All In The Family

Continued (page 2 of 4)

His four sons, taking it up at the same time, turned golf into a contact sport. While driving a cart to the range at Minnesota Valley Country Club in my hometown of Bloomington, my brother Jim was felled by an errant range ball that struck him in the Adam's apple and sent him shoulder-rolling from his seat. My dad and I looked on in astonishment, wondering how we could possibly bring dignity to such a death when delivering his eulogy.

Just last summer, Tom's 9-year-old son, Charlie, took golf lessons at Minnesota Valley and drove a ball straight up and into his forehead. He collapsed on the tee box in agony, an apparent golf suicide.

Indeed, most of our golf violence has been self-inflicted.Tom and I engaged in a Cain-and-Abel cage match in Maui when I chipped onto the green and then sprinted for the toilet, an affront to Tom's sense of etiquette. He picked up my ball, threw it into a water hazard and said, "What kind of jackass chips on and then takes a leak?"

"Both of you refused to pose for the family photo at the next tee," recalled my brother-in-law Mike Kolar.

Mike is married to my only sister, Amy. Amy is a variation on the golf widow: a golf only-child (to her brothers) and a golf orphan (to her father). The only rounds Amy enjoys are her rounds as an emergency-room physician. But when you play golf like the Rushins do, it helps to have an ER doc at close hand.

And so our foursomes are more male than most maximum-security prisons. (And often involve more denim. We frequently find ourselves behind guys in jean shorts and wife-beaters at various Midwestern resort courses chosen solely for their geographic convenience.)

My wife, retired basketball player Rebecca Lobo, seldom plays with us, in spite of -- or more likely because of -- her status as the 219th best golfer among professional athletes. Or so she was named by this very magazine, which ranked her one spot ahead of the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees. Ever since, my brothers have tried to draw her into a heavily handicapped round by saying, "You gotta give us strokes. You're better than Derek Jeter." Wisely, she has declined to play with us.

Over the years nonblood relations have made countless cameos on our family golf trips, each guest more appalling than the predecessor. Often they've been attorneys. In 2003 at Cypress Point, Jim brought along his buddy Hondo -- Chicago lawyer Jeff Henderson -- who showed up at the first tee at the top-10 course on Golf Digest's 100 Greatest with a strapless bag.

The caddie's face fell like a soufflé when he realized he'd have to hump Hondo's tour bag around by the handle for four hours like an 80-pound attaché case.

And yet Hondo and Mike, also an attorney, provide something that is too often necessary on Rushin family golf trips: legal counsel. In Kona, a decade-and-a-half ago, Jim's wife, Mary Jo, shattered the window of a condo with her tee shot and then turned, stricken, to my dad. "What should I do?" she said. "This has never happened to me before."

"Take a drop," Dad replied, irritated by her ignorance. "You can't play it from in there."

Karmically, Dad now spends his winters in a condo overlooking the 17th fairway of the Highland Woods Golf & Country Club in Bonita Springs, Fla., where his rooftop is routinely pelted by hail-size golf balls, cosmic payback for his family's manifold golf sins.

The greatest of these was committed on the Big Island in 1993, when the cashier at an upscale course shortchanged me $2 on my $78 green fee. He said he'd given me my change. I said he hadn't, for if he had, I'd now be in possession of two singles. This went on for three full minutes. The only thing wider than my family's mean streak is my family's cheap streak.

Moments after leaving the golf shop, seated in a cart and still bereft of my $2, I felt a backhanded slap to my chest.

It was the cashier, angrily flinging two bills into my lap, like I was an exotic dancer. Tom scrambled from the driver's seat to grab him. Jim came sprinting downhill from the first tee box. A crowd of giants -- they were the same size and temperament as the 600-pound Hawaiian sumo champion Konishiki -- poured from the cart garage, like circus clowns from a Volkswagen Beetle.

Sadly, we were missing my little brother, John, a 6-feet-6 human hockey fight who was a seventh-round draft pick of the New York Rangers as a high school senior. On this trip, John was in college at Notre Dame, where he majored in cross-checking.

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