I wondered how my good friend Maurice “Moe” Greens was getting through the winter, so we met up for a few drinks one snowy night.
You might remember that Moe is the superintendent at Pretentious Golf, Polo, Yacht, Bridge and Country Club. (The name has been changed to protect Moe.)
Moe related how his club recently had its year-in-review meeting. All the department heads were there, as well as the committee chairpersons. The way Moe describes the annual summit, a 50-mile forced march under a scalding sun with no water while wearing metal golf spikes a size too small is a more bearable experience.
To quote Moe: “How can anyone talk about a swimming pool for 43 continuous minutes?”
The highlight of the meeting, as apparently it is every year, was the report of Caddie Master Phil “The Knife” Rasmussen. No one knows why Phil has that nickname, and there’s nobody willing to ask him. In fact, no one even knows how or when he came to the club, or where he goes when he’s not on the property. What they do know is that he rules the caddies with a velvet-gloved iron hand. He has their respect, and the worthy caddies have his respect. Because of The Knife’s nickname, unknown background, and rumors that have circulated for years about his successful one-man effort to topple a Suriname warlord who was terrorizing palm kernel farmers, the members give him plenty of room and, for the most part, treat the caddies well for fear of having to deal with The Knife.
As usual, Phil’s year-end summarization was succinct. He concluded by saying he was sad to report that a 42-year-old record – how far a caddie was from a player when the caddie was blamed for causing a bad shot, held by deceased member Theodore Lemos – had been toppled. It seems that during the practice round for the club championship, member Taft (Rabbit Ears) Hotchkiss barked at a caddie for making too much noise while Hotchkiss was in mid-swing. Another member of the group, Helen McHenry, who was playing with her husband, Amherst, reported to Phil that she lasered the distance between the caddie, Old Joe Weaver, who hadn’t budged, and Hotchkiss. The distance was 112 yards, breaking Lemos’ mark by 2 yards.
There was a brief discussion of presenting Taft with a plaque to commemorate the event, but that was turned down because of budget constraints.
Phil said that he had a quiet chat with Mr. Hotchkiss and suggested he not break the record during the 2015 golf season. Phil said Mr. Hotchkiss wholeheartedly agreed that that was a noble goal and gave Phil a $20 bill for Old Joe, as well as a heartfelt apology.
Moe received solid grades from the membership, and his presentation to the group was short and to the point. The grounds committee nitpicked a little bit (they wanted to know what was up with the section of dead turf 30 yards into a naturalized area at the end of the range), but that’s the norm.
Moe also relayed that all charges against his second assistant with regard to the incident at a local club during the regional turfgrass show and conference and been dropped, and that the assistant had made restitution in full and apologized to all affected employees.
Then our conversation turned serious. Moe, too, had been to the regional show and had a long talk with one of his old and most trusted friends, Rocky Waterford, a course manager who maintains a big-budget layout that has not a single fairway irrigation head.
As Moe tells it, the two had made their way to their usual evening haunt, a tiny bar where none of the other superintendents or salesmen could find them. Patrons are prohibited from playing bro’ country on the jukebox.
Here’s what they talked about: Ten years ago their members gave them the same grades on the upkeep of their golf courses as they did this year; overall, they were satisfied, and what they complained about was trivial.
So why, Rocky wanted to know, as Moe recounted, “are we looking to lower cutting heights? Why do I need green speeds at 12 feet when 9 feet, 6 inches was good enough not that long ago?”
“I don’t know the answer,” Moe said he told Rocky. “I do know this, though: The road we’re on can only lead to a bad place. The good news is, at least for us, we won’t be around when it happens.”