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The Quest for the Golden Stroke© by Bailey Herrington

Here's a short story I wrote some years ago. It's one of 14 humorous (I hope) tales of the antics and misadventures of members of Tamarind Trails Golf Club, located somewhere in north-central Pennsylvania. I hope you'll enjoy getting to know Pucky Winslow,one of the Tamarind Trails stalwarts.

Pucky Winslow’s thatch of stylishly coiffed blonde hair stirred in the afternoon breeze as he sat on the clubhouse veranda overlooking the par three eighteenth green at Tamarind Trails Golf Club. He finger-combed his locks in a vain attempt to restore order. Pucky disliked disorder, especially when it happened to his appearance. He quelled the topside disarray by donning his golf cap at just the right angle of insouciance.

Mr. Winslow, by all accounts, had it made in the shade. He was married to the beautiful Lola Brigida (Miss Shamokin Dam 2017). Lola graduated Summa Cum Ladle from Bleu Cordon Culinary Institute, Paris, Arkansas. Surpassing her stunning combination of pulchritude and culinary consummation, is the fact that Lola Brigida is sole custodian of “Mr. Crawford’s Secret Chicken BBQ Sauce” recipe, a sauce so delicious its secret ingredients are guarded by a complex code, known only to Mrs. Pucky Winslow.

On the professional level, Mr. Winslow’s meteoric rise to the top of the litigation ladder at the prestigious law firm of Shrewder, Fox, and Sharkey had been rewarded with a full partnership.

The pièce de résistance of Pucky’s feast of fortunateness was his peerless golf game. Vardon Hacker, the Tamarind Trails pro, said Pucky was a sure thing to win the club champion again this year. And yet. . .

Let us unobtrusively observe the supremely favored young Winslow as he downs his third Bombaway Gin Martini. Note the melancholy frown distorting his adorable face, the gloomy lassitude in the way he holds the Martini glass. It is obvious even to our untrained eyes that something is amiss with this well-turned out Adonis.

When Bayard Aspinwal noticed his friend’s despondent demeanor, he excused himself from his post-game companions, approached Winslow’s table and drew up a chair. Aspinwall placed his sunglasses on the bill of his cap and attempted a few conversation-starters: a ribald joke; a bit of gossip about Sammie the afternoon cart girl and Parker P. Parker; the disturbing news that the snack bar manager had replaced brown ballpark mustard with - ugh! - yellow. But Winslow paid no heed. He drained the last drop of Bombaway and beckoned for a refill.

“Pucky, my friend,” said Bayard, ever the wise elder, “you appear to have reached the bitter end of the hawser. I hope your marriage continues along the moonlight and roses path.” A horrible thought struck Aspinwall. “Don’t tell me Lola can’t recall how much salt to add to the Crawford recipe!”

“It’s my putting,” Pucky replied. “Today I three-putted the fourteenth from four feet. Yesterday I missed an easy eagle at the second when the putt moved left at the hole. I was dead certain it broke right. The mathematical chart showed the apex above the fall line was 5⅜ inches with a Stimp meter reading of 5 for a distance of 7 feet 3⅓ inches. But my putt traveled 17 inches past the cup.”

Bayard stroked his chin. He proffered possible reasons. “Did you balance your Dixon Fire golf balls?”

“Of course.”

“Which of your two hundred putters were you using?”

“In the past two weeks I’ve used all but three of them.” He held his head in his hands. “It’s all over for me,” Pucky mumbled. “What good does it do a scratch golfer to have a beautiful wife who has the code to the Crawford Sauce, or what use is a partnership in Morey Shrewder’s law firm if I can’t sink a level putt from fewer than seven feet?”

“Pucky, did you ever read the myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece?” Bayard inquired. Pucky frowned and gave a disinterested shake of his head.

“The tale may prove relevant to your pathetic putting problem,” said Aspinwall. “Jason’s old man, King Ason, wants to see if Jason can cut the mustard as his successor, so he sends his son on a quest for the Golden Fleece, the source of royal power.

Jason and the Toronto Argonauts overcome some rough stuff from snakes, harpists and warriors with bad teeth. Jason returns with the Golden Fleece and gets the king thing. So let’s get you going on a quest to find the Golden Stroke, the magical putting stroke, the source of golf power, and make it yours!”

Bayard hauled Pucky to his unsteady feet and propelled him to the putting green. Armed with three blade putters, three onset putters, three mallet putters, three center shaft putters, a list of quadratic equations to solve the angle of repose, geometric formulas to determine distance times speed minus number of dimples per ball, a surveyor’s transit, and a Fall Line Putt Reader ($299+tax), Pucky putted ball after ball. The more he putted the fewer putts he made.

Winslow stood erect, rubbing his aching back. Through gin-fogged eyes he noticed a young girl - or were there two? - perhaps seven or eight-years-old, cavorting around the far edge of the putting green. She had one ball which she stroked with a junior size blade putter. The girl danced to the ball, swung the putter and skipped after the ball which dropped in the cup about twenty or so feet away. She retrieved her ball, and repeated her routine with the same result.

Bayard and Pucky watched as she moved in their direction. They heard her singing some melody which was unknown to them. Once she eyed a squirrel eating a Beech nut while she stroked her putt. Again it plunked home. After watching her sink twelve in a row, Pucky and Bayard approached and introduced themselves.

“Hi, I’m Jenny,” she said. “My dad works here. He takes care of the greens and stuff.”

“Willie Norton is your father?”

“Yep. He lets me hit golf balls on the practice green if I promise not to bother the members.” As she spoke, Jenny nonchalantly sunk a downhill fifteen-footer with at least a nine-inch right-to-left break.

Bayard closed his mouth first. “Nice putt. Who taught you?”

“Nobody. I just do it ‘cause it’s fun.” Plunk! Another putt holed.

“You’re good,” Pucky Winslow told her. “You haven’t missed a putt so far today.”

“Yep,” Jenny replied. “I haven’t missed one ever.” Plock! The ball dropped again. “You’ve never missed a putt?” asked Pucky.

“Nope. Putting’s easy. Fun, too. Nice to meet you!” Jenny gave a little hop, singing the catchy little ditty, danced sideways, swung the club. The ball rolled smooth and true into the cup.

The next day dawned, as is its habit. Pucky Winslow and his three golfing companions surveyed their putts at the first hole. Pucky was away. From ten yards behind his ball, Pucky gave a little shuffle, and danced toward the ball, putter in his right hand at shoulder height, singing Jenny Norton’s jump-rope song:

“I eat my peas with honey. I’ve done it all my life. It makes the peas taste funny, but it keeps them on my knife.”

On the move, Pucky Winslow swung his putter in a fair imitation of Jenny’s graceful arc. The ball rolled smooth and true . . .

. . . into the greenside pond.

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