JT's Country Club
When I was in 6th grade, my interest in learning how to golf was peaking at a time that culminated perfectly with a garage sale up the street at the Lerdahl's place. They lived about 2 blocks up the hill on 3rd street on the south side of the street next to the driveway that went back to the farmhouse where the LeMair's lived out towards the base of Bunker Hill. The Lerdahl's neighbor to the west was VJ Engebretson and across the street was John Theodeson, but I'll touch more on the layout of Garretson at another time. What's important now is that the Lerdahl's had a youth golf bag with a junior set of clubs for sale for about 50 bucks. I saw the rummage sale listing in the Garretson Weekly that came out on Thursday and the rummage sale was on Friday and Saturday.
I was nervous that I wouldn't get up there in time to buy it first. It was summer and as soon as I could on Friday morning, I rode up the hill on my blue Raleigh 400 dirt bike and went into their sale and found the clubs right away. It was a hard golf case with a faux blue leather outer wrap on it and white plastic edging. The clubs that were cut to 3/4 length were Sam Snead Specials and a Driver, a 3-Wood and a silver right or left-handed putter. A single tall zippered pocket on the side to hold tees and about 8 golf balls. I loved it. But I didn't have any money with me. I had been too concerned with getting up there to see if they had sold yet to worry about bringing the money I'd need with me. I asked the Lerdahls if they could hold the clubs for me and that I'd be right back with the money.
I hopped back on my bike and rode right down to the drug store to ask my dad if I could get $50 out of my account at the bank to buy these clubs. I'm pretty sure this was the summer of 1981... so I imagine the drug store MAY have still been in the old location and when I went to the bank to get the money out, it was right next door at the OLD bank. Both of these are now the Garretson Area Historical Society Museum.
I got my money, returned my bank account book to my dad to put back in the safe at the drug store and then hopped back on my back and bee-lined for the Lerdahl's once again.
Straight up 3rd Street I went across Main, past the Splitrock Telecom building and the gravel church parking lot (later to become the site of the new fire station), across Center Avenue and past the Catholic Church on my right, the green Koen's house on my left, up the hill past the Christiansen's house, the Schreur's house. Up past the old hospital and our house, hit the dip and past the VanHunnick's and Rachel Jordahl's.... getting closer now as I continued to climb the hill, getting nervous that they maybe sold them while I was gone, a few houses past the Sanders' and there I was at the rummage sale again. I jumped off my bike and went back to where she was sitting with the money and the clubs were still there. I handed them my money and they gave me the clubs and then even threw in a handful of driving range balls out of a bucket that they had sitting there. I was beyond thrilled. This was my first major purchase for myself... even predating my purchase of the Olivia Newton John cassette tape I will be buying in Miller, SD later that coming fall at my uncle's drug store.
The bag had a single strap for carrying and it took some wrestling to adjust it so I could get on my bike and hold it. I eventually figured it out and coasted down the hill home. Now, more excited then ever to try them out.
By later that day, Jeff Johnson and Craig Hillestad were over to check them out and we were hitting balls around our big lawn. Soon we turned our pitching and chipping into a game. We selected a certain target tree across the lawn and all took turns as if we were on a golf course working our way to the target. Whoever picked the tree also selected the "par" and pretty soon we had a fair number of "tee off" spots and their corresponding "pins" for trees. It was a great way to introduce some short-game practice.
Somehow we managed to never break a window or hit anything too valuable. Which, given how I had just started this new sport was probably a miracle. We got tired of hitting the same trees over and over and we soon realized that we needed more courses.
So we did the same thing at Hillestad's place. The variety was fun. We alternated courses every other day or so. We treated it like we were on a real course. I even made score cards on 3x5 index cards. Soon, I took that same attention to detail into an attempt at a full marketing campaign for the course at our place. I called it JT's Country Club. I made a letterhead, business card, scorecards and even dismantled some matchbooks and rebuilt my own using white tagboard with my logo drawn on them. (I even reglued the striker strip onto my matchbooks). I think I made 3 of those... one for each new member of the the country club (me, Jeff and Craig).
I eventually graduated up to a full size larger course... going with my brother and some of his friends over to the Brandon 9-hole golf course by the river. I may have been not the strongest of hitters out there for a little skinny 7th grader, but I had a good clean swing and could hit the ball as straight as an arrow. My brother and his friends let me hit from the lady's tee the first few times we went out. One particular day this was especially relevant.
On hot July days, in the middle of the day on weekdays, we'd have the course almost to ourselves. There'd be maybe a couple of other individuals out there trying to improve their game in near 100 degree heat. But often it was Matthew, Brad Sylliaasen, Eric Hammer and myself. We'd be scorching and though we weren't supposed to, we'd take our shirts off and be out there in just our shorts and shoes, trying to stay cool.
One particular hot day, we had just completed putting on the green that was as far from the club house as possible and in our walk over to the next tee box, there was a bunch of gophers popping up and down out of a whole slew of holes not too far from us. I confidently proclaimed to the older guys to "watch this" as I swiftly side-armed my golfball right at a group of 2 or 3 of them. 'THUNK!'.... I pegged one right in the head. The blow flipped it up and out of the hole and the little furry rodent lay on the ground convulsing and bleeding out of it's nose. It quickly expired and my brother expressed vocal disapproval for my action. I took one of my clubs and lifted the little carcass off the course and over to the field just to the north of us. We played the next hole out incident free, but still giggling about my awesome throw.
As we went up to the NEXT tee boxes, the guys told me to stay back behind them. This hole was now a par 5 and the differential distance between the men's teebox and the women's teebox was considerable (probably at least 30 yards or so). I continued over to the red lady's markers and they continued to harp on me to get behind them. I continued to proclaim that I'd be fine. It was way over to the left, almost a 45 degree angle from where their target path was. Matthew continued to get upset that I wasn't listening to him. He stood there with his ball tee'd up and holding his driver wanting to swing, but my presence was pissing him off. I gave in a little bit and moved to the back of the tee box and way over tot he left side of it. He glared at me. I stood behind my blue golf bag that stood on the tee box. I yelled at him to just "GO!" and then jokingly crouched down behind my bag and peeked around the blue fake leather while holding onto the top white strip. Matthew set up at his ball, settled into his stance, loaded up on the backswing and released his swing.
I should mention here that while I hit light and straight, the older guys were notorious for hitting hard but NOT straight. That might give you further foreshadowing as to where this is going.
I saw Matthew's club strike the ball, then I saw the ball getting bigger and bigger. As the ball got about halfway towards me, I heard the striking of the club to the ball, the sound finally reaching me then as I ducked back behind the bag, I heard him yell "FORE!!!!" just as the ball struck my right knee that was poking out to the side.
I'd never felt pain like that before. Everything went black for a second and I regained my bearings while simultaneously becoming overwhelmed with a deep throbbing nausea. I was too "out of it" to notice if the guys were laughing at me or if they felt bad. I do remember that Matthew said to me as he got up to the lady's tee box that he "told me to get back"... and that that was payback for the gopher.
His ball actually deflected off me and went straight down the fairway. At least I helped him out a bit. My knee was red with the dimples of a golfball the rest of the day and I distinctly remember having a bruise that lasted for about 2 weeks. I know I never stood in front of another golfer since that day.and I'm especially conscious of who's ahead of me when I'm hitting. Maybe that's where I picked up some of my deep empathy that I can tend to have for others. Thanks Sam Snead... too bad that lesson had to be so painful.
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I'm just a creative guy that's looking to throw all this spaghetti onto the wall and hope something sticks.