Avante Garde Golfer

A Journal of new ideas in the world of golf - published quarterly for the avant garde golfer

Spring Quarter 2020

Alien Golfer - A Novella

by Rufus Muirfield
Part I

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1. Earthly golfer



"May the golf gods smile on me tomorrow, and on our unborn child Judah!" Tom Morris Brentwood, 27, sat before his wife Bridget, 24, both naked and she manifestly pregnant, on the motel room floor.

"Or Judy," she said.

"Whatever. Or Judy. Judah. The baby's ours, Bridg, and this time I'll make it!" Tom closed his eyes and looked upward, chanting, "Oom-pah-pah. Oom-pah-pah." Incense burned on the floor beside them.

"May the golf gods smile on you tomorrow," she joined him, breasts heaving as she raised her arms toward the cheap stucco ceiling, "Oom-pah-pah, oom-pah-pah."

He reached for her breasts and began praying louder. "Yes, he said, I feel it, yes I do!"

"Come to me," she said. "Come to me dearest."

He picked her up and placed her limp body on the bed. "Oom-pah-pah! Oom-pah-pah." Excitement rose as their lips met, and they were one.

Afterwards they lay side by side, giggling.

"Think it'll work?" he said.

"Of course, honey. Can't fail. You're the best."

"What if I don't qualify?" he said with a sudden change in bravado.

"Then we'll go back to Squireview."

"And what, work for your father, forever?"

"It's OK, Tom, I'll love you just as much if you never make the PGA tour, as if you win the U.S. Open. You know that."

Which he knew well, and was one thing that attracted him to Bridget Sexson, daughter of Mike Sexson, operator of Squireview Golf Club in northern New Jersey. He had come there just two years ago, to interview for assistant pro, and met her while playing a round with the boss. They married a year later. Like most women who marry golf pros with ambition, she was ambivalent about professional success, with all its travel, time away from home, and unyielding frustrations. She was good enough to play for her college team, but had no aspirations for a professional golfer's life. Deep down she wanted home, husband, children, hearth. If Tom made the tour that would be nice, the money would be great, but she could have it either way. Is it sexist to call this 'feminine desire?' Call it what you will, it endeared her to Tom, for he felt no wifely pressure to succeed, and for this he was grateful. The only real pressure he felt was his own.

But it was intense, but intense enough? And does the intensity really matter? People say about winners, "Oh, he was determined, he had that fire in his eyes." But is that more of an after-the-fact comment, after the winning stroke, after shooting 65 on Sunday afternoon? What about the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th place finishers; was their intensity, their desire any less? Golf is quirky, fluky, a totally unpredictable game. A bounce one way and you've got a double bogey, another way and its birdie time. You can be unbeatable one day and easily shoot an 80 the next. One week you are ready to quit the game, the following week you are haled as champion. This is a fact of life for anyone who plays competitively, who plays for a living.

* * *

Tom woke, dressed and drove to the golf course, about a mile from their hotel. At 6 feet, 180 lbs. Tom had the 'golfer physique', which only meant that he was tall and well built and looked like the non golfer's perception of a top golfer. Clean shaven, somewhat baby faced, with piercing blue eyes, Tom would make good ad copy for Calloway or Taylor Made. If he could get on the PGA tour and win some tournaments.

Of course if you were good, really good, looks didn't matter that much. Some of the world's best golfers are short or stocky. What they lack in stature they make up in skill or determination or knack around the greens. The one advantage of height and brute strength is the long drive, and Tom's driving average hovered around 280 yards. But this advantage was negated by his number of "fairways hit." He was too erratic, right and left, giving a dangerously low percentage, only 55%. In tournament play, ending up in the rough is, well, rough.

But in the qualifying rounds for the PGA tour - a process euphemistically called Q school - he had managed to get past the Stage 1. Two months earlier he and Bridget had spent a week at TPC of Heron Bay, in Coral Springs, Florida, one of 12 Stage 1 sites across the nation, mostly in Florida, Texas and California. Each site accommodated approximately 80 players, all of whom had excelled in golf somewhere at some time. For Tom it was on a mini tour tournament at Fowler's Mill GC near Cleveland; he won it in July, hitting 69-68 the final two days. That and another high finish (4th) in another non-descript tournament got him into the Stage 1. Cost them $5000 to enter, medal play 72 holes over four days, and he finished 30th, advanced to Stage 2.

