Not only are Golfer Guy’s actions and attitude horrible for the environment but the asshole culture that has evolved as his numbers continue to dwindle is vexing.
For a time, my father was a Golfer Guy but never really knew it.
Most Golfer Guys don’t.
The tidewaters turned up a number of things in the immediate recession that was his departure from this earth, but none more revelatory than his cache Golf Digest issues. Through three cycles of chemo, my father was the barely hanging-in-there exception to prove the rule that that publication should only be pretended to be read in clinical settings.
I didn’t have a tough time dumping those magazines into the recycling bin; perhaps to find new life as a milk carton or even as a toy truck. To me, the bigger statement of their removal was a bond broken, a tradition lost in my family.
When I was seven, my father made sure a pair of junior clubs was waiting for me under the tree, ostensibly creating Junior Golfer Guy in his image. For the next two years, the pro at the club paid the least amount of attention possible to my swing as he watched divorcees in short tennis skirts skitter by as the balls on the backs of their socks bounced in time to the rest of them.
As a young man in Lake Tahoe, I would occasionally join my father on the course because he thought maybe there was still hope for me. Most mornings, I’d been recently discharged from the 24-hour Nevada-side bars or the casino floor with nothing but credit slips and tinny breath to show for the night that was. He’d sit there sipping his Arnie Palmer checking his watch as they called our foursome over the PA. Red-faced waiting for his son to arrive, hoping not to be too embarrassed in front the father-son orthodontist duo who would round out our foursome.
I would ride along and act all pissy and hungover—because I was. Looking on detached as this Golfer Guy dad-and-son combo outdid us not only with their game but overflowed with chumminess. My father and I were the funhouse mirror version of them. If I ‘got’ anything during that era, it was the metaphor for the value of their life vs. mine as they drove away in cars worth more than my last three year’s GNP—was in fact actually very real.
It later occurred to me that I was the one who smelled like Pall Malls and well whiskey and was ruining everyone’s morning echoing curses off the fairways and greens in tattered cargo shorts. They were the ones who’d saved for this, went to bed early for this, were trying to savor this. Even in the company of a trio of Golfer Guys, I was the asshole.
I am guilty of having allowed myself that indulgence. To be out there in support of Golfer Guy Sr. To feel the thwack of balls off trees in my throat. To bushwack protected nests in search of a lost Titleist. To forget the rental wedge on the 17th approach. Soon enough however, it became clear to my father that I wasn’t going make the cut to be a Golfer Guy. So he quietly dispossessed me of this white-guy birthright. Eventually, he would load his clubs in the back of his car the night before and drive away in the early dawn, surging up the hill unencumbered and mightily free.
This was more disappointing to me than I led on. I grew up enamored with the stories of the sport from the best scribes of the 20th century and the constant chuckle the cinematic send-up of country club is in my DNA. Golfer Guy wasn’t always sneering back like a fat bully on the other side of the see-saw either and in the early years I felt saddened by the separation.
But now I feel bad specifically for those the sport has left behind. Golf has moved from accessible to untenable for the aging majority of this country who now worry about where their next meal is coming from, finding a roof over their head much less whether they have the money to fix it and how to avoid addiction and early demise and death because they’ve been set free from the workforce with ten good years of tread left and no safety net.
Yesterday’s Golfer Guy isn’t just playing fewer rounds than his predecessors, he’s living not quite two thirds as long and dying of despair.
A handful of years ago, half-drunk by noon and besotted on a Saturday near the end of a work trip to Palm Desert wearing a Banana Republic oxford and chino set as a disguise for who I really was, the lowest form of candied vermin: An event planning trade publication writer covering an event planning trade show; I spied a pack of big-horned males mostly my age, all spray tanned and white-lipped and teeth just popped out of foil wrappers. Shapely calves to hairless thighs to skinny wrists to veiny necks. Those fuckers. The generous showcase of the latest in mobile devices clipped on their waistbands. They roll into the town cars and onto green tarmac spray painted over the lovely but uninviting desert landscape.
This generation of Golfer Guy has the garrulous demeanor only family money to fall back on instead of a career can conjure. Up by 8 a.m., lathered and gelled and slicked back, flat hat brim low over puckish blue eyes. They don’t appear to occupy the same world I do. Or, at the very least, they don’t have to leave it unfilled if there’s no generic. Me, sliding from the hotel furniture, soon to be swept up by the night maid. Careerless and unmoored. Hair like a troll doll after being licked and spun on a pencil top eyes squinted in the sun, unshaven, shirt stained and ill-fitting, no starch left in my shoulders.
Golfer Guy looks prepared and manicured and scheduled and resolute like he’s about to outmaneuver you on the freeway. He doesn’t understand things like gender politics, because men make all the decisions; or food insecurity, because Little Caesar’s is essentially the same price it was two decades ago; or renewable energy, because the amount of time spent trying to lure the hotel lounge server girl back to his room last night can’t be replicated; or charity, because put a banner up and play a couple rounds and donate the rest with a big-check-photo-op and there you have it, cancer solved.
To his credit, today’s Golfer Guy behaves like American men were supposed to once all the districts were gerrymandered. I suppose he is in finance or in medical device sales or into something he can’t quite explain with technology that doesn’t really do much or help much but since he supposes someone believes it fucking will, it is so. I wonder if that call he has to make is to recommend something to a person that an algorithm recommended to him. His net worth has more commas than a run-on. He currently just has barely enough so he’s not scared shitless as the carnage and shit piles up toward his perch.
Wife of Golfer Guy is in charge of the curation, everything from kids’ costumes to floor mats in the Q7 down to the farm basin kitchen sink. She does her best to rearrange the assemblage to match the
magazine spread Pinterest photo with his bonus—a nice sum for an individual—though a pittance compared to the invisible lives being paved over. The unintended target of their insouciant and uncontemplative accumulation, their children, wait in the wings to find out just how badly it all got fucked up for them in order to switch out countertops every major election cycle. Here in the lobby though, as he sips and smiles and poses with a Heineken Light, the embroidered vest Golfer Guy wears seems bullet-proof.
Maybe it is.
It is a difficult task turning your back on your father’s sport and the ever-shrinking clan of fucking white guys who figured out how to still indulge in it—without sounding a little bitter. But bitter is OK sometimes too. Bitter in the face of today’s Golfer Guy is appropriate as consequences don’t seem to apply to him anyway. It’s like I wore condoms by working and saving all through the last two decades for what? So Golfer Guy could go fuck everything bareback, give it his disease and watch it die so he could live and profit from it?
Golfer Guy is inured to the fact that in parched California alone last year his courses gulped down almost 120 fucking billion gallons of water to color up the peanut-brown landscape. That’s more than all the churches, schools, restaurants, hospitals, hotels, shelters, offices and textiles here combined.
Golfer Guy is impassive to the damage he causes with his feckless form of day-draining recreation. He is, if nothing else, busy not giving a shit. My opinion of him is slightly less of an impediment than the man-made sand box he’s about to rake up before he moves on.
In a strange way, those of us who have broken ranks with Golfer Guy are ultimately better off. Someone like myself squeezing like a washcloth left in the sun the last of his middle-income job prospects or evaporating credit, or even my father before me pretending he belonged—was a temporary glimpse, a charade. My observations as an outsider along with Golfer Guy’s refusal to do better keeps in tact the semblance of order we have in this country today, barely. Exotic animals, after all, should never be confronted with the knowledge that they’re on the brink of extinction. It would only result in worse behavior.