Before Tiger Woods was a toddler, old man McGary's Irish temper had broken every hickory made "3 Wood" in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and I suppose the majority of ones he had to replace. To be sure, if hickory in McGary's day had a voice, its raw vulgarity would have rivaled the foulest mouth of the worst Sailor.
My first memories of golf weren't fashioned by mannered men shouting "fore" or pretty putt-putt greens. Hardly. McGary couldn't put his clubs down long enough to give a boy back then time enough to pick up the pieces he left behind. McGary's mean mood swings after every "3 Wood" he'd bust against a tree, over something as silly as missing an easy putt or missing a teed-up ball, allowed me as a child to see how trying too hard was a bad way to kill time that wasn't then and isn't now something to be resurrected.
I never heard him shout "fore" but anyone within a couple of miles of McGary heard their fair share of foul four letter words. His pattern of playing was painfully predictable and downright comical. Free comedic acting at its worst, all because the irritable Irishman allowed his anger to keep him from playing a mere game at his best.
He'd swing hard at the most costly balls a man could find back then just to watch each of them wind up in the weeds, creek, or right where he'd teed up. Missing a ball completely was the culprit of both his cursing and deliberate destruction of the "3 Wood" he had in hand each time a good size clump of grass flew farther than is best drive.
I thought I was alone in my strange sense of enjoyment and mirth each Saturday afternoon, as I'd watch McGary become unglued.
Whiff, smack, crack, and curse.
I had McGary figured out it and it wasn't until many years later that my daddy admitted, while on his deathbed, that he'd been watching McGary just as regularly. I'd always wondered where my daddy would go so quickly after lunch on Sundays. I think my mom knew but she knew enough about McGary's foul mouth to keep hers quiet.
Daddy rarely went bowling or golfing yet both sports he played superbly and with complete passion. He remarked that he always had a place to laugh and even learn a bit without spending a zinc penny. He explained to both my brother and I that he had the rest of this life and forever in the next one to play both games plus some he'd never heard about before.
Daddy kept life simple and didn't let much bother him. I guess old man McGary had rubbed off on him too in a way that polished him up against grinding him down. He told us as boys to "hold God's hand and keep on walking." He said that's what faith looked like in action.
McGary's madness brought us together in gladness when daddy and I needed to make up the time too many fathers and sons just never get around to doing. When daddy's health was good, I never knew his bills weren't that bad and so working two jobs for college savings bonds took some time he would have had to be with my brother and I. He stated he would do it all over again the same way just to see both of his sons graduate from the local college he tried to get a golf scholarship just to attend.
Daddy's gone but those weeks laughing about McGary's "whiff, smack, crack, and curse," predictably free entertainment will stay with me until I hook up with the best golfer and father, in my eyes, this world never knew.
Until then, go get 'em Tiger Woods. For daddy and me, old man McGary's imperfect play and poor disposition served a purpose only our Heavenly Father knew would work together for our good.
"Until then daddy, I'll keep walking, keep walking…"
Copyright © 2008 Brian G. Jett
Dedicated in loving memory of the best mother my wife will ever know, Shirley Vaughn (1936 - 2008)