The late 80’s early 90’s was a time of self discovery for me. I was newly clean from the fog of drug abuse which enabled me to experience life without the numbing grip that drugs had on me. My life no longer revolved around the “use of drugs and the finding the ways and means to get more.”
During the summer of 1989 I was about 22 years old and in the middle of a dual coast vacation to Florida and California that I was taking by myself. The plan was to go to Sea World and Disney in Florida and California in about 16 days. The first leg was in Florida and after Disney and Sea World I drove down to Cape Coral to stay with my Uncle Pete and Aunt Lotte. I rented The drive from Orlando to Cape Coral was longer than I thought it would be, and as I arrived at Uncle Pete’s house, he was waiting for me in the driveway standing next to his sky-blue ’66 Ford Mustang.
I loved that car – I remember riding in it when I was a kid and I remember the AC unit hanging from the dashboard. He used to talk about the car with the same pride he would about his autographed Eddie Giacomin goalie stick. I am not sure why I liked it so much – maybe it was because he loved it so much.
I had learned to play golf earlier that summer – and was all too aware of his love for the game. I thought it would be great if we could pass the time together during a round of golf, and I was elated when he had agreed to play a round of golf with me. What I didn’t know was that he hadn’t played since his last heart attack some months (maybe even a year) before. This shocked me and I was nervous that it might not be good for him to play, but he dismissed that. He couldn’t wait for me to get there and swore he would be fine – but one thing had me a bit concerned. I knew that one of his multiple heart attacks occurred on the golf course during what was surely a particularly frustrating round for him. His toned response to my concern “convinced” me not to express it again. We were going to play golf. And we were going to drive to the course in the Mustang!
Yeah, I would love to say that we drove the Mustang to the golf course that day – but we didn’t. Not sure why, but he wanted to take my Aunt Lotte’s Dodge – I think maybe a late 80s Dodge Spirit? I was a bit disappointed but in the end I was just excited to get there and play some golf.
We got to the golf course, and he loaned me some golf balls and I helped him with his bag out of the car. We got into the pro shop and the guy behind the counter was especially happy to see my Uncle. Uncle Pete introduced me to the fella, and the two exchanged quips about how badly Uncle Pete thought he would play after such a long time away from the game. I rented clubs, we got a cart, paired up with a couple of guys we didn’t know to make a foursome and we were on our way. During that day’s round, he taught me “Pete’s Golf Etiquette – Don’t step in a putting “line” on the green, always, and I mean ALWAYS replace divots, don’t move ahead of someones lie in the fairway, play ready golf – get close to your ball if it’s NOT ahead of someone’s shot in the fairway,” etc. All of these things are second nature to me now.
I especially don’t stand in someones putting line.
The first time I stomped on one of the other guys lines on the green, Uncle Pete politely told me not to do it. I was lucky because he was tempered the second, third and fourth time I did it, and then finally the fifth or so time, Uncle Pete knelt down to mark his ball and with his tell-tale half-pissed half-amused grin said, “Son, if you step in the guys line again after me telling you ten times today not to, I’m not doin anything when he kicks you in the ass.”
I looked at the guy who’s line I stepped in apologetically and he smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it, but if you do it again, I’ll kick you in the ass.” They all laughed and I didn’t know if I should laugh or not. Uncle Pete one-putted that hole.
As a matter of fact, Uncle Pete shot an 86 or something like that. I hadn’t played with anyone who shot less than a 90 ever since I had started to play, and Uncle Pete was my hero that day. He was shocked himself, “I didn’t think I’d play that well, either,” and added, “I’m glad we got to play.” I can’t find the scorecard – but I probably shot a 125 or something.
In hindsight, I was amazed with the patience my Uncle showed that day – much more a characteristic of my Dad than it was of my sometimes hot-headed Uncle. I hit about 40 strokes more than him that day, and he could have been a lot less tolerant, for sure. Another influential moment. I can’t imagine that Uncle Pete was that patient on the course all of the time. I see him as more the type of guy that gets pissed at slow play, etiquette illiterates, when he plays “poorly,” etc. But I didn’t see much of that at all – and I think a lot of my patience on the course today (yeah, most of the time) I learned from my Uncle that day.
Another cool aspect of this experience spending that much time with him alone, for the first and only time in my life, I got to see the brotherly similarities between Dad and Uncle Pete – from the way he called me “Son” to the way he expressed himself if he got frustrated – the mannerisms, the half swears – “godda…” and “ahh, your sister’s…” I don’t remember all of the specifics, but a few times as he was speaking, I felt like I was listening to my Dad.
Golf with my Uncle was one of the most treasured times of my life – what I refer to as a Life Moment. As I recall more, I will write them….