Submitted by Don Doman
Several years ago on a brisk and frosty morning, the day after Thanksgiving my son and his brother-in-law golfed at Allenmore Golf Course in Tacoma, Washington. Our tee time was 9:07 a.m. Tee boxes and fairways offered silver playing fields. Powered golf carts were to stay on the pathways and temporary greens were mandatory on the early holes.
About the third or fourth hole I complained about the temperature. Scott, the brother-in-law said he would have some sympathy for me except for the fact I was wearing shorts. I laughed and said, “I hold the clubs with my hands, not my knees and it’s my hands that are freezing.”
Simple putts hopped, skipped, and thudded to a stop with a layer of ice added to newly formed snowballs. Drives weren’t hit as hard as usual. Many shots resulted in stinging sensations and the grips just never felt right. Personally, I didn’t want to walk that much on the cold grass so took slow studied backswings, controlled forward swings, and almost aimed with deliberate approach shots. This was unusual for me. I finally cut loose on the 18th hole, and left the course one ball down.
The tenth hole saw me with a nice drive that reached the top of a hill leaving a good look at the flag across a little valley. I didn’t quite make the green on the second shot, so had to chip onto the regulation green. Shots requiring divots were questionable for me, although Scott and my son Patrick powered through the frozen ground where they needed. I ended up with a long putt, which was the result of a seven-iron attempt at bump and run. Bad bump. No run.
Past the hole and just over the berm, before the golf path and the next fairway I could see small flags flying, which had been stuck into the ground at the base of a sapling. I finished three-putting and walked toward the “golfside” attraction. My mind was thinking that perhaps this was the site of a golfing death just like you often see along roadsides at the scenes of auto accidents. I visualized someone my age and weight stumbling and falling to the ground, perhaps first clutching their chest and then relaxing their grip allowing a still glowing cigar to roll from their fingers with embers and life slowly growing cold.
Greeting me was the sight of a miniature memorial. Small American and Marine Corps flags flanked the image of a “lance corporal” who died in “2005,” which was all I could read before my head dropped in instant sorrow. Four golf balls encircled a centered one. I think there was writing on that one. Maybe they were each signed. I don’t know. Perhaps the lance corporal died locally, but living in my community, which includes the army base of Ft. Lewis and the air force base of McChord Field, I knew in an instant this was probably a casualty of war in Afghanistan and not golfing in Tacoma.
Credit card and mortgage bills arrive by mail telling us of payments and obligations for the lives we live. Crosses by the side of the road remind us of the possible cost of driving. The size of our bellies signal lifestyle excesses we choose. But, memorials beside fairways drive home the point of freedom and the price of living in America.
I had a marvelous time golfing with Patrick and Scott. It was a gorgeous day for sharing. I tell people about golf balls suspended on the frozen ponds at each of the water hazards. I tell my other friends about joking around. I tell them about excellent four-iron shots I made and almost playing an entire game without suffering the loss of a ball, but I won’t tell them about the memorial. I can write about it, but I can’t talk about it.