Pen

The Best of Times Short Story Competition


August 2009 Results




Dan Golph, the Wizard

Copyright © Dean Briggs 2009


On my first visit to the Bunker Hill Club, I met Dan ‘The Wiz’ Golph, still in peacock mode after lifting his fourth consecutive championship. He worked the Up and Down Bistro like a candidate, swaggering by our table on his way for a re-fill. He sported a glowing lilac shirt and jet black slacks with a pair of white kid-leather gloves flopping out of his back pocket like a boutonnière; his blonde hair swept back in a fifties rocker coiffure. My friend called him over.

“Hey Dan, meet our newest member, Frank.”

“Nice to meet you. Do you play?”

“Yes, but not golf I’m afraid. My handicap is higher than my IQ. I had one lesson down at the Caddie-Lack Shop and the pro suggested I take up tennis.”

‘The Wiz’ shifted uncomfortably as if settling over a tricky ten footer and tried for a smile.

“You sound like a good candidate for a spot on the committee.”

We all laughed and he excused himself.

“Best chip back to the nineteenth. See you round.”

He was gone like a bad movie fade.

“Gees, I think you upset him,” my friend noted.

“How can you tell?”

“He left without giving you the Perpetual Trophy Speech. If he wins the title next year he gets to keep the ‘Olde Mug’. Nobody has ever won five on the trot. He can’t resist telling people about it.”

“Am I supposed to be impressed?”

“Yes, actually… everyone else is.”

Over the next six months, my relationship with Daniel Golph lurched from fairway trap, to rough, to out of bounds. He was a complete eighteen pin pompous arsehole and could not abide my irreverent snipes. Fortunately, his wit was slower than his backswing, so while I was no match for him out on the course I had his number in the clubhouse. He used to tell the others in scathing tones that I was a promiscuous hooker a sand-wedge short of a picnic. He avoided me as if I was a hazard with a two shot penalty.

His driving ambition was to secure the quintuple crown and with each passing visit to his alma mater, I became more and more consumed in plotting his downfall. I had no idea how; my own game was getting worse with every air swing but I was alive to any possibilities.

Then something happened on a work related visit to a trout farm out of town. I had to meet a fellow with the unfortunate name of Murray Codd, to discuss the somewhat muddied state of his business plan. We needed to chat about clarifying his message to the market place, among other things.

I pulled up at the farm gate for a quick scan. To my left was a massive, tranquil, latte coloured dam. As I stood by the stunning body of water there was a loud ‘plop’ and splash nearby. I assumed it was a frisky trout girding its loins for the legendary fin-filled upstream challenge. Soon after there was another ‘kerplunk’ but noticed it was preceded by a sinister hissing sound. Then a call came up from the distant levee bank…

“Foooorrrrrrrre.”

… followed by a further loud ‘doink’.

I realized I was being bombarded with golf balls.

I ducked behind the vehicle and noticed the figure on the bank waving a stick in the air; I returned the semaphore and drove up to meet him.

“Gidday, sorry about the mortar fire, just relaxing.”

I looked back down to where I had been.

“Jesus, what club are you using?”

“Just this, dad’s old one iron I found in the shed a while back.”

“There’s a very famous photo of Ben Hogan hitting a one iron.”

“Hogan, that sounds familiar, is he from round here?”

“Doesn’t matter. Say that’s gotta be at least two hundred metres.”

“About two twenty I reckon.”

“Shit… Oh it’s Frank Lorndale by the way.”

I offered my hand.

“Murray Codd this end.” He laughed. “Yeah I know; people are always ribbin’ me about the name… I get ‘em all; testicles, knackers, balls, goolies, nuts… you name it.”

“Not to mention the fish jokes eh?”

“What…’cause a trout y’ mean?”

“We’ll get to that. Can I have a look at your MYOB set up?”

“Sure.”

Within minutes, we sidetracked into a lengthy discussion about grips, stances, still heads and follow throughs. He knew nothing about technique but had the most graceful, natural swing I had ever seen, completely unsullied by any coaching.

“It’s not about scores, I just love the feel when everything clicks…” he mused… “it’s like meditation.”

“Can you putt and chip?” I asked.

“Prob’ly. It’d be just like this, only littler, and without water, wouldn’t it?”

“That might be a fraction simplistic but yes, I guess it is.”

I could not get that mellifluous one iron out of my head and was back out at the Codd’s Trout Hatchery within the week to hit some more balls.

