The angel with an iron: My heavenly encounter at the driving range
Golf and the concept of God are, well, a match made in heaven. This is a sport that bears an Amen Corner, Hell Bunker, Church Pews and the Devil's Asshole, after all. On many public tracks, the starter is St. Peter, brandishing a list of the chosen permitted through; walk-ups are banished to the purgatory of the putting green, repenting for the sin of not making a tee time.
Anyone who has tried to clear a lake or stood over a double-breaking five-footer for the money has asked for heavenly assistance. (Although the Reverend Billy Graham admitted that "The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf links.") And chances are "Jesus Christ" is said more on courses than cathedrals, albeit in a slightly different connotation.
Clearly there's a bond between golf and the divine. But that didn't make it any less surprising to see an angel at my local driving range.
Most players head to the range to find their swings, not spiritual enlightenment. But visitors to Sterling Farms Golf Course in Stamford, Conn. on Monday night received a dose of the latter thanks to the presence of David Spencer. Cloaked in khakis, polo and a pullover, Spencer is dressed like any other range patron, save for one small accessory:
He's wearing angel's wings.
No, it's not the latest golf infomercial product, and Spencer didn't lose a bet. The wings are part of his persona, "The Brazen Angel." Spencer says he's a singer, songwriter, entertainer, performer; basically, Jamie Foxx in feathers. From his explanation, he dresses like an attendant from Above 24/7, spending most of his time in high-traffic, tourist-friendly areas.
"Everyone loves to be around an angel!" he tells me.
That act might play at Times Square or the Vegas strip, but how would it, ahem, fly at the driving range?
Initially, not well. There were finger-points and eye rolls in Spencer's direction, and more than a few "Is this guy serious?" grumbles. That included yours truly; I always figured angels were more concerned with prophecies rather than pitching wedges.
But then I started talking to Spencer, and I immediately felt ashamed. The guy has a smile brighter than lightning, and his lively attitude seems authentic. If he felt the range's skepticism -- and one would have to be oblivious not to -- it didn't affect his disposition.
"I'm just trying to make life greater and better than it ever could be," Spencer says.
That sentiment carries to golf. Spencer rifles through 140 balls, easily. He asks me to take some photos of him in action. "My friends say I have the technique of a pro, that I should give the tour a shot!"
Far be it from me, a mere mortal, to doubt an angelic prophecy. But given an abbreviated takeaway -- wings apparently aren't conducive to a golf swing -- and the lack of well-struck balls, I'm thinking that revelation may be a stretch.
Questionable mechanics aside, Spencer is the dream scenario for a random pairing at the course. He's encouraging, oohing and aahing at your shots. Despite what his "Look at ME" wardrobe suggests, he's more interested in you rather than talking about himself. He's worldly, touching on multiple subjects in our short conversation.
In short, everything you'd expect from an angel.
I ended up purchasing two more buckets of balls, just to observe other golfers' interactions with Spencer. And though a healthy amount of judgmental scoffs remained, those that approached or talked with the Brazen Angel walked away pleased.
"He seems like a fun, decent man," says Eric, a 45-year-old teacher from White Plains, N.Y. "You don't have extroverted personalities much here. It was a breath of fresh air."
Count me as a believer, as my short conversation with Spencer brought a wave of positivity over me. In a world that broadcasts more bad news than good, it's endearing to see someone go against the flow as an unwavering force of alacrity.
Make no mistake, Spencer is not as pure as the driven snow. On multiple occasions, he let me know that "girls enjoy the wings." His website boasts plenty of vanity shots, many with drinks in hand. He desperately wants me to know he drives a BMW.
Not exactly a copy-and-paste description of the archangel Michael, if you catch my drift.
Conversely, I'd say a majority of golfers have an affinity for the opposite sex, the occasional beverage and fancy cars. Spencer's only crime is he's just like us.
Before he leaves, I talk with him again, briefly. While his shot-making leaves much to be desired, his love for golf is clear. I remember that angels are often associated with a particular mission, and wonder if Spencer's could be as "guardian of the game."
Angels must have extrasensory perception, because Spencer says what I'm thinking.
"Hey, you know 'Angels in the Outfield'? This is an angel with irons!"
We exchange cards and promise to stay in touch. Then he goes off to spread his infectious outlook of divinity, while I try to fix my wayward driver. As he leaves the range, I notice I'm getting a tad quick with the swing.
Following a few less-than-desirable shots, I back off, trying to think to think of a lesson or tip to slow down the big stick.
And then, with all clarity, I remember the description inscribed inside my car's dashboard:
"Never go faster than your guardian angel can fly."