Friday, March 30, 2012

Student Drivers

When you are young you do things that you think back on and just wonder about now.
This is just such a story.
Back in high school I played a lot of golf. During the school year at least two times a week from March until November, and during the summer, closer to 4 or 5 times a week. Many times I went by myself, but every now and then I played with my friends. Mostly I played with my best friend Eric, who actually got me started playing.
Eric and I used to play a public course called Don Valley. It was a nice course, but other than a few holes it was not terribly challenging once you got to be a better player,  which I did. It was cheap though and if you didn't have access to a car all the time it was easy enough to get to. When we didn't have a car we usually had our parents drop us off early in the morning and then took the bus home to Eric's house. After a while I did have access to the car and picked up all our friends before we ventured out to play. It was always very cheap to play,  $2.50 for a complete round if you started before 7am. We played 3 rounds in a week for 8 dollars. 

Don Valley Golf Course.  It wasn't a difficult course but it is very picturesque.
  As I said,  I did get tired of playing that course and ventured out to some newer, more challenging courses. Two in particular, Westview Golf And Country Club, and the Firefighters Gormley Green Golf Club. Westview I played almost always with my friend Eric,  and it was a higher end place.  The green fees were much higher and we only played there once every couple of weeks.

Westview Golf And Country Club. Long, lush fairways, very hilly and lots of trees.
  Gormley I played mostly by myself,  but also went with some friends from time to time. After school I would go with my friend Ron and we could usually get a round in before sundown. It was a nice course,  but not terribly busy in the afternoons. If you got there by 3pm you could be done by 7:30. In October, if you cut your last class from school, you could just get a round in before it got dark.

Ed Werenich, left, skipped Team Canada to a world title in 1983. 
 Both Westview and Gormley were about 20 minutes north of the city where we lived. It was a country atmosphere which some of us were not that used to seeing.
The first time Ron and I ventured out to Gormley we were behind a group of four middle aged men who looked familiar. They were also very good. Better than anyone I had ever played with, even though I was also very good by this time. As I heard them talk and saw their faces, I recognized them as a group of Firefighters who were also very famous Curlers and at the time,  the best curlers in the world.  The most noticeable in the group was Ed Werenich (The Wrench). They teed off on the Creek nine, which was one of three nines they had at Gormley.   

That was the one and only time I saw them there. They also had power carts which we did not, so they teed off and got way ahead of us. The Creek was a very hard nine, harder than almost any nine holes on any public course in Canada,  so Ron, being not very good, had a lot of trouble with it and we lagged far behind "The Wrench" and his group.
After we finished that nine, we had a choice of two other nines, the Center,  which was pretty easy, and the Circle, which was tougher but not as tough as the Creek. We chose the Center and finished up.
The following year, after I had played the course another 30 or 40 times,  by this time being a very good golfer in my own right, Ron and I decided to skip school and play Gormley again. It was very late October and it was already blustery, although not terribly cold. We were a bit older and had a bit more money to our name, so we decided to take a power cart ourselves. Because it was a blustery day, late in the season, the course was very empty. We only had about 3 hours to get a whole round in before dark, and since the Creek looked completely empty,  we decided to start there.

The first hole and the last hole on the Creek nine were very tough.  They call it Creek for a reason.  There is a long Creek that cuts through almost the whole nine and those two holes in particular. In addition,  on those two nines, there are large hills where you have to hit your tee shot blind and then go look for your ball. As you approach the Creek, it is straight downhill. There is a paved cart path, but most don't use it. We didn't.
I hit my tee shot long and far, as I always did at that point in my life. Ron hit his medium length and we got in the cart to go where his ball had landed. He hit his second shot just over the Creek to the other side. I grabbed my club and walked to my ball, while he drove the cart ahead.
The day before, and the morning of, it had been raining and the course was wet. Not soaking wet, but slick enough to see the water on the tops of your shoes. As I walked to my ball,  Ron was driving the cart..too fast.
I stopped at my ball and began to get ready to hit my shot. It was a par 5 but I was going for the green in two, so I was getting ready to hit a big shot. Ron was driving but also looking back at me as I was hitting. He certainly didn't want to get hit by my shot. He was down the middle of the fairway, and not on the cart path. I was at the top of the hill and he was on the down slope. The steep down slope.

 I guess he didn't realize he was on the down slope and how wet it was. He began to brake but the cart was not stopping. As he passed me the cart was out of control. He was now streaking wildly down the hill and was heading for the creek, the cold and deep creek. Not only was he in jeopardy of serious harm, our clubs and the actual cart could have been ruined and destroyed.
A good golf cart in those days would cost about $3000 dollars,  3000 we didn't have.
I had just hit my shot and began running towards Ron. He kept trying to brake but to no avail.
He was now about 50 feet, or 7 seconds from the creek. There was no way he was going to be able to get that cart stopped. I yelled out at him.
"Ronnie, jump, get out of the cart."
He did jump out and the cart continued towards the creek. I was sure it was going in and we were in big trouble. Fate however was on our sides that day. The cart was just about to go into the creek when it hit a large tree stump. That tree must have been cut many years earlier, but the stump was still there. The cart came to a screeching halt right there. There was no damage at all to the cart or our clubs. Ron had some grass stains but he was also fine. As we went to get the cart, we noticed that no one was around to see all this. Also, as wide as that creek was, that was the only impediment to anything. If the cart had approached it from any other angle, it surely would have gone in and sank to the bottom...and been ruined.

We still laugh about that day, almost 30 years later. We finished that round without any incident,  and now we always stay on the cart path on the downhills. We were young then, but we aren't anymore. 
Live (luckily) and learn.

No comments:

Post a Comment