This story is about one man’s journey back to Michigan, his homeland, and his adventures in the northwest corner of the mitten shaped Lower Peninsula, right about at the top of the ring finger looking at the back of your left hand, or the palm of your right if you so choose. That’s one of the great things about MI, anyone asks you where somewhere is, you just point to it on your hand. A regular humanoid GPS.
Okay, digression over, back on point. Oh wait, one more thing about the state of MI. The Upper Peninsula resembles a rabbit, once again a ready made direction finding tool. Enough said on that subject, I promise.
Golf is the nucleus of this tale from which particles of energized fancy erupt into reality. The bits of fancy that permeate the story are in part based on actual events. The other bits, those of a more notional nature are purely the product of a woeful soul looking for attention and an outlet for an overactive muse.
All of the characters are fictional except for perhaps Ocho, who in reality is the alter ego of the author; born out of one remarkable round of golf on November 10,2009. On that day the author shot an 86, a truly spectacular achievement for one who couldn’t find a fairway or make a putt all that previous summer. Thus Ocho Seis came to be.
As for the rest of the cast, well I imagine my Hoover buddies are intertwined with them in some twisted fashion.
The Hoovers, for those of you who are blessedly ignorant, is a group of guys who like to golf together. We’ve been mauling courses nationwide for many years now, living up to our creed and motto, “We Can’t Suck Enough.”
- Rocco Ian MacDougal – age 47 born in Dover, DE of an Italian mother and Scottish father. This mixed heritage explains his drinking preferences of Sangria in the morning and Chivas Regal after noon. Took part in many black-ops as an Army Ranger, none of which can he talk about but he has let it slip it that one had something to do with Saddam Hussein. One of the top agents employed by the Sports Management Agency of Dewey, Cheatum and Howe and has Ocho as his top client. Not a golfer, he is here to see to the needs of his employers and his client, in other words he is a high priced gopher this week.
- Samuel Dewey – age 62 born in Ogallala, NE. Graduated from Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute in 1970. His friends call him CR from his earlier career as a corporate raider. Indeed, the founding of DC&H was as a result of a corporate takeover. His business acumen is so sharp that he has been married and divorced three times and has never had to pay a settlement or alimony despite being one of the 50 wealthiest Americans.. He drinks Stoli Elit before, during and after breakfast and switches to Southern Comfort at lunch.
- Vincent Cheatum – 59 born in Piney Green, NC, a little fart of a town just outside of the largest Marine Corps base on the East coast, Camp Lejeune, where his father settled after retiring from The Marines as a highly decorated Master Sgt. After a brief stint as a roadie for The Grateful Dead, Vinny followed his dad’s footsteps and also retired from the Marines as a Gunnery Sergeant, hence his nickname of Gunny. His beverages of choice are Schlitz and Jack Daniels.
- Clyde Howe – 72 born in Altoona, PA. He is a distant relative of Lord Richard Howe, the British commander during part of The Revolutionary War. Graduated from The Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1959 and had a minor role in The Bay of Pigs Invasion. Also, it was his ship that was fired upon by a North Vietnamese patrol boat in the Gulf of Tonkin. The Ancient Mariner, as he is known by, retired as a Rear Admiral. Has always expressed great admiration for the movie, The Big Lebowski so he drinks White Russians day and night. The exception to this is when he brings out a 29 year old Cragganmore single malt Scotch that he sips while smoking Cuban cigars.
- Ocho Seis – 58 born in Detroit, MI. Graduated from Cass Technical High School in 1969. Spent the next few years successfully avoiding military service while honing his athletic skills. Became a devotee of The Loring Mackey Golfing Excellence Method in the mid 1980’s. Despite not mastering all of the technique, (Ocho claims he has been held back in his golf experience because Loring recognized early on that he would be eclipsed by Ocho if he imparted the full measure of his wisdom to Ocho), has gone on to become a powerful force in the golfing community. Founding member of The Hoovers, Ocho is relentless in his pursuit of victory and the perfect cup of coffee.
The Journey Begins
It is 8:00 Sunday morning, May 16, 2010. Ocho has been up all night at his “day” job at the Brown University Data Operations Center and is now on the road to drive 450 miles to a quaint Motel 6 in the middle of Pennsylvania. The weather is delightful, the traffic reasonable and the GPS practically flawless. The miles just fly by as Ocho is entertained by the likes of Flogging Molly, The Pogues and by the ever increasing and impressive insect collection on the windshield. This miasma of arthropod innards that has been streaked across the glass by futile attempts at removal with windshield washer fluid and wipers makes the setting sun look even more colorful and majestic even as it obscures Ocho’s view of the road.
Eastbound on I-80 by 4:00 the next morning, Ocho continues toward his fortune and destiny in the hills and forests of northern Michigan. Ocho will travel great distances to play golf and to have a chance to pick up a trophy for his efforts and for his place in Hoover history. Just as a hawk soars and seeks his prey, so does Ocho rise above the valley of mediocrity in pursuit of victory.. Not for the glory and adulation that results from success does Ocho quest after triumph over evil course designers, inconsistency and his fellow Hoovers. No, dear readers, Ocho approaches his ultimate crowning as Champion of Michigan as a mere, humble man bereft of guile and ego. Of course, it almost goes without saying that Ocho does look forward to the lucrative product endorsements sure to come his way after the coronation. There are those who scoff at the apparent absurdity of Ocho winning The Ocho Does Michigan 2010 Invitational Championship, as they labor under the false assumption that Ocho would be playing alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ocho will be meeting and competing against the owners of his sports management team, Sam Dewey, Vinnie Cheatum and Clyde Howe. They are all scratch golfers so Ocho has his work cut out for him. Also expected but not playing is Ocho’s agent, Rocco Ian MacDougal.
