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July 17, 2007

Death of a golfer

I don't play golf.

And when I say "I don't play golf," I mean I don't play golf, unless you count an occasional game of miniature golf in person or an oddly interesting 10-year-old computer game called Sierra's Ultra MiniGolf.

I did once take up a club at the direction of my father-in-law, who was a pretty good amateur in his day, but all I did was hit a few balls down an open stretch of land to test my swing.

That said, I have to admire the exploits of Maurice Flitcroft, who died this spring. There's a charming column about him by Dave Kindred in the July issue of Golf Digest, a magazine that (you will not be surprised to learn) I don't read. There was a copy of the column on the bulletin board in the break room at work.

Flitcroft was the fellow who "crashed" the qualifying round for the British Open in 1976 and shot a 121, which even I know isn't very good for a pro (which he was not):

He was 46 years old and living on Social Security. For that summer's Open, he borrowed the $75 entry fee from his wife, Jean. When the entry form requested information on his handicap, he skipped that part—he'd never played 18 holes—and signed in as an unattached professional.
His play caused a stir, as the column explains:
On the first tee for the qualifying round at Formby, Flitcroft aroused suspicion from partner Jim Howard. "After gripping the club like he was intent on murdering someone," the witness told reporters after, "Flitcroft hoisted it straight up, came down vertically, and the ball travelled precisely four feet."

However greatly they were offended by the mechanics of Maurice G. Flitcroft, the tweed suits had no authority to rule a man off once he started.

There came what one observer called "a blizzard of triple and quadruple bogeys ruined by a solitary par." Flitcroft's 121 was 49 over par, still the worst score in the Open's 145 years.

He offered an explanation. After bollixing the first tee shot, he abandoned his driver. "I got the 3-iron out and played safe, except I wasn't that great with the 3-iron. I should have used the 4-wood, but I'd left that in the car." Flitcroft added, wistfully, "I was an expert with the 4-wood, deadly accurate."
The funny part is that Flitcroft kept trying, using assumed names.
Flitcroft tried to enter five more Opens but made it past suddenly vigilant R&A authorities only twice—first in 1984 as Gerald Hoppy, a pro from Switzerland. That year he shot 63 for nine holes before officials realized they had another Maurice Flitcroft on their hands. "Imagine their surprise," Flitcroft said, "when they discovered they had the actual Maurice Flitcroft on their hands."
Does this mean I'm motivated to try the same thing myself? Hardly. It's just that there's something very appealing about an impostor, especially one who seems quite innocent in his own way.

Here are two obits.

Bonus: Golf Digest has a Q&A section. Now what could a guy like me possibly find of interest in a golf Q&A section? Maybe this: A man asks the female columnist what to do about his girlfriend's golf attire. She wears "hideously tight tops, and her shorts are too short. It's embarrassing." Surely, we're missing some information here, because how many guys don't like it when their girlfriends wear tight tops and short shorts? Certainly, they like it when other guys' girlfriends dress that way, right? I'm so totally not going to speculate.

Now, can you believe this answer from the female columnist?
A My advice is to lie through your teeth and break out your wallet. When it comes to our clothing, the only way to get us to dress differently without hurting our feelings is to use positive reinforcement and trickery. Take your girlfriend shopping under the guise that you want to reward her for her improved golf skills. Help her find something nice to wear, and then keep telling her how good she looks. She's likely to gradually change her style. Whatever you do, never tell her you're embarrassed by the way she dresses. Unless you like sleeping on the couch.
I agree with the part about not telling her you're embarrassed, and the part about buying new clothes is OK, but really..."lie through your teeth"? Look, I know you don't answer the "do I look fat" question truthfully, not that I personally would ever have to fib about it, of course. But the real answer is that you should check with your golf buddy's wife or girlfriend. "Do you think what she's wearing is OK?" If the wife or girlfriend doesn't, you can ask her to bring the subject up with your girlfriend.

There. I just flunked the qualifying round to become a Dear Abby-type columnist. Shot a 121.