Stage 2 was in Boca Vista Golf Club in Palm Beach County, Florida. There he had nearly lost it. His ball on the 18th hole of the fourth round came within an inch of going into the water, which would have led to a double bogey and elimination. It stayed dry and he managed a brilliant up and down, to par the hole and squeak into THE FINAL QUALIFYING ROUND. Now here they were, in Miami, some $12,000 poorer and a chance for the big top. What elation. What expectation.

What a brutal process. The four rounds of Stage 1 in October. The four rounds of Stage 2 in November. Now the 6-round Final Qualifying Stage. The chances of reaching Final Qualifying Stage and then winning a spot on the PGA tour by scoring in the top 35 are minuscule, but Tom was on his way. The consolation prize was a chance on the apprentice tour, which hardly offered enough prize money to cover expenses.

No matter how good you are, there is lots of company. Of the 15,000,000 male golfers in the U.S., no more than .5% are 'scratch' players, i.e., score even par or better. Of those 75,000, we can assume only about one in ten has the ambition and time and money to attempt the PGA qualification process. Certainly holding a regular job that can't be shelved excludes a lot of players. Tom and Bridget were had depleted savings and a loan from her father (who could hardly say no).

An estimated 7500 male golfers seriously try to qualify each year (including foreign golfers, for whom the route is more formidable because of location; most of them opt for other professional tours, closer to home.) The 8000 or so seriously eligible golfers still have to qualify for Q school. Of these 8000, only about 1000 can even qualify to enter Stage 1, most by virtue of wins on lesser tour events. Another 200 golfers are exempt into Stage 2 or into the Final Qualifying Stage, mainly because they have already been on the PGA tour but did not play well enough to remain there.

The apprentice PGA tour, called by whatever name happens to be the current sponsor (once the Hogan tour, then the Nike Tour, then the Buy.Com tour, now the Calloway tour) is so much less rewarding that no player aspires to it as a final goal, but only as a means to get on the PGA tour. And beyond that tour, you have nowheresville: the Florida East Coast Tour, the West Coast Ralley Tour, the Kansas Plains Tour - places for 2nd and 3rd strata pros to pick up a few bucks and practice their craft.

* * *

Six grueling days of medal play, 108 holes of golf. Out of thousands of wanna be pros who entered regional qualifying tournaments, only 150 made it to the 6 day Q school. And only 35 of them would get the PGA tour card. The next 35 would end up (if they chose) on the Calloway tour. The rest, manana. If Tom did not win a tour card, he could not afford the lesser tour, where expenses typically exceed winnings week after frustrating week. If Tom did not end up in the elite 35, his pro golf career prospects would equate with poverty and Mr. Mom.

Old Plantation course in central Florida plays long from the gold tees, 6930 yards, par 72. Water comes into play on 9 of the holes, and one green is an island green. No, not The Island Green of TPC at Sawgrass, but almost as intimidating. The hole (#8) is 140 yards, but the green is only 200 square yards, with a large pond in front and a narrow creek behind. The average score for pro caliber players is 3.43, which means more bogeys than pars. Since you are bound to make par if you end up on the green, it means about 1/4 of the tee shots end up in the water. In years past players lost (fell out of the top 35) solely because of hole 8.

The first day, Monday, Tom had shot a respectable 74, ranking him 45th in the field. On Tuesday he shot a sizzling 70, moving up to number 31. On day three his ball on #8 went in the water and because of other mistakes he ended up with a 78, a finish that left him at 46th place. On Thursday he managed a 76, and was 50th; errant tee shots cost him several strokes. His low score on Friday catapulted him to 40th. Now, on the final day, he would need another below par round to make the top 35.

One might wonder how, with most scores above par, Tom was anywhere near the top of the leaderboard. The PGA treats qualification courses like the USGA treats U.S. Open venues - as penal. They let the rough grow and made the greens slick (up to 13 on the stimp meter). Under ordinary playing conditions these guys could shot under par with eyes almost closed. But now under par was a guaranteed winner.

