For our anniversary last year my wife gave me my first club membership. Pelham (N.Y.) Country Club has a jewel of a course, the site of Gene Sarazen's and Walter Hagen's duel at the 1923 PGA. I grew up nearby, but the only times I visited golf courses as a kid were at night, usually pursued by the authorities after some boyhood prank. Golf came late in life for me and hit hard.
When I told my 84-year-old Uncle Larry about the joys of belonging to Pelham, he confided that when he was a boy growing up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., he had dreamed of making a living at golf. In those days he had caddied, mopped floors at a bank and worked at a pharmacy, where he fought with other delivery boys over who'd get to take medicine to the Kennedy house, where Joe Kennedy Sr. always tipped you a fiver. "I hopped the fence at Pelham once," my uncle told me, "and was confronted by a member who threatened to have me arrested for trespassing. 'Sir,' I said, 'my father is a member in good standing and would be offended by your accusation.' Well, the old guy looked surprised and said, 'Please accept my apologies, young man, and play on."
Now, I knew that Uncle Larry's father, my grandfather, was no "member in good standing" at Pelham. The man had a less-than-legal speakeasy business and a weakness for the horses.
"Pete," my uncle said, "I gave that guy the bull, and he took it."
Within a month of our talk, my uncle died and a TV pilot I had done, The Secret Lives of Men, about three divorced guys who play golf, got picked up by ABC. Now, as I walk the course at Pelham "rehearsing" my role as a weekend duffer, I can't help smiling at the thought that one of us is making a living at golf.