Humor by Dave Barry

You have surely noticed that a big golf craze is sweeping the nation, as aging Baby Boomers discover the benefits of participating in a sport where the most physically demanding activity is ordering putters by mail.

It has reached the point where, if you don't play golf, your career can suffer. I know mine has. In my newspaper office, the two senior editors -- let's call them "Tom Shroder" and "Bill Rose" -- regularly go off together during business hours to play golf. I'm sure that while they're out on the "links" hitting "bogeys," they discuss important business matters and formulate newspaper policies in conversations like this:

TOM: Bill, before I attempt to "shank" this "birdie," I'd like to know your "gut feeling" on the use of quotation marks in the newspaper.

BILL: Tom, I feel they are overused.

TOM: I agree. Let's formulate a policy on that.

BILL: And then let's try on evening gowns.

TOM: Yes! We'll accessorize with brooches!

I'm not saying "Tom" and "Bill" discuss exactly these topics. I'm merely saying that, because I don't play golf, I don't know what they discuss, and so I'm "out of the loop." Perhaps you're "in the same boat." Perhaps you would like to learn about golf, so that when your colleagues talk about it, you can join in and be "one of the persons." That's why today's topic is Basic Questions About Golf, starting with the question that beginners ask most often:

Q. Has anybody ever used a 9-iron to kill emus?

A. Alert reader Marjorie Dishron sent me a fascinating column by Ron Henry Strait, outdoor writer for The San Antonio Express-News. The column concerns a man named Wes Linthicum, who heads an informal group called the Texas Christian Hunters Association, which each year feeds the homeless using donated meat. An area emu farmer offered to give the group a bunch of emus, which are very large, ostrichlike birds. The problem was that the birds were alive, and, as the old folk saying goes, "You can't feed large ostrichlike birds to the homeless if they (the birds) are walking around." The members of the Texas Christian Hunters Association didn't have guns with them and nobody wanted to strangle the emus manually. According to the column, the problem was solved when "someone recalled that emus have a tendency to closely examine an object that is dropped on the ground. That's when Linthicum got out his 9-iron. . . ."

I called Linthicum, and he told me, after some hemming and hawing, that although the story he had related to columnist Strait was essentially correct, the golf-club part was not 100 percent accurate in the sense of being true. Linthicum also made these points: (1) If you are ever offered a gift of live emus, you would be wise to turn it down, because "those things have feet like something out of 'Jurassic Park'"; (2) If it gets printed in the newspaper that you dispatched emus with a 9-iron, even for a good cause, you're going to hear from some extremely angry animal-rights people; and (3) If a person, for whatever reason, did have to dispatch an emu with a golfing implement, it would make more sense to use a wood than an iron.

Speaking of "Jurassic Park," another question often asked by beginning golfers is:

Q. What happens if a snake eats my balls?

A. Don't worry! The snake will be fine, provided that it gets proper medical care. I base this statement on an article from the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News, written by Danielle Hollister and alertly sent in by Dave Barrows, headlined, SURGERY GETS SNAKE UP TO PAR. The story states that Sandy and Jeff Paul, who raise chickens, sometimes "put golf balls in their hens' nests to encourage the hens to stay put and lay eggs." One day, they noticed a 5-foot rat snake near their home with three distinct lumps in its middle and they realized that the snake had swallowed their golf balls. So they grabbed their 9-irons and. . . .

No, seriously, according to the Patriot-News article, the Pauls contacted a veterinarian, who successfully removed the golf balls. The snake, which the Pauls named "Spalding," came through the operation OK and has been accepted in law school.

No, I'm kidding about that last part. But I'm not kidding about our final common golf question, which is:

Q. If I do not wish to stand around on a golf course listening to a bunch of business clients drone on about their mulligans, can I hire somebody to play golf with them for me?

A. Yes! Alert dentist Steve Carstensen sent me a flier for a new Seattle outfit called Golf In Action ("We'll Play For You When You Can't"). The idea is, you pay a golfer to take your clients out and play with them, thereby (to quote the flier) "giving you the freedom to continue your important daily business needs." I called Golf In Action and spoke with the founder, Sheila Locke, who told me that her idea has gotten a good public response, although a lot of the calls are from people who want to join her staff and get paid to play golf.

Me, I love the idea of paying somebody to play golf with your clients, and I'm thinking: Why not take it further? Why not pay somebody to have meetings with your clients, and take your clients to dinner, and smoke cigars and drink brandy with your clients, and then throw up on your clients' shoes because you hate brandy and cigars? This company could be called: Businesspersons In Action.

So those are your golf basics. Good luck out on the "links," and be sure to say "hi" to my editors, "Tom" and "Bill," who will be easy to spot because they get stuck in the sand traps with those high heels.

This column was originally published October 5, 1997.

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