The ball rolled three-quarters around the edge of the hole and lipped out. It came to rest two feet way from the cup.
“It could be worse,” I said, smiling, leaning on my putter.
Kevin glared at me. “And how could it be worse?” Oops. I forgot my rule. When a golfer is melting down, leave him alone.
He holed out, walked back to the cart, banged his putter into the bag and then slammed the gas pedal, the wheels sliding on loose rocks before they found traction and the cart surged forward.
The whole day had gone bad for him. Kevin was falling in to the abyss. I’ve seen it before and it is a scary sight. Sometimes a golfer is playing so bad he can’t figure a way out. Everything he tries goes wrong. He tries to slow down his swing but hits shots fat. He puts away the driver and uses his 3-wood but still drives it in the woods. He leaves 20-foot putts 10 feet short. It’s like Madonna’s film career. Every choice he makes ends up wrong.
But it is much more than just playing badly. Heck, I do that most of the time. It is the slow breakdown. At first, they are calm. But as the round wears on and their play continues to deteriorate, so does their mental fitness.
Madness slowly sets in. They fall into their own personal hell. You want to help. In the past I’ve said things like, “I’m no pro, but it looks to me like you are looking up.” Either I would get a dirty look or a terse, “Gee, thanks!” I’ve learned over the years to just stay out of their way. There is nothing you can do.
Watch their total psychological meltdown.
We went to the next hole, a par 3 with a pond fronting the green. Kevin stomped up to the tee and stuck a ball in the ground. He sets up low behind the ball, like David Duval. He swings incredibly fast. The ball jumped off the clubface and shot toward the pin. It was right on line.
Suddenly, the branches of the surrounding trees started to rustle as a cool breeze kicked up in our face. The ball stalled in mid-air, felt the full effect of the wind and dropped in the water.
“$%##@##@@@*%&,” Kevin yelled. He dropped another ball on the ground and swung at it without teeing it up. He hit it fat and the ball bounced once in front of the pond and jumped in.
“*$%!%#&*#$#^&,’ he screamed. He stormed over to the cart, undid the strap and yanked the bag off the back and carried it over to the tee box.
“Hey, Kevin,” Roberto said, glancing at the foursome behind us.
“What are you doing? We gotta keep moving.”
“I WILL get over the water!” he yelled. He unzipped the pocket, and turned the bag upside down. Thirty balls poured on the grass. He raked one over. Whack! It shanked into the trees. He dragged another one over. Whack! It hit the cart path and flew into some long strawgrass.
He let out a long scream. It started low, from the depths of his tortured soul, then got louder and louder.
“Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” He thrashed at the remaining balls. He didn’t tee them or try to hit them individually- just swung wildly at groups of balls. They sprayed everywhere.
We ducked behind the carts. With all the balls gone he stomped around and his eye settled on the tee markers, two blue hard plastic balls. He smashed his iron into the one nearest him. It broke into a thousand pieces.
He walked over to the other one and smashed it, too. The club-head broke through the top but the marker didn’t break apart. He lifted the club up and the marker stayed stuck on the end. Shaking the club violently, he attempted to dislodge it. It stuck like glue.
He swung the club over his head and behind his back like he was throwing an axe at a Lumberjack Festival.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” he screamed again as he launched the club at the golf cart. CLANG! It hit the steering wheel and skidded down the cart path. The marker shattered all over the concrete.
The rest of the foursome stayed crouched behind the carts. Looking at each other, we started laughing at the same time. I laughed so hard I had to sit on the grass on the other side of the cart path. My head banged into the post of the ball washer.
Kevin grabbed his bag and threw it on the seat bench. With his right hand he held the bag as he again slammed the gas pedal and the cart lurched forward. He quickly stomped on the brakes as he reached down to grab his club lying on the cart path. He took both hands off the steering wheel, slipped the club into the bag and drove toward the green.
“Hey!” I yelled.
He slammed the brakes again, jumped out, took my bag off the back, threw it on the ground, jumped back in and sped off. He drove past the green, the next tee and the next hole. In the distance I could see him throwing his bags in the trunk of his car and slamming the lid shut. His meltdown was complete.
He’ll be back tomorrow.