Ocho arrives at his home for the next two days, Odawa Resort Hotel just in time to see his playing companions and Rocco emerge from a rented Hummer limo after flying to Petoskey in the corporate G4 from somewhere in the South Pacific. Rocco goes on ahead and grabs a luggage trolley from the hotel lobby. When he returns with the trolley Sam, Vinnie and Clyde load it up, while Rocco begins wheeling a huge trunk toward the entrance of the hotel. As he passes Ocho, Ocho hears the faint sound of clinking glass emanating from the trunk like the sound of many wind chimes swaying gently on a summer breeze. Ocho doesn’t ask but has a sneaking suspicion of the contents. Some excellent clues are provided by Vinnie as his pockets have the same wind chime sound caused by the empty Jack Daniels nips in them plus he is sporting that florid complexion one obtains from serious imbibing and has the “I Love You Man” expression on his silly grinning face. The partners have been on a serious binge for a week and there doesn’t seem to be any let up likely in the near future. Despite the fact that they are now in northern Michigan in early Spring, they are all dressed in tropical attire, flowery print shirts, cargo pant shorts and sandals and they have all acquired the same tattoo on their right forearms of a near naked woman doing a Hula Dance. “Hey Rocco,” Ocho inquires, “Did you get the tattoo too?” “Nah”, Rocco answers, “My wife would kill me if I came home with that.” Ocho has met Rocco’s wife Caoilainn – (KAY-leen) , a fiery yet petite woman from Galway Ireland. She stands 4′ 10 “ and weighs in at about 105 pounds but she definitely holds sway over her hulking, former Army Ranger husband.
Dawn appears on the first day of the Championship and Ocho watches the sunrise from his hotel window as it shimmers above Little Traverse Bay. Ocho is doubly lucky in the room selected for him. The window looks north toward the Bay that at this point runs west to east thus enabling Ocho to not only watch the morning’s rising but the evening sunset as well. The venue for today, Black Lake Golf Club, is about 45 miles east of Petoskey in Onaway. This course was built for and is owned by The UAW and is a favorite vacation destination of the automotive world but today is host to Round One of the Ocho Does Michigan Invitational Championship. After seeing the condition of the other three players at breakfast, Ocho decides to drive himself and Rocco to the course rather than be subjected to a mini presentation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in the Hummer limo.
On the drive over, Ocho relates to Rocco the strange golf dream he had the night before which he entitled, “Paired with Tiger.”
I am playing in a PGA tournament, not sure which one but as the dream unfolds it is apparent that it is somewhere near a casino. I have been paired up with Tiger Woods and two other pros whom I do not recognize. The round begins innocently enough as I par the first two holes. The fun begins as I tee up at the par three third hole. The hole is all downhill, much like the second hole at Old Salem Greens but the tee box is a small affair and it is with much difficulty that I finally get my ball on a tee within the regulation tee markers. The hole is only 130 yards and is guarded by two huge bunkers that front the green and wrap around to either side. If only I had landed in one of those, but then if I had, this dream wouldn’t be nearly as bizarre. I decide to hit 9-iron. I take a slow methodical back swing and then power through the hitting area. Unfortunately I must have teed the ball a smidgen too high and I hit a weak pop-up that goes about halfway down the hill. It is at this point that the dream turns surreal. The ball bounds down the hill and runs all the way up and onto the green, skirting the gaping maws of the gigantic bunkers. I am now thinking that I have escaped and have a chance to keep the round going in a positive direction….but….the ball does not stop on the green. Instead it continues on it’s merry way and finds the entrance to the casino which has suddenly materialized out of nowhere. The ball rolls down a long hallway that connects a series of rooms containing various casino activities, e.g., slots, poker room, lounges, etc. It finally comes to rest on a narrow shelf on the wainscot that runs halfway up and across one of the walls. At this point I still think I have a shot at getting back to the green but there is another obstacle on the wainscot shelf that the ball has come to rest against and the only way I can hit the ball is to turn over a 6-iron and swing left handed which means I am hitting the ball away from where the green used to be. Naturally, my ball striking ability does not include hitting left handed with a turned over 6-iron on a ball that is resting 3 feet off the ground on a narrow shelf inside a large casino. The ball careens off the floor and exits the hallway and heads towards one of the lounges. Luckily for me, someone closes the door to the lounge just as the ball reaches it and it goes skipping into the slot machine area and rolls under a chair. I decide at this point that I should take an unplayable lie, find my way back to the real golf course, make my drop and continue the round. I look under the chair, and find a ball….it is not mine….but I claim it anyway and begin searching for a way out of the casino. Fifteen minutes later and I have still not found an exit…every turn I make seems to lead back to the original hallway. Finally I come across one of my playing partners and he shows me how to get outside…but not even his directions get me back to the golf course. I am now walking on a dirt road….it is now night and I’m beginning to feel very tired and very concerned that I am holding up my good friend Tiger. Enter the other playing partner (he looks a little like Justin Timberlake) who tells me they have continued on and are now on the 7th hole…but he disappears before telling me how to get there. I walk a little further down the road until I see many pieces of earth moving equipment methodically rearranging the landscape as part of a huge casino renovation project. I really want to wake up at this point…my legs have stopped functioning and I am sprawled out on a grass covered hill overlooking the immense construction site…. it is apparent that I will not finish this round of golf. My last thought before consciousness intervenes (thankfully) is that I have let slip a chance to beat Tiger Woods.
