Two Guys, A Dream, and a Workout Video
I had just finished watching a Craig Stadler workout video and was cleaning up the burger wrappers and Biggie Fry boxes when the doorbell rang.
A withering, diminutive figure dressed in plus fours, his face faint behind a billow of acrid pipe smoke said simply, "So you think you're ready?"
I had never seen the man before, yet I already recognized his voice. That afternoon I had heard that voice on the practice tee. It was after a short warm-up that I, for some reason, grabbed my three iron and suddenly found myself striping them (no kidding, striping) as if the clubface, ball, and target were all joined as one unified kinetic entity.
As a shaky 16 'capper, the idea of striping anything other than my club' s parking lot was as an alien occurrence as winning a PGA tour event. But there it was, ball after ball clicking off the face of that 3-iron like some precision solenoid activated by a smooth transfer of energy from a perfectly coiled torso through a full extension and release.
The perfection lasted, instead of the usual three or four swings, for the entire warm-up and included every club I put in my hand.
And that's when I heard what was now a familiar voice say, "So how does the secret feel?"
I then played the round of my life, hitting almost everything solid and straight, and had my putting been up to the level of the rest of my game, I' dve broken 80 for sure. It was familiar territory: replaying the entire round in my head on the way home, and concluding I could easily have shot a 76 instead of an 86.
Once again my little ship had wandered into dangerous waters, and golf's siren song that it wasn't just a game, and a lot more than just a matter of life and death, was drawing me toward its infamous rocky shores.
"I've still got a two with the yips that I have to take care of yet, so could we get on with this?" the figure at my doorstep, whom I had momentarily forgotten all about, said to me.
I apologized and he entered my house as if he had lived there himself.
"How'd you like those 3-irons," he said.
"Great while it lasted," I answered, finding myself not the least self-conscious that I was probably having a casual conversation with a figment of my imagination.
"Understanding the secret and it's meaning will make it last," he said.
"So there is a secret?" I asked.
"Would Hogan lie?"
"But he never revealed exactly what the secret was."
"Because no one but Jones wouldn't have understood, and Jones didn't care anymore."
"Why does there even have to be a secret?"
"Evidently because you and many others like you want there to be," he answered. "A secret is what helps keep a journey going, wouldn't you agree? And for you golf is a journey, and not just a game, correct?'
With that I was convinced this little Scotsman did live inside my head.
"I did feel something special out there today," I admitted.
"Not special," he corrected. "just faith. You do have faith, don't you?"
Suddenly, I had a thought who this might be other than one of my own self-created demons.
"Hey, you wouldn't be that Chivas Regal guy by any chance, would you?"
The little man muttered, "oh, brother," then shook his head.
"That's Shivas Irons, and no, I am not he. Now, I will demonstrate the secret for you, then be off."
With that, the wee apparition pulled a crooked stick from under his coat, tapped it twice on the floor, and took it back behind his head. There came a flash of white illumination as he spun himself into a cloud of sparkling gold, followed by an explosion of rainbow colors. Then everything receded into an enveloping darkness.
"Well," he said, "what do you think?"
"About what I just showed you," the Scotsman said, perplexed.
"A whirling dervish?" I replied "Huh?"
I described what I saw, and he was dumbfounded by what I told him. He tried again and again, but the result was the same: he would wind up, then disappear into a splat of color like an exploding lava lamp, and then darkness.
"See? It's as easy as 10-10-321 and butterfingers," was the last I remember him saying.
And in a flash he was gone from my living room, and I awoke, finding myself slumped on the couch, the television blaring. It was only that dream again, the one I always have when I've played well. And the one that always ends the same way: the lure of a secret revealed, and then nothing but gibberish and light.
And the next week, it was back to the life of the 16 handicapper. Except there was no little voice speaking to me, and no understanding why I hit some of my shots straight and true, and others not at all.
"And why should it be any other way," I muttered disgustedly to myself. "It is just a game."
Thousands of miles away, a small wiry Scotsman was awakening in front of his own blaring television set from a recurring dream of his own. It was the one he had every time he played as poorly as he had done that day.
He was somewhere in America, watching a bizarre workout video, while a real hacker mysteriously spun himself into all the colors of the rainbow trying to demonstrate the secret of playing the game simply as a game. The Scotsman blinked his eyes and cursed the hold that golf had on him.
Deep within the Kingdom, the game was enjoying one of its better days.