“Ever thought of playing on a proper course, Murray?”

“Not all that fussed really; I’ve got all I need right here.”

“Bunker Hill has a lovely layout, plenty of waterways and woodlands and the odd challenge, and a great set of amenities at the Triple Bogey Bar. To be honest we badly need new members. I’ll shout you the first year’s fees and I have a stalwart lined up as a referee so we could fast track you.”

“What’s the rush?”

“I must admit I have a hidden agenda and it’s a real long shot, so to speak.”

“You have my attention.”

“No, actually as I say the words out loud the stupidity of my idea condenses from a lovely ethereal gas to an ugly lump of concrete.”

“Come on Frank.”

“Nah, maybe some other time. How about you meet me for a drink this Sunday and I’ll show you the setup."

“Okay.”

Three days later, after a stroll down the first and another back up the sixteenth Murray and I were chatting across the tray of his tabletop, adjacent to the clubhouse. I spied a Pastel Green/Mission Brown masterpiece approaching, strutting across the tarmac towards his Lexus.

“Well bless my cotton plus fours, look who it is.”

“Ah Frankly, how’d the chicken run go this week, still scratching about in the grasslands like a lost mallee fowl?”

“I confess that my average remains the envy of every test batsman in the country. This is Murray Codd by the way, I’m trying to persuade him to join the Bunker brigade.”

Golph eyed my companion’s soiled overalls, elastic sided boots and battered trilby with obvious dismay.

“Just the one eh; like Adolph Hitler,” he leered in an ill attempt at humour.

I had no idea what he was talking about but it was obviously familiar territory for Murray.

“I’m more of a Lance Armstrong,” he said as he bowled around the tow ball and grabbed his provocateur's hand with the tenacity of a mastiff.

I watched with interest the moment of growing animus as ‘The Wiz’ tried to shake himself free. He eyed Murray’s outfit once again.

“We have a dress code here you know?”

It was Murray’s turn to give his opponent’s attire the once over and snipe.

“What’s the code, Braille… or do you get dressed in the dark?”

“I can tell you two are firm friends,” ‘The Wiz’ said and dismissed us with his retreating back.

“Who was that prick?”

“That was Dan Golph, The Wizard, Club Champion, and full time Wanker to give him his unabridged title.”

“Why The Wizard?”

“He is reputedly an absolute magician with a putter.”

“Not too clever elsewhere though.”

I could not wait to be on my own so I could rub my hands with glee, until sparks flew. My next move was to pop the question.

After two cold and sparkling pale ales and some coruscating conversation, Murray rose (apologies to the swimmer) to my challenge, took the bait and placed his golfing career in my hands.

“Okay I’ll give it a go, just to shut you up.”

“And you’ll sign up as a member?”

“Yeah, why not, it’s a ripper of a joint.”

“Great.”

Nine days later, we stood on the first tee, me with my buggy and sartorial elegance and Murray with his one iron, King Gees and Dunlop Volleys.

“You are some kind of minimalist,” I joked

“Yeah, I brought just the one ball,” he responded with a smirk.

He didn’t use tees, and just modified his swing to suit the distance required. He had a no-nonsense style, kept the ball low and straight. He carded eighty-one off the stick, which was remarkable, and he inspired me to a drought breaking ninety-nine. I could not stop myself from harbouring a foolish grin and a ridiculous notion that Dan Golph might just be staggering into the cross hairs of my ambitious sights.

Before the championship weekend, Murray and I had three more games and on his final round, he finished on par.

“I’ve almost got the hang of it now. I only mucked up the fifth and sixth holes.”

“What, you birdied the fifth.”

“I meant to land it close enough for a putt but the little coot rolled straight in.”

“But that’s good.”

“What is?”

“It’s a birdie.”

“I thought you had to par each hole.”

“No, the aim is to take the least amount of strokes possible.”

“Are you sure?”

“Trust me, I’m a golfer. The course record is sixty-nine, which is three under par.”

“Oh… and who holds that?”

“A certain, magical, baton waving maestro…”

I sensed a sudden change in Murray’s demeanour, his languid whippy good humour suddenly developed a steely backbone, and just momentarily his familiar grin took a Clint Eastwood turn.

“Well, well … what if I shot a sixty-eight next Sunday?”

“That would definitely set a Tiger amongst the Eagles and Albatrosses.”

