I've got a disease. I admit it. I'm afflicted with bozoitis-I'm terrified of bozos.
A bozo is a golfer you don't know. It could be anyone. He's a golfer, who through his method of playing, mannerisms, or personality-bugs the stuffing out of you and makes you want to go home, lest you have to tolerate him for the rest of the round. I'll readily admit that most unknown golfers that you are asked to play alongside are not bozos, but everyone standing around you at the starter's hut has the potential to be one.
Some players are immune to the disease-they would rather have any warm body to play alongside rather than face the prospect of going it alone. Not me. I'd much prefer having the ability to concentrate on my round and play quickly rather than feel I'm stuck with someone's bad habits and excessive personality for an afternoon.
One particular day this summer is a good example of how the disease affects me. I got off early one Friday at work, and decided to make the best of the free time by playing a round at one of my favorite local courses. I didn't have a tee time, but I figured it would be no problem-as long as I could get there before the twilight rate started. In addition to the immediate problem of getting a complete round in, being post twilight would bring up other potential undesirable circumstances-bozos.
I knew the twilight rate started at three. Three o'clock would bring the rush of those golf bargain hunters looking to save some dough by waiting to play in the heat of the day, and willing to rush on the last three holes in the gathering dark in order to complete the round. I reasoned that if I got to the course with a half hour to spare at 2:30, I could probably get right on as a single, and not be subjected to the torture of playing a round with a bozo-or, even worse, several bozos.
Don't get me wrong-I'm not a loner, and golf is a social game, it's true. Playing the game with your favorite partners can be the best times in life. But coordinating the outing to be bozo-proof in the days of busy schedules and deadlines is difficult. It is inevitable that you're going to face a situation where there aren't four of you. Or three. Or even two. It's elementary math to see that the probability of being paired with a bozo increases with every playing partner you're missing.
In my 20 years of playing the game, I've probably only played with a dozen bozos.
In my 20 years of playing the game, I've probably only played with a dozen bozos; but the worst of my bozo experiences of the past has left me with an intense desire to avoid them-to the extent of choosing not to play rather than be forced to endure them for even four or five hours. My bozoitis is real.
On the day in question, when I arrived at the course, I noticed a number of golfers waiting on the first tee. That's a bad sign. Those of us looking to avoid bozos like to see empty tee boxes, fairways, and greens. Still, I thought that the semi-empty parking lot might mean a chance to squeeze in between the current group and the upcoming rush.
The pro shop dispelled my optimism. The guy behind the counter said "Take the receipt to the starter-I think he'll probably want to send you out with the twosome that just left." A chill went down my spine. Now was my chance-should I just tell the counter guy to forget the whole thing? Or should I take the chance that these two would be relatively normal?
Helping to resist the strong urge to wimp out was the fact I had just bought a new driver that I was dying to try out on something other than the range. I decided to chance it. I bravely walked out the door and up to the starter. Handing him the slip, I said "How's it look out there today?"
"Slow pace, for a Friday."
Great. This was going to be even worse than I thought. Not only was I going to be stuck with a couple of potential bozos, I was actually going to be forced to talk with them while waiting at each tee. I sized up the twosome that the counter guy had referred to. Both were in their twenties, looked fairly athletic, and were clearly good friends. Already I felt like I'd be a third wheel on the bozo motorcycle. At least if I was going to have to join up with someone, I'd rather have him be in my situation-alone and terrified of everyone else. Besides, these guys looked like good golfers.
Being a mid-handicapper, I like to play with those of a like ability. Good golfers, bozo or not, don't appreciate my need to look for the occasional wayward ball or to savor a good fat shot. Really bad golfers are probably worse. To others, I might very well be their idea of a bozo. But others' feelings weren't of primary importance to me at this moment. I just wanted to have a good round.
Just as I was ready to introduce myself, another twosome drove up to join the guys I thought I was stuck with. The starter asked each group what their respective tee times were, and the two of them just happened to match. 'Whew!' I thought. That was a close one! But then the starter scared me-he said "You're probably going to have to wait a while. I want to make sure that we have full groups going off-it looks like it's going to get busy here in the next few minutes."
Sure enough, a cursory perusing of the parking lot revealed a number of folks putting on their shoes, readying themselves for a trip around the links. Now it was certain that I was going to have to go out with somebody-the luck of the draw. I soon began to size up the people surrounding the starter's hut in ever increasing numbers. But even to a discerning eye, a bozo is hard to spot. And, even if you could spot one, there's not much you can do about it.
Fifteen minutes went by, and a few groups came and went. I struck up a nice conversation with a man and his wife-also waiting their turn without a tee time. Both seemed nice; I hoped that since they were in a similar situation that I might end up with them, and avoid the bozo problem altogether. But they were soon called. There I continued to loiter, sizing up everyone as they came along.
Already I felt like I'd be a third wheel on the bozo motorcycle.
Most of the groups had two or four. I was just about to give up and head home when I noticed another apparent single sitting in a golf cart. He looked harmless enough-somewhat heavyset, but not fat. Dressed rather plainly. Your average ordinary Joe. And that was his name, as I found out later. I didn't try talking with him-I didn't want to get too attached to anyone else after the husband and wife team-lest they be called away again by the starter, leaving me to scrutinize the rest of those waiting to see who I'd be subjected to.
The starter then called my name, and pointed to the guy in the cart. He said "You'll be joining this man here." Swell. I extended my hand in introduction and placed my bag on the back of his cart-hoping against hope that this unspectacular looking man would turn out to be a good guy. Certainly there was nothing about the initial meeting that was a symptom of bozoitis-lots of chest hair, gold chains, or chain smoking. And he didn't boast of playing with pros or celebrities. Feeling strange but somewhat relieved, we drove to the first tee, where another twosome was waiting. Having gone through one round of bozo screening, I had to do it again with these two.
One looked like Ernie Els-that's all I noted about him. The other introduced himself, and said he was from Missouri. Each of my playing partners seemed like normal human beings, and had no outward bozo characteristics. Maybe this was going to turn out alright after all. We all teed off, and none of us hit the fairway. I felt relieved that it looked like it would be okay to play my normal game!
Thankfully, none of my playing partners that day turned out to be bozos. All of them, like me, were just average guys out to have some fun and knock the ball around. But that won't stop me from sizing up the next group that I'm thrown in with. And it certainly didn't mark the end of the bozos-one guy that played behind us that day had a problem getting any words out in between his four letter oaths. What a bozo.