Editors' BlogDecember 21, 2007

The Tale of Muddy Joe

Each Christmas I tell my wife Julie that I don't want any presents, just her okay to take the annual spring buddies golf trip that four of us have been doing for 26 years. It's a wonderful gift and fortunately she doesn't believe me about giving anything else. So perhaps the timing is why this story from reader Bruce Swail about playing a November buddies round at Pine Meadow near Chicago hit home. Or maybe it's just that Woody Austin's Presidents Cup plunge is fresh in mind. Anyway, settle back for Bruce's story:

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We had a three man game at Pine Meadow today. Being November 20th any golf is better than none. Meyer, Swail and Vasselli teed it up. A generally damp day misting the whole round. The 14th hole was most interesting though. A par four to a green with water to the right the final 75 or so yards of the fairway. It seems Pine Meadow just drained the water hazards for the season leaving just a small puddle instead of a large water hazard at this spot. Our friend Joey V. hit a nice second shot to the green but, due to an unfortunate bounce, the ball went right and hopped into the hazard. The ball trickled down just short of the water (recall the water was drained so this point was well into the hazard). Joe didn't know he had this unlucky bounce until he arrived near the green looking for his ball. After a quick stomping of the feet and a couple of expletives, Joe took three clubs with him and marched promptly into the hazard. The ball appeared to be sitting up nicely he thought. A good shot and par was still in reach.

Well, the first two steps past the grass line would have been enough for most of us. You see the bottom of the creek while exposed to the air after draining was still quite saturated. Joe's feet sunk in 8-10 inches in the first two steps. Not to be deterred, Joe  took a further 5-6 paces into the hazard. With each step he sank a little deeper reaching his ultimate depth of 10-12 inches. While we're not proud of it, Ron and I burst into spontaneous belly laughs at Joe's misfortune. Not to be rattled, Joe continued to adjust his stance in sheer defiance to the situation. He stuck his two extra clubs in the mud in what proved to be a handy club stand and prepared to address the ball. Nearly falling over he nicely regained his balance saving what surely would have been a complete mud coating. He took aim, drew the club back, then  SLAP. An eerie silence fell upon us until the bucket-load of mud fell back to earth. Another look showed Joe managed to advance the ball a lesser distance. About 6 inches forward. Following the next series of expletives Joe decided enough was enough. He'd picked up and conceded the hole.

Try as he might, Joe then attempted to pull his feet out of the muck. All he could manage was to push one leg deeper while pulling up on the other. More expletives were heard. Ron and I attempted to regain our composure and assess the situation. I had flashbacks of a PBS documentary where a Zebra died while thrashing in quicksand. All I could think of was that if Joe sunk that far I'd be in over my neck. A direct rescue was clearly out of the question. Maybe a tow truck and a rope and we could drag him out. But where would we find one and more importantly we had to get the next four holes in before dark. Compassion dictated we didn't leave him behind so we had to find a way to free Joe.

Amazingly, throughout this, Joe did not lose his shoes. A particularly well done shoe lacing this day saved those MudJoys. Well we all know Joe's legendary determination. With a strain and a grunt he was able to make a couple steps closer to the edge where we were able to pull him up to dry land. Fatality avoided.

Joe decided to pocket his ball and wait for the next hole. Ron and I still out of breath (from the laughter) attempted to complete the hole but could do no better than double bogeys. That was enough to take the 14th hole this day.

At this point Joe's feet must have weighed 50-60 pounds each due to the 2 inches or so of caked mud completely covering his shoes and most of the way up his calf. We still had 4 holes to go so Joe kicked off what he could and on we went to the 15th tee.

Now you might think this would be the end of this story. Not so though. You see the 15th has a rather large carry over another part of this same drained hazard. Joe leaked his drive right. When we got to the other side we saw a few balls down in the hazard. We couldn't identify any. With the thought of being out another hole Joe was certain to not give up too early. So in he went two paces and quickly sank. Here we go again we thought. Thinking better of it, and still slightly out of breath from the last hole, Joe came back and avoided his earlier fate. After reassessing the situation we realized in fact Joe was actually another 50-60 yards ahead nowhere near the hazard so this near fatal ball rescue wouldn't have even been for his own ball. Now some might wonder if Ron and I withheld information of Joe's ball location to steer him in the direction of the hazard. No I say, golf is an honorable game (and besides neither Ron or I had the idea at the time).

Well we went on to finish the round and I can say we were without further events. >

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I believe Pine Meadow's hazards will remain drained until the spring. If you happen to get a round in there (and after reading this you must make this one of your holiday must see visits) take a moment and look into the right hazard at 14 near the green. Those 12-inch deep footsteps will surely last the winter and be a monument to shear golf determination. Jean Van de Velde, you got nothing on our boy Joe.

Isn't golf a great game!!!

(Illustration: Carlos Lara)

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