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.
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."
"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.
"Well, what are you selling?"
Tom was curious enough to linger a bit. And the stranger was standing on his ball.
"What is your name?"
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?"
"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."
"Ye want to play better golf, is that right?"
"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.
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."
"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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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?"
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.
"Well, two, actually."
"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
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
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
"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.
"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
"A belt? A magic belt?" Bridget burst out laughing.
"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
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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