Thursday, December 23, 2010

Golfers, Beware

Warning to my golfer friends—you’re no longer safe on the links. I have been licensed to play without fear of penalty or lawsuit.

The New York State Court of Appeals, like other state courts, has ruled a duffer is not liable if his shot strikes someone not in their intended path. Since my balls never go where I want them to, I am free to hit and maim anyone out for a peaceful, uneventful round of golf. I don’t even have to sound silly and scream out “fore” before stroking the ball (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/22/sports/golf/22golf.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=general).

Golf has never been one of my passions. During high school and college I played a few rounds at the pitch and putt course at Riis Park in Belle Harbor, Queens. After my marriage, my Uncle Harry gave me one of his old sets of clubs, but I never really used them until Dan was born. While Gilda shared play dates with two of Dan’s toddler friends’ mothers, I would hook up most Fridays with the fathers for a round at the local public course.

None of us were good, which meant 18 holes took nearly six hours to complete, a long time to leave our young families alone. It didn’t help matters that while Dave, Rudy and I were swinging through the brush on most holes, only Dave and I were recording anywhere near actual stroke counts. I’d come out of the rough proud of my "six," Dave would say five and together we’d be bewildered to hear Rudy claim a three—and he was an accountant by trade! Dave and I shortly agreed it was more fun to share times with our kids and wives. We rarely saw Rudy after that.

About 20 summers ago my company ran an employee golf outing. I have two vivid memories of that day. First, I made a huge mistake wearing shorts as the mosquitoes attacked in force. Second, my sliced tee shot off the first hole almost boinged a fellow publisher standing roughly 85 degrees to my right. Fortunately, she didn’t see the ball whiz by her head, though her staff was disappointed I missed her as they did not like her at all.

I avoided further mishaps on the golf course by staying away, but got roped into playing at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, once known as the Playboy Club & Resort, Lake Geneva, Wis. In 1999, my magazine co-produced a retail conference for Siemens Nixdorf (SN). The meeting at the hotel ended with a golf tournament. Though I begged off playing, SN’s national sales manager insisted I join his foursome. We’d be playing a scramble format, requiring each player to be be responsible for at least one shot per hole.

Now, golf is said to be a great sport for bonding, for building up relationships and business contacts. I recently heard Jack Stephens of The Stephens Group, a company that was an early bankroller of Wal-Mart, say, “Golf lets you observe and size up somebody over 4–4-1/2 hours.” Well, in the course of those hours, Siemens Nixdorf went from being a $100,000 annual account to dropping all contact with us for the next 10 years. My only explanation is that SN’s national sales manager did not take kindly to losing his own tournament because I could not hit a decent shot all afternoon. We finally won back some business a few years ago, but only after he left the company.

The last time I golfed it was also at the request of an account, Morgan Stanley, at a charity tournament it ran in Rockland County in 2007. My foursome included two of my magazine associates along with the actor Aidan Quinn (really nice guy). The tournament attracted several NY Football Giants players and coaches including Eli Manning (taller than he appears on camera) and was emceed by WNBC-NY sportscaster Bruce Beck (shorter than he seems on TV). The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that upcoming season.

Perhaps now that it’s safe for me to play golf again the Giants will go on to another Super Bowl victory.

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