Come on, Grandpa, come play golf with Mom and me,” my grandson pleaded, pulling an extra set of clubs out of the closet.
I’d driven from Virginia to Missouri to spend time with my daughter and grandson, but golfing was the last thing I wanted to do.
“You two go on,” I said.
My daughter put her hand on my shoulder. “What’s wrong, Dad?” she asked. “You love golf.”
It’s true. I did love golf. But I just couldn’t muster the slightest interest in playing these days.
For as long as I could remember, my lifelong friend Harold had been my golfing partner in Virginia. We were perfect together…I would hit a shot into the rough, and he would inevitably counter it with one that landed in the center of the fairway. It went like that for years, his shot always landing just a bit closer to the hole than mine.
Harold was more than a golfing buddy, though. We grew up together. He knew me better than almost anyone. But not long ago, cancer took Harold away from me. I missed him terribly. Golf would never be the same.
Still, the pleas of my daughter and grandson were too hard to refuse. “Okay,” I said, “maybe just one round.”
I stepped up to the tee at the Murder Rock Golf Course in Branson, Missouri, feeling a bit rusty. I pulled out the driver and took a swing. The ball arced high into the air…and plunked down in the tall crabgrass: 10 feet off the fairway.
Ralph, you’re not supposed to hit the ball in the rough, I could practically hear Harold playfully chiding me. Grumbling to myself, I went to retrieve the ball. I bent over to examine the lie.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another ball lying just a few feet away, almost on the fairway. I looked around. My daughter and grandson hadn’t even teed off yet. No one else was playing through. Who abandons a perfectly good golf ball with a good lie? I wondered. I walked over, leaned down and picked it up.
That’s when I saw the monogram stamped on the ball: H.D.R. The initials of my dear friend Harold Dean Roland. Still my golfing partner, and always will be.