MainStreetRob in his younger days at Myrtle Beach. That’s a Walter Hagen Persimmon (real) Wood he’s swinging.

Somehow I had convinced my wife that the three of us (my oldest was then three) would have a great time camping in our little thirteen foot fibreglass trailer in Myrtle Beach. We had agreed that late March was a great time to get away to sunnier climes before the good weather could be had in Canada. So off we went to the land of sandy beaches, discount outlets and fun things to do. Travelling with a young child on such a long trip proved to be an interesting challenge. It took us over 20 hours to complete that thousand mile journey. We had not anticipated a stop every thirty minutes for “a wee pee”, but the good thing was that our little one was fully trained to stand up and pee by the time we arrived..

Warm sunshine. No boots. No parkas. It was just grand! We found a State Park that was close to the beach and we selected a site under some tall pines to give us some shade from that glorious sunshine. We were quite close to the outlet stores as well, and (not) surprisingly we were also within a short driving distance of more than 100 golf courses.

To me, a keen golfer, Myrtle Beach was the sport’s Mecca. It was also the home of the Dunes Golf Club, listed in Golf Digest magazine as one of the top 50 best courses to play in the US. On reading the annual review of those great courses, my dream objective had secretly become to add the Dunes to my list of great courses that I had played.

March in Myrtle Beach is overrun with golfers. The swimming is still a bit cool (except for Canadians who happily venture into the ocean) and the shopping deals are like the weather – still a little cool. Everywhere though there is talk about golf. It didn’t seem out of place one morning, therefore, that discussions with strangers in the local laundromat quickly focused on where and how many golf courses had been played and which one was the best. That’s exactly what transpired when I met Ron in the Clean-o-Mat just a stone’s throw from our campsite. A self described golf nut from Connecticut, he seemed to have played most of the “good courses” in Myrtle with his three other golf buddies. During their seven day golf package, he had admitted that the foursome’s lives had been filled with morning rise and shine beer chasers, McDonald’s breakfasts, 36 holes of golf – with beer, Tony Roma ribs for dinner – with more beer, and then some serious analysis of the day’s activities at selected “four star” drinking establishments -more beer. Ron confided that one of his buddies had gone over the line the previous night and they could not even wake him that morning. And they had a tee off time in a little over an hour at the Dunes. Fred, he believed would likely be MIA for their last round, the highlight of their trip.

Oh my! Sometimes opportunity knocks in places where you least expect it. The laundromat certainly fit that bill, but life suddenly seemed to be unfolding in a strange but wonderful way for me as I folded towels and listened intently to this Connecticut Yankee. I asked him politely if they planned to play as a threesome, and if so, would they mind if I joined them to make it four. To my surprise and immediate joy, he replied: “We tee off at 10:14. Meet us at the first tee and you are welcome to play along in Fred’s place. He’s already paid for the round”.

I pulled the half-dried clothes out of the laundromat dryer and ran back to the campsite to get my clubs. What could my wife say to my explanation that this was one of those great opportunities that happen only once in a lifetime? I jumped into the car and headed off to the Dunes.

The entrance was impressive – a long sweeping tree-lined driveway that led up to an old traditional southern mansion  clubhouse overlooking the ocean. In front was the first tee surrounded by azaleas in full bloom. A glorious sight. I parked the car, put on my shoes and walked quickly toward the clubhouse. Ron was on the first tee already and he called for me to join them as it was almost tee off time. “No need to check in at the pro shop, it’s all arranged”, he said.

I was introduced with good cheer and some merry backslapping as the man from snow-covered Canada. (“Do you play any golf in the winter in Canada?”). I stood on the tee and watched as each of Ron and his  buddies teed off. Suddenly as I walked to the teeing ground to hit my ball, a station wagon roared up the entrance road, its horn honking, its driver yelling and screaming expletives out of the open window interspersed with “Stop, Stop”. He veered the car off the roadway, barely passing between two stately oak trees, and he continued to drive straight towards us at the first tee. It was Fred! No longer comatose Fred. Now belligerent, obnoxious and still quite inebriated Fred.  He staggered out of the car, and ran up to the tee swinging a wood wildly at anyone in his way. Clearly, though, his eyes were fixed directly on me. “No SOB is going to take my place!”, he screamed. His tone was definitely not friendly. The Dunes Club starter tried to stop him but he was thrown to the ground by the charging Fred.

Slowly I backed up. I checked out the escape routes and then darted for the parking lot, my golf bag swinging wildly on my shoulder. I reached my car without looking back but sensing the possibility that I could be in mortal danger if Fred had a shotgun in his car. Nervous as I was, I couldn’t get my golf bag into the car and sadly I watched some of my best golf balls roll out the door. Too late to get them. I’ve got to get out of here. It seemed like forever before I finally got the bag into the car and then I began to drive toward the exit… slowly, too slowly I worried, but the sound of a police car coming up the entrance drive with sirens wailing forced me to try and leave slowly and calmly. They drove right by me – two big local constables about to embark on a foot chase with another loud mouth drunken golfer.

I have no idea what transpired after I left, but I do know that somebody must have been very happy finding four new Titleist DT golf balls on the club parking lot.

When I got back to the campsite, my wife was surprised to see me. “What happened, you’re back so soon?”, she asked. “Got there too late”, I lied, “they teed off without me”. Her sympathy was so heartfelt and so genuine, I had several pangs of guilt at that moment and for some time afterward. It had all become quite clear to me from the morning’s escape. I had dragged the family all that way to Myrtle Beach, not for the beaches, not for the discount stores, not even for the warmer weather, but really just to satisfy one of those selfish “must dos” that seem so important at the time but ultimately never seem to be so important again.

I no longer feel that I have to play the Dunes or any other of Golf Digest’s “top 50” courses. I still enjoy playing a good golf course, but it’s not really one of life’s “top 50” for me. Life eventually offers its own “top 50” in other ways.