Archive for the ‘golf stories’ category

My Boy and a Hot Dog Bet

September 22, 2010

        In many ways my boy are I are a lot different. He’s a young strong thing, and I’ve got some age on me and I’m well, let’s say, distinguished. He rebuilds hot rod engines and I take my truck to “the man” for regular service. He flies helicopters and I get motion sickness on the Tilt-A-Whirl.

        But in many ways we are the same. A long time ago I read the best thing you could do to raise a boy was treat his mama with respect. He’s not a bit afraid to greet you with a hug around the neck and tell her (or me) he loves you.

        I used to tell him, “Son, you can run faster than me and jump higher; you’re stronger and can outdrive me fifty yards on the golf course. But, there’s one thing you’ll never catch up with me in- WISDOM!” He’d act like it made him mad, but he went along. It wasn’t true, but he knew you have to give the old man credit for something besides just paying the bills.

        We played a lot of golf together when he was growing up. Neither of us were into the fancy places, but preferred these beat-up little munis where they had the “serve yourself” hot dogs on a rotary contraption in the pro shop right behind the golf glove display. I covered the costs, (I figure the kids are just starting out and it’s a treat for them to get to do some fun stuff) but we had a standard bet; if I out-drove him even once in the round he had to pay for the hot dogs.

        By the time my son was fifteen he could out-drive me forty yards. At first he’d carry on about it, but after a couple of years it was clear the torch had passed and he’d semi-apologize. I guess he began to realize time wasn’t go turn backwards, and it wasn’t ever gonna be the same again. It got to where he didn’t brag anymore, but instead I’d notice he’d ask if my last check up was okay. By the time he was twenty it was rare for me to collect on the hot dog bet.

        About a decade ago we played his home course in the mountains. He pounded it all day. (It’s hard to keep up with a young’un who hits a five iron 200 yards.) The last hole was a short par four; only 300 yards.

        “I drove the green last week,” he said. He rared back and hit a high draw. It was pretty solid, but he caught it in the toe a bit. It landed in the rough and stopped on two bounces about 275 yards out.

        I surveyed the situation. The hole was downhill, and it had been a dry summer. I tapped the ground with my foot. The grass crinkled under my shoe, and the ground was hard. Hm. Might get some roll. I teed it up and waited just a moment. A breeze came up at our back. I took my chance, bowed up, and gave it all I had. It was my best hit all summer. The ball flew about 250 with a low hook, then began to bounce. One, two, three, four; it kept trickling along the dry ground down the hill. We couldn’t tell.

        We walked down there and sure enough I’d gotten by him about two feet. He laughed like a small child. As soon as we holed out he tore off for the pro shop and got out his wallet. “Two hot dogs all the way,” he said. As I walked in he pointed me out. “See that gray-haired rascal? He out-drove me on eighteen. Can you believe that?”

       The pro smiled. You know what I said about wisdom? Dang if the boy ain’t catching up with me in that too. The good news is he’s smart and doesn’t tell anyone. You’ve got to give the old man in the family something to hang onto. One of these fine days I’m gonna catch one just right and out-drive him again; just you wait and see.

Dr. B


Bookie (Pronounced Boo-Key)

August 18, 2010

        The best thing about my writing is all the new friends I’ve met. Someone read the golf passages in “The Mandolin Case,” and wanted to introduce me to a character named Boukie (pronounced Boo-Key) Murdock. “Doc,” they said. “I promise you there ain’t but one Boukie in the world. There ain’t another one like him.”

        They were right. Boukie is 6’1′ and about 230. He walks with a limp after a scaffolding collapsed at a construction site in the 80s. He lost his left eye years ago. (It wasn’t a fight; he got hit by golf ball.)

        Here is my warning. Do not be fooled. Boukie is past Medicare age, but still can drive the ball 260 yards. He holds scores of course records and has 13 hole-in-ones. Unless you have played professional golf your entire life I would not play Boukie for more than a  hot dog and I would only do that if you just want to see a good game and buy the man’s lunch.  That swing is as sweet as maple syrup.

        He kinda reminds me of Snookers Molesby. My matches with Snook were just one extended golf lesson for Doc punctuated by a perpetual cheeseburger plan for my old buddy.

