Immortal Dreams Published Novel part 2 of 10
‘Anybody setting their highest hopes below the stars is aiming to low.’
Driving in America compared to England generally means a longer drive, places being further away due to the sheer vastness of the country. Yet trips like the one we took from the Carolinas back to Florida are so much more pleasurable than most trips in England. An eight hour trip where you are virtually exclusively on wide, straight roads and travelling at 60mph, is a lot more fun to me than a two hour trip back home on narrow roads, where you are constantly getting held up by, roadwork’s, tractors, learner drivers or just slow drivers and no matter how many times you get a bit where you can bomb along as you wish, that 60mph average is elusive. Plenty of variation of the tunes coming from the CD player helped to pass the time. Sunny sharing my passion for sport meant that we could while away the hours on sports trivia.
‘Lennox Lewis would have been firmly established as one of the all time great heavyweights, even in America, had your top heavyweights of the era actually got round to facing him at the right time. Riddick Bowe gave a title away to avoid him, then just disappeared. Evander Holyfield avoided him until there was nobody left to fight, then was completely outclassed twice. Tyson, well he had his own problems. But when he did get round to fighting him, admittedly past his best, he looked like he didn’t even belong in the same ring as him.’
‘I still say that he never had the classic fights that all great boxers have to define their careers.’
‘Because there was nobody good enough to get close enough to him to get him into such a fight. He shouldn’t need to end up a bloody mess to be a great fighter.’
‘Still not in my top five of all time.’
‘Okay subject change, let’s try and guess what this guy is singing along to,’ I noticed a vehicle in my mirror slowly catching up with us and could tell that the driver was unashamedly singing away
‘Try and stay along side him for a while,’ Sunny took the challenge and watched the guy closely. ‘It’s “You were always on my mind”.’
‘No way, it’s “Suspicious Minds.” ‘
‘Don’t be crazy, you can tell by the head movements.’
‘No look now, he’s on the “caught in a trap” part.’
‘That’s the “maybe I didn’t treat you” part.’
‘Please be kidding. Hey look he’s going to the Waffle House, I’m hungry anyway and we can ask him.’
‘You can ask him, I’m not going to ask him.’
‘Of course I’ll ask him.’
‘I am ready for some Waffles though.’
Parked in the nearest available space to this man. He got out of the car, dressed in a suit he looked to be in his mid-thirties and judging by his size this wasn’t his first visit to a fast food establishment. Alone in the car, he checked his phone as soon as he got out of the expensive looking saloon.
‘Excuse me, can you clear something up for my friend and I?’
‘I’ll try my best,’ he spoke in that wonderful way so many Americans have of just being happy to be talking to someone and not worrying about not knowing them.
‘What song were you singing along to just now?’
‘Stand by me, an undoubted classic.’
‘Really? Classic yes but you maybe have even less musical talent than me,’ I spoke in a light hearted manner that I can use, that usually means I can say virtually anything to anybody and they won’t take offence.
‘I do only ever sing alone,’ he had a little laugh.
‘I’m with you there, I can be cruel sometimes but never cruel enough to sing in someone else’s presence.’
Getting back to Florida to play golf definitely had a feeling of coming home. It being my first experience of golf in America might mean that Florida will always be the state I feel most comfortable in, only time would tell. Now we were well into September, these tournaments in Florida were two-fold in their importance to me. Still tournaments in their own right with money to be won, they were also vital in terms of my preparation for the tour school tournament in November.
The tour I played on was based around the Orlando area, so there were a couple of the courses on the rota that I had played before and a few others that Sunny had played before. Half a dozen of the better players from the North Carolina tour made the same trip as I did, around the same