He wasn't ready yet; his eyes had a reflective cast. He leaned slightly forward and delivered himself of the following observations:
"Y'know I've played in a lot of pro-ams. I got them in the blood. I can't turn the invitations down. In San Fran. The Crosby. The Hope. The Las Vegas tournament. The Thunderbird. The Doral. I go to 'em all. And yet, I'll tell you something. I don't like them. Pro-ams are the loneliest places—I mean, unless you're a gregarious sort and you don't care what sort of hours or company you keep. To begin with, you take a 3,000-mile plane ride across the country to get to the tournament—all that money for your ticket and the overweight for your golf bag, and then you've got to rent a car once you get there, and the accommodations are overpriced, and you've got the entry fee to pay and the caddies.... Naturally all of it would be worthwhile if you played good golf on a good course with interesting people. Well, there's the hang-up. Your golf is off. The golf course looks defoliated. Your pro doesn't turn out to be Nicklaus or anyone else, or even anyone you've ever heard of. He can't play house. His name is Pep Irving and he came in 33rd in the Cajun Classic that year they had the bad tornadoes, and he's the pro at the Canoe Lodge Country Club on the Montana-Canadian border.
"And who are your partners? They're those guys you never liked at school and they've turned up on the course 20 years older and twice as objectionable. Sometimes one of them is a celebrity. In some of the well-known pro-ams—y'know, like the Crosby—they try to spread celebrities through the field, but if you've got one in your foursome, who is he? Well, you're not sure. He looks vaguely familiar, Mister Nice Face, and so you ask one of the caddies and he's not sure either. He's the nice-guy brother, he thinks, of the fat kid in that big-family TV western—the one that gets in trouble? Oh. yes, you say vaguely. He doesn't look quite so nice that you'd like to ask him who he is. Sensitive sort. So you don't. If the celebrity's a comic, he's one of those neurotic ones who needs big crowds to warm him up. He doesn't make any effort, y'know? Mister No Effort—just a sour bunny out there on the course with a tight little poky constipated golf swing and he mumbles a lot, working up a routine that you got to reckon is composed solely of sharp answers to hecklers."
"You've had terrible luck," I said.
"Never fails," he said. "And the hours," he went on. "The sort of foursome I play in gets sent off in the morning during the false dawn—the first or second foursome out, with just enough light to tell you're not teeing up the ball on the toe of your golf shoe. Everybody's in a rotten mood, and, if you count the caddies, there are eight hangovers in the crowd, and they're all bad ones. So for the first five or six holes you just hear people breathing in the darkness. The 'Dew Sweepers.' Or if you don't go out early, you go out late—the 'Litter Brigade.' Your professional is named Pogo something, a Chinese kid, and you're with two amateurs who've had five cocktails apiece for lunch—to 'quiet their nerves'—and it turns out these guys can't hit the ball out of their own shadows. You play along through the debris that's been left by the afternoon crowd—huge newspapers picking up and sailing around, old picnics, clusters of beer cans—and every green's got a ring of programs and Dixie cups and tubes of suntan oil. You got to admit it," he said suddenly.
"Admit?" I said vaguely.
"You got to admit that playing rounds with guys like that, you can't say, 'Hey, guys, I just lost my ball in the ball washer.' " He rattled the ice cubes in his glass.
I said, "Oh, yes," startled by the abruptness of his return full circle to the ball-washer incident.
"We were all so formal and withdrawn from each other."
"Yes, well what did you do?" I asked.