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The clubs stayed in the battered canvas bag in the corner of our garage. I grew up and got interested, and my father took me out into the backyard and showed me how to hit a nine-iron, up and down, back and forth. Eventually I took my father's clubs and started to play. He never said anything to me about it. I destroyed the woods in short order. (One of them, I blush to admit, against a tree.) I kept using the irons, regripping the shafts and regrooving the clubfaces a couple of times. The old men at the courses liked to look at them.
I didn't find out why my father stopped playing golf until after he died in 1989, although he had slipped away into the shadows of Alzheimer's disease long before that. Not long after his death I was talking to a neighbor with whom my father had played his weekly game until the day he simply stopped playing.
"One day your dad got upset," my neighbor told me. "It was strange. It was like he couldn't keep score anymore."
Occasionally I go to the range, taking only Lawson. I use him so much as a bailout club, chopping the ball out from under trees and from behind rocks and, with depressing frequency, backward onto the fairway, that I almost feel as if I owe the club the dignity of taking a few actual golf swings with it. This occurs only in high summer. I don't want to swing this club when it's cool, during what I've come to call the Vibrating Hands portion of the golfing season.
It's an unforgiving bludgeon. When I mishit it, which is most of the time, I can feel it in my shoulders. Even when I do hit Lawson cleanly, it doesn't produce that satisfying click you get from most well-struck irons. It produces more of a punctuated clatter, flat and weary and oddly heavy, as if the accumulated years have worn the brightness of its spirit down the same way that the accumulated decades have dulled its shine. By the time the first bucket is empty, I feel as if I've spent 40 minutes banging a pipe wrench off a boiler.
Occasionally someone will come up, usually one of the old fellows who hang around on the picnic tables in the evening as the sun is sinking behind the pro shop, and he'll heft Lawson for a second, jogging it around with his wrists. On very rare occasions the old fellow will talk about Lawson Little, although that doesn't happen as often as it used to, and it didn't happen all that often back then.
I carry Lawson now because, with it, I carry the history of the man who signed its blade and of the man who bought it, all those years ago, when he could still remember how to keep score, and my own history, which is all of those stories. There is a lot of sundown in this club now—it's a freighted thing. It's always good to keep a little history in your bag so you can have a place to store your memories.
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