The altercation from the club parking lot was obviously weighing heavy on the broad shoulders of Ernest Hemingway. Apparently, there had been a dispute between himself and the club’s pompous professional, Linwood Haraway. He had bet Hemingway that he couldn’t throw a golf ball over the three-story clubhouse and onto the putting green some ninety-yards away. And, when Hem pulled it off, the spoiled sport Haraway cried foul, accusing Hemingway of taking a running start in order to make the toss. The penalty of which should then forfeit the winnings to Linwood. Of course, none of this was taken lightly by the brazen Hemingway, especially having been called a cheat.
“Linwood, I suppose you’d expect someone to make a throw like that flat-footed? Wager this, you SOB, I bet I can whip your ass!”
Haraway, having been the pugilist pride of Princeton, and not to be disgraced before the club patronage rebutted.“Hemingway, you bastard, let’s have it on, but don’t think I’ll take one on the chin for a coconut like one of your Bimini deckhands.”
By now, quite a crowd had assembled and it took several high-ranking club officers stepping in to restore order.
Hemingway, white linen shirt, khaki cotton trousers and brown-and-white saddled oxfords, rounded the corner of the clubhouse.
“How bout it Hem?” I greeted.
Hemingway, storming by, shrugged me off.
“Not now Walter, not now.”
A few seconds later, the matter eating away at him . . . “that Haraway, you know someday someone is going to . . .”
“Now Hem, take it easy. You called him out, he’s embarrassed, that’s worse on Linwood than a beating.”
“I guess I did rather piss in his Earl Grey,” said Hemingway, mocking in his best English accent, eyes casting an icy stare towards the first fairway where Linwood and his fraternity foursome were now taking their approaches.
“Next on the tee, Hemingway/Beech,” . . . the starter calls out.
Regularly fighting half-ton fish has a way of building up the muscularity of a man’s forearms. And, the way with which Hemingway lashes at the ball is an awesome combination of brutish strength and superb hand-eye coordination, all performed with a graceful, lumbering of movement.
However, Hem, on this occasion, still sweltering from the morning’s spectacle, let loose a swwoooo-thwack, peeling a ferocious slice, out-of-bounds and into the link side community.
“That’s it, I’m out this hole.”
Enough. I know when to leave the big fellow alone.
Over the next thirty or so minutes the tension escalated and my playing partner’s unmannerly lack of conversation and blunt mood was becoming quite awkward to deal with.
Then on three, the dam broke. And after a three-putt from fifteen feet, so did his putter . . . over his knee.
“Shake it off E.,” I pleaded. “Putt with mine, that Bullseye of yours is a piece of shit anyway.”
“Sure, thanks,” Hemingway muttered.
Next hole, righting the ship, he drove the green on the 292-yard par-4. Four-putted for bogey and snapped my putter!
“I’m sorry Walt, I’ll make it up to you,” he grumbled.
Then he perked up, “Tell you what, I’ll send up for drinks! What’ll it be?”
“For Pete’s sake Hem, it’s hardly ten in the morning, I can’t drink this early.”
Up to this point I have failed to mention the situation regarding the handling of our clubs. Hemingway, irate at the onset had refused his caddy and carried his own bag. I had employed my usual fine chap, Randolph Nesmith, whom everyone warmly refers to as Smitty.
“Smitty, order up a couple martinis, dry, and a mimosa for Nancy-boy over there.”
“Here’s a fifty, now make it fast and have that fire-haired barmaid bring them out.”
“Yessir Mista Hemingway, yessir!”
We had just finished the seventh when Hildie arrived, carrying both the drinks and a salacious smile. I was not in the proximity of the details, but several flirtatious interchanges later and the next thing I know, I’m babysitting the booze and Hem’s slipping off into the woods with Hildie. Minutes later the two emerge, Hildie adjusting her skirt and Hem with an ear-splitting grin. He sends her own her way, slaps her on the butt, and gives me a wink.
“How’s that mimosa?”
“How was Hildie?” I rebutted.
“Careful Walter. She was a perfect lady.”
I’ll bet she was, I thought to myself.
My fellow Smitty had failed to return, figuring, I guess, Hem’s tip was adequate pay for a day’s loop.
Perhaps it was the refreshing libations, or the voluptuous Hildie, either way the atmosphere had been altered most pleasantly, and the ensuing turn flew by in a melee of marvelous drives, stellar iron play and lively spirits. Then, on twelve, we caught up with Haraway’s group.
White clouds gathered and rolled overhead, contrasted against the cobalt-blue sky. The large kind of clouds that trap the rays of the midday sun and cause a golden light cast highlighting the most subtle of landscape hues. Linwood Haraway, before us in the fairway, executed his pre-shot routine.
Hemingway, vigilant to the opportunity, “Walt, I believe I’m up.”
“Yeah. Uhhm-what? Hem wait!”