The weather in Florida is warm and pleasant. Most of the fans -- and there are plenty on the last day, some hoping to get before the Golf Channel cameras -- are locals. In many ways non-PGA Tour pros are more fun to watch, since the players are almost as good (sometimes better) and the crowds are thin; you can get real close. The only thing missing is the electricity generated on the PGA tour when two national figures battle it out, or when a putt ends up worth half a million dollars.

Bridget Brentwood, 3 months with child, followed her husband on this last day. For her, too, it would be decisive. She would have to quit work after the baby came. Finances would be tight if Tom didn't get his card. They literally could not afford the lesser tours, since expenses would far exceed what he could expect to earn. A sponsor might appear, but right now none was in sight.

Of course tight finances was the situation for most (if not all) of the married players. Golf is not very lucrative outside of the main tour. Club professionals make a living, of course, but cannot aspire to any real wealth. And at Tom's tender age his last goal was to be a club professional forever, teaching golf to middle-aged men and women how to correct uncorrectable faults.

We focus here on Tom Morris Brentwood, but his goals and fears and needs and psyche could not be distinguished from 164 other mostly young men on this late fall day in Palm Springs. After a week of playing threesomes, and chance meetings in the motel dining room, and locker room chatter, Tom had come to know half a dozen players by first names, and had formed a couple of loose friendships. One of his new friends, Harold Bigley, from western Texas, was in the top 10; going into the final round he was 7 under par, whereas Tom was 2 over. Between them were to be found another 30 or so players.

It will not be fair to drag out this day. There were winners and there were losers, and Tom stood with the latter. He needed a 70 or better to qualify and he shot a 73. He had played a most difficult course in 8 over par, a truly respectable round, but finished tied for 45th place. He qualified for the Calloway tour, but had not the funds to make it possible. He would try again in another year.

2. Out of Nowhere

Tom did not give up. While holding down a club pro job he continued to practice. Squireview Golf Club is a semi-private in northwestern New Jersey, outside New York. Like most courses in the north it is closed November through April, due to snow, wind and generally cold temperatures. Tom liked the fall and spring days because he could play alone, hit as many balls as he liked, and not worry about teaching obligations, or players on the course. So on this blustery but warm April day he was out, playing and practicing alone. For these rounds he would count every shot and penalty, to arrive at a true score. (He has the unofficial course record at Squireview, 65). On the 6th hole, a long par 4, his tee shot sliced to the right and into the woods. He walked to where he saw the ball disappear, dropped his bag and entered the densely wooded out-of-bounds area. About 10 paces in from the tree line he heard a voice.


"Who's there?"


Tom espied a short, middle-aged man, about 5'6" tall. No one he had ever seen before. The gentleman sported a handlebar mustache and clothes suggesting another place and time: tweed vest, plus fours, knickers and a scotch plaid cap. He had brown hair coming down under the cap lid.

"Who are you," said Tom.

"I found ye ball."

"Thanks, where is it?"

"Under me foot."

"I didn't even see you from the tee. Where'd you come from?"

"Oh, far away."

"Do you live around here?"

"No, I do not, but I am familiar with yer game."

"My game? I don't even know you."

"Ay, but I know you. You're Tom Morris Brentwood, named by your father for Old Tom Morris, an acquaintance of mine."

"Old Tom Morris died in 1905, sir. Is this some kind of joke? I have to get back into the fairway. Can I hit my ball please?"

"Be my guest. But you'll find a tree in your way. Want a drop?"

"Let me see." The strange man was right; any attempt other than a punch backwards into the fairway was hopeless.

"I'll punch it back, then."

"I can help, you know."

"Help what?"

"Find yer game."

"What are you, selling golf clubs or something?"

Squireview is out in the country, but people live nearby. It is not unusual for stragglers to come on the course, usually young boys looking for golf balls.

"Not exactly."

"Well, what are you selling?" Tom was curious enough to linger a bit. And the stranger was standing on his ball.

"A proposition."

"What is your name?"

"Alistair Mackenzie."

