I was cleaning out my sock drawer the other day. Tucked in the back was one sock with a tiny lighthouse on the cuff. Where was the other one? I dumped the whole drawer on my bed and found it tucked in another sock. That was important. We're talking memories here.
It all started at Turnberry in Scotland playing the Ailsa course. It was after the third hole where killer views of the sea, dunes, grasses and craggy rocks with the lighthouse standing sentry on the edge of the rocks took my breath away along with my concentration. With carries over cavernous drops and shots through narrow gorse-protected openings and impossible recoveries, I was struggling.
Playing a just-for-fun match with Rachel, a local girl and one of our hosts, there was no doubt she was a player. She could pound the ball, and, even more miraculously, she could find it in the rough links fairways over a gorse-covered hill.
I was losing the match, but who cared? We were having a great time. And, hey, I was in Scotland - Turnberry. Everything was great: It wasn't raining, the views out to the Irish sea and beyond to the distant shore of Ireland and Ailsa Craig were pure magic, and I had only lost four balls. With four holes to go we were even.
"Want to play for something fun going in?" asked Rachel.
"Sure. What did you have in mind? Couple bucks? A Guinness?" (Since my arrival, I had developed a fondness for the room-temperature ale.)
"Humm. Let's play for socks."
"Socks?" Why not?
She took the next hole, we tied the next and then I won the 17th. We were down to the wire. Then I got a fair drive, which I thought might be findable. She hit hers out of bounds. (Was it possible for the first time in our game, she purposely lined up a bit left? Nah. That would be carrying hospitality too far.)
After holing out, we went into the pro shop where she picked out a pair of white socks embroidered with the Turnberry lighthouse in gold. "Here, to remind you of today and Scotland," she said with a smile thrusting the package into my hand.
A few weeks later, playing in a team event in North Carolina, we'd been collecting points for wins over the past three days. This last day, a match play format, I was playing against Steve, an easy, friendly guy from London. Our handicaps were similar and I had the advantage of driving from the forward tees, but that didn't help. He was killing me.
By the ninth hole, I was down five. Then the English chivalry thing kicked in as he generously gave me a three-foot putt to tie the hole.
"Let's just have a good time on the back nine," he offered with genuine warmth. "Want to play for something just for kicks?"
"Sure. What do you want to play for?"
Those socks again. What was it about these Brits? Foot fetish? National trend? Dirty socks?
"Okay, socks," I agreed. And I took the next hole and the next hole, actually the next five holes. Had to be the socks. Steve was scratching his head. He starting miss-hitting, shanking, clutching.
"Guess you really want those socks, huh?" he said with a grin.
"Must be," I said.
And yes, I won the back nine and the socks. This time, a pair of nutty upbeat anklets with bumblebees and a sunflower. Cheery things.
On another outing in Alabama playing with my friend, a writer from Savannah, Ga., a guy who was born betting, I negotiated a deal: He gave me two strokes a hole except for par 3s. The wager appealed to his macho side. He knew he could beat me.
But that day I had the round of my life, and with the strokes he gave me ... we went into the pro shop, and I snagged a pair of black socks while he pulled out his wallet.
The next day, Joel demanded a rematch. This time no more strokes - no way - than my handicap dictated. And, yes, this time, I was the one who shelled out the $8.95.
And so it went. Socks. Socks here, socks there, socks everywhere.
Now when I grab a pair, it might be the ones with the gold crest, an instant recall trigger of my trip to Turnberry and the fun Rachel and I had playing that wonderful historic course.
Or the bee socks, which evoke the sunny day Steve and I played the graceful oak-lined course in the Carolinas. Or the black ones? How can I forget the scowl on my buddy's face when he had to dig into his pocket for the cash.
And what about the watermelon-colored socks I won recently in a game wager with Jeanne? That was the day she told me she was expecting her first child. Or the socks with the little lady bugs on them I won on a girls' getaway weekend in Vermont.
Whenever I run into my friend from Savannah, he never says just, "How are you hitting it?" He reminds me, "Hey, I still have those socks, you know the ones I won two years ago when we played Kiva Dunes, and I beat you by five skins?" Would he have remembered a mere gin and tonic?
Now when anyone suggests a friendly wager, you know my answer. I'm playing better, so maybe I should up the ante. I'm thinking Italian: Marcoliani Milano's silky Fil d'Ecosse or maybe cashmere cotton. The pink, rose, lavender and turquoise stripes should be perfect.
Or maybe the new Quiet Please eco friendly bamboo socks. I'm told you can wear them more than once without washing, and they'll still stay fresh and won't smell. Whatever, they are so soft.
After all, I am building a drawer full of memories.
February 27, 2009
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!