While Ocho takes care of business in the Pro Shop, Rocco is on his phone lining up possible commercial sponsors for Ocho. In fact Rocco is setting up an important meeting with Unilever, the makers of Vaseline and Chapstick and it could be soon that Ocho’s golf bag will be emblazoned with Vaseline on one side and Chapstick on the other. There is also a commercial in the works that will feature Ocho hitting a massive, booming 300 yard drive, and as Ocho turns to the camera Ocho exclaims,
“ If you wanna boom it straight and long like Ocho, lube that club face. Vaseline!! It covers a multitude of golf swing sins.”
The competitors have readied themselves for the first installment of this prestigious event, each one having his own method of preparation. Clyde is meticulous in his application of sunscreen, even on parts of his anatomy that shouldn’t see the sun. He is wearing a naval style ball cap that says, USS Mayhem. His print shirt sports a natty collection of Cuban cigars and like his partners is wearing a pair of plus fours. Not to be outdone, Vinny’s shirt is a handmade, silk affair that has a large grinning portrait of Jerry Garcia on the back and the tassels on his shoes have the Grateful Dead emblem stitched onto them. Sam is slightly more sedate in his attire although his are certainly the most expensive as they were personally designed by Joseph Aboud. The three of them are a modern day caricature of the old Three Stooges golf poster as they stretch and groan their way to the first tee. Ocho settled on one of the two pair of golf pants that still fit as he seems to have expanded his waistline somewhat over the winter. His shirt and cap are official Hoover issue as is his ball mark and Ocho seems to have a much more lively spring in his step as he emerges from the golf cart and saunters confidently to his bag and brings out his secret weapon. While the others are trying to find some equilibrium in their practice swings, Ocho surreptitiously applies generous amounts of lube on his clubs. Rocco, who is not playing but is going to go around with the group, notices Ocho’s activity and asks, “Hey Ocho, that doesn’t give you an unfair advantage does it? That would be cheating.” “Not that I know of”, replies Ocho with a sly smile on his face, “I only use it so I can monitor where the ball connects with the clubface.”
Sam is the first to tee off and blasts a beauty that sails 200 yards out and 100 yards to the right, clanging off of three trees like a pinball machine and finally settles in the middle of the fairway 125 yards from the tee. “You guys are in deep doodoo today, I can feel it”, Sam says while popping the top off of a Stoli nip. Vinny is next and proceeds to pound two drives into the turf in front of him, the first of which never leaves the tee box. “I’ll play the second one.”, chortles Vinny as he fills in the two craters he just created. Clyde is slightly more successful with his drive as he hits a low screamer that is barely two feet off the ground and lands safely, 180 yards away in the fairway. “Guess I should tee it up a little higher. Oh man, I didn’t even have it on a tee. Look at this. I kept the tee in my hand and hit my drive off the turf. I need a drink.”, mutters Clyde, “Rocco!! A fresh Caucasian quick.”
Ocho’s drive is mediocre as he pulled it left into the rough about 190 yards out. Ocho glances at his club and exclaims, “Got that a little on the heel but no worries, I’ve birdied from there.”
“Just think”, mused Sam as Ocho drove the cart to their respective balls, “Two days ago I was on Maui; the beach, the bikinis, the palm trees. Now look where I am. Out in the remote wilderness where grizzlies and wolves are just waiting to snap up a wayward golfer.”
Ocho looked at Sam with bewilderment in his eyes, “Uh Sam? There aren’t any grizzlies in Michigan and the only wild wolves are in the Upper Peninsula.”
“So says you”, exclaimed Sam as he finished off another Stoli, “I ain’t taking no chances. First grizzly I see, I’m firing off a Titleist at his big furry head.”
“Well I guess that’ll keep us safe. Say, with all this traveling and drinking, how are you guys managing the business?”, asks Ocho in a desperate attempt to change the subject.
“Oh hell, that practically runs itself.”, replied Sam, “We have plenty of good assistants to handle the day to day stuff. Fact is we have so many assistant VP’s running around that I can’t fart anywhere at headquarters without the stink hitting at least three of them.”
To render an honest report on the day’s festivities, one merely has to replay the various colorful uses of language employed by our contestants and the various predicaments they find themselves in.
Vinny, from the third fairway, hitting his 5th shot to a 175 yard par 3, “ Semper Fi my ass, hit the ball Mary!!!”.
Sam, has put together a string of four 8’s in a row is standing over a putt of 6 feet that will give him a 7 on the 14th hole. Rocco is standing on the edge of the green holding the flag as Sam begins his stroke. Rocco is taken by complete surprise by the rapid onset of the sneeze and though he tries to stifle it, it still erupts with the sound of a flock of bleating sheep. A sudden burst of flatulence brought on by a huge black bean burrito Rocco had for lunch adds to the bodily symphony. The combination of the two caused Rocco to drop the flag which slammed into the ground just behind Sam a mere nano second before the putter met the ball. When the ball finally comes to rest it has rolled off the false front of the green onto the fairway where it catches another slope and trickles into a greenside bunker. Sam, while visibly agitated, controls himself as he calmly requests that Rocco retrieve his sand wedge and a Southern Comfort nip from his golf bag. Whereupon he makes an incredible shot from the bunker and holes out for his 5th snowman in a row.
Clyde has a shot of 185 yards to clear a large pond that splits the 16th fairway. He puts a good stroke on the ball with his 3 iron-hybrid and gleefully shouts his triumph as the ball flies over the water only to have it veer to the right on the wind where it finds a lone pine tree that swats the ball backwards like Dikembe Mutumbo guarding the basket , it’s branches waving in the breeze eerily reminiscent of Dikembe’s finger waving “Not in my house” gesture, whereupon the ball splashes into the pond.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph” , he screams, “How in the realm of flying monkeys does that happen?”
He goes back to his cart and starts rummaging through his bag. He glances back to Rocco and shouts, “Rocco, didn’t I tell you to pack a chainsaw?”
