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Tee Box with a View: A humbling game, a few friends, and a cart with a mind of its own

Peter Fibiger served as PNGA president from 2018-2021.

by Peter Fibiger

I have no right to complain about old age; I’ve already surpassed my most optimistic expectations. In fact, I’ve often described my condition as that of a 17-year-old brain trapped in a however-old-at-the-time body.

I suspect that delusions of immortality are an affliction visited on the most robust of the elderly, and it embarrasses me to admit that I’ve too often fallen victim to those notions myself. It’s not that I’m naïve enough to think I’ll beat Old Father Time at his own game, it’s more that I choose to ignore the increasingly frequent signals that the heartless old hunter is hard on my heels.

But life has more than one way of relieving the blissfully unaware of those notions. Lately, it’s turned to golf as an effective method of apprising me of just how loudly the clock is ticking. I can certainly join the chorus of the many millions that have gone before me in whining about the usual aches and pains attendant to the geriatric community. (“Oh, my back!” “Ouch, my knee!” “Geez, this sciatica reaches clear down to my shin!” etc.)

But these are trifling complaints compared to those confidence-shattering times when you’re handed the grim reminders that your attention span, along with several other gifts of consciousness, begins to show signs of regression towards that time when learning to walk was life’s most pressing challenge.

Allow me to illustrate.

It was close to two years back when I realized that I needed to abandon my automatic use of a power cart and, in an attempt to forestall the inevitable surrender to complete immobility, began to walk the golf course, as God intended us all to do.

My track of choice is blessed with great beauty, but with that comes an unfortunate number of changes in grade. This, I thought, was why the remote-controlled power caddie was invented; to free me up for brisk hikes unencumbered by a bag stuffed with musty rain gear, golf balls that I was too cheap not to collect, but too embarrassed to play, energy bars too stale to be chewable…the list goes on.

So it was eagerly that I set out on my first round with my new “caddie.” It did not start out well.

Even though it was equipped with a rear-mounted equivalent of a bicycle’s training wheel, I managed to flip the entire show on its side as I clambered up the incline from the second green to the third tee.

My three playing partners immediately jumped in to show their sincere concern by laughing relentlessly as I struggled to bring things back to the upright position. Friends that good are

hard to come by, and though that was nearly two years back, they’ve frequently taken pains to remind me of that day, illustrating the compassion that is at the heart of their concern for my well-being.

Over the subsequent span of time, I’d managed, until a couple of weeks back, to avoid further loss of face, if you ignore the inadvertent collision or two with various and sundry obstacles, including the odd playing partner’s pull cart. (I continue to insist that blame for those events, despite their claims to the contrary, is shared equally with the victims.)

But, as I’ve said, these were minor issues that presented no cause for concern over declining mental facilities. Until a couple of weeks back.

Sadly, on that occasion I’d hooked my 17th-hole tee shot into what we fearfully refer to as the “Gulch of Gloom,” directly behind which lies a bunker that you’d think they put there on purpose.

Now, I’m nothing if not a student of efficiency. As such, I decided that, using the remote, I’d run the cart around the back edge of the trap while taking the more immediate route to my ball, languishing nearly unplayable below the trap.

It was here that I learned that I should probably stop relying on my sense of depth perception. The caddie’s left wheel caught the high edge of the bunker, sending itself, my recently purchased high-volume cart bag and its entire contents, tumbling into that sandy abyss.

I hadn’t heard that kind of belly-laughing since my first day with the electric caddie, and I thought I’d heard the last of it as I chalked it all up to experience that would preclude any more debacles. Until yesterday.

My playing partners are nothing if not generous, and as we took the second corner of the double-dogleg 16th hole the refreshment cart rolled up.

“Pete, you want a beer?” I heard as I prepared to follow a nicely-struck 6-iron approach shot to the green.

“I’ll take a cider,” I replied, and turned towards them to collect my drink. “Cheers!”

We toasted the sun, the course, and our great good fortune.

Turning back around to amble back to my cart, I looked up and…could see no trace of it in the fairway where I was convinced I’d parked it.

In what seemed like suspended time, it began to sink in that the remote in my pocket had tripped and engaged the caddie. Stunned amazement morphed into abject horror as it quickly became evident that the entire rig had left the golf course and disappeared into a weed-and-

bramble-choked ravine that ran beside the fairway. Worse yet, it appeared that the wheel tracks in the fescue lining the field of play led directly into a massive blackberry patch.

At length, with my thorn-raked shins and forearms bleeding freely from my attack on that devil’s garden, I heard “Got it here!” from well up the way directly beside the green, and in an instant, I could breathe without effort, and speak without cursing once again.

At the risk of being obvious, it has to be said the remaining two holes were nothing short of a catastrophe, followed by not-quite-silent choked-back laughter as I exited the 18th green.

I share this story because, as sure as we’ll all be back on the first tee tomorrow, I know that yesterday’s foibles will be the talk of the clubhouse, and I take some satisfaction in fessing up to this whole nightmare in advance of the ribbing that surely awaits my arrival there.

I won’t be surprised if the maintenance crew offers the use of a gas-powered cutter for the duration of my round.

The truth is, a lifetime of occasional miscues has taught me the necessity of learning to laugh at myself.

The harder truth is that it’s becoming readily apparent that I’ll be having to remember to do just that more frequently as I continue to stare down both barrels of my sunset years.

Peter Fibiger served on the PNGA Board of Directors for 18 years, including 12 years on the Executive Committee and more than a decade as the PNGA Communications Committee Chairman. He also served as PNGA President from 2018-2021. He lives in Victoria, B.C., and will tell a few tales over a Guinness. Click here to read the full article on Peter’s impact on the PNGA and the golf community.