Tom let out a laugh. "I suppose you're the great golf course architect, heh?"

"Well, you're not exactly the original Tom Morris, either."

"How do you know my name? You never told me?"

"I knew your father."

With that Tom stopped and froze. His father was dead 5 years. Like most professionals and pro wanna-be's, Tom owed practically everything golf to the father. Invoking the name, even indirectly, commanded respect.

"Yeh? What was his name?"

"Zane Samuel Brentwood, a fine golf pro if I don't say so."

"You played with him at Sandstone?"

"No, not directly, but I knew him."

"OK, what do you want with me?"

"A proposition."

"You already said that. What are you talking about? Say, why don't you join me on the fairway after I punch this out?"

"No, I'd rather complete my business here."

"What business?"

"Ye want to play better golf, is that right?"

"Doesn't everyone?"

"But not everyone can. You can. I saw you play in Florida. The 8th hole got you, didn't it?"

"What do you mean?" he said, but knew the answer. That last day, his ball did hit the green, but at such an angle that it plopped over it and landed in the rear creek. His drop shot hit the green but as that was his third shot for the hole (with the penalty), his two putts gave him a five. Was this guy there or did he just read about it (and where was it written? This was not on the golf channel either).

"Were you there?" Tom asked, lamely.

"Oh yes. I saw the whole thing. Twas sad, twasn't it?"

"So how can you help? What's the catch?"

"How badly do you want it?"

"Look Mr. Mackenzie, I want nothing more than to get my PGA card this year. I almost made it last year. I have a wife and infant daughter, and am at a crossroads, and if I..."

"I know all that son, that's why I'm here."

"How can you help?"

"Easy. Very easy."

"What do you mean?"

"I can make you the world's best golfer."

"Yeh, right. And even if you could, why me? I don't even know you."

"Let's just say you're ready and able to be helped, and I'm ready and able to help."

Tom prepared to hit his ball back into the fairway.

"Don't hit that just yet, son. You'll whiff it, for sure."

"Excuse me, please. You're in my way."

Mackenzie stepped aside as Tom stood over his ball and eyed the fairway. A fairly simple punch back to the center of the short grass, about 40 yards or so. The lie was good, on a bed of pine needles. He took a swing with his pitching wedge. He whiffed. The ball did not budge.

"Damn" he said softly. MacKenzie said nothing.

Tom picked up the ball and proceeded to walk away, frustrated with his missed shot, with meeting an apparent madman in the woods, with his prospects for another season without his PGA card.

"Interested now?"

Tom turned to stare at the voice, its owner half hidden by the trees. "Interested in what?"

"In becoming number one?"

"What do I have to do?"

"Nothing much, just decide if you want to win".

"OK, Mr. Mackenzie, I want to win. Now what am I supposed to do?"

"Wear this." MacKenzie held out a belt, made of black leather, about two inches wide. It had a dull gold buckle free of any noticeable design.

"How, pray tell, is that going to help me win golf matches?"

"You'll see. When you want to win, you wear it. When you don't, you don't. Pretty simple, isn't it?"

"Why me? If this is such a good thing, why give it to me?"

"As I said, you're able. You're ready. And besides, you fit the profile."

"What profile?"

"Let's just say it's a little experiment."

"Oh, I get it, a psychological thing. You know I am struggling, you come along and give me a psychological boost with your mystical belt. This sounds like a comic book adventure."

"Call it what you will, laddie. Nothing wrong with playing with a new belt is there? regulations permit it, I believe?

"Of course. Do you have a magic ball and club too?"

"Use your own. They won't matter, as long as you wear the belt."

"Ok. Thanks. Tom took the belt and put it in his back pocket."

"What do I owe you for this?"

"We'll be in touch."

"Where do you live."

"Around and about." Mackenzie began walking away, back into the woods. Tom wanted to follow him, get his phone number, find out more about him. Instead, he turned to the fairway and took a drop.

3. Hologram

Tom finished 15 with a double bogey (he took a two stroke penalty for whiffing and picking up his ball). On #7, a 525-yard par 5, dogleg to the right, one wants to hit the ball to the left side of the fairway, 240-250 yards out, so the approach shot can land just before the green and trickle up to the flag. Anything to the right side of the fairway requires a blind shot over trees, or a lay up further from the hole than is desirable.