At the end of the round Ocho was surprised as to how close the scores were considering the amount of alcohol consumed by his competitors. Scratching his head after toting up the numbers for the third time, Ocho turned to the others and exclaimed, “ Well I can see that this is going to be an exciting tournament if today’s outcome is indicative.”
“What the hell did you expect?”, chimed in Vinny, “You think a little booze is gonna affect us!? Why I’ve been way drunker than this before.”, Vinny added just before he stumbled over a curbstone in the parking lot spilling the remains of a can of Schlitz all over his pants.
So at the end of round one of this prestigious stroke play event:
Ocho – 96 +24
Clyde – 103 +31
Vinny – 107 +35
Sam – 114 +42
It was decided, most wisely, that Rocco would drive the Hummer as the three partners were in no condition to drive the 45 miles back to Odawa. Of course by the time they arrived, another batch of nips and not a few Schlitz were consumed. Ocho was actually quite impressed by the fact that they were still conscious and able to function albeit at a somewhat diminished manner. Back at the hotel, Ocho ordered a pizza, watched some of the Tiger game on TV and prepared for a visit to the casino portion of the hotel.
Ocho awoke clear headed and determined, no let down from yesterday’s first place performance, no let down thinking that the other three are too drunk to be good. Clyde and Sam are extremely capable of shooting in the 80’s, and Vinny, although more reckless in his approach to the game, could be the darkhorse in this race.
Ocho took his first sip of coffee. He swallowed and then sighed, “Ahhh!!!! Mother’s Milk.”
“Hey Ocho”, shouted Rocco as he knocked on the door, “I can smell that coffee three doors down. I gotta have me some of that.”
“Come on in and welcome to the humble abode of Ocho”, said Ocho as he poured Vinny a cup of coffee, “How are the Dionysus Trio this morning?”
“Slept like babies for about 4 hours and started drinking again a few hours ago. Man this coffee is great. What is it?”, Vinny inquired.
“It’s the best on earth. From Nicaragua a bean called Maracaturra I get it from a roaster in California, run by a couple old hippies They got some good shit.”, chuckled Ocho.
“You coming with me or do you have to drive my competitors?”, Ocho asked as they made their way to the parking lot.
“I’m with you. I checked with Sam and he very pointedly told me that he was sober as a newborn and was very capable of handling the Hummer. So we can be on our way to your first taste of the week of some Scottish style golf. Too bad it ain’t raining.”, Rocco said in a thick Scottish brogue and a big grin on his Italian face.
Dunmaglas Golf Club, nestled on the outskirts of Charlevoix, MI was the site of the Second Round. Ocho had played here two years ago and had fond memories of scoring two consecutive birdies, a rarity for any Hoover.
And as Rocco mentioned, a bit of links style today. Not a lot but there are 4 or 5 holes here that qualify.
Today started out much differently for the alcohol challenged trio as they were playing what we would call Hoover golf and which is two steps above what they were playing yesterday. There was nary a snowman, in fact there were few scores above double. This in spite of the same hit and guzzle technique employed at Black Lake. Ocho, however, was having difficulty finding his game. The first three holes were triple, double, double and it looked like he was going to be challenged after all. His cart mate for the day Vinny was indeed making a run while posting a 44 on the front nine while Clyde fared even better with a 42. Sam, sober as a newborn or not was interchangeably brilliant or horrendous and managed a 47 and even that beat Ocho’s 49.
At the turn, hot dogs in hand, Ocho and Vinny sat in the cart watching the group in front of them smash four drives in a most Hooverish fashion. All four found the woods, two to the left and two to the right and in keeping with one of the unwritten rules of cart golf each cart had one on either side.
“Could be a long back nine if they keep that up”, said Vinny, “I prefer a faster pace. Too much time means more time for thinking and that is never good. Hand me another Schlitz. Will ya Ocho?”
“Certainly Mr. Cheatem, anything else? Your humble client lives to serve.”
“Yeah right, you trolling for more endorsements?”, smirked Vinny, “My partners already think I’m too soft on you. They even think I may throw this match to keep our current big breadwinner happy.”
An impish grin on his face Ocho replied, “ Oh no Vinny, that will never do. You and the other partners keep playing the way you are and things will sort themselves out. We’ll no doubt see the resulting honesty of all your efforts.”
Highlight reel of 2nd round:
Sam on the 7th hole. Off in the distance crossing the fairway is a flock of wild turkeys. Sam who is no longer close to being sober as a newborn screams excitedly, “ I see a grizzly, Rocco get me my driver and a new Titleist quick.” Before anyone can stop him, Sam has teed up a ball in the right hand rough next to where his drive ended up. “Fire in the hole. Take this you mangy beast.” He blasts what is probably the best shot he has hit so far this week and sends the birds scattering in four directions. “Yeehah, look at that. I blew the sucker up.”
Another gem from Sam. This time at the par three 12th where Sam has come up short with his tee shot and his ball now lies at the bottom of a pond, “Ride ’em hard and put ’em away wet! That’s my motto. Where’s the flying monkey butt drop area? Rocco, meet me there with a fresh Stoli.”
While it is safe to say that Ocho was not in top form on this day, he did manage to bag one birdie. A perfect 225 yard drive followed by a career defining 200 yard 3-wood left Ocho with a short chip and a 15 foot putt for the bird. “Wow, for one hole you really knew what you were doing.”, razzed Rocco, “If you ever get to the point where you can string a bunch of those up in a round, we can make some serious cash.”
Not to be outdone, and to prove that sobriety is not a prerequisite for good golf, Clyde scored consecutive birds on 12 and 13 while Vinny reeled off 3 pars in a row to begin the back nine.