Hemingway had struck a beauty. The ball flew Haraway and bounded to a halt just before the front bunkers. Linwood threw his arms into the air, berating us with an onslaught of obscenities much too harsh to print here. Ever the instigator, Hemingway marched forward, pounding the ground with each purposeful step, the tactile big cat poising himself for the pounce.
“Now we’ll see who the better man is,” Linwood broadcasted and repeated.
The fight was on.
As exasperated as Hemingway had been earlier, he was now equally as cool. Linwood, fist-drawn and spit-fire, shuffled his feet, gesturing in proper pugilistic manner. Hemingway dove in, dodged a left, blocked a right and delivered a perfect one-two, left jab, right punch, crumbling his prim and polished combatant.
Hem had Linwood by the wig, about to finish him when Haraway’s gang decided interference was in order. I quickly drew my nine iron, backing down the alliance.
“That’s enough Hem, you showed him,” I implored.
“Okay Walter, you’re right.”
Hemingway released the grip of his left hand. Haraway’s eye and Hem’s meaty right paw both already visibly swelling from the collision of fist and flesh.
But as Hemingway turned to walk away, Haraway staggered to his feet, stealthily rushed Hemingway’s blindside and cold-cocked him concisely in the back of the head, knocking the big man to his knees. Haraway plunged in for the kill, of which I halted, once again, with my nine iron.
“It’s okay Walter,” Hem said, as he struggled to regain his footing.
“Nice fight Haraway. Good show.”
“How about we shake on it?”
Albeit reluctantly, the olive branch accepted and the two shook hands.
“Linwood, tell you what, just to show there’s no hard feelings, how about you meet us at the nineteenth, I’ll buy you a drink.”
Surprisingly the rest of the round remained quite civilized.
That is however, with the exception of seventeen.
There is a bridge midway the seventeenth fairway that overlooks Adam’s Creek. It is a majestic setting. The gurgling water trickles under the arched cobblestone trestle.
Hem and I lingered, savoring the scene, engulfed in a moment of natural admiration.
Then we noticed the trout, many trout, and quite sizeable at that.
Of late, there had been an outstanding mayfly hatch, and the maisies were being swept into the shallow, whirling water beneath, an easy feed for the fat brownies. And while I was transfixed by the tranquility of the scene below, Hemingway had sneaked off to his golf bag, returning with a stowaway, his faithful Thompson machine gun.
“Hem, there must be a dozen seven-pounders down there.”
Rat-Atatatattatatatat tat, Rat-Attatatatatatat!
“Dammit Hemingway, what the hell!”
Hemingway sheepishly grinned.
“That damn Thompson is going to get you into trouble before it’s over!”
“Now Walter, quit being a party pooper and help me fetch the fish before the ranger comes around.”
Sure enough, three six-pound brown trout, all headshot. Two other casualties, but both a bloody mess, and punched gill to tail.
“Slip them in your bag Walt, the Tommy takes up all my space.”
“No way, those bloody fish will ruin my bag. I’m not . . .”
“Quit your belly-aching Walter. Hermes is custom-making me a new bag, genuine rhino leather and giraffe-lined, a beautiful thing. When it comes in, it’s yours.”
A handshake and a pat on the back put an end to the round’s formalities. And, despite the fiasco of the day, smelling like fish, and putting the final fourteen holes with my two iron, I had managed to card a 78, one of my finest scores.
“Walt, join me for a drink?” Hemingway asked, blithesome from the triumphs of the day.
“You bet,” I replied, interested in whether Linwood had the nerve to take Hem up on the same offer from earlier.
Linwood Haraway was waiting at the bar.
“Hemingway, I believe you owe me a drink,” boasted Linwood.
“I believe I do, Haraway, what’ll it be?”
“I’ll take a g&t with a pair of rocks.”
“Bartender, one gin and tonic, and make mine a martini, dry, preferably in a cold stem. Make it two, the other for my partner here,” his heavy hand swatting me on the shoulder.
“Don’t mention it Walt. Hell of a round.”
“Yes it was. Yes it was.”
Several sips into our cocktails and Linwood began to mouth off.
“How’s that crown of your’s Ernie? Feeling a bit off tilt?”
Hemingway, from a seated position with drink in hand cracked Linwood with a hard right, square in the cheek!
I nearly spit my drink!
“What the hell, Hemingway?” Linwood slurred, dazed and flabbergasted, looking upward to his assailant.
“That’s for sucker punching me on twelve, and welching on our bet, you sore-loosing SOB!”
“Walt, how about we continue this at my place? I’ve got a bottle Absinthe and the damnest story about a 900-pound marlin.”
“Sure thing Hem.”
“And Walter, tell you what, my hand’s a bit sore, so if you’ll dress those browns, I’ll cook them up.”
“Hemingway, you’ve got yourself a deal.”
* From the premier issue of The Golf Sport available now on finer newsstands or www.GolfSportMag.com