Golf Trips, Guys… Life… and Death

Another successful Malcolm McLeod Memorial is in the books! Some 16 brave men, on their own recognizance for 4 days, all attempting to play semi-decent golf. All against the backdrop of ego, testosterone, booze and sunscreen.

It has all the ingredients ripe for a disaster. A fist fight. Somebody leaving early in a huff over rules. Bad blood. You name it. But alas, we were able to pull it off in spectacular fashion, at least one more time. And in no small part to another round of radio listeners who stepped in the breech to fill in for late dropouts. Jim Bonahoom of Fort Wayne, Indiana and Dean Singley of Dallas (formerly DC) basically “saved” the event in back to back weeks. They joined Kurt Knudson, and Mike McCool (2017 winner!) and Scott Shirey as guys who did the same in 2016.

God bless men. I do, love them. You know, in a Bud Light commercial… “I love you man….” kind of way. There was Cat-5 level ballbusting going on all weekend, where literally nothing was off-limits. Guys and their alcoholism, past drug addictions, their weight, their baldness, their various neuroses, bad golf swings, short tempers, whiney-ness….. you name it.

This is how guys say ‘I love you’ to each other. With a morbid joke – like not “what if”… but “what year” your fatal heart attack is coming. This is something women, just will never understand.

Sports is also how men say they love each other. With athletic bonding, and a simple compliment of “good shot!” I remember this concept from the excellent book by Michael Murphy called “Golf in the Kingdom.” It’s required reading for anybody who plays golf, and still very good for just general sports fans.

But here’s what’s crazy about 15 years. It goes by in a blink. And it’s both amazing and terrifying at the same time. This year, there were only 3 guys who have been on every single one of these trips every spring, without fail: Myself, “Cowboy” Mike and “Screamin’ Eagle” Bob.

Our routine has always been to rally-up at Bob’s house before heading south. When we began doing this trip, Bob’s kids would send us into the pre-dawn darkness by trundling out to the driveway to say goodbye to their pop. One of those kids, young Joe, would even run down the sidewalk waving to us as we disappeared down the block.

Well… Joe PLAYED with us this year. He’s 19, and just finished high school as the captain of the golf team. He hits it a country mile, has a 28 inch waist and about 4% body fat. He’s polite, smart…. quiet. And he’s training this summer to hopefully become a Navy Seal.

Amazing.

And it’s not even the first father-son combo on this trip we’ve had. Captain Sheehan (aka “The Sheriff”) brought his son Luke a few years ago, as he was playing Division I golf at Stephen F. Austin. Even our host professional, the great Ken Crow (who knows everybody, and everything about golf in Pinehurst) let HIS son play with us last year.

Young Benjamin Crow just finished 4th in the NC state championships in the highest 4A classification. His team won the championship for the 3rd year in a row. He’s headed to UNC-Greensboro on a scholarship next year, wth his best friend and best player on the team.

Man, ain’t that sweet?

Funny too, because 10 years ago, when I first met Ken Crow as a listener of my radio show he would say how young Bennie would giggle at my silly show bits and catch phrases. (“Where you at… whatchu haulin!”) I even have video of a 9 year old Ben challenging me on the chipping green one year at what is now Pinehurst #9. (Formerly “The National.”) PS: He beat me then, too.

Meanwhile, the old… get older. This is not negotiable.

But I’m thankful to just be able to play. Last year, I only made it through about half of the holes on this trip. My lyme disease/rheumatoid arthritis had me at my lowest that week. (Yeah, I’m not exactly sure what it is. Go ask the 9 different doctors I have seen about it. It’ll be a good argument for sure.) My current approach and medication has made things way way way better. Almost…. 90% I’d say.

Last year I was so jacked up stiff, painful to move, painful to lift anything, I needed help carrying my golf bag to the car. So while I was not pleased this weekend that an incurable “over-the-top” move had popped up and stayed with me despite trying every trick in the book, I was just thrilled to be as relatively healthy as I am. Every hole was a gift, and I tried to savor them all.

But it’s gonna be a fight from here on out – for all of us old fuds. And I hope I can rise to the fight. I’m still a good 40 pounds overweight with horrible eating habits. I look to the guys on the trip who are real inspirations. Bob was once pudgy-middle-aged Bob, but now looks like a 62 year old version of his former University of Washington gymnast-self! And he got lucky to have had a doctor spot a “widowmaker” blockage in his heart, perhaps just weeks before it was going to kill him! They found it, when he was just going through a physical to get a new life insurance policy!

A quadruple bypass later, and he’s making the most of his good break and running with it!

Same thing for my boy Ronnie, who is going on 4.5 years sober. I knew and liked the old Ron alot. But he ran hot and cold sometimes. He could get dark and weird at times. He wasn’t always reliable. But seeing him now, is the best inspiration anyone can have. Ron 2.0 is an incredible upgrade. And he knows it too!

I don’t really drink much, but I could sure stand to drink LESS… and I know it. Others on the trip drink way too much and know it, and have tried, and are going to continue trying to change that for the better. Some drink on the trip to a level that is….. “jusssst right..” for them… and they have no plans to change.

it’s all good, and everybody has to live their life. But the clock is ticking. And I for one, have a lot more golf to play.

As one last note, I enjoyed seeing people on Twitter send me their photos of their own golf trips with the guys. Many of them, have been going on for 20 years or more. Amazing. And I am sure there even some trips where the GRANDKIDS play with the old dudes!

Thank you for that window into your annual excursions. I’ll use it as inspiration for The Malcolm.\

About the Author

Steve Czaban is a 25 year sports radio veteran, who hosts an afternoon drive show in Washington D.C. He also appears on "Bob and Brian" in Milwaukee. "Czabe" also writes and edits his own commentaries for www.czabe.com and other on-line and print publications. He can be reached at czabe@yahoo.com.

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2 Comments

  1. Our family’s 16th annual STQ (Screw the Queen) golf tournament takes place at the end of this month in Ocean City, MD.

    It features my Dad and his cousins, in their 70s, me and my cousins in the 40s/50s and various friends. Dad is getting up there. Uncle Lee was just diagnosed with cancer. Dad’s friend Scully is caring for his ailing wife and can’t make it. But we’ll keep at it as long as we can.

    Lots of father/son bonding and quality time with relatives now scattered throughout the east coast. Each year we can do it is a blessing. I don’t think we’ll be at it when my son starts playing, alas. But I’m going to a Phillies game with Dad and son on June 17, the day before Fathers Day, and that ain’t bad.

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