The tally after two rounds has Clyde vaulting into first by two strokes over Ocho. After the scores were tabulated, Clyde looked at Ocho and said very seriously, “I think you need to start drinking, well at least I need to keep drinking. Rocco, time for another of your fabulous Caucasians.”
Clyde – 103/86 +45
Ocho – 96/95 +47
Vinny – 107/91 +54
Sam – 114/96 +66
A change of locales for the next two rounds as Ocho and the others are headed to Manistee, a quiet little town sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan. Last year, Ocho was subjected to a series of rolling thunderstorms that kept tumbling into town from out over the dark lake, piercing the night with sharp jagged light. Fortunately this year the weather was quiet and peaceful. Ocho drove himself from Petoskey as Rocco was needed to drive the three amigos. Sam still insisted he was okay to drive but decided he needed more time for draining nips than for negotiating two lane roadways dotted with the occasional lumber or farm truck.
The rest of the day and evening was merely a microcosm of mankind’s not so illustrious history. The partners were renting a 5 star condo; Ocho was staying in a Super 8 Motel. That night in the casino, Sam and Clyde were both big winners, while Vinny was able to walk out with more than what he started with. Ocho, on the other hand was not so lucky, thereby pointing out the irony of the whole situation which is the rich keep winning , the peasants lose. Jesus never said truer than when he stated that the poor will be with us always. He had already learned 2000 years ago that the way things were, always have been and always will be. Ocho thought these things as he figured his losses for the night.
The next morning finds Rocco once again freed from the alcohol soaked trio and drives with Ocho to Heathlands. While on the way to the course, Ocho tells Rocco of his recurring Augusta dream.
THE AUGUSTA DREAM
Sports have been an important part of my life both as a spectator and as a participant for as long as I can remember. In fact one of my earliest recollections from childhood is watching baseball on an old 15 inch black and white T.V. in the mid-fifties. My youth was filled with sports activities including baseball, football, basketball and roller hockey. By far my favorite was baseball and it is interesting that when it comes to dreams, the ones about baseball are more like daydreams of plays that I’ve made or important hits that I got rather than the more chaotic and muddled dreams about basketball or the sport of my adulthood, golf. I still relish in my mind the screaming one hopper down the third baseline that I backhanded like I was Brooks Robinson and threw out the batter by a wide margin. This is just one example of a baseball remembrance. The other side of the coin is how I dream about basketball. In this recurring dream I am playing like an NBA Hall of Fame inductee except for the fact that I cannot hit a shot to save my life. Nothing goes in; even shots that are halfway through the net come out, repelled by some unknown force.
My golf dreams are beauties. They are pretty much the same dream with some variations. They all take place at Augusta National except that the actual holes look nothing like the ones at Augusta. To be honest, I think I’m always at the same hole but there are different obstacles to contend with. It’s like I’ve incorporated Robin William’s golf routine into my dream world. In an exaggerated Scottish brogue he explains how golf was invented and that just hitting the ball into a hole with a crooked stick wasn’t enough; there has to be all sorts of stuff in the way. This dream always begins with me looking at the results of a tee shot, never the tee shot itself. My ball lies snuggled in a very deep patch of rough even though I may actually be in the fairway. It wouldn’t matter if the lie was good though, as I am always stymied by a stand of large trees that seem to spring up as soon as my ball comes to rest in the patch of rough that grows up around my ball. At this point the dream goes in different directions. One time, I didn’t even play my second shot, I just got back in my golf cart to drive to the next hole but even this seemingly simple task becomes convoluted as I find myself driving around the streets of Augusta looking for the next tee box. The most amusing scene, however, is when I decide to hit the shot. In this rendition I decide to go for the green regardless of the huge pine trees in my path. As my ball starts to climb it somehow turns into a rock and not just any rock but one that is the size and shape of a brick as it clears the trees. At this point the flight path changes and the ball/rock veers off to the left in a wicked hook (as my golf buddies will attest, I never hit a draw/hook in real life) and in mid-flight transforms in to a duck. As the ball/rock/duck passes over the green, the hook becomes more pronounced and now the flight path is back towards me and passes over my head and falls into a pond behind me. Our intrepid hero in this Hoover Tale, is unfazed by this turn of events. In fact, if you were to ask him about it, he would reply that this happens all the time and is considered routine in his universe. The next thing that happens is that I am standing at the pond looking for my ball/rock/duck that at this juncture is still a duck, albeit a dead one floating on pond scum. Making a wise decision, I proceed to drop a ball in front of the pond rather than try to make a play on the dead duck. I am now lying three as I take a mighty swing to begin the process of getting over the trees that have followed me to the pond front. This time the ball remains a ball as it soars over the pines and turns abruptly left again but this time charts a course for a bridge that is on the next hole over. There are people sitting on the rock wall that serves as the bridge railing as my ball comes falling into their midst like a mortar round and their reaction is to dive for cover into the creek. As I get into my cart to drive to the scene of the crime; oh by the way the cart is not a standard issue golf cart but is a cross between a golf cart and a large plastic football helmet complete with a face guard serving as the front end and enough room in the back for 6 sets of clubs; I am once again whisked away from the course itself and am driving the streets of Augusta.
Heathlands, the site of Round Three, has more of a Scottish feel to it than the prior courses.
The three lushes are beginning to show signs of rapidly deteriorating ability, Clyde being the only one who still showed some semblance of sobriety but at least they were all able to put a ball on a tee without pitching forward on their faces. Sam and Vinny seem to alternate between silly grins and spasms of distress but despite it all were still able to stock the three coolers, two for the golf carts and one for the Hummer.