The simplicity of what happened next was more akin to a Salvidor Dali experience than a work of Super Realism. The day passed like a dream. I shot a one hundred and one ‘off the stick’, Master Golph carded an impressive sixty-nine and Mr. Codd blazed a daunting sixty-eight. Murray and I teed off early, among the starlings and mynahs, because we were C-grade ‘hackers’. I hunkered down to watch ‘The Wiz’ putt out and ponce to the tally room in resplendent Royal Blue and Beetroot Burgundy. He had a coronation sparkle in his eye and a grin the size of a tiara which vanished as he paused before the leader board. At the very top was M.CODD 68.

He went into shock, the colour drained from his face, and a gloveless hand reached out for the steadying influence of the scorers' table. Murray had left hours earlier to feed his hundreds of fingerlings; like the poet Rimbaud, seeking solace in mundanity. This was not his moment anyway, it was mine; I rushed over to assist and gloat.

“Are you okay there, Mr. Runner-up?”

“Piss off you bastard,” he hissed. You’re behind this aren’t you? I bet your scruffy mate is some sort a fucken ring-in?”

“Do you smell something fishy, ‘Wizzy-poo’?”

“I’ll get you cunts for this.”

“Go your hardest, you tosser.”

It was a period of bliss. I popped in to the club several times to enjoy the ambience; the place was humming like a honey pot. Murray was feted as a hero and I had my back slapped, hand shaken and glass filled on his behalf many times. I lingered, basking in my Machiavellian triumph. There was a jokey article on the back page of Monday’s newspaper with Murray holding up his weather beaten sandshoes under a headline…

‘CODD SNARES TROPHY’

Dan Golph was conspicuously absent until the following Thursday evening, when he turned up in a dour suit to attend an extraordinary meeting; tucked under his wing was his smarmy solicitor friend. An outbreak of murmuring greeted his arrival and everyone knew there was trouble brewing in the pot.

On Friday night, an official notice appeared on the bulletin board.

M. Codd - disqualified for a technical rules breach - failing to record handicap on scorecard.

He had not yet been allocated a handicap.

I was furious and deflated, I called Murray. “I should have known that slime ball would pull something.”

“Don’t worry about it; everyone still knows I beat him.”

“How can you be so calm, his name goes up on the board in gold letters and he gets to keep the trophy.”

“Aaah, I’m over it mate,” he announced.

I wasn’t. I cruised the clubhouse like a Greg Norman keen to follow the slightest bloody trail. I overheard a couple of the elder strokesman chatting across their scotch and cravats.

“It was not won in a spirit of sportsmanship,” one remarked through a bristling moustache, and his companion heartily agreed.

I approached them deferentially with two suggestions, trying to hide the ghastly rows of razor sharp teeth lurking behind my smile.

To my delight, and Dan Golph’s chagrin, the committee passed both motions: Murray’s name was added onto the course record panel and an asterisk appeared beside the champion's name to indicate the title had been won on a protest.

A disenchanted Murray returned to his sweet spot on the levee as if nothing had occurred and left me stranded in a fairway trap with no clear shot at anything. After weeks of deliberating, I bought an ancient one iron on E-Bay, put it in his hayshed, and promised to visit regularly. The two of us promised to spend dusky evenings together, blasting balls into the setting sun.

My last act at Bunker Hill was to put the ‘Blackhawks’ up for sale.

The club captain bought them for his daughter Dorothy. I told him I needed a set with a one iron.

“Are you a Ben Hogan fan?” he asked.

“He’s from around here isn’t he?....” He gave me a curious look. “... Sorry, private joke.”

Many touted the captain’s daughter as a future Carrie Webb and she confirmed her potential by blowing ‘The Wiz’ off the greens at the next championship, along with his dark grape shirt and tan accessories. Incredibly, my old putter in the hands of an ingénue had removed the starch from the wily Wizard's wand.

I saw Dan Golph not long after his abdication, standing gloveless in a checkout line at the supermarket, barely recognizable in shorts, T-shirt, and thongs. He looked smaller, slumped under a muggle-load of groceries, sans braggadocio. I felt a twinge of pity.

“Can I play through?” I asked, startling him.

“Lorndale! Heard you flogged your clubs. Couldn’t hack the pace eh?”

“Yeah, young Dorothy has them.” He flinched. “I bought a one iron… it’s all anybody really needs.” He twitched. "Perhaps it’s time you sold up too and joined the committee, or bought a tennis racquet.” I turned, cackled, and gambolled off down the Yellow Brick Road.