        Before I met up with Boukie I did my usual background check. The last time I played the choose-up at River Run I went out to the practice range and asked the boys, “You guys know a cat named Boukie?”

        Snook stopped mid-swing. “Boukie Murdock? Doc, you ain’t gambling are ya?”

        “Naw, Snook. I know better.”

        “Well, it’s a good thing. You’ve got some game, but you can’t hang with Boukie. He’s the only cat within three counties I gotta play straight up. Used to run with that Crump fellow out of Charlotte.”

        “Yeah, I remember Crump. Heck, Trevino only gave him a shot a side when he was in town at Quail Hollow.”


        Boukie is a gambler, but he’s not a hustler. There’s a difference. A hustler tries to sandbag you, and get shots he doesn’t deserve. A gambler will tell you straight up; he wants a money game and he can play.

       Again, don’t bet more than a hot dog. Boukie’s been known to play for a house. And by the way, I wouldn’t play gin with him or shoot pool either. I haven’t seen him shoot pool, but I can just tell. His nephew used to own a pawn shop and pool hall before he retired, and I understand Boukie always hung out there when he wasn’t on the golf course.

          I don’t know everything, but a man is best off to stick to what he knows to make a living. A doctor ain’t gonna whup a guy with one eye named Boukie. I’m glad he’s my friend. 

Dr. B

Aim Towards the Trouble And Fade Away

March 20, 2010

       They say golf has lessons for life.  If nothing else, it is a game where an old guy can hang with a young one if he has enough sense to keep his head on straight.

        We have one hole at River Run that looks straight forward. It isn’t.  You almost can’t hit it far enough right to get out-of-bounds. If you are in by even a foot, the slope will send the ball back towards the fairway.

        There’s only one problem.  If you hit a draw (right to left shot) and over-cook it even a little it will keep going left.  Eight times out of ten the ball will wind up in a deep gully on the left side of the fairway.

        Instead hit a power fade. (left to right)  It is a shot I learned from Martin Taylor. You take dead aim at the hazard and hit towards it. Just as the gully thinks it has lured you in, your ball will take a gentle turn to the right, hit in the fairway, and stop after a couple bounces.  It won’t run away with you ’cause it will be buffered by the same slope that would have led your hook to trouble. (As Lee Trevino once said, you can talk to a fade but a hook won’t listen.)

       I tell you this not to write about golf, but for two reasons. One is to say that golf is indeed much like life. You have to use your brain to negotiate your way around trouble. The other is so when the non-golfer reads “The Mandolin Case” they will understand some passages that might go right by the reader who has never read my blog.  If you’ve been loyal enough to read all my stuff before the book comes out, you deserve a leg up on the others. 

        Yep, golf does reflect life. When trouble comes your way, you have to look it right in the eye and stare it down. Then, like a matador with a cape take a step to the right just at the last moment. The bad guys will crash almost every time.

        At the same time, only let them get a glimpse. Don’t hit close enough for ’em to read the “Titelist” as it goes by. I hit a Martin Taylor fade the other day and wound up center cut. I walked by the gully; tipped my hat, smiled and bid it a good day.

       I’ll have to dodge that gully again and I wasn’t gonna piss it off too bad. No use cussing it if you can dodge it. 

        Oh, I almost forgot to tell you how to hit the shot.  Take your grip and down look at it on the club.  If more than 2 1/2 knuckles show on your left hand, turn it to the left every so slightly.  (Remember golf is like life; backwards. Turn your left hand to the left to hit the ball right, right?) Then set up with your feet pointed left of the sprinkler line.

        Golf’s much like dancing. Think rhythm, as is Lawrence Welk. (A one and a two and a…)  Then all you gotta do is swing along the line of your toes and imagine tossing a bucket of water out to the right and not back over your shoulder. 

        Trust me, the ball will curve from left to right.  Just don’t double cross it. That’s a no-no. That’ll put you deep in the gully and they’ll get you for that every time.

Dr. B

Not a Bad Day (Golf with the Hawg)

November 4, 2009

        I’ll be back with more on the Negotiator next post, but I had to tell you about today first. 

        The Negotiator called first thing in the morning to say he’d struck a fair deal for two parties; his specialty.