Some of the day’s more entertaining moments:
Clyde at the 2nd hole, a 145 yard Par 3. He pops up his tee shot and watches it settle in the rough between the middle tee box and the forward one, a shot of about 30 yards. When he reaches his ball he realizes that he didn’t hit it the requisite distance to clear the ladies tee box. Immediately he undoes his belt and drops both shorts and boxers, bends over, slaps himself on a butt cheek and shouts, “This is why I lather SPF30 on my ass.”
Rocco, whispering in Ocho’s ear says, “Twas bound to happen. He sometimes ends up mooning a course a couple of times a round. Created quite the scene at Bethpage Black a few months ago. The beverage cart girl was standing there, took one look at Clyde and yelled, “Never up, never in, old timer.” While re-clothing and without missing a beat, Clyde harkening back to his naval days, replied, “A firm hand will right the ship young lady.”
When we finally regained our composure the cart girl gave us all a free beer and Clyde a slow, lingering, lascivious kiss. When Clyde finally came up for air, he adjusted his crotch and exclaimed, “It seems a soft mouth will right the ship as well.”
Vinny at the par 3 15th that is fronted by a pond. His tee shot, a majestic 7 iron appears to be on the stick and then a breeze, at first a gentle kiss and then a tongue down the throat gust that catches the ball and tosses it back into the pond. Two more sleeping with the fishes later, he declares, ‘put me down for an 8, I know when I’m beat.’
Sam at the 18th, a 560 yard par 5. After driving his ball 150 yards into the left rough, Sam looks at the downhill shot he is faced with. In the distance near the green he spies a large shape moving on the fairway. He shouts, “A bear!”, and before anyone can stop him he begins launching Titleist after Titleist at the “bear”. Just as he was ready to fire off his fourth one, Ocho reaches him and grabs Sam’s club. “Sam, that’s one of the grounds crew on a riding mower.” Sam, a very confused look on his face says, “Huh? Oh, I was wondering why the bear was eating the grass.”
Ocho – 96/95/95 +70
Clyde – 103/86/110 +83
Vinny – 107/91/113 +95
Sam – 114/96/115 +109
Having cleaned up after the day’s round, Ocho decides to give Little River Casino one more chance to help balance the disparity between the rich and Ocho. As Ocho drives the few miles from the motel to the casino he is reminded of the last time he was here. It was a real stormy night as wave after wave of thunderstorms rolled in from over Lake Michigan. It was quite the audio and visual experience to say the least. At some point during the night, a bolt from the cloudburst hit something sensitive and blew out the power to the whole town including Ocho’s motel. The emergency lighting only lasted 30 minutes or so and then the building was plunged into total dark. Ocho had to resort to using his cell phone light to find the bathroom. When dawn reluctantly released enough light, Ocho ventured to his car and made the drive to Little River Casino in a desperate hope to find light and a cup of coffee. The brightly lit marquee in the distance seemed to Ocho to be an oasis in a landscape plunged into darkness, a beacon of hope, drawing towards it like moths to a flame, the scarred survivors of the epic thunderous battle in the skies.
Tonight, however, the skies were clear and as Ocho entered the casino, he spotted Rocco looking at the playbill for the night; VOID – First Time in 35 Years – Echoes From The Void Reunion Tour
“Void? They’re playing here tonight?”, Ocho exclaimed, “I remember those guys from the 70’s, a basement band from Detroit. Put out a couple albums, Void Where Prohibited and Into the Void.”
Rocco smacks his forehead and says, “Yeah, now I remember the name. I found some stuff of theirs on YouTube. Funniest damn video of a concert outtake, the lead singer, Paul Bunyan or something like that, was doing a Roger Daltrey microphone twirl and it hit the guitarist in the head. Best part was the mike got caught up in his afro like hairdo and wouldn’t come out. So while they’re working on extricating the the mike, the bass player picks up his acoustic guitar and begins singing some original Dylanesque tunes. The one I recall was called Heavy Thighs.”
“I loved that tune.”, replied Ocho, “They released it as the B Side of their single from Where Prohibited. The A Side was a great cover of Behind Blue Eyes. We have to check these guys out. By the way where’s our erstwhile trio of excess?
“They said they were going for a drive in the countryside”, Rocco said as he scratched his head, “I don’t foresee anything good coming from that but we’ll see.”
Soon the sounds of tuning instruments got them moving to the stage area where they found 10th row seats
right in the middle. Ushers were handing out a concert brochure that had brief bios of the principals:
Lead Guitar – Tony C. Sunburst Strat with double Humbucken pickups
Bass and Acoustic Guitar – Ted Czuk – A noble faired, long haired, leaping gnome.
Lead Vocals, percussion and tale teller – PB
The group on stage was a collection of past their prime, old farts who were just happy to be still living the dream. Tony still displayed nimble fingers as they flitted along the strings and neck of the Strat. His once towering afro, however, had been reduced to the tonsure of a novice monk. Ted, now four knee surgeries later, was not quite the leaping gnome of yesteryear. Most of the original material done by the band was written by Ted, including the aforementioned hit Heavy Thighs. PB, always a Daltrey wannabe has had to curtail his mike swinging due to arthritic shoulders.
The set was a good mix of Ted’s stuff and some killer covers. As the concert progressed, more and more of the patrons abandoned slot machines and Blackjack dealers and joined the happy throng singing along or dancing in the aisles. They were all drawn by the magic of the music and the moment as Void drew upon deep inner resources, mystifying one and all. They finished the set with a spellbinding Stairway to Heaven and as PB’s last Heaven faded into the aether, the crowd erupted in joyous rapture. Ocho and Rocco were on their feet, holding lighters above their heads, shouting, “Behind Blue Eyes, Behind Blue Eyes!!” Soon the whole crowd reverberated the cry, pleading for one more echo from the void.
