The summer had been, well, uneventful. Our yard had been ripped up, stonework had been laid down, and our vacation budget was shot to hell. Then a friend of mine, a recently-retired news correspondent, gave me a call.
“What are you doing for the next few days,” Richard inquired.
“I, uh….” I didn’t want to admit it, but probably a lot of grocery-shopping, dog-walking and verandah-sitting. Plus trying to avoid the omnipresent chore-list, with which my wife waved in my face and chased me around the house, blackening my mood for hours at a time. We hadn’t been invited to many Glebe parties ever since I mentioned, at the last one we attended, that I was looking forward to the day that midget wrestling made a comeback.
“Never mind what you’ll be doing, anyway,” Richard interrupted. The former newsman in him was used to pursuing his agenda aggressively. “I bid on a golf package at a silent-auction fundraiser I was at. I won. I dunno… maybe I was the only one who bid. Anyway, what happens is that we’ll have one day at the Canadian Open. I know a vice-president at the Royal Bank of Canada that sponsors the event. Maybe she’ll get us V.I.P. passes and we’ll eat in the diningroom/clubhouse for free and we’ll get some swag, too.” Richard, ever the schmoozer, knew how to play the game. Way better than I did, anyway.
My ears perked up. With this kind of incentive it would be worth the effort of convincing my wife that I should be sprung from the work camp for the next few days. “When do we leave?” I asked. “Tomorrow ?”
“The next day.” But the retired newsman who had always pulled down a good salary but now collected only a meager pension from the huge broadcasting company, was ever practical. “The event I bid on includes thirty-six holes of golf with a cart on a course in Port Colborne, as well as two nights in a bed-and-breakfast. You can pay for the first night’s hotel in Oakville, near the Glen Abbey course where the Canadian Open takes place.” To soften the blow of not offering a complete freebie he added, “We can take my car.” He paused for a second, perhaps re-considering his generosity. “You can pay for half the gas.”
It was still a good deal. Although golf was not my passion, I had played a lot in my youth, and then not much for the past thirty years. It was hard to hide that fact with the evidence being my inconsistent game. My older golf clubs could have been used by Ben Hogan or Sam Snead, both of whom won tournaments in the 1930s.
And Richard was not yet finished. “See if you can replace that golf bag you have. It looks like you bought it at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.”
The drive to Oakville was as quiet as the first night was not. Richard and I were awakened at 12:30 a.m. by loud screams of anguish that sounded like they were coming from the next room. Richard was up and out the door before the piercing cries had subsided. “What in hell’s name is all the yowling about?” he demanded.
“I’m sorry,” came the reply from a woman’s voice in an obvious American accent. My son got his hand caught in the door when it was closing.”
“Yeah, well, what’s he doing up at this hour?” Richard retorted. He had not charged out of a comfortable bed in order to be easily placated. His point made, he barged back into our room. His years working abroad had seemingly not furnished him with much sympathy for a newcomer’s unfamiliarity with an alien country’s cultural mores. “These people bring all their bad habits into this country.”
The lack of sleep did not dampen our enthusiasm the next day as we made our way between holes at the Glen Abbey Canadian Open. The course had been designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus and I couldn’t help compare it to the cow pasture-like course in Quebec’s Eastern Townships where I had first started knocking around the dented golf balls that I had found in the woods. We were both wearing the V.I.P. passes that enabled us to bypass lineups and even worm our way into the dining room. A middle-aged woman working at the event squinted at me as I came through the door.
“Excuse me, sir,” she inquired politely. “Are you an ex-NHL hockey player?”
My chest swelled slightly as the filing cards in my head briskly considered many possible replies. Could I come up with a name of an ex-player who might resemble me slightly ? Should I smile indulgently and mumble something about that being many decades ago and I was flatted she remembered. Or should I admit that no, I was just a retired schoolteacher.
I couldn’t come up with a name quickly enough to avoid suspicion. I had to come clean. “Uh… no. ” But I had to claim some notoriety. “But I do play a lot of Old-Timers’ hockey.”
I found Roger digging into both the steak and the roast beef that was being served up to both the professional golfers and those wealthy or like me, lucky enough to wangle the free pass.
“I’m kind of a big deal,” I said to Richard. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Richard could only give me a sidelong glance as he rose to help himself again to the free buffet.
To Be Continued.