My very first job was at Friendly’s Ice Cream. Back in the day Friendly’s was a very popular East Coast chain restaurant, sort of like Denny’s, but they were more famous for their ice cream, but they also had a full menu of other foods besides ice cream. Who remembers the Patty Melt...right!!
One summer day all thirty employees were called in to the restaurant before we opened for a special meeting. We never had a special meeting before so we automatically thought it only meant one thing...we did somethings bad. We all gathered into the restaurant, some folks started cleaning out their lockers and hugging folks good-by.
After what felt like a half hour of murmuring and hubbub the manager finally came out, she paused for a moment, and began clapping. We stopped hugging and turned our attention to the front of the room. At that moment we were all assured this was a “good news” meeting, which initiated a collective sigh. The fact was we all were called into the restaurant to receive a bonus; $50 dollars in food vouchers that could be used in any Friendly’s restaurant. They were called Friendly Dollars.
Awesome! At that time in my life $50 dollars of free food was equivalent to $2000 dollars of anything. I was on top of the world. I told my friends about this and when word spread I was the most popular person in the entire school, neighborhood, and surrounding towns. $50 dollars worth of Friendly Ice Cream, that was the big time. The pressure was on; how do I spend it and with whom?
Weeks later I was preparing the clubs for a round a golf the next day. I was in the middle of my usual pre-round routine; cleaning out and organizing my golf bag, loading the ball pocket with, you guest it, Pinnacle golf balls, and cleaning my clubs and that’s when it hit me. The next day I went out with the usual foursome; Smity, Jake/Charles, Stan, and Scano. I tossed the idea out to the group and before we were on the 4th tee Smity had it all worked out. A winner take all team event. We will create two teams of four, tally all the scores from each team, the best team score wins the vouchers. And with that the Friendly’s Open was underway.
At the first tee the rules were laid out. Rules, we never talked of rules, glup. We needed to “announce” our ball before hitting, glup. We were required to give scoring updates at the end of each hole, gulp, and there were no “winter rules” we had to play the ball where it lay, gulp (that one made the most sense seeing that it was mid-July). As the reality was sitting in that we were about to embark on a high stakes round of golf I took a good look at our teams. My foursome was made up of Smity, Stan, Big Dave Smith, and me. The other side was made up of Scano, Jake/Charles, Our Pal Sal, and Koop. If we had handicaps we would be pretty even, with the two Smith’s; Big Dave Smith and Smity being the better golfers. Scano was a close second and then the rest of us were bunched at the bottom.
The first hole is a rare dog leg left and it requires an accurate first shot of about 215 straight down the fairway. Smity lead the way hitting first for our group. He only hits 3 iron off the tee and it always goes 175 yards dead straight. He did not disappoint. I was second to hit in our group. I decided to hit driver and aim slightly left to position myself a little better for the second shot. Instead it seems I decided to activate my power fade and we all watched my ball fly helplessly far right of the intended target and land into the middle of the marsh. After the laughter died down I decided to shorten up a bit and hit 4 iron. That shot held on to the far right rough, but it was playable. Stan was next and worm burned a 5 wood to about 150 yards out and center cut. Which brought the other team to tears again and as things slowly calmed down Big Dave Smith came up to hit for us. He hit a towering baby draw to about 225 left of center on the fairway. That quieted the other guys and put a smile on my face as I headed to my ball buried in the right rough. I proceeded to worm burn, slice, and hit several fat shots on my way to the first green. After attempting and missing a17 footer I dropped in a 4 foot knee knocker for a solid quintuple bogey, gulp.
It turns out that our groups were pretty closely matched. Each group had two players carrying the team, one on the verge of collapsing at any minute, and one who seemed to have forgotten how to play. Jake/Charles and I were the two who seemed to have forgotten how to play. By the 13th hole I had not shot any better then double bogey and that was on only three holes. I’ve been a Bogey golfer almost from the moment I started playing and if you could have seen me play that day you would have guest that I have never seen a golf club. Smity was getting a little tired of my play and he could sense my frustration.
On the 14th hole I had a bump and run 7 iron shot. I was about 10 feet off the green and about 25 feet to the hole. I had to bump the shot up to an elevated green, but instead I stubbed the shot and the ball rolled up and then down to the bottom of the fairway, some 15 feet away. In frustration I threw my club at the ball, and for the first time all day the club hit the ball cleanly and shot the ball another 20 feet from the green. Our foursome just died with laughter.
After he caught his breathe Smity came over and laid it out for me in a very short and concise statement. He said,” Listen Sick, look around...we all suck, that’s why we play these crappy muni’s. As soon as you start enjoying the walk and the green grass you will have a better time out here.” As I walked to ball now some 30 feet from the green I wondered “Could it be that simple”? I lined up my shot; uphill 35 yards away, “how about a nice pitch” I thought...and just before I settled over my ball I saw a flock of geese land in the same march that now owns my first golf ball of the day. The sun was setting, a full burned orange sky was on display, and no wind, it was a perfect summer night. “This is nice” was the last thought I had when I pulled the club back and hit the ball up to the green. The ball hit 15 feet from the pin and rolled down to about 3 feet from the hole. One put for a bogey save. “Could it be that simple!” I wondered as I walked to the 15th hole.
Our team did win the one and only Friendly's Open that day, and no it wasn’t because I suddenly reclaimed my game thanks to Smity’s great words of wisdom. I did improve to bogey golf over the next few holes, but Smity and Big Dave Smith had carried our team so well that Stan and I almost didn’t have to play. Sitting at the table at Friendly’s that night was a great end to a great day; telling war stories of the round, mostly laughing at ourselves, and bashing the other guys.
The only serious thing that we took away from this event...we did eat well that night.