A recent Writers Guild prompt brought this bit of memoir from Steve Goldfinger–for the inveterate duffers in out midst.
Breaking the Ice: Aye, There’s the Rib!
by Steve Goldfinger
After my early days of hacking around scrubby Dyker Beach, Brooklyn’s only public golf course, I found myself playing The Country Club in Brookline from time to time. Yes THE Country Club, sanctuary of Boston Brahmans plus a handful of their chosen. Its name said it all.
My friend Tom, a fellow academic and ardent golfer, was one of their chosen. A few times a year, he would ask me to join him for 18 holes at this preserve available to but three hundred or so, a far cry from Dyker Beach’s availability to three million.
This time, it was for only nine holes. It was mid-January and the temperature had warmed up to 35 degrees, toasty enough for golf freaks who hadn’t teed up a ball for two months. The Country Club contained an extra nine holes that were kept open year round for such freaks.
Tom brought along his son Jeff, now 15, who was getting interested in the game. I had played with Jeff before, liked him, and was glad he was with us.
The air was brisk and the round uneventful, until we reached the seventh hole. Jeff’s drive put him about 150 yards from the green. I saw him pull a 4 iron out of his bag for his second shot.
“Use 6 iron,” I said. “You’ve grown a lot, and a 4 iron is much too much club.”
But 15 year-olds often have minds of their own. He stuck with the 4 iron, hit it cleanly, and watched it soar well over the green.
“Now, drop another ball,” I said, “and try a 6 iron.”
He did and hit the ball the perfect distance….but it veered off to the left and rolled onto a frozen pond. When we arrived at the pond’s edge, we saw the ball sitting there, ten feet away. Just sitting atop the glistening ice, waiting to be fetched. And feeling guilty that it was I who had consigned this $1.25 ball to such a fate, it was I who decided that I should be the fetcher.
I had gone two steps onto the ice when the inevitable crack came, and I crashed, sideways. I managed to stand up, the water above my waist. So cold I couldn’t utter a word. Tom and Jeff ran over to fish me out by extending an 8 iron for me to pull on. I noticed bleeding from my wrist where it had been scraped by ice as I fell through. Even then, I could barely say a word.
I was the shivering wretch of the three, though, insisting we go to the next tee to complete the round. I had just read The Right Stuff, and this was going to be my John Glenn moment. Tom and Jeff were still laughing as I teed up my ball. Then, when I tried to swing my driver, I was nearly felled by a horrifically painful crunch in my left rib cage. The technical name is crepitus, and it denoted a rib fracture. I tried to swing again but could use only my wrists to wave at the ball.
They escorted me back to the club house, bleeding wrist, broken rib, freezing torso, numb legs, sunken spirit.
I later asked Tom to petition the club’s Governing Council to post a sign alongside the pond on the seventh hole, to read: “Here Goldfinger couldn’t walk on water.”
Since joining BOLLI about two years ago, Steve has been writing. He’s taken memoir courses with Marjorie Roemer and worked on fiction with Betsy Campbell. In addition, he’s stretched his creative muscles into the world of acting as an intrepid CAST player.