Looking For A Few Good Laughs...
I was 6 years old when I heard my first golf joke:
Question: Why do golfers wear two pairs of socks?
Answer: In case they get a hole in one.
At the time, I thought it was hilarious. I told it to nearly everyone I knew--and earned a lot of blank stares for my trouble. But I did get a few smiles here and there, and a genuine chuckle from my dad. Forty years later, it occurs to me that earning that laugh from my father is perhaps what launched me on a lifetime fof golf and comedy.
Lately, it seems as if people don't tell jokes much anymore. Perhaps we're all working too hard. Or perhaps so much of what's going on in the world just isn't funny. When was the last time you heard a new golf joke? Is the golf joke dead? I intended to find out: I embarked upon a quest to track down the world's best ones. It seemed like the perfect way to unite my parallel obsessions. I've played golf most of my life, and I've told countless jokes in comedy clubs and at golf tournaments, where I sometimes emceed for the dean of comedy himself, Bob Hope.
Hope had a database of more than 85,000 pages of jokes he'd heard or told during his nine decades in show business. I don't know how many were golf-related, but there might be more jokes about this game than about any other subject. The tradition of telling jokes while waiting to hit a shot is as old as the game itself. The very first golf joke probably involved a Scotsman sculling a feathery with his baffy and knocking some poor sheep senseless.<
"Laddie," his playing partner might have said. "Yer problem is ye stand too close to the ball--after you've hit it!"
Growing up in small-town Texas, I found the best jokes were always told by the most colorful characters. Once I caddied in a group with a hustler, a preacher and a rancher sporting cowboy boots with golf spikes, who was the first of many over the years to tell me this classic:
"Bad day at the course," a guy tells his wife. "Charlie had a heart attack on the third hole."
"That's terrible!" she says.
"You're telling me. All day long, it was hit the ball, drag Charlie."
If I remember correctly, the rest of the group recited the punch line in unison.
BIG LAUGHS ON THE BIG ISLAND
My quest began with books. A quick search of Amazon.com revealed an astounding 16 books of golf jokes--each one with pretty much the same collection of laughers and groaners, like the tale of Old Eagle Eye:
After being reassured that his 80-year-old caddie has perfect eyesight, the golfer hits his first tee shot deep in the right rough.
"Did you see it?" the golfer asks as they walk off the tee.
"Yep!" Old Eagle Eye replies with confidence.
"Well, where is it?"
"I can't remember."
Or the one about the terrible slice:
A golfer hits a huge slice off the first tee. The ball soars over a fence and onto a highway, where it hits a car, which promptly crashes into a tree.
The stunned golfer rushes into the golf shop and shouts, "Help! Help! I just hit a terrible slice off the first tee and hit a car and it crashed. What should I do?"
And the pro says, "Try a slightly stronger grip."
Like any joke, these wear a little thin after 30 or 40 tellings--or hearings. That's why I figured I'd better find some new material, the real stuff, the kind of jokes failed-comics-turned-caddies find lost in the woods and sell in back alleys for five bucks a dozen. To score jokes like that, I'd have to get my hands dirty, to search out the funniest golfers no matter where they might be: Hawaii, Pebble Beach, Los Angeles, Palm Springs.
"Are you sure this is work?" my wife asked suspiciously, which of course reminded me of another golf joke:
On the phone with a golf buddy who has asked him to play, a guy says: "I am the master of my home and can play golf whenever I want. But hold on a minute while I find out if I want to."
Like any knight in search of virgin humor, I began by seeking the advice of my elders, which in this case meant the members of the Champions Tour.
On the Big Island of Hawaii, with the sun shining on the snow-capped peak of Mauna Kea, I found the guys warming up for a new season. Lining the practice tee, 30 of America's finest senior golfers were hitting balls practically out of sight. I could hardly contain my excitement at the thought of all the jokes they'd heard and told in their 30 lifetimes of golf.
Alas, I soon discovered that not everyone on tour is funny. Working my way down the practice tee, I explained the nature of my quest and was greeted by the same kind of blank stares I'd earned so many years ago with that first golf joke.
"I can't remember jokes," big John Jacobs told me. Bruce Lietzke's caddie, Brian Lietzke, just shook his head when I asked if Bruce had the mettle to crack us all up.
"Leaky's just not that funny," Brian said of his sweet-swinging brother.
At the next station, Dana Quigley, or DQ as they call him, had my first real lead. "Ask Ed Dougherty," he suggested, "Doc is the funny one."
At the end of the line, Dougherty's bushy eyebrows furrowed down on his doughy face when I told him DQ and others had singled him out as a one-man standup.
"Me?" he said. "If they think I'm funny, they must be on something. Besides ibuprofen, I mean."
And with that I learned the first valuable lesson of my quest: Dougherty is like most people who are funny--his humor doesn't come from telling jokes. He's just ... funny.
I headed for the beachside bar, ordered a tall, cool beverage and pondered how in the heck I was going to find the very best jokes about golf when no one seemed to know any.
An hour later, I heard someone call my name and turned to see Tom Kite waving me over. A friend from back home in Austin, Kite invited me to experience first-hand the cushy life of a tour pro. All around us a lavish buffet had been set for the pros and their pro-am partners: jumbo shrimp, crab, roast beef and half a mile of desserts.