My Preacher, The Golfer

        My boy and I played our annual New Year’s Polar Bear Golf outing yesterday, and it set me to thinking about the game.  I ’bout froze to death even if we are in the South, so I thought I’d write about golf and wait on the spring thaw before hitting the links again.

        So, my next two posts are gonna deviate from medicine and bluegrass music, and talk some about golf.  Now, before you go and leave me for posting on such a trivial subject, let me explain.

        I have to agree with you.  This old world has a lot of problems, and hitting a little white ball ain’t solving many of ’em.  However, there are some lessons to be gained from the game.

        For one, it is the last athletic thing a man my age can do (at least if you don’t ride those infernal carts) and not run the risk of injury and being out of the office.  And too, there is much to be gleaned about a fellow’s character out there.  If a man will cheat on the golf course you can be sure he will elsewhere in life.

        Some of my golf buddies are rough sorts of boys, and yet I’d trust them to drive my beloved daughter across the country much more than I would a few society types I know.  When you see a guy who is out of work call a penalty stroke on himself to lose a fifteen dollar bet, you know you can count on him. 

        As far as the cats who have what we call a “sharp pencil,” (can’t add very well) it tells all.  I know I have a lot of nice lady folks as readers, and golf might not be your thing, but it is sort of like if a woman will run around with her best friend’s husband, you know all you need to know about her.

        So, with that introduction, welcome to the golf world too, but I plan only ten percent of my posts to address this topic.  In the end, though, it will prove important.  At several critical junctures in my doctor life, important reconnaissance missions took place on the links.  Before I tell how, I want my readers to have the appropriate background, so I hope you will bear with me.  The blog will remain 90% medicine and music, as promised.

        One of my favorite golf buddies is a guy named Gary Ponder.  We’ve played many a lazy Sunday afternoon nine, and often solved the ills of the free world out there, though few people heeded our advice.  One day Gary called, and wanted me to play golf after church with the new preacher.  My immediate reaction was to protest.  I mean, I try to be the best Christian I can, and I go to church most every Sunday to ask for forgiveness for what I have done wrong.  (I didn’t do it on purpose, I’m just human.)  However, the state of my golf game these days can sometimes test my faith, and I hated to let the preacher see all my imperfections right off the bat. 

        Besides that, I have to admit I was a bit prejudiced.  “What kinda preacher can play much golf anyway, Gary?  You remember that one we had back in the 90s?  It was a six hour round, ’cause he stopped at every water hole to say a prayer to get over the hazard.  I just ain’t that good a Christian, man.”

        “Well, you have to, brother.  I’m chair of the Building Committee, and he wants to have a golf tournament as a fund raiser someday.  He’s a good guy, you’ll like him.”

        “I’m sure he is a fine man, but can he play golf?”

        “I don’t know.  Quit griping- we’re on at 2:00 after church Sunday, and Pro has you down.  ‘Cuz’ is the fourth man, so it’s all good.”  There was a pause.  “Look, Brother Bibey.  I’m sure it’ll be a drag, but you gotta help me out- it’s your Christian duty.”

        “O.K.”  It was hard to say no to Gary.  He was a best friend, a near scratch player, and we had played in his Member/Guest as long as I could remember.   “I’ll be there.”

        Well, we got off to a late start, ’cause the preacher had to go visit someone at the hospital.  The rest of us hit a few balls to warm up, then he came screeching up, and jumped out on the first tee without so much as a warm up shot.  I noticed he wasn’t wearing a glove.  Ain’t nobody any good ever played without a glove I know of except Freddie Couples, and none of us were that kind of player.  I yawned.

        Well, I’m telling you the Lord’s truth, and I wouldn’t lie to you about a man of the cloth, that preacher stepped up and smacked his opening drive all the way down past the cart sign, about eighty yards from the green, and Cuz hollered out, “Who the hel…   I mean who the heck is that masked man?!”  The only person we’d heard tell of getting it by there was long drive champion Wedgy Winchester when he came through on a barnstorm tour a few years back.    

        I studied over the preacher for a moment, and reckoned I had got it all wrong.  His physique was more athletic than I had recognized, ‘course the only time I’d ever seen him was in the pulpit and it hadn’t occurred to me that he might be a player.

         Preacher wore it out the whole eighteen.  There was a little rust on his game, but this was a man with a fine compact pro-like swing who had played some golf in his time.  I guarantee you he didn’t dig that move on the ball out of the Harnett County dirt like we did as kids.  Heck, when I was growing up, we not only didn’t know how to play, but didn’t know anyone who did.   

        Cuz finally had to ask.  “Preacher, where did you learn to strike it like that?”

