I was in no condition to play a golf tournament.Before Friday, I hadn’t played a round since my college days. I have just seven clubs – despite my repeated pleas, my mother refuses to send me the other half of the set – and I had to borrow a bag from my sports editor. One of my spikes was missing a lace. I have a lamp, five half-full bottles of laundry detergent and a shoe with three nails under the insert (did I pay my phone bill?) in my car, but I couldn’t find one golf ball. Christ, Jimmy Hoffa is probably lodged under the back-seat cushion, but I had no balls.It wasn’t the first time, and that is why I’m still single.At the behest of Nate Peterson, I went ahead and played the Trashmasters at the Snowmass Club anyway. He thought my experiences would make a good column, and he knows my propensity for making an ass out of myself would provide ample fodder. He makes a valid point.
I couldn’t shake the nerves as I thumbed through the Trashmasters rule book. I sprayed shots all over the practice range during warm-ups – in my defense, it’s not easy to concentrate when a guy is playing the bagpipes 10 yards away. The feeling followed me to my first hole, the par-4 15th. As I teed up and anxiously took two practice swings, I could feel the eyes of my five unknown playing partners bearing down on me. It was awkward – like being naked in Times Square, or buying one ticket for “Mona Lisa smile.”I fired a shot that faded right and came to rest in the Cunga, the unmowed native grass. I was a bit dejected, until I learned I was perfectly positioned for a Seve – that’s a shot from the thick stuff that’s worth one point to the uninitiated. I paired my Seve with a Polie (I holed my first putt on the green, which was longer than the flagstick), picked up one bonus trash point and walked away with par. It didn’t take doing the math to realize this was no ordinary golf tournament.Here, if you hit a tee shot that flies 50 yards, hits the cart path, nearly takes out a rules official and lands on the adjacent green – the very rare, and strangely beautiful Willie, Jerrie, Greenie – you’re lauded, not laughed at. Pull that off, and you could become a legend, much like Tom Wenzel; he executed the tournament’s only known Skippie, Rockie, Barkie, Willie, Jerrie, Sandie, Birdie, Watson. My Drinkie, Watson (making par after going into a water hazard and holing a shot from off the green) on No. 16 and my Greenie (the player in the group whose shot is closest to the pin) at No. 2 were impressive but hardly worthy of a mention in the Trashmasters annals. It’s more likely I’ll be remembered for my drive at the 18th that sailed way right – if anyone finds my Top-Flite in the driving range, call me. After that display and a second tee shot that didn’t make it past the women’s tees, I conceded the hole and moved on. It was the first of three times on the day I took a humbling BIPSIC, or ball in pocket, schmuck in cart.
I’ll walk it off. Here, if you’re in need of a little luck, you can have three women kiss your ball before teeing off at the fourth. Three players in our group pulled off Super Stiffies – a shot from more than 100 yards that lands within one putter length of the hole – and recorded four birdies. Coincidence? (Regrettably, my ball sailed left and limped out of bounds.)Here, you don’t try to avoid mowers and tractors idling in fairways, you take dead aim. Or, in my case, you aim 20 yards to the left in anticipation of a wicked slice. Here, moving from hole-to-hole is like bar-hopping. Jose Cuervo bottles often serve as tee-box markers, and laid-back rules officials wear leis – and just might do a shot of Jägermeister with you. I challenge anyone to find another tournament where you can get a piña colada and some Pepto Bismol on the first tee. “They should have Gold Patron on every hole,” one man said as Bob Dylan’s “Everybody Must Get Stoned” blared on the 12th tee.
“If they had that, I’d be under par right now,” another chimed in.”You’d be under something,” the other man joked.I experienced the trash, the whole trash and nothing but the trash. Sure, I didn’t manage to record an Arnie, Rico, Barkie, Rockie, Billie or Daly. And the sheer triumph that results from a Skippie-Polie combination alluded me. But I shared a unique round of golf and a few laughs with an easygoing group that included a fire chief, a high-ranking member of Aspen Skiing Co. hospitality and a general manager of the Red Sky Ranch & Golf Club in Wolcott. I helped support the Roaring Fork Valley’s largest scholarship fundraiser. And, with the new balls I received for taking part, I’ll doing my best to follow in Wenzel’s footsteps. No one is safe.Jon Maletz, aka “The Hammer,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
David Stapleton is the development officer for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club. A product of the club, AVSC sat down with Stapleton for a Q&A session in this week’s Clubhouse Chronicles.