Golf pro and writer Harvey Penick coined the the theory “if you play golf, you’re my friend.” Thanks to a chance encounter at a local Dunkin Donuts, I’ve experience that.
I swear I was coming from a work meeting but I had on a Lake Club shirt when I stopped for an afternoon coffee.
As I walked in, a patron noticed my shirt.
“Hey! I’ve got 400 balls at my house but not a single one from the Lake Club.”
I replied, “Wow, I’ll have to check out there and see if they have a jar on the counter.”
He had a request — “Do you think you have any in your trunk?”
I explained that my clubs were at the course and promised to check my next time out. I took my coffee and waved goodbye, but figured I’d check the trunk just in case.
As luck would have it, I found a keepsake sleeve of Titleist ProV’s with The Lake Club logo and 2015 Guest Invitational stamped on the side. I figured if I hadn’t used them by now, I’d be OK parting with them. I walked back in with the three balls and my notebook.
My new friend jumped up and happily took the balls. A couple of his buddies started laughing and told him I was going to try to sell him something.
I told them I owned an insurance agency and would be glad to “talk shop” if they wanted. My only request was to fill me in on the golf ball collection and just talk golf for a few minutes.
After explaining the notebook, a few of them laughed and recognized my picture from The Vindicator.
So there we sat — myself, my new friend Ed Rubicky and a few of his buddies. Ed caddied at Youngstown Country Club when he was 10. Three dollars for 18 holes was his take home pay.
I asked if there were any “good tippers.” He laughed and explained that in those days, if someone failed to properly tip with cash or coin, the caddies took matters into their own hands and helped themselves to a ball or two.
For his favorite player of all time, he took Tiger Woods over Jack Nicklaus. He has his favorite logos and the balls, but he his favorite golf memorabilia is the three pictures of Augusta and Pebble Beach that he keeps in his living room.
His biggest complaint? People calling in, like a few weeks ago when his “girlfriend” Lexi Thompson lost the ANA Inspirational on a rules infraction.
He played two-man golf for East High behind Bobby Santor. When I asked who the best golfer around here was, he quickly answered, “Georgie” Bellino, an East High grad himself and a longtime local PGA Professional.
Now, if you’re waiting for some breaking news, or nationally relevant information to come from this, I’ll apologize now. This week’s column isn’t about anything more than a chat between new friends.
If you don’t think this Valley and this game are special, think again. Where else, and over what other sport, do you think this conversation could have happened? I’m in my mid 30s, thinking about work, my newborn, the meeting I’d just had and what was still left to get done that afternoon. Ed, who is not in his 30s and with a whole other set of concerns and thoughts on his mind, just happened to connect over a cup of rushed afternoon coffee.
Valley golfers can be of different eras yet we know a lot of the same people. We laughed at the same Billy Santor story about a pudgy kid from Columbus named Jack Nicklaus telling everyone he was going to be the best golfer who ever lived.
We were able to share stories of great friends and good rounds gone by. We’d even walked a lot of the same fairways some 60 years apart.
Seems Mr. Penick was spot on because on this day I ran into an old golf friend. We just hadn’t met yet.
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at Jonah@thekarzmerinsurance.com.