“You learn a lot about someone’s character by taking note of the things that piss them off.”
Years ago, I had the misfortune of working as an assistant professional at a local golf club. And I say “misfortune” because I was making 8 bucks per hour, working 10-hour days and had only one day off each week (usually during the week) from April through November. That’s a tough life for a family guy, especially considering that while he’s listening to golfers bitch and complain about everything under the sun, while earning next to nothing mind you, his kids would look to the sidelines or the bleachers and not see him there cheering them on during their weekend sports activities.
The “perks” of being in the golf business are very few, at least just starting out. Especially if you enjoy playing golf, which I often compared to the job of being a teller at the bank and being broke, yet surrounded by so much life-changing money. While everyone was off and enjoying the privilege to be able to play golf, I was either stuck behind a counter in the pro shop or confronting miserably slow golfers on the course, begging them to make my life a little easier by keeping up with the group ahead. Nothing pisses serious golfers off more than having to wait 5 minutes over every shot, on every hole. Being a serious golfer myself - I could more than understand the importance of confronting slow play and being proactive about it, just out of respect. But even at that - it was an endless, thankless job and although I enjoyed the occasional opportunity to get out of the shop and appreciate some fresh air and sunshine - it also usually meant I was having to play Mr. Dickhead to somebody. Or, much too often enough, several somebodies.
But one of the “perks” of working at a respectable golf club is the ability to reciprocate play with other courses locally on occasion. Usually a phone call was made to another facility a day or two prior, inquiring about their availability and (obviously) asking if they would mind taking care of one or two staff members who were interested to play there, either at a significantly discounted rate or no charge. A majority of the time the request was granted, providing of course that our own facility had returned the favor in the past or would return the favor in the future.
Now I would be lying if I said that I’d completely come to hate golf, despite the business side of golf consuming just about every ounce of my free time during the season. But one thing was for certain - I DID NOT want to spend my one day off per week at the same place that basically owned me for 8 months out of the year. Sometimes you just need to get away, and those who work in the golf industry can appreciate this better than anyone.
So a call was made to a local club, and sure enough - they were more than happy to oblige a few of our staff members, at no charge. The day prior, one of our staff members who’d initially planned to go with us suddenly had to back out at the last minute. That evening, two other staff members decided they didn’t want to go if so-and-so couldn’t go, so suddenly I’m the only guy going. I called the local club that morning and told them of the situation, asking if they would mind me bringing a regular customer from our club to play there, just the two of us. They said sure, no problem. I called the regular from our club and asked him if he had the ability to join me later that morning, and he sounded ecstatic. “Yeah, count me in! I’ve got a meeting a few hours earlier, so I’ll just meet you there,” he said. Cool beans.
About four hours later, we both pull into the club about the same time. We go inside to check-in, and to thank them for letting us on at no cost. We had complimentary use of their practice range, our clubs were already loaded onto a cart. The head pro smiled, thanked us for coming, and told us to enjoy ourselves.
After hitting balls at the practice range for a few minutes, we decided to head over to the practice putting green before heading off to the first tee. The place was basically dead, only a couple of cars were in the parking lot, we pretty much had the entire course to ourselves.
And then we quickly figured out why. The greens had recently been aerated, like two days prior.
If you comprised a list of things that serious golfers hate, the #1 item on the list would be slow play. Right under item #1 would be item #2, and you guessed it: aerated greens.
Putting would not be fun that day, the greens were in pretty rough shape. But hey - it is what it is. Not every facility is on the same maintenance time-schedule as everyone else, so sometimes it happens. I didn’t feel the need to inquire about it ahead of time, nor was it mentioned to us by the host course when the call was made initially. But sure enough - it would definitely be a bit of a downer for the day. They were basically unputtable.
My guest who I invited, I’d played with him a couple of times prior that season, found him to be a reasonably good player and friendly. Through our casual interactions at my club, I felt reasonably confident that there was enough of a rapport between us to feel good about inviting him along. But that was immediately brought into question no sooner than we saw the practice green.
“What the f**k? They didn’t tell you that they’d punched the greens recently?” I was taken aback by his attitude, but just assumed he was more in a state of shock than angry. “No, they didn’t say anything about it,” I replied. “Did you not think to ask them ahead of time,” he sniped. “No, we aerated two months ago, just assumed they were on a similar maintenance schedule,” I said. “Besides, it’s not like we had to shell out 50 bucks to play here today. It is what it is.”
“Well, what it is is a 45-minute drive to play ratty-ass greens. Had I known this ahead of time, I wouldn’t have bothered coming. But since I’m already here, I guess I’ve got no other choice,” he said.
The round was one of the most miserable ones I’d ever experienced in all my years of playing. Hole after hole, shot after shot, I had to listen to this ungrateful bastard constantly bitch and moan about the conditions. “These greens are unplayable! How on earth could they possibly expect anyone to pay to play on such shitty greens?!” I reminded him that it cost us absolutely nothing, it was a beautiful day, and we should just try to make the best of it. “And I took the day off for this, to boot,” he said disgustedly.
We were on about the 12th green when it happened. He’d hit his approach to about 5 feet, and made the snarky remark, “Oh, goody. I might actually make my second par of the day now!” I chuckled when he belted the first putt about 4 feet past the hole, and then laughed my ass off when he missed the 4-footer coming back. But what he would then do next was anything but a laughing matter, as he slammed the toe of his putter into the green and damaged it considerably.
I said nothing. I just walked over to our cart, grabbed his things out of the cubby hole and placed them on the ground, and then unstrapped his golf bag and tossed it next to his things. And then I drove back into the clubhouse, by myself, and left him there. I paid no attention to his yelling as I was leaving. “Hey, where are you going? You can’t just leave me here! Come back here!”
Two minutes later I pulled into the clubhouse, raced into the pro shop and spoke with the head pro. “Hey, I owe you a huge apology. The asshole guest I brought with me today - he buried his putter into the 12th green in a fit of rage. I dumped his shit out and left him out there stranded, he didn’t deserve the courtesy of being driven back in. I don’t think it’s anything overly serious, I’m sure your maintenance guys can repair the damage. But I want you to know that I’m every bit as shocked and humiliated for his behavior as you probably are. We wouldn’t appreciate that happening to our greens, no matter how fixable the damage is, and I completely understand if you never allow us back.”
The head pro just looked at me and said, “Hey, I appreciate you coming in to let me know about it. And I also apologize for not letting you know ahead of time that our greens were just aerated a few days ago. Don’t worry about it, we’ll take care of it. And I’ll personally go out there in a cart and pick up your guest, and I’ll get his name so I can make sure he’s never allowed to play here again as long as I’m running things. But you and your staff - you’re welcomed to come back anytime, just call me.”
And that was that.
I never went back there to play, nor did I ever see that asshole again, not even at the club where I worked and he played regularly. Might’ve had something to do with my head pro calling him and telling him to never show his face there ever again, after telling him what had happened.
So yeah - you can learn a lot about people by taking note of what pisses them off. What that guy learned about me that day is that I’m patient, because he’s damned lucky I didn’t bury my putter in his skull.