As the band reappeared, PB shouted, “WOW!! With apologies to The Eagles, we just wanted to let you know that Void never split up, we just took a 35 year vacation.”
The encore consisted of two songs, Ted, coaxing love out of his blonde on blonde acoustic, did Heavy Thighs. Behind Blue Eyes, you ask? It was glorious, simply glorious.
That night after the three intrepid imbibers had won a few more dollars at the casino, they decided to do something exciting. All the driving around in the countryside had instilled in them a deep desire to experience some of what nature has to offer and the adventures one can have when away from the conformist corporate world. So we find them traipsing around in the dark, in the woods with only one flashlight as they tramp a path through the nettles and ferns to the pasture where their quarry lies. They are on a mission, they are out to do some cow tipping. Now as they were stumbling around, they were startled by the hooting of a great horned owl. Vinny nearly pissed his pants while Sam and Clyde clung together fumbling for another nip. Once they realized they were in no danger the journey to find the pasture continued. Finally they emerged from the woods and found that the cows were way over on the other side of the clearing except for one hunched over shape that Sam spied about fifty feet away, “Come on boys”, Sam whispered, “I got one over here.”
The black bear was rooting around in a large compost pile consisting of mostly hay and cow pies and as yet was unaware of the intruders. It was the swish of the Schlitz can being opened by Vinny that alerted her to their presence. “Damn it Vinny! Now we’re all gonna die!”, screamed Clyde, as the bear rose up on her hind legs. The three of them all turned to run. Sam and Clyde tripped over each other and fell into another one of the cow pie piles falling on their backs in the still moist mixture while Vinny did a header into a steaming heap the bear had left a few minutes prior. Meanwhile, the bear took one look at the chaos, snorted once derisively and ambled off.
Returning to the Hummer they toweled themselves off as best they could and flung the manure caked golf towels into the rear of the Hummer where they would stay all night leaving a redolent rustic odor that was sure to please the rental car company. The drive back to the condo was made with all the windows down and the roof open. Clyde and Vinny took turns standing up through the roof and Sam drove a good portion of the way with his head out the driver side window. The experience had started to sober them up so they fell to with a furious relish to restart the process. Indeed, the amount of booze consumed that night was the stuff of legends. Nips were popped open at a prodigious rate, none of them caring what they were drinking. Clyde, feeling generous even opened his cache of single malt scotch for all to enjoy.
The next day dawned cloudy but calm as Ocho prepared for the day’s festivities at Arcadian Bluffs. Ocho was in the middle of his daily routine of practice swings in front of a mirror when Rocco came in the room. “You can stop your practicing Ocho, the other three ain’t gonna be golfing today”, Rocco informed him. “Let me paint you a pretty picture. I told you about their little drive in the countryside last night. Drunken fools went out to take part in the rural tradition of cow tipping and came back in quite the mess.”
As Rocco relayed the story of the three lushes and the bear, Ocho sat back, and it was all he could do to keep his coffee from squirting out of his nose. “I’ve got to see this,” said Ocho, so they headed over to the condo. All three of the partners were lying around unconscious in the living room. Clyde, one hand curled around a long ashed cigar butt, the other cradling an empty bottle of 29 year old Cragganmore Scotch against his naked chest. Vinny, his face dotted with the remnants of bear leavings that have caked and dried out giving him a slightly poxed look. Sam is no longer sober as a newborn but he is now as naked as one as sometime during the night he shed his boxers and wrapped himself in a bath towel which had become unraveled thus revealing his package for all who cared to look. Boxes of half eaten pizzas were strewn throughout the room one at Sam’s feet where one piece, acting as a cheesy bunion pad, is stuck to the bottom of his right foot, while the left one has a mushroom stuck between his toes.
Suddenly Clyde awakes with a lurch knocking the cigar ash all over the front of his boxers. He takes a quick look around the room, exclaims, “Well those two are still passed out, I guess I win.”, and immediately passes out again. “See what I mean,” Rocco said, “No sense in trying to rouse them. They’re not gonna regain consciousness for a while, besides, they’re all out of nips and Vinny told me last night that he doesn’t have the courage to open another can of Schlitz. He’s already having flashbacks that break him out in a cold sweat.”
Arcadian Bluffs, without a doubt one of the most scenic, unique and challenging courses that Ocho has ever played rating right up there with Caledonia and Prestwick in SC and Arrowhead in CO. The course, a pure links style with few trees is nestled among and on a series of bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. Every hole is rolling terrain, hills, mounds and a hodgepodge of nooks and crannies everywhere. Stray just a bit off the fairway and you could find yourself in a variety of troublesome predicaments. Tall wispy grass that grabs the hosel of your club as soon as you pull it from the bag. Precarious sidehill lies on one of the many mounds that dot the landscape. Some conjure up visions of the step pyramids built by The Mayans and the brutal sacrifices performed on them. A great example is #11, a huge pyramidal mound of impenetrable gorse that overlooks the left side of the fairway. It has six bunkers embedded along the top and the side that faces the fairway. One of Ocho’s playing partners hit his ball onto that fiendish hill and it came to rest on the slope just below one of the bunkers. His stance was in the bunker with the ball so far below his feet that it is a miracle that 1. he hit the ball and 2. he didn’t keel over face first down the slope. Not only did he hit the ball, he did not fall over and he put the ball on the green…this was from about 135 yards out. One of the most amazing shots that Ocho ever witnessed. Naturally a few holes later the golf gods got him back … one of those greens that has a severe false front. Ocho was dumbfounded and not just a little embarrassed for the poor guy as shot after shot rolled up the slope only to fail to reach the apex and roll impudently back to his feet. Took him five tries, got to give him credit though, the club never left his hands in anger flung.