He set up his ball to hit a draw, or right to left shot, aiming for the desired left side of the fairway. The ball soared into the air and instantly he knew it had been hit well: started straight and true. But 150 yards out, when the ball should have started veering gently left, it took an abrupt sharp right turn and flew into the dense woods bordering the fairway.

'Jesus Christ,' Tom muttered to himself. How the hell did that happen? Again I'm in the woods! His set up was good, his execution solid, the ball started on its intended flight path, and whammo! Into the woods on the right.

Golf is like that, he rationalized, and went to look for his ball. In a tournament he would have hit a provisional ball. Here he decided to play this probably-lost-in-the woods ball; if he couldn't find it he would just drop another ball near where it entered the woods and take a stroke penalty. He had the spot picked out where it left the fairway; he figured he would find it, then chip or pitch onto the fairway. The ball disappeared between two tall pine trees, and he was gratified to see an opening between them. Eight yards in from the fairway he saw his ball sitting on a bed of pine needles, a similar lie to the last hole. He felt relief; he had a shot. 'Maybe I can even save par,' he thought. Tom surveyed the area and found room for a half swing, which would be enough to get the ball back onto the fairway, even advance it a little.

The voice was unexpected, startling.

"A little off were ye?"

"What the hell… Who's there?"

He looked behind him, in front, right and left, saw nothing. Then he looked at his ball and saw a foot next to it. The man owning the foot was standing straight, carried a walking stick. The same guy! But different! Now he was dressed in Scottish highland garb, and had whiskers from one ear to the other. Tom was not as surprised by the man's appearance, or his change in garb, as by the fact that he was sure the man was not there a second before. Had he somehow walked from #8 to #9 (over 300 yards from where they last met), changed clothes on the way, then hidden behind a thin, mostly leafless tree, only to emerge instantly, silently, stealthily? Bizarre, to say the least, thought Tom. He was not scared - this was a well known course to him, and if this guy was out for ill harm he could certainly have done mischief without revealing himself. But why was he being stalked like this?

"Who are you?" For a second he thought he knew the answer. The guy was a practical joker, sent by his friends to humiliate him when his ball went astray. But he quickly realized this made no sense, since how would this guy know he was going to slice the hell out of his ball and be where his ball ended up? And this was not something his friends could imagine, let alone pay for.

"Remember me?" said the highlander.

"You damn right," said Tom. "But who the hell are you? Do you live around here? And why are you stalking me?"

"No, no, I don't belong here," said the intruder, in what was surely the understatement of the day. "Like I said, I've come to help you improve your game."

Tom laughed. "You'll help me improve my game by getting out of the way so I can hit the ball."

"Where do you want the ball to go?"

"Out between those two trees, about 40 yards into the middle of the fairway."

"Similar to last time, heh?"

"Heh" mimicked Tom.

"Why don't you aim for the green?" said the strange man, like it was a no-brainer.

"Because, dear fellow," said Tom, in a purposely condescending tone, "trees are in the way. Or haven't you noticed?"

"Of course, but if you look closely I think you'll find a wee opening about 3 feet off the ground, right through here." He pointed to an opening in the trees that only a fool would try to punch through.

"Look, please move and I won't call the ranger - or the police for that matter. This is private property, after all, and you are interfering with my ball." John's voice was plaintive, not threatening. He was getting exasperated; his ball should not be here, in the woods, it should be out on the fairway, where he wouldn't encounter this nut case dressed in costume.

"I will move, of course, but put on yer new belt, if you still have it."

Tom instinctively reached to his back pocket and felt the artifact. He had forgotten about it since the last hole. Then just hit the ball so it has a chance to enter this tunnel, and you'll end up on the green. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised."

Tom didn't respond, but with exaggerated movements he took off his old belt and put on the new one. He would do as the man asked just to show him it couldn't be done, and hoping the guy would go away. He noticed the new belt felt like old, quality leather, and that the buckle was heavy, of a type of metal that looked like gold but had a slight silver tint to it. He liked the design, a simple metal buckle, large leather band. He put the old belt in his pocket and peered at the intended ball path.

