I had been divorced for about a year when I met her, and sensed trouble immediately. Ignoring the shipwreck which surely lay ahead, I embarked upon a reckless, hedonistic journey in flight of broken dreams. Cheery intro to a golf article, huh?
How does that relate to golf? For me, it relates perfectly in that ignoring the warning signs of pending shipwrecks has always played a pivotal role in my shot selection strategy on any given round.
So, it was only fitting that the two came together (flaming redheaded, high maintenance, now ex-girlfriend and golf) one afternoon out at the beautiful Running Y Resort in Klamath Falls, Oregon, many years ago. (Note: I fully acknowledge the ubiquitousness of high maintenance male golfers, too. However, this is a true story, and considering that by the end of our relationship I was significantly financially impacted, I reserve the right to describe her as high maintenance.)
Call it a lot of things, but golf with my ex-girlfriend was never boring. Besides the on-going spirited debates about literally everything (“Why should we have to obey such a stupid rule?”; “They can wait”; “Why did you turn right?”; “Why do you say the sky is above us and not below us?”; “Why are you so argumentative?”), she was always guaranteed to do something entertaining.
And, truth told, there are worse things to do in my world than drive around a gorgeous Southern Oregon golf course with a beautiful woman, especially on this particular day, which happened to be my birthday.
The Arnold Palmer Signature Course at the Running Y Ranch in Klamath Falls, Oregon, is the only Arnold Palmer designed course in a state full of beautiful golf courses. It is a beautifully arranged challenge situated in the midst of a 3,600 acre resort community overlooking Klamath Lake. The Southern Oregon Cascade Mountains richly color the background of every moment of any round.
It didn’t take long for my beloved lady’s distinguishing dynamics to emerge. The first incident was on the second hole, a spectacular par 5 dog leg left with Klamath Lake running along the west side of the fairway. My fair companion was new to golf, having played but a handful of times, but with admirable Irish ferocity, attacked every shot with total certainty of success, regardless of prior outcomes.
She laced her second shot, a five wood, off to the right and down into some rocks. In her defense, how was she to know that there was some guy walking around down there? Her ball ricocheted a couple of times and then evidently struck the guy in the back of the head, or at least so he claimed, as he came lumbering up onto the fairway rubbing the top of his skull.
I’m not sure if how she was dressed had anything to do with it, but he quickly forgave her. My sense was had I been the author of the shot, his reaction might have been different. As we proceeded on to the green, I was, of course, treated to a colorful analysis of why the encounter was entirely his fault.
The fifth hole was a lot of fun, too. I remember how tickled I was with the built in range finder on the cart. No need to trust my failing eyesight and impeccably fallible golf instincts, I could now rely on the same technology used by the US Air Force.
“Honey”, I said from the 5th tee box, a beautiful short Par 3 over water, “What’s the yardage?”
“152”, she exuberated, smiling big, from her perch on the cart.
“Hmmm,” I squinted at the flag. “Doesn’t look like it. But I’m always coming up short on these things, so I guess I’ll trust it.” I proceeded to stroke an uncommonly perfect 7 iron straight and true to the stick. It felt so good, that I even held the follow through a bit longer than usual as I admired the shot.
Unfortunately, the ball never appeared on the green. This was due to the fact that it had soared right over the flag, back bunker, and back hillside, which is what happens when you strike a perfect 152 yard shot on a 125 yard hole. The spotter half of our team had misread the range finder, interposing the “5” and the “2.”
“Oops. Sorry.” was her matter of fact response. I was impressed at how effortlessly she took the word “Sorry” and made it sound like, “You should have double checked.”
The most noteworthy hole of the day, by far, came on another Par 3, number 7; a short, straight shot carved out of the beautiful surrounding Oregon forest and flanked by bunkers, but with an open front. From the ladies tees, the hole was just slightly over a hundred yards.
Because she had been struggling, she took a couple of extra practice swings (7 instead of 5) and then addressed the ball. She put a decent swing on the shot, although she caught it thin, achieving maybe 70% of optimal altitude. Sensing as soon as she hit it that it wouldn’t reach the green, she immediately turned away in disgust, huffing off towards the cart with the ball in mid-flight. Always interesting how one’s character and nature plays out on a golf course.
I, on the other hand, continued to watch the ball. “Hey, that’s gonna be OK,” I said. “In fact, that’s gonna be more than OK,” I said, my voice rising. I glanced quickly sideways and caught a glimpse of her back as she continued her pouty march away from the tee. I watched as the ball came down fairly hot thirty yards short of where it should have, bounced a couple of times, bounded rapidly onto the green, crossed a fifty foot span, and then clanked the flag hard, dropping into the cup below!
“Oh my gosh – Babe,” I exclaimed! “I think you just got a hole-in-one!”
“That’s not even funny, Jeff,” she hissed. “You think you’re such a comedian!”
“I’m serious. I think you just got a hole-in-one!”
By the time I repeated myself one more time, she was sitting in the cart, eyeballing me quietly with malevolent green eyes. “Don’t take my word for it. Let’s go check it out,” I said, upbeat.
I climbed in the cart and drove us down the path.
Pulling up alongside the green, I hopped out, “C’mon, let’s go look at your ball.” We walked up to the cup together, looked down, and there it was, sitting quietly in all its glory.
A slow smile began to appear around the corners of her mouth. The possibilities for personal fame and center stage began to flood her brain. “I thought it had potential when I hit it,” she said.
“You didn’t even watch it land,” I replied.
Ignoring my laughter, she continued, “That’s pretty good for someone who has played less than 10 times, isn’t it?” her face was gleefully aflame.
“Yeah,” I said, shaking my head. “Many people, like me, play for 40 years and never get one.”
Needless to say, the next week was all but unbearable. Every person we encountered, known or not, golfer or not, heard the story. Animals heard the story. The sun, the moon, and every one of the stars all heard the story – repeatedly. By the end of the week, I had developed a slight tick in my right eye.
That was golf, as well as life, with my ex. From there we went on to open a business together, but hey, that’s another story about life’s lessons, and unrelated to golf. As for that beautiful afternoon on the Running Y, it was definitely one for the books.
The Running Y Resort is located at 5271 Cooper’s Hawk Road, Klamath Falls, Oregon, 97601. To build your own golfing memory at the Running Y Ranch, line up a low maintenance golfing buddy and call for a tee time at (541) 569 – 0029, or visit their website at www.runningy.com.
Jeff Smith lives and works in Southern Oregon as a systems analyst and weekend golfer. His biggest breakthrough in his golf game came in his 40s when he quit worrying about his score and began focusing more on his surroundings than the ball.