        I drew the Hawg in the choose-up; always a good sign.  We played Little League ball together.  Hawg was an athlete, I was a student.  I knew I’d better get good at books as soon as I saw his fast ball.  Thank goodness we were on the same team.  Hawg played AAA ball, I became a doc.  His brother (little hawg) played the PGA tour; Hawg is almost as good at golf as his brother. 

         I was a ‘C’ man today, and shot 79.  I hit one in out of the fairway and made an eagle.  The sun was in our eyes so none of us saw it go in, but it was in the hole when we got to the green.  We barely won the front but Hawg got warmed up and shot four under on the back, and we ran away with it. 

        It’s always good to have good friends.  If the Hawg shows up half drunk, chain smoking, and wobbly, and even if he’s gotta drag around some skinny old country doc who only plays on Wednesdays, still put your money on him; he’s a player.  I took a bunch of mad money home to Marfar and it made her happy.

       I went to the dentist and didn’t have any cavities, reviewed a CD from an artist friend I think a lot of, and came home and read some Mark Twain.       

        Not a bad day.

Better Keep My Day Job

October 18, 2009

        Cuz and I played the Member/Guest this weekend.  Cuz is young and strong and can hit it a ton.  I’m old and well….. at least still strong-willed.  We did well on day one.  With our strokes (6 and 10) we brother-in-law-ed a 62 the first day.  The first day was rainy, cold and muddy.  We never get discouraged in bad weather, and it was to our advantage.  We shared the lead.

        Today we were paired with the co-leaders.  The sun came out and so did the golf game of Joe’s guest.  It didn’t take long to realize this cat could play.  He had a nice compact swing that repeated itself on every pass.  It turned out he was a second alternate for the U.S. Senior Open a few years ago.  We had our hands full.

        We never throw in the towel, but mid way through the second nine we knew we were in trouble.  By the end it was like what Dave Marr said one time.  He was coming down the last fairway trailing Arnold Palmer by six shots.  Arnie turned and said, “Anything I can do for you, Dave?”

         “Yeah.  Break a leg,” Marr laughed. 

        At least he had a sense of humor about it, and we sure did.  I figure when I play golf or music and don’t have to tell anyone they have cancer or their mama died, I’ve had a good day of it.

        By the end of the day we managed a 68.  Joe’s guest shot that on his own ball, and with a little help from Joe and his handicap strokes they turned in a cool 60.

        The sun came out and mid way through the last nine.  I took off my toboggan and donned my old frayed Titleist cap in honor of my old buddy Robert.  I figured just ’cause we were whupped we shouldn’t worry.  He’d say it was just the Lord’s way of telling me to keep my day job.  Come tomorrow I’ll go back to it and be thankful for it.

        But I gotta admit it was fun to be in the lead for a while.  Cuz and I won it a decade ago, and it doesn’t hurt to pretend we are still young even if it is for but a day.

Dr. B

An Old Golf Pal

October 17, 2009

       I met him the first day of med school.  He had on a frayed ‘Titlelist’ hat.  “You play?” I asked.

       “A little.”

       “What’s your handicap?”

       “Med school.”  He laughed out loud.  “”We won’t play much here.”

        “I’m sure you’re right.”

        And we didn’t.  I studied like a wild man, and made a touch better grades, but Robert did well.  He was smarter and didn’t have to work as hard.  He found time to play a few chess tournaments and was a Grand Master kind of player.  He was always laid back.  “We aren’t here forever, B,” he’d say.

        The first time we played I noticed a one iron in his bag.  Lee Trevino always said beware of a man who carries a one iron.  Robert was All-Conference in high school and a good two shots a side better than me.  We always argued over whether I’d get four shots or three for our matches.  Our standard bet was for a hot dog, an important item in med school.  He said I always clipped him, but I recall it was the opposite.  We played a little muni where you could walk for five bucks.  I still recall how good those hot dogs were.  They turned them slow on a rotisserie type cooker in the pro shop, and they had great chili.

        Golf requires at least some time and money.  We had neither, but we played a little anyway.  One time he invited me and Marfar to his folk’s house for the weekend.  They lived in Morehead City, and his mom had connections and got us on at Cherry Point.  We played thirty six holes in one day.  It was a crisp Carolina fall day; his favorite golf weather.   I don’t recall who won and it doesn’t matter.  After the match we went to his mom’s house, and she fed us all.  There were big thick steaks, lobster, baked potatoes, bowls of corn on the cob slathered with butter, and lots of sweet tea.  Mercy.   Afterwards everyone told a bunch of tall tales and played cards.  