He couldn't even see the opening without bending over, so he aimed to where the leaves parted and a fine needle might have a chance to go through. He played the ball back in his stance, took a 7 iron, and hit a low punch shot. The ball rose in the air and headed for the dense thicket. He didn't hear the telltale 'thwack' of ball hitting wood.

He rushed out of the woods and quickly walked up to the green. There he found his ball within 4 feet of the cup! He had played golf long enough to know the shot was foolhardy, a one in a million chance. What luck!

Who was this guy? Tom raced back into the clearing but the man was gone. Had he been an apparition? He was not going to go deeper into the woods in search of an apparition. He walked back to the green, sank the putt for a birdie and proceeded to the next hole.

Did I imagine this guy? This shot? He wished he had not been alone, but then realized that if he had a playing partner the guy might not have appeared. He had never felt so alone on the course. Wait until I tell Bridget about this one?

He played the next two holes par-par, so he was one under for the front nine. No 10 was a short par 4, 370 yards. Dense woods guarded the fairway on the left, and water on the right. You always want to avoid the water, so conservative players use a 3 iron or 5 wood to move the ball about 220 yards, sacrificing distance for accuracy. Better to be on the fairway than wet or lost in the woods. John chose a 5 wood and hit the ball straight down the middle. But the last 50 yards it veered unexpectedly left, and landed just inside the tree line. 'My friend from Scotland?' was his first thought.

He walked up to the area slowly, surveying the woods with each step. No one there. His ball was playable but could only be advanced about 100 yards with a wedge, since the line of sight directly to the green was obstructed by trees. A well executed wedge would leave him 50 yards from the flag, and still give chance for a par.

Tom addressed the ball, but his back swing was interrupted.

"Go for it," said the same voice as before.

He looked up and there was Mr. Scotland, same outlandish outfit.

"Why are you taunting me?" Tom enquired.

"I am sorry," came the reply, " I am here to help your game. You'll do fine, just think going for the green, rather than short of the green."

"But can't you see what's here," and John tapped on the nearest tree.

"You see what your mind wants you to see. The Green, Mr. Morris, is what you should be thinking and seeing."

"How did you know my name?"

The man gave no expression.

Who is this guy? Tom punched out into the fairway, expecting the ball to land where he had first envisioned, 50 yards in front of the green, on the right. And by the laws of physics it would have, except the ball took an unexplained turn to left and an unexplained roll as well, and again ended up a few feet from the cup.

Now Tom wanted answers. He approached the man, who took a frightened step back.

"I'm not going to hurt you, Tom said," and realized the ludicrous way he must have sounded. For all he knew, the guy could be carrying an AK 47 under his quilted skirt.

"No, son, I know that, but there will be time to get close later."

What did he mean by that?

"Well, are you going to tell me who you are, and how you made the ball take two impossible turns today?"

"Oh, I didn't do that, you did."

"No I didn't."

It sounded like a kid's argument, and was going nowhere.

"Well, I am here to help you."


"Envision your shots."

"What is you name?"

"Alistair McKenzie."

There was no hesitation, so it was either his real name or an often practiced response. But Tom didn't buy it.

"Any relation to the architect?"

Spelled differently, so no relation. Glad to meet you Mr. Morris."

"You still haven't said how you know me?"

"I've studied your game, and like what I see. I think you have potential to go far."

"Well, I do too, as a matter of fact."

"And I am here to help you."

"How? Say, didn't I already ask that?"

"By having you envision your shots."

"I am a professional , Mr. McKenzie, I already envision my shots."

"Yes, but not boldly enough, if I may say so. I want you to envision the perfect shot, the impossible shot, the one-in-a million shot."

"So what are you, a sports psychologist? I already see a shrink, and don't need another one. And I have no money for fancy gimmicks, if that's what you're selling."

Of course Tom would not even be speaking to this man had he not pulled off two shots that he knew to be impossible - - both while in the company of this erstwhile Scotsman.

"We're doing an experiment and you were selected.

"Why me? He decided to play along, with the nagging thought that what happened to his golf balls needed some explanation."