Rocco waxed nostalgic the whole day, humming or singing old Scottish melodies. “Aye, I feel a wee bit at home”, Rocco said between bites of a hot dog after a front nine of treacherous beauty.
“Can you imagine what this course would be like if the wind was up? Playing in calm conditions is hard enough”, posed Ocho.
“Aye”, replied Rocco, “Exposed as this place is on top of the bluffs and the usual stiff breeze off Lake Michigan, ‘twould be a grand time indeed.”
Ocho: “By the way, when is the last time you were in Scotland?
Rocco:“Never been actually, but it’s in me blood and in me soul. This place is just bringing it to the surface for a bit.”
Looking a bit bedraggled and not just a little hungover, the partners lurched and stumbled their way to the still very aromatic Hummer. Ocho was waiting, albeit upwind, by the limo with travel mugs filled with very strong Maracaturra. After mumbling a heartfelt but barely intelligible thanks, Sam clapped his hands and announced, “let the festivities commence.”
In what will go down as one of the most bizarre trophy presentations in history, Rocco, dressed in tartan plaid kilts, solemnly and slowly marched toward Ocho and the others. He held the trophy with both hands and when he reached Ocho he raised it above his head, turned and bowed to the four directions. Stepping in front of Ocho he knelt and presented the trophy to Ocho. As Ocho grasped it to his breast, Sam, Vinny and Clyde fell to their knees, bowed their heads and proclaimed in one voice,
`“All Hail Ocho, King of the Hoovers, Vanquisher of the Mighty, Master of Michigan. Endless praise to Ocho, Bringer of Superlative Commissions. May your endorsements be plentiful and your largesse immeasurable. All Hail Ocho.”
Then as if on cue a thunderous roar from overhead as a formation of fighters from some base in Wisconsin streaked across the sky, dipping a wing in unison in tribute to Ocho. A marching band materialized and began playing Hail to the Victors Valiant . The pretty drum majorette stepping lively to Ocho where she gave him a big kiss and a packet of congratulatory cards and letters from statesmen and dignitaries worldwide. A sample:
- Bill Clinton – “Play with you anytime…bring some babes.”
- Bill Murray – “Ocho, you are the real Cinderella story. Give me a call, we’ll do Pebble.”
- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – ‘Don’t bring that infidel shit over here pal.”
- Margaret Thatcher – “Oh to be 40 years younger, I’m so wet.”
- Castro – “Have a cigar senor. Come down, we’ll talk.”
- Unilever(makers of Vaseline) – “ Congrats. Keep it lubed.”
- Kevin Costner – “That was just so neat. I’m so wet.”
- DAR – “Always up and always in. Way to putt Ocho!”
- Joe Castiglione – “Can you believe it?”
- Jeff Bridges – “You are The Dude. Do you bowl?”
- Julius Caesar – “Veni, vidi,vici – Ocho my son, you are a Caesar among mortals.”
- Charlie Harper – “You got wood.”
- Tiger Woods – “Ocho, you wanna hang? I could use some good karma about now.”
- Rick, Jimmy, Joe, Loring and Bob – “Give us a fucking break!!”
The festivities concluded, the partners piled into the Hummer with Rocco at the wheel. They are headed to their individual palatial estates to dry out for a couple weeks before heading across the Pond for a Scottish golf trip. No sheep will be safe, the desecration of St. Andrews is imminent. As for Ocho, he is headed home, driving the long way by himself, alone with his thoughts, memories and dreams for the future. Glancing over to the Ocho Does Michigan Invitational Championship trophy that is belted into the passenger seat, Ocho has a vision. Ocho’s story must be told on the big screen in cinematic glory. It will be co-directed by Ron Howard and Oliver Stone. The cast will feature Robin Williams as Ocho, Brad Pitt as Rick, Robert Duval as Loring, John Goodman as Jimmy, Danny Devito as Joey and Jeff Bridges as Bob. April Bowles, Kandi from Two and a Half Men, will add elements of lust,nudity and sex in a scorching scene with Ocho that will most certainly not make the final edit. Cameo appearances by Bill Murray, Tommy Lee Jones, Charlie Sheen, Diane Lane and Margaret Thatcher as ‘The Groupie’. Introducing Matt Storey as Ocho’s protege. Screenplay by Larry McMurtry and shot in exotic locations across the globe, Myrtle Beach, SC, Manistee, MI and Olde Salem Greens. Produced and distributed by Can’t Suck Enough Production Company, Ltd.
The countryside looms ahead even as it hastily retreats and as Ocho finally crosses into MA., he experiences a transformation. Ocho begins to recede into the dream world in which he resides. A mere figment of reality conjured up when needed to provide a lift from the mundane toils of everyday life. Ocho is PB once again. He is home, well until the call of the road beckons once again with new adventures.
Disclaimer and Acknowledgments
- The author would like to thank the staff at Arcadian Bluffs for cleaning his windshield whilst he hacked up their beautiful course.
- For all you ‘Go Green’ types – all empty nips and Schlitz cans were properly recycled so they can be remade into something else that someone else will discard carelessly at a later date.
- All divots and ball marks were repaired.
- No Hoovers were hurt or injured in the writing of this story.
- Movie trivia fact – the Homeric love scene between Ocho and April was shot in Hoover Gulch.
- Many thanks to my buddies, The Hoovers for the ongoing inspirations you provide. I love you guys.
- ‘A masterpiece, can’t wait for the sequel’ – Manistee Gazette
- ‘An immortal tale of mortal man and morals’ – Petoskey Daily Shopper
- ‘Funniest golf saga since Caddyshack’ – Hackers Illustrated
- ‘xxxxx censored xxxxx’ – from Margaret Thatcher’s book, “The Groupie Remembers” , a NY Times bestseller and #1 on Amazon.