Yes. And you began this face-saving mission over an omelet?
No, at the oxygen bar.
The oxygen bar. First, what you have to understand is that there is a word in Japan for "golf crazy": golf-kichigai. Golf has swallowed Japan whole. People will do almost anything, and pay almost anything, if it has anything to do with golf.
For instance, weekend greens fees at clubs near Tokyo are between $150 and $300. To play Koganei as a guest on a weekend will cost you $250, including lunch. Balls are sold one at a time, at about $8 each. Getting a tee time at even the ugliest course requires a telephone call one to three months ahead. Just to hit a bucket of balls at a driving range requires a reservation.
This is a country smaller than California, with a population half that of the United States, and Japan had only about 1,500 golf courses as of December '87. The U.S. had 12,500. Now the Japanese are building courses anyplace you can fit two phone booths. They think nothing of lopping off parts of mountains to build a course.
It's a mania, I tell you. Lawsuits have even been filed involving guys bonking people in the eye while practicing their golf swings on train platforms with their umbrellas.
One day, I played a public course called Akabane in northern Tokyo. The last guy to take a mower to this place must have been General MacArthur. It was as bad as any course in the U.S., yet it cost $100 to play on Saturdays. Doesn't matter. The golfers started lining up at two in the morning. The first foursome went off at 4:30 a.m., with 150 golfers waiting behind them. You don't know what it's like to have 150 Japanese watching you hit on the 1st tee.
What was it like?
I was shaking. But I managed to steer a two-iron into the fairway only after the caddie wrestled a seven-iron out of my hands.