabbath. But not me, anymore. I intend to redeem myself by pledging only to partake of the evil game Monday through Saturday. Let’s hope you do likewise—you heathen.
Swinging Through Life, by Nur Shafiqa, of Malaysia
He long of the feeling of having the smooth, cold, titanium- surfaced club in his hand; he yearned having the wind run through his hair as he swiftly hits the pearly- white golf ball; he yearned to see how far the little golf ball could travel among the dewy- green landscape.
Of course, it was all just a dream. All of these moments were only in his head, imprinted finely among all the other memories he had created- memories that never occurred, that is, for they were only crafted by the intensity of his imagination.
My father is one of those few people who remain as a mysterious individual. I knew him but I didn’t know him. Like every other father, I believe he made many sacrifices along the way in his life. He is visionary; a man filled with ideas; he tried hard to achieve his vision- but he took long to achieve them.
Our family wasn’t well off. Means was of course somewhat limited at times. My father worked hard trying to make ends meet; so, I didn’t get to see him much growing up. Sudden entry in income was like rainbows- inspiring, filled with happiness but momentary.
“I’m tired. My back hurts. My whole body hurts”, he says.
Well, there was without a doubt he was tired. He had passed half the century mark and was working hard, having to leave his dream of playing golf. He had so wanted to play it- Growing up in a harsh country proved how grand golf was in his eyes. It was the one sport that he wanted to try; but as years passed, the opportunity grew thinner. He had to make ends meet; such, the dream had to be stored in his memory. He couldn’t put it into action. With every passing moment, it was obvious he would never get the chance to even play golf.
“Come out here. I have a surprise”, he said one day as he came back from work.
I, being surprised by how excited he was, made my way out to our porch where there laid magnificently was a golf bag- laden with black leather and shining golf clubs. It was just an exquisite sight; although, I believe the better sight was his big smile: It was magnificent. He finally could have a golf bag of his own but his ageing body couldn’t cater to his dream no more.
Such, he now is living his dream through me. I had never understood his fantasy for golf but once I had laid eyes on that supreme golf bag, it all changed. My father had used a big fortune to get the set and so, we couldn’t afford having to go to an actual course. Pity it was but I still had fun. My father tried to train me in our little porch, teaching all the right moves and swings. Oh, how amazing it felt.
Whimsical it was too as I had once broken a neighbor’s window, swinging the first few times. My father wasn’t the one who would take things seriously and that made me love him: so, we replaced the mirror, laughed it off and kept playing. That was three years back, and now, three years into the journey, golfing is my life. We finally managed to try out my skills around different golf courses; I too have tried my luck playing in small tournaments. It brings me to tears seeing how his eyes sparkle as he roots for me for every moment of wins and losses.
Beyond that sparkle in his eyes, I too saw a sense of longing, a sense of yearning, a sense of wonder from his undying passion to play. I wish at times time could rewind back itself so I could gift my father with the greatest gift of all. Albeit, sometimes, he proved me wrong.
“Seeing you play is the greatest gift to me”, he says
Though he didn’t get the chance to try out his passion, he poured all his love to me. Though he never had the chance to swing the golf club, he still gave me a reason to swing through life.
The Team at Golfwell.net gives a big thank you to all who entered! Choosing winners was very very hard. Lots of talented writers out there!