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Tom West: Finding trouble twice in one day

I was standing on the 14th tee at Ridgeview Saturday morning, playing my first round of golf of the year. The sky was overcast, and suddenly it turned a little darker. Our threesome teed off, and none of the balls found the fairway.

I was standing on the 14th tee at Ridgeview Saturday morning, playing my first round of golf of the year. The sky was overcast, and suddenly it turned a little darker. Our threesome teed off, and none of the balls found the fairway.
I was off by myself, and miraculously found my ball just as I felt a few little sprinkles. I chipped over some trees back into the fairway. I walked to the ball, lined up my next shot when I heard a rushing sound. I looked behind me, not quite sure if it was a gust of wind in the trees or a particularly loud truck passing by on the road. After a couple of seconds, I couldn't tell what the sound was, so I turned back and hit my shot -- a beautiful three wood that was probably my best shot of the day.
And then the rain came, rushing over us. My partner said, "That's it," and promptly picked up his ball. I had to walk 200 yards to retrieve mine, and by the time I got there the rain was coming hard. I looked back and my two playing partners had both pulled out umbrellas.
One of them yelled, "Don't you have an umbrella?"
I yelled back, No," and took off.
That was "no," as in "No, I find that I can't hit the ball more than 30 yards with one, I haven't been drenched more than three times in 40 plus years of playing golf, and therefore, I have long considered an umbrella to be wasted baggage."
My playing partners were carrying their clubs, but I was pulling mine in a cart. If you are familiar with Ridgeview, you already know that the 14th tee is just about as far as you can get from the club house and still be on the course. The distance is somewhat more than a quarter mile and probably a little less than a half mile -- and it is mostly uphill.
Walking as fast I could while pulling the cart, I was already breathing hard by the time I reached the 16th fairway. I kept my back bent low as I pulled the cart over the rapidly saturating ground. Halfway across, the rainfall upgraded to a torrent.
Then a flash of light was followed only a few seconds later by the sharp crackle of thunder. A bolt of lightning had hit less than a mile away. With my lungs screaming, "Whoa, Nelly," I redoubled my efforts wondering what would get me first: the lightning, a flash flood or heart failure.
As I reached the 18th fairway, another flicker of light appeared out of nowhere. This time, the rumble was more distant, but it was nevertheless stimulus enough so that I actually ran a few steps before the limits of my lung capacity brought me back to a brisk walk.
Finally, I reached the last leg of the journey -- what seemed like a 40-foot climb up a 60-degree embankment. I had nothing left, but kept going up the hill, my Achilles tendons stretched to the max, my nose as close to the ground as my knees, and my cart feeling like Santa's sleigh on take-off.
After what seemed a lifetime, but was probably no more than another minute, I rounded the corner of the clubhouse just in time to see the last of the practice green disappear under water. That's right -- it was 100 percent lake for a couple of minutes. Dumping my cart under a canopy, I stood for about five minutes just catching my breath. Except for part of the front of my shirt, I was thoroughly and undeniably drenched.
Once I more or less stopped dripping, I found my partners in the restaurant and had lunch -- sitting all the while on the edge of the chair in the hopes that something would begin to dry out.
Then, I headed home to a hot shower, which was followed by collapsing into my favorite recliner, where I promptly passed out.
A couple of hours later I awoke to my wife saying, "How would you like to go looking for trouble?"
"I'm sorry," I said, "but I think I already found it today."
She replied, "No, I was thinking about going to the zoo to see the new bear." So, having found trouble, I went looking for Trouble with a capital T.
It was not hard to find. The Lake Superior Zoo was hopping with several hundred spectators, and many of them were gathered near the Kodiak bear exhibit.
Trouble was there all right, but frankly, Trouble seemed troubled. This was his first day in new surroundings, and he spent a good share of his time with his back to a wall, expecting more trouble to come his way. Life has been full of surprises for Trouble, ever since he tried to break into that zoo up in Alaska.
Watching a Kodiak with its back to the wall was fun for a minute or two, but the stars of the afternoon were the polar bears, Bubba and Berlin, who took an afternoon dip and played in the water to the delight of sightseers who encouraged them with treats. One of them spent almost an hour doing the backstroke around and around the pool.
At one point, Bubba crawled out of the water onto a rock, and his coat must have held 50 pounds of water, most of which he shook off to the delight of watchers.
"I can relate to that," I thought.
Perhaps golfers, like bears, would be a lot happier if they just learned to enjoy the water.
Tom West is the executive editor of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 723-1207 or by e-mail at tom.west@mx3.com

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