        As it turns out, Preacher was on the  Alabama golf team around the Jerry Pate era, and studied under Conrad Rehling.  Whewee… we ain’t never had anyone in town with that kinda pedigree.

        There was more to the story than that, though.  I’d never thunk it, least till I saw him play for myself, but Preacher played the old J.C. Goosie Space Coast tour, and even had his card for the big show one season.  Somewhere in there he got saved and lost interest in playing golf on Sundays, ‘cept after church, and gave up the game for a while.  He said he might have stayed on tour but he wasn’t always in the final group.  I thought he meant he wasn’t in the money often enough, but for the preacher, after he got saved he wouldn’t play on Sunday unless it was after 12:00.  If he wasn’t in the top ten, his tee-off time was always during church, and he would DQ himself so as not to miss the service.  Preacher was good, but the competition was too stiff to stay out there if you were DQed in seventy percent of your tournaments, and he came home.

       “Preacher, I’m glad you didn’t give it up forever.  You have one heck of a fine game.  What got you back into golf?”

        “Doc, there is a chapter in my life I’m not that proud of.  You see, back in the days of the Space Coast tour, there was a lot of money to made on the side as a hustler, and I won my share.  After I got saved, I felt bad about it, and prayed a long time to ask the Good Lord how I could make it up to Him, and it finally came to me.”

        Well, I have run out of time,  but I promise I’m gonna tell you more about my preacher’s exploits soon.  It is worth the read, ’cause these days he hustles golf for the Lord.   In my next post, I’m gonna tell you some secrets of how he does it. 

        In the meantime, if you run up on a Southern Methodist preacher who wants to play for a little money, all I got to say is check your prejudices at the door, bring your best game, and watch out! 

                                                         -Dr. B

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11 Comments on “My Preacher, The Golfer”

  1. sshay Says:

    Great post, Doc! You kept me glued in to the very end! I can’t wait for the rest of the story.
    I played 4 1/2 holes one time before I threw in the towel, but my dad plays and his wife is an avid golfer. My SIL plays weekly when the weather’s warm. Even has pink clubs and her own golf cart that’s street legal so she can drive to the course from her home, which is about a half mile away.
    One of these days I’m going to try it again.
    Maybe.
    BTW: The preachers I know are great golfers (but not pros) because they have so much time to practice. But then, we aren’t Southern Methodists. We’re only Christians.
    Ms. Susan

  2. Ted Lehmann Says:

    Irene thinks you pulled a Dickens trick out of your bag. Remember the folks standing at the dock in New York waiting for the boat to arrive to find out if Little Nell had died or not? Dickens hated America because all his books were pirated here and he never made any money (something very important to him) but folks really cared about what happened to that girl. So do we… Ted and Irene

  3. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Susan,
    I have also found preachers to be talented in many ways. We had one who had spend some time in semi-pro baseball. A favorite ploy was to get these good ole boys from the softball league on base then encourage them to steal a base on the preacher. That rifle arm of his got ’em every time.

    -Dr. B

    Ted,
    I ran out of time today ’cause I am working on an article for my agent, but I will tell more on this Saturday. As far as $$, I guess my writing is much like our old bluegrass saying, “We ain’t having any fun at this, but at least we’re making a lot of money!”

    -Dr. B

  4. mrschili Says:

    Golf really can be a metaphor for life, and I find that it’s a practice in all the things I want to be – patient, consistent, confident, and humble…

  5. drtombibey Says:

    Exactly right, mrschili. I was afraid the women folks wouldn’t dig the golf stories, but you are right on. My wife plays a pretty good game by the way, and if she hadn’t spent all that time raising those babies, she’d be even better.

    -Dr. B

  6. pandemonic Says:

    This is a great story! GREAT! I golf as well-and I’m a woman, last I checked, but I don’t do it out of competition. I golf to get fresh air and try to bang the heck out of a little ball. Oh, and to keep my husband company. I have noticed the kind of golfers you describe, and you do so accurately. I’d just as soon be honest about my 126 than lie and say I got a 99.

  7. drtombibey Says:

    You know, I guess I am getting older, but I enjoy an afternoon nine with my wife just as much as the choose-up with the boys.

    -Dr. B

  8. Ponder Says:

    Oh yes, the Sundays on our track until the sun quits. Some of my favorite times.

  9. drtombibey Says:

    Hit ’em straight Ponder- you’re a good’un. Dr. B

  10. Ponder Says:

    Preacher’s still got the long ball in his bag, as I got to witness it up close in the near past. And brother, I remember that first round with him – the man hitting wedge for his second shot into one of the longest par 4s on the course. Savin’ souls and strokes.

  11. drtombibey Says:

    He is a player, huh? Dr. B


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