A letter from Mr. Roger Horlick of the Board of Governors of the Happy Knoll Country Club to Mr. Albert Magill, president emeritus, regarding the golf professional, Benny Muldoon
The Board of Governors at the Happy Knoll Country Club faces a crisis right at the height of our golfing season. It suddenly looks as though we may lose our golf professional on a two weeks' notice. I know what you are going to say. You are going to say that the Board voted another thousand dollars for Benny Muldoon at one of their recent meetings, and you are also going to say that we should at least have tied Benny up on a season's contract. Well, I suppose you are right on both scores but still, facts are facts. We have never signed Benny up on a contract because Benny has always said he loved the Club and he has always seemed to us like one of our members. Actually, one cannot help being touched by Benny's reaction because he seems more upset, if possible, by the prospect of impending change than any of his host of admirers.
You know as well as I do that Benny is a sentimentalist at heart. There is a genuine quaver in his voice when he speaks about the possibility of leaving Happy Knoll, which he says very frankly is his second home. But, as Benny says, you have got to face facts. It is like, he said when I interviewed him yesterday, the time when he was playing his second 18 at Rough Briar in the state Open. He had belted out a 300-yard drive right down the middle of the fairway. There was quite a gallery following because, frankly, he was hot as a pistol right up to the 7th. There was the green, 80 yards away, heavily trapped, but a cinch for a roll to the cup, if you aimed for the upper slope. Would he use an eight-, a nine-iron or a wedge? He had to make up his mind. He must have been thinking about all his responsibilities there because he called for the wrong club, landed in the trap and blasted out for a measly four. So you have to make up your mind, and either in match play or in life, making up your mind is a pretty tough proposition. Come to think of it, as Benny told me, and you know how philosophical Benny can get when he has the golf house to himself, life from his experience is a good deal like a game of golf. You get yourself into the rough in life just the way you do when you slice off the tee and you've got to take a wedge and some religion to get yourself squared away. Just like in life, in golf you start out with nothing but you have to come home with something.
I took the liberty of interrupting Benny at this point, telling him that in golf the less strokes you came back with the better, and that in life, too, a large income is often a source of worry.
Benny said that at the same time you had to come back with something. And these days when he came back to Patricia (that's Mrs. Muldoon), Patricia didn't feel he was bringing home enough, even if life wasn't exactly like golf. It seems that Patricia has been needling Benny Muldoon ever since he won that state Open. I told you at the time, Albert, you never should have offered to pay Benny's expenses for that occasion, and if you hadn't, I don't believe that Patricia (that's Mrs. Muldoon) would have allowed Benny to take the money out of what he calls "the kitty" for any such long shot. After all, Benny always said, previous to the state Open, that he was a teacher and not a tournament player. Well, now it's different. Benny now wants to go out to California to Pebble Beach or somewhere so that he can slug it out with "the circuit," and Patricia (that's Mrs. Muldoon) has begun reading the sports columns, and if an unknown like Fleck could beat Hogan, why couldn't Benny beat Fleck?
It seems that Patricia is now making notes on the annual incomes of Hogan and a few others, and these figures prove that Benny is not coming home with enough. It seems that he is not thinking of the future of their two children and of the other that is on the way. Instead he only thinks about analyzing the golf swings of a lot of stingy though rich old loafers at the Happy Knoll Country Club. These are my words, not Benny's. These people, Patricia says, could never win the state Open and she could give any of them a stroke a hole and beat them herself if she weren't expecting. That's the way she is, pugnacious (I'm referring to Mrs. Muldoon). It seems that she keeps needling Benny. Only yesterday she asked him, now that he has won the state Open, why he can't go to a sporting goods store and get his name inscribed on a set of matched irons, like Mr. MacGregor? Ambition, it seems, is Patricia's middle name. It seems to me that Lady Macbeth displayed many of the same attributes on the evening that King Duncan dropped in for the night.
Well, as Benny said yesterday, that's the way the ball bounces and he is a family and not a single man and now there has come a crisis. Hard Hollow first made a bid for him and now comes Rocky River. Rocky River is willing to guarantee Benny $2,000 more than we are after we have met the Hard Hollow offer. Benny has been most honorable about it and is holding nothing up his sleeve because he loves Happy Knoll and everybody in it, but that's the way the ball bounces. Besides, if he turns Rocky River down, how can he tell Mrs. Muldoon? In addition, Rocky River has a golf house twice the size of ours and everybody at Rocky River loyally buys all their equipment from it. Benny doesn't mean to say anything tough about Happy Knoll members because he loves them all, but sometimes, just to save a buck, they do go to some cut-rate store in the city and come back to the Happy Knoll course with a lot of junk that he would be ashamed to handle, but that's the way the ball bounces. He has an ironclad guarantee that they never will do that at Rocky River and they have a display room that can even handle slacks and tweeds besides caps and windbreakers. So here we have the question. What are we going to do about Benny Muldoon? I know what our deficit is, but Benny has been here for 10 years. A lot of people, including you, Albert, have to go to him regularly. How would you like it if you had to start with someone else? A golf pro, after all, is like a priest in a parish or a headmaster at school.
There are of course people who shop around among golf teachers, but these are hypochondriacs who can never cure themselves by advice from several sources. We both know this, Albert. You may recollect that some years ago I caught you sneaking out to the Hard Hollow Club to see whether their Jerry Scalponi could do more about your basic game than Benny Muldoon. I met you there because, frankly, I had come out for the same purpose and we were both agreed that all that results from promiscuous golf advice is unhealthy cynicism. Most professionals after diagnosing your golf ailments ask who taught you. When you tell them, they say it is too bad and all that can be done now is to start all over again and, by the way, your set of laminated woods are too heavy in the head and disturb your back swing.
I cannot bear at my time of life to face anyone else except Benny Muldoon, because he has a beautiful gift of sympathy and on the practice tee he suffers with me always. I admit it has been true lately, perhaps because Mrs. Muldoon has been suggesting that he underrates himself, that Benny seems to be cultivating a Scottish accent. The other day I thought I heard him say "Verra guid," but if Benny wants to be Sir Harry Lauder he still comforts me and leads me safely over the water hazards because his good words are with me; and I certainly ought to remember what Benny Muldoon has told me, because he says the same things over and over but then, what else is there for him to say?