We now return you to the regularly-scheduled weirdness…
Cal turned to gape at his friend. “You’re serious? That’s a forty-footer if it’s an inch!” he rasped.
“Yup. So. We got a bet?”
“Easiest ten bucks ever. You’re on.”
They shook, and turned to watch Ricky, squatting on the green to check the slope. Cal thought nothing of that—Ricky was shooting for par, and even the most unlikely par putt demanded careful preparation. Their friend lined up, looked at the pin again, then shifted his feet ever so slightly. Ricky looked up one last time, then swung the putter with more follow-through than usual.
Ricky’s ball arced up the slope, then arced back. “Damn,” Cal whispered, “it’s gonna be close—holy shit!” The ball caught the rim of the hole, followed it halfway around, then fell in.
“That’ll be ten dollars,” said Stan, with a grin.
“Hell,” said Cal, fishing a pair of fives out of his wallet, “it was worth it to see someone sink that!” He ambled over to Ricky’s cart. “Awesome putt, Ricky.”
Ricky was not as elated as one might expect, having just hit a nearly impossible putt to make par. “Thanks,” he said, and dropped his putter into his bag. He looked at Cal, and put on a smile. “How much did Stan take you for on that one?”
Cal laughed. “Ten bucks. But like I told him, it was worth it. If we were in a tournament, that would be the shot they’d show on all the sports newscasts.” Cal made a minute more of small talk, then rejoined Stan in their cart. The electric motors whined as the carts climbed and coasted the slopes to the second hole.
“You knew he’d sink that,” said Cal.
“Ricky always makes par,” Stan said, watching the cart ahead. “Unless he slices a tee shot or something.”
“He didn’t seem too happy about it.”
“I never got a straight answer out of him. If you want to ride with him, go ahead. If he doesn’t tell you a line of crap, I’ll give you your ten bucks back.”
The next hole was a par three. Ricky’s tee shot was awesome, flying straight and true, landing on the green not two feet from the pin.
“That’s a birdie for sure,” Cal murmured.
“Ten bucks says he misses,” said Stan.
Cal opened his mouth. “No bet,” he replied. “I don’t know why, but you know something.”
Stan shook his head. “All I know is, he’ll miss this shot.”
Sure enough, Ricky’s putt caught a piece of debris that none of them had seen, and his ball stopped two inches short of the hole. His string of profanity had a resigned tone to it, though. All three of them made par on this hole.
Curiosity got the better of Cal, and he ambled over to Ricky’s cart with a beer in each hand. “Hey,” he said, “want some company?”
“Sure.” Ricky took the beer, and Cal took the shotgun seat. The carts whined and whirred on their way to Eleven; a faint smell of ozone from the electric motors wafted past.
“What’s the deal?” Cal asked. “You sunk that forty-footer, and then… hell, if you’d asked for a gimme on that last hole, I’d have given it to you.”
Ricky sighed. “You really want to know?”
“Yeah. It happened at Glenoak, last year. I sliced into the brush, but not too far. There was this sapling in the way, and I pushed it over and stomped it to keep it down. Then this girl steps out from… from behind this big oak tree behind me, and asks me why I abused her tree. I told her I needed it out of the way to get onto the green; I figured I could at least make par. Then she goes, ‘you will par any hole where possible, but no better,’ and walks into the tree. Into it, man, I swear. I looked for her all around that place, but she was gone. And that’s how it’s been ever since.”
“Yeah, I know. Sounds nuts.” Ricky chugged his beer. “But I swear by the hops in this beer, it’s true.”
As Ricky teed up at Eleven, Stan nudged Cal. “He tell you anything?”
“Yeah,” Cal whispered. “And I think he believes it. But you won’t.”
“The curse? Yeah. Ricky’s a great guy, but I think he’s a little nuts. You can have your ten bucks back, anyway.”
“Fine. But I’m buying the first round at the Nineteenth.”
They watched Ricky make par at Eleven, and all but one of the rest. Cal watched and wondered. If I land in the woods at Glenoak, he thought, I’ll just take the penalty.