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The worst word in golf. I know, it’s part of the etiquette of the game, but it’s the part we all hate to shout or hear. It’s one of those things in the arsenal of golf, like mulligans and do-overs and foot wedges.

Once the dreaded “Fore!” has been uttered, golfers all over the course scramble for trees or wrap their arms around their heads and do the “ants-in-the-pants-dance” like they are trying to escape dive-bombing seagulls with intestinal problems.

I play golf, one, because it’s the major portion of my exercise program. The other portion is walking inside McDonald’s instead of using the drive-thru. And, two, because while I’m not all that good at it, I don’t stink. So there’s that.

So here I stand on the tee. Driver in hand. Waiting for the grab-assing and usual alcohol-related endeavors of the chimpanzees I play with to die down. Then, as if in slow-motion, in a scene directed by Steven Spielberg, the backswing arcs in a physically impossible position and with the strength and speed of what you would expect from a broken-down old man, the clubhead hits the ball.

In my post-drive golfer’s pose that everyone sees on TV, I watch the ball soar majestically down the fairway. A beautiful arcing ball. 100 yards. 150 yards. 200 yards! Still going! It’s a drive worthy of commemoration.

The thing about a golf ball is that it is an independent little bugger. It does what it wants to do. The dimples and grooves and swing tempo all pipe in the data necessary to tell the ball what to do, where to go, and hopefully land somewhere near where you planned.

My ball usually gives me the finger and finds the nearest tree or pond. However, on this day, my ball decides to make a hard left and heads for a substantial crowd of people having a BBQ on their patio.

Thus, the dreaded “Fore!”

Now when you yell “Fore!”, what you are saying at the top of your lungs to everyone within shouting distance is that you don’t know what the hell you are doing and might be better off playing chess or Solitaire. It humbles you.

I watch as the twenty or so faces turn in my direction. Their faces looking in horror as if they are chain-driven ducks lined up in a carnival shooting gallery. My ball whizzes past Uncle Harry and bangs loudly off the cheap plywood siding that everyone thinks looks so cool just because it’s on a golf course, hit a lawn chair, and knocks a paper plate of baked beans and a chicken wing out of Grandmas's hands.

The journey continues as it rattles off little Betsy’s TV tray and finally lands in the ambrosia that Great Aunt Lillian always brings and nobody likes. With the assault finally ended, the scattered guest are all clustering looking like they are climbing out of a foxhole. Of course, the anguished looks and epithets made it easy for me to go get my ball.

Walking the Green Mile is never easy. So I puff up trying to give that “don’t mess with me, dude” aura. Let’s just say that the friendly jovial BBQers could now be termed a mob. I did the usual apologies. Sorry my ball landed here. Sorry it caused a disturbance. Sorry I drive a gas-guzzling 4WD pickup. Sorry your cable is out. Get a dish dirtbag.

The dad and ringleader of the mob is cussing me out for not playing better and disrupting his BBQ. Hey, you’re the one who bought a house on a golf course turd-blossom so go suck salt. I reach into the ambrosia to get my ball. I lick my fingers. Yep, someone needs to tell Great Aunt Lillian her ambrosia sucks.

Dad keeps harping at me and threatening to end my life in various ways. Third cousin Herb is standing behind him giving me the evil eye. I guess it was too soon when I asked dad for two hot links to go. Third cousin Herb had to hold him back.

I drop my ball two club length from the ambrosia and pull out my trusty go-to club. Grandma was still trying to pluck grass and twigs from her chicken wing as I hit the ball once more. There was a comforting clack as the ball soared into the air before heading towards the glass sunroom of Bob and Louise Schermerhorn.


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