"You're young, you're strong, you're hungry. You are on the cusp on success but you don't quite have the skill to make it. But if you do succeed, you have the background, the pedigree, so the golf world won't be completely surprised."

"You're not making any sense. Are you asking to be my coach?"

"No, no, no, no. We - I - Just want you to envision your shots. Where do you want them to land, Here, there, where? You picture it, we'll deliver it.


"Ah, I thought you would never ask."

"That, as you say in your idiom, is the 64 thousand dollar question."

This phrase bothered Tom. Something about it ...like from a book. This guy studied English from a book. What country was he from, if not an English-speaking one?

"I would tell you the truth, but you wouldn't believe it, so let's just say I've come from a long way, to help you improve your game."

The guy sounded like an advertisement for golf clubs.


"By showing you how to envision your shots."

"You mean if I envision the shot, it will happen."

"Precisely, with one condition.

"One condition?'

"Well, two, actually."

"Like what?"

"Well, it has to be feasible by your laws of physics."

"What do you mean, 'your laws of physics." Are there others?

"Well, yes and no, but that doesn't matter. I mean you can't envision an impossible shot. You can't carry the ball 400 yards, so don't envision that. And you don't make the ball do loop-de-loops, so don't envision that. That's what I mean."

"OK, and what's the second requirement?"

"Simple, really, you must wear the belt -- and a hat. The belt is the very same one yer a wearing now. As for the hat..." He pointed to the ground, where Tom saw a sports cap with 'Titleist' on the bill.

"But I already have a Titleist hat. Why that one?"

"Oh, it's a special cap, to give you special envisioning powers. Titleist is your sponsor, I believe."

The intruder was being kind. Titleist had sponsored him when he became pro, and provided free golf balls, hats and other paraphernalia. His contract called for no money unless he started to do well, which at his level meant get a PGA card and place in some tournaments.

"You must wear that cap and none other. And the belt. Both, if you want to make your shots happen."

Tom picked up the cap and inspected it. He noticed a fine band of metal just inside the cap. It had a bluish copper tone, and did not appear like anything else he had seen in a cap - or anywhere else.

"What's this, he asked, pointing to the band."

"That's going to help you envision your shots."

"How, does it read my brain?" asked Tom, somewhat derisively.

"Sort of. Lots of players wear talismans, copper bracelets, other ornaments in the belief they will help bring them good luck. Think of it that way. But there's one other thing to consider. I've studied your game. It's got potential. You really have nothing to lose by trying the cap. Go on, give it a try now."

Tom picked up the cap and put it on. It felt like an ordinary cap. The metal band was not noticeable. The cap had a comfortable fit.

"OK, I'll try it. If it works, fine. If not, well I guess I've lost nothing. But what do you get out of this?"

"Oh, just consider that I've made a bet I can help improve your game. You won't owe me a thing. I will win if you win, that's all."

Suddenly, the man got up from his stump and walked back toward the density of the woods.

"Hey, where are you going?"

The man turned his head sideways and said, as he kept walking: "Remember, envision your shots. We'll meet again later." And with that he continued walking into the woods until Tom could not longer see him. Had John stayed next to the man he would have seen his apparition quickly dissolve into thin air.

4. Decision

"How you'd do today honey."

"OK. I went out of bounds on number 7, though. "Bridg, I met the strangest man out on the golf course. He said he could help my game and gave me a cap and a belt to wear. What a weirdo."

"A belt? A magic belt?" Bridget burst out laughing.

"Yea, honest."

"Let me see it."

Tom went to his pants, which he had thrown on a chair, and pulled out the black belt.


She fingered it softly.

"Well, it's a nice belt, but I don't think it'll give you an extra 10 yards or anything."

"Is it real leather?"

"I can't tell. It seems kind of expensive. I don't see any brand name. It may be foreign made. Have you tried it yet?"

"No. I'd rather pray to 'Oom-pah-pah'." They both laughed.

"And a hat, too?"

"Yea, an ordinary Titleist, although its got this metal band inside."

"His wife examined the hat, found it uninteresting, and through it back at him."

"Well, wear them tomorrow. Aren't you playing with Hayden and Jack?"

