Cheating at Golf

{by Joe Flood}

That morning, Ted got dressed, picked up his clubs and headed for the links. At the clubhouse, he had a drink, a Bloody Mary reeking of vodka and Tabasco. The TV played CNBC, news of the financial storm overturning all boats. Ted ordered another drink, handing over his credit card to the bartender.

“Charge it while it still works,” he said.

The first golfers were heading out into the humid dawn air. A group of vacationing orthodontists were looking for a fourth. Ted fell in with their group, a little tipsy from the vodka.

Ted sent his first shot racing into a drainage ditch, a line drive that sent up a big splash in the early morning mist.

“I’m taking a mulligan,” Ted said.

“Yea, it’s practice!” the shortest of the lot said. He was the oldest, the richest, and was the leader of the group. His name was Danny.

Ted’s second swing wasn’t much better. He seemed to slip on the dew-wet grass, his left leg jerking out, as if it had been yanked like a marionette. The ball overflew the drainage ditch and bounced over the neighboring fairway.

“I should’ve hit the driving range,” he explained.

“Hey, it’s early,” Danny said.

Ted took another mulligan and, on his third try, sent a decent drive down the middle of the fairway. Danny then launched a ball high over his, by a good fifty yards. His colleagues congratulated him.

“It’s the Bertha’s!” Danny exclaimed, holding the oversized driver in his hand. The club was nearly as tall as he was.

Ted scooped his ball out with a nine iron and sent it arcing onto the green. Danny did likewise.

The men lined up for their putts. The orange sun was just over the palm trees, starting to heat up the day.

“Did I tell you?” Danny said. “Winner buys drinks.”

“Got it,” Ted said, aligning himself with the hole. He was short by a good ten feet. Danny sunk his ball, a smile alighting on his face.

“Well, you got plenty of time for golf now, you bastard,” one the other orthodontists kidded him, “now that you got other people working for you.”

“That’s right,” Danny said. “No pulling teeth for me. I got a couple Chinese gals to do that. I just collect the money!”

On the second hole, Ted lost another shot in the water and took another mulligan.

“You’re going to run out of balls,” Danny said with a laugh.

As they rode in the cart down the fairway, Ted listened to Danny describe the house he was building. The total cost was “north of a million bucks,” with marble imported from Italy, an Olympic-sized pool and servant quarters.

Ted began cheating on the next hole. It went beyond just taking mulligans, which he continued to do. He deliberately undercounted his shots and insisted on “do-overs” when he missed a putt.

For the first couple holes, the orthodontists were amused. At the ninth tee, the beer cart caught up with them. Ted chugged down a Bud light. No one was talking to him.

“I’m calling that a four,” Ted said at the tenth hole.

“You sure?” Danny asked. “You got some funny accounting. More like a five or a six.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Ted said with a grin. The sun was now well over the horizon. Sweat rolled down his temples.

“They say if you cheat at golf, you cheat at life.”

Ted was glad that his eyes were hidden behind sunglasses. He thought of his wife, the money, everything else.

“Who believes that shit?” he said, forcing out a laugh.

The rest of the round continued in silence. A couple of times he caught Danny looking at him with disdain when he announced his score. But the man didn’t say anything. And neither did his colleagues.

On the 18th hole, Ted sent his putt wide by a couple of feet. He tapped it in.

“You going to count that?” Danny asked.

“Are you kidding? It’s a tap-in. You never count tap-ins.”

“You don’t?” The other orthodontists had gathered around their leader.

“Not where I’m from,” Ted said. He quickly added up his score. “I got a 67. How about you gentlemen?”

Danny’s face was red, either from anger or the heat.

“Sixty-seven!”

“That’s what I got. Guess you guys are buying drinks.”

“You did not get a sixty-seven.”

“Sure I did.”

The other orthodontists chimed in, telling him that he was mistaken or worse. Ted grinned tightly. He held up his scorecard for the men to see. Danny grabbed the paper from his hand. “That’s bullshit.”

Ted stepped into Danny, pushing the man back with his chest. “You calling me a liar?” He loomed over the man, fists at the ready. The other orthodontists faded backwards.

Danny looked up at Ted, anger switching to fear. “No, no, for god sakes, it’s just a game,” he said, his voice soft.

The orthodontists drifted away. They walked back to their golf carts, with careful glances back at Ted to make sure he wasn’t going to rush them. He stood strong on the tee, the 18th flag at his back. Ted willed them to turn, to charge him, to fly at him in a flurry of punches and kicks, with Danny, wealthy prick Danny leading the way, encouraging the violence. He wanted all three of them on him like a mob, a desperate and legitimate struggle for survival. He wanted it. He wanted the feel of Danny’s fist in his gut and then an honest fight on the closely-cropped grass.

But they were too good, or too wise. Ted remained on the green, watching with disappointment the steady retreat of their golf carts.

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Joe Flood is a writer and photographer based in Washington, D.C.
This piece, Cheating at Golf, is previously unpublished.
He’s the author of the novel, Murder in Ocean Hall.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joeflood
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Featured by Editorial Director, Jennifer Doyle | @playgroupie

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4 Comments to “Cheating at Golf”

  1. Joe Flood says:

    check out my short story Cheating at Golf | Story Bleed Magazine http://t.co/4mEFwFX via @storybleed

  2. Cheating at Golf, as one's life unravels. By featured author, @joeflood http://ht.ly/4H1U9

  3. Belladante@northautumncreek says:

    This is all good stuff. Thanks again for the interesting posts, it helps me so much with my game. Bring on the sunshine.

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