        When we graduated, Robert matched in a residency program in Florida.  “I gotta chase the sun just a little B.”  He kept a two handicap and played chess.  He took his time as a Doc; the kind of fellow who’d pull up a chair to listen.  His patients loved him.

        We hadn’t been out of school a decade when Robert got sick.  I heard about it and invited him up to our Member Guest.  At first he protested.  “Man, I can’t help you.  I’ve got no game.”

       “Heck man, after all those hot dogs I had to buy you surely you aren’t gonna turn me down.”

        “Hm. Seems I was the one who bought all the hot dogs.”

        I talked hin into coming. My kids were too young to remember the old days, and were still little children when he visited that weekend.  He brought them presents.  They were taken by this gentle giant who told all the funny stories.  He was 6′ 8″ but had fallen off his old weight by forty pounds.  They could have cared less he wasn’t a player anymore and it didn’t matter to me either, except I hurt for him.

     We played two days, and neither of us acted like anything was different.  We bought our team in the Calcutta, but the boys didn’t run up our price.  He could barely hit it 200 yards, and there was no longer a one iron in the bag.  He sunk a few putts and we’d yell like school boys.  We knew we had zero chance to win, but we didn’t say it.

        A year later he was gone.  I took the train to Florida and played the blues on my mandolin the whole ride.  Robert used to tell me some of his happiest days were in high school on the golf team.  He’d get out of class early and they’d give him a sleeve of brand new Titleists.  He didn’t see how life could be any better.

      I played the Member Guest with Cuz today, and we had a good run of it.  It was cold and rainy and the wind blew.  Some of the guys griped, but I just can’t complain about the weather.  I am sure Robert would have loved to had a few more days regardless of the temperature.  I seldom play a round of golf that I don’t think of my old pal, and cherish every day I have here on Earth. 

       When I came in after my round my nose dripped, my ears were red, and my toes tingled, but Marfar had on a pot of soup and her best steak fries in the oven.  I am certain I will recover without difficulty.  I have no idea why such a good man as Robert has to go so early and leave behind a wife, a child, and a sister he loved so much.  In Heaven, I suspect he has a new sleeve of Titleists every day.  He sure does deserve them.  I had three birdies today, and I bet he had four.  In fact, I bet I’ve already run up a hot dog tab that’ll take an eternity for me to get back to slick again.  (that’s golf talk for even)

        Wait on me old pal, and when I get there I need three a side.  I am sure you’ve had a lot of practice.

Dr. B

Army Golf

September 11, 2009

        First off, let me update you on Australia Sam. They had to put his surgery off till Monday.  I think it was due to exhausted surgeon syndrome.  As much as I know they hate to wait, I’m glad the surgeon was up front.  If he’d been up all night, it’s best to rest and then go again Monday AM.  Y’all keep up the prayers and I will update you then.


        There’s an old joke in golf.  When a man has a bad day and can’t keep the ball in play, we often call it ‘Army golf.’  (You know; “left, right, left right.”)  With that concept in mind I want to open discussions about the human brain.  What makes us work off the left vs. the right side?  More important, how can we learn to tap into both?

        This will take more than one post, but I’m gonna start with golf.

        Once I had a patient who was a brilliant man. He was a true rocket scientist.  I had all respect for him, but he was a hemi-hypertrophied left brain man if there ever was one.

        He’s forever bring me complicated mathematical formulas he’d derived to adjust his Coumadin dose.  The only problem was they didn’t work.  Coumadin adjustment has always been more art than science, a fact that distressed the man to no end.

        When you’d talk to him about blood clots you couldn’t say, “Well brother, think of it like the difference in a river and a mill pond.  All that junk won’t grow on a rapid river but the water on the pond just sits there, and vegetation can fluorish.  Your circulation is slower now, and when that blood pools up it makes for a good place for blood to clot.”

        He’d look at me funny every time.  It was an indication he didn’t know whether to trust a man of science who talk such as that, so I’d proceed to go on and on about the latest theories on endothelial cell dysfunction and platelet aggregation.  Then he was satisfied.  As for me, I liked the mill pond analogy better, but the other was the latest hip thing he might have read in ‘Scientfic American’ and it suited his style better.  It is always best to know your audience, and play their tune.    The only practical value for me was it helped me fill in more correct bubbles on my Boards.