"Yea, I'm meeting them at 10."

Tom played either by himself or with his erstwhile buddies Hayden and Jack, themselves aspirants to the PGA tour. They tee'd up at 10 a.m., and had the course to themselves. The first hole was a Par 4, 440 yards with a dogleg to the right; on the left was a bunker at the turn. The proper shot was a drive to the left of the fairway, ending up about 170 yards from the green, where the flag was in the middle. Any drive to the right ran the risk of hitting trees, of requiring a high pitch shot over the trees to the green.

Hayden's ball went out about 250 yards, and landed in the fairway bunker. The green was still reachable, but a difficult shot from the shallow bunker. Jack's shot split the fairway 260 out, at which both partners murmured, "nice shot."

Tom tee'd up, not even thinking about his new belt and hat. His drive started low and straight, then began a gentle curve...

[.....ball gravitational field 3.154678 minus air velo 15.4444, spin 350000^12..........vacuum -23.222222 spin right 44^3.3.....x coord 44,77,87 y coord 23,76, 25......vacuum 100.11......plus air velo 13.326798...10.3 + 44.333...-44.222....field 1.245879 x -1.10000112, spin r 64^5.4 spin l +.0012...spin right 44^3.3.....x coord 443.77, y coord 36.76...]

In six seconds of hang time, computations requiring twice the computer power available on earth moved Tom's ball a slight distance and direction from what it would have otherwise traveled. The single invisible force controlled by the computations was the air pressure within a millimeter of the ball's surface -- but the pallette upon which the computations played out was infinitely controllable. It was as if each dimple on the golf ball had its own air pressure controller, and the dozens of separate controllers agreed instantly on the best path and speed and spin for their mutual sphere.

Tom's drive followed the line of Jack's ball then, with a gentle fade, ended up 40 yards further along the fairway.

"Wow, Tom," said Jack, "I didn't know you could fade the ball like that! That's a nice shot."


The three walked to the balls for their second shot. Tom's second required nothing more than an 8 iron. His ball lifted high in the air and landed 12 feet before the pin, then rolled to within 6 inches. A few minutes later he tapped in for birdie.

"What have you been eating?" joked Hayden, who bogeyed the hole, while Jack parred it.

"Why can't I do that more often?" Tom asked rhetorically.

The second hole is a par 5, 545 yards, with a downhill role to a narrow green, pin placed in the back of a green surrounded by three bunkers. Tom's drive went 310 yards, the furthest he had ever hit it a ball that remained on the fairway. He needed but a pitching wedge for his second shot, and the ball landed 4 feet from the cup.

"Hey," joked Jack, "today you have a game with which I am not familiar."

"Yeh, stick around; just a little lucky so far."

Tom made the 4-foot putt for his first eagle in many a moon. He was minus three for the first two holes.

Hole #4 is a par 3, 200 yards, surrounded on three sides by deep bunkers. Tom had honors. He took careful aim and pulled the pin with his 6 iron and let it go. The white sphere traced a high arcing flight, heading straight at the pin. It landed 10 feet before the flag, took a bounce and plopped into the cup.

"Wow." from Jack. "Way to go."

"Can't beat that" said Hayden. "I believe you are 5 below par after three holes."

"What luck" Tom muttered, only now fully realizing luck had nothing to do with it.

He waited while Jack and Hayden played out their balls, the former getting par and the latter a bogey, due to a bunkered tee shot.

At the fourth tee Tom excused himself. "Excuse me, guys, I've got to take a leak."

Tom shuffled off into the woods behind tee box. He didn't know what was happening, but he was both pleased and scared. He didn't believe in golf fairies, no matter how much he and Bridg clowned around. But he didn't want to squander some gift either, in front of these guys, who knew him and his game and would not stop joking and commenting if he continued to hit like this. He took off the belt, and trusted the slim cut of his pants to keep them from falling off. He stuffed the belt into his back pocket. The hat? He remembered McKenzie's words, "Both, if you want to make your shots happen" and kept it on. He walked back to the tee box.

"Your go, Tom."

Tom hooked his drive way left, into the fairway rough.

To be continued...

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