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All In The Family

Continued (page 4 of 4)

And anyway, Wild Rock's rustic beauty served as a natural pacifier. The par-3 15th requires a tee shot over a gravel pit that put me pleasantly in mind of Fred Flintstone's quarry workplace. In an early episode of "The Flintstones," Fred won the Loyal Order of Dinosaurs golf tournament. Alas, lodge president Barney Rubble withheld Fred's trophy because his dues were delinquent. There is that bittersweet quality -- golf giveth, and golf taketh away -- in every round the Rushins play.

There was that time at Meadowbrook in Hopkins, Minn., that Tom and I were paired with a lone stranger who had -- we couldn't help but notice -- only one arm. The man swung right-handed clubs with his left hand, as if hitting a backhand in tennis, and his fluid swing (and flawless first tee shot) gave my brother and me a strange feeling of impending doom. And so Tom turned to me and whispered, with a deep sense of disquiet, "We're about to get our asses kicked by a guy with one arm." Which is precisely what happened.

Our games have scarcely improved in the 17 years that we've been playing. And yet we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Why? Why do we keep coming back to golf? We're masochists, to be sure.

Or sadists. (Or sodomists.) But we're also optimists. In preparation for Wild Rock, I shopped for a new driver, in the same way that I shop for wine: by figuring out how much I want to spend, which label I like best and whether or not Greg Norman had anything to do with its production.

buddiesgolf

My dad once played with a 90-year-old who tried to follow his own shots with the binoculars around his neck.

The new club has had no impact whatsoever on my score. But drivers are not what drive me. The real driver of my golf game is family. The family that plays together, stays together, at least literally so. Eighteen of us stayed in a duplex cabin at the Dells, where everyone agreed that the high point in our family's golf history -- hell, the high point in our family's history, period -- came on Dec. 26, 2006.

We were in Bonita Springs. My dad booked a tee time for his four sons at Highland Woods. When I begged off the early-morning tee time -- as a sportswriter, I was still keeping vampiric hours -- my dad filled in for me at the last minute.

At the 133-yard 15th, Tom went into the can adjacent to the tee box. "Jim had his back turned and was goofing off," recalled Dad, who can't see more than 50 yards ahead of him.

This fairway blindness is not uncommon on the geriatric courses of South Florida, where my dad once played with a 90-year-old who tried to follow the flight of his own shots with the binoculars around his neck.

And so when Dad's tee shot went straight at the stick, landed five yards in front of the cup and majestically rolled, like a red carpet, toward the cup, John was the only one jumping up and down and shouting, "It went in! It went in!" Jim whipped around in disbelief as Tom minced from the can with his shorts around his ankles. At age 72 -- life's par -- Dad had his first hole-in-one.

I thought about this little moment of perfection in our cabin at the Wilderness while Dad witnessed yet another one: His five kids and 12 grandkids joining him to pound fajitas down their open maws, giving new resonance to the phrase "18 holes."

This family tableau was unimprovable. Or was until I bit into my still-sizzling fajita and remembered, with seared tongue, what I hate about Ireland: The soup's too @#$%^& hot.

John Cuneo

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