        Anyway, my rocket scientist patient decided he was gonna take up golf.  I advise most folks past fifty who are as left brain-ed as this man to take two weeks off then quit, but he was insistent.  He wanted to come out and watch me hit some balls one day, so I gave in.

        I recalled a surgeon friend who took a stab at the game in middle age.  He was very left brain dominant, and also a man I respected highly; one I would let operate on me or my family in a minute.  After a few tortuous years, one day he threw his clubs down and said, “I’m just too d@#^ smart to play this game.”  The man was right.  He just couldn’t let his right brain take over even for a day.

         My rocket scientist pal joined me on the range one Wednesday.  I was a beautiful sunny Carolina spring day.  A few clouds drifted overhead, and a pilot buzzed around in a Piper Cub.  Some birds rode the wind.

        “Let me warm up,” I said.  I tossed a bit of grass in the air, and made a very rough calculation of the wind, more out of habit than necessity.  I closed my eyes for a minute and tried to recall the old days with Snookers in  high school when we had not a concern in the world.  I began to hit  some wedge shots.

        After my back was limber, I moved on to a driver.  Trust me, I am no great golfer, but as a 7 handicap I can play enough to fool the uninitiated.  I hit a few draws.

       He watched intently for a while, then spoke.  “I notice as you project the ball it tends to ascend and then just before the the apogee it curves from the three o’clock positon back to the mid-line.”

       “Yes sir.  They call is a draw.  When Billy Casper hit the tour his shot was a big draw; more like a hook.  Sam Snead watched him and said,”I know a man can hit a ball like that, but I don’t know why he’d want to.”

       My patient didn’t even hint at a smile and remained in deep concentration.  “I notice the ball has a number of circumferential small indentations.” 

       “Yes sir, they are called dimples.”

       “My interpretation is to achieve the desired trajectory, and for it to be repetitive, one must impart the correct amount of spin by delivering the strike to the ball in a consistent fashion.”

        “Yes sir, something like that.”

        “Hm.  I notice your left thumb is slightly right of a vertical position, approximately three millimeters of deviation from midline.  I assume this results in a slight closure of the striking surface as it contacts the ball.  Is that how you generate the required torque to accomplish this repetitive flight pattern?”

       “Hm. Well not exactly.  I ain’t no great golfer, but I just try to set up a bit closed and think draw.  Sometimes the image of tossing a bucket of water over my left shoulder helps.”

        “Beg your pardon?” 

        Oh yeah, I thought.  I forget he wasn’t that big on a water analogies.  He came out of the space program.

        He stuck with it about two weeks.  The man was retired and had plenty of time on his hands.  I’d go by on my way to work and there’d he be studying that grip and doing his best to calculate a formula that might conquer an impossible game.

        I saw him a month later.  “How’s the golf going?” I asked.

       “I gave it up.  It is not a reasonable game for a man of science.”

        “I agree, John.  I think you’re too d#^%^d smart play that game.”

        He smiled.  We had connected.  He was my patient all the way until he moved to Florida, and brought me scientific articles to read just as regular as some folks bring tomatoes.  They were quite good, and my left brain and his got along fine.  I’m glad he didn’t take up the mandolin though.  Somehow I don’t think it’d a worked out.

Dr. B

Note:  I finished this post before I realized what day it was.  God bless all the victims of 9/11.  -Dr. B

Bones and Bogey

September 8, 2009

        My editor Jenny Lynn got a lot done for ‘The Mandolin Case’ while she was in Harvey County.  As I have mentioned, one of the most important things she did was to convince Bones to tell his part of the story.  When you read the book you are gonna understand.  He was a key player, and if had not consented it just wouldn’t have been the same.

        Perhaps the best benefit of all is it rekindled a relationship between me and Bones.  After ‘The Mandolin Case’ he left Harvey County.  He still won’t give up his whereabouts but at least now he’ll come through every so often to visit.

        I got to play golf with him last time he was here.  He is retired now.  His handicap is two.  I think it might be better than that.  When your traveling handicap is two you are a player.  

        Bones is a tall skinny fellow with bright gray/steel blue eyes and wavy gray hair to match.  He wears a visor and sunglasses, ’cause he’s afraid of cataracts.  The back of his neck looks like shoe leather from the sun.  He says he can’t play like he used to ’cause his back bothers him. 

        Nowadays Bones travels with a little short stout fellow named Bogey.  Bogey is swarthy and might be Mexican.  He wears a tank top, Bermuda shorts, and blue tennis shoes with black socks.  There is a tattoo of a heart and a naked woman on his right shoulder.  

        These guys have read too much about Titanic Thompson, the great golf hustler.  Bogey only carries four clubs, a driver, a putter, and also a shovel and rake.  (He says he keeps up Bones’ garden)  He wears a cast on his left arm but says it is half-way healed.  They’ll bet fifty dollars he can play three holes with what he has in his bag and not make more than a bogey.  

        Bones changed after the Mandolin Case.  Before that I always thought he was just a nice Southern boy.  Now he has the heart of a gambler.  He plays fair and he is 100% ethical, but I wouldn’t bet against him.  It’s like Martin Taylor said, “Always fear the nice guys.”  (I still fear and respect Martin too.)  

        I have to go to work.  I promise I’ll tell you more about the exploits of Bones and Bogey later.  You will enjoy getting to know them.

Dr. B

Putting Practice With Arnie

June 11, 2009

        When I was a kid, Arnold Palmer was our hero.  We paid extra attention to the Masters in the even years, ’cause he always won then.  We were mad they hadn’t kept the PGA a match play event.  Everyone knew no one could beat Arnie one-on-one.

        Mr. Palmer turns 80 on September 10.  The USGA has set up a message board so anyone can send him a birthday greeting and a favorite Arnold Palmer memory.  Given that Arnie has answered every piece of fan mail sent his way since 1950 something, I thought that was the least we could do.  I sent in one about putting practice with Arnie.  If y’all have some favorite Arnie stories, I hope you will send them in too.

        The link is:

        Here is my blip on his radar:

        An imaginary sports announcer droned in the background.  “Folks it’s Arnold Palmer to win the Masters.  This crowd is hushed.”

        I’d stand over the putt knock-kneed, as much like Arnie as I could.  I’d draw back and putt, and then agonize.  Was it gonna go in?  Plunk!  “Yes. Yes!  Arnold wins again!!”  the announcer would shout. 

        Then I’d putt another ball.  This time it was Casper.  The announcer would speak again.  “Billy Casper for the Masters, folks.”  If the ball got ready to drop, the imaginary announcer suddenly would say, “Wait. Wait a minute… No, sports fans.. I’ve made a mistake!  That was Arnie.  It was Arnie!  Arnie wins again.” 

        I made a bunch of putts and I missed a bunch too, but in my putting practice Arnie never lost.

Dr. B

Lousy Golf and a Good Woman’s Love

April 22, 2009

        If y’all have never heard John Cowan sing ‘A Good Woman’s Love,’ you need to.  I don’t see how a man could take his wife for granted if he listened to it real close.  When Cowan wails out that one, I feel his pain.  The old boy would be lost without her.

        I played golf today.  It was a lousy 83 in a twenty-five mph wind, but we won a three way split on the back nine.

        I always put my winnings on the table.  “How’d you do?”  Marfar asked.

      “83,” I mumbled.   “Fifteen bucks is all we won.”

       “83 in that wind?  I think that’s great.  I’ll take Betty Jo to lunch tomorrow.  I’m gonna tell her you’re the best.”  She picked up the three fives off the table, put them in her pocket, and kissed me on the cheek.

       I brightened up.  Maybe I’m too old to rassle the rangatang at the County Fair or even hit that bell with the sledgehammer and win her a teddy bear, but she’s smart enough to know I still need to have a little bit of boy in me and bring home something for my girl.

         Maybe fighting the elements on the links to bring home lunch money ain’t the same as a caveman who bags a woolly mammoth, but it’s all I’ve got.  Thanks goodness she lets me pretend.  It beats the heck out of checking in to the Nursing Home just yet.  

         I guess we all interpret music based on our personal soundtrack, but when I hear John sing that one, I know he has to be referring to my Marfar.  Just has to be; ’cause there ain’t another one like her.

        Somehow I feel good about not breaking 80 today.   If she thinks it’s good, it must be so. 

Dr. B