The most vivid memory I have from that week has nothing to do with the golf camp. In fact, I almost quit golf after this incident. You see, golf wasn’t cool back then. Tiger didn’t break onto the national scene until 1996-1997. We had guys like, Craig Stadler, Tome Kite, and Duffy Waldorf. They weren’t exactly chick magnets or icons of cool. Sure, guys like Fred Couples and Davis Love III were smooth and athletic but the golf apparel designers seemed destined to give golfers a backseat in the sports department.
So there we were, me and Aaron Smith (my best friend at the time), at Duke Golf Camp. I remember we met up with a couple of cousins from NY. I had never known anyone from the BIG APPLE before so we all had a blast laughing at how different we all talked. Their names were Andrew and Michael. Michael was the smooth talker with a big smile. He was fearless and talked a big game. He probably ended up a Senator or something. Andrew on the other hand was the oldest (15) of our foursome and the most likely of us to challenge Bill Gates or Frank Ellison. He was a super nice guy but not great in the social skills department.
The camp was held on Duke’s campus along with other sports camps. In addition to golf was girls field hockey, boys and girls soccer, basketball, tennis, and baseball. Our favorite camp was girls soccer. For three days we worked up our plan (and courage) to speak to some of those girls in shin guards and Umbro shorts. We decided to say we were there for soccer camp too. Under NO circumstances were we to mention golf camp to anyone with two X chromosomes.
I remember it like yesterday. We came out of the bookstore headed back to our dorm. We walked across the commons area and there they were. Four girls walking our way. In a flash, our chatter went from casual to game on. Michael was calling the shots and broke the ice. His Manhattan smile and charming words caught their attention. WE WERE IN. The conversation was getting good. We had names, we talked about hometowns, and interests. I could see that this was going to be the best week ever, hanging out and enjoying the company of the prettiest girls our 6th-7th grade eyes had ever seen.
Then the horrendous happened. One of the girls asked “What camp are you here for?” In our infatuated state, we didn’t respond soon enough before Andrew blurted “GOLF camp.” Immediately we jumped in “Soccer! No Soccer!…Soccer!” Too late. The next moment was like the movies when the orchestra stops playing and the strings, horns, and percussion come to a screeching halt. It felt like the whole campus stopped and all the oxygen was vacuumed out of the air. An eruption of laughter from the soccer girls jarred us from our shock. We stood there motionless and lifeless with our hearts in a puddle around our feet. What happened next is unknown. I only remember hearing their giggles fade in the distance as they walked into the void with my self-confidence and dignity.
I never saw or heard from Andrew and Michael after that week. Aaron and I have remained friends through the years. It only took a decade or so, but the scars did heal. Golf has become cool and mainstream thanks to guys like Adam Scott and Camileo Villegas. Wear your golf lifestyle badge proud. No longer do you need to be ashamed of wearing a Ping hat or knowing who’s leading the FedEx Cup.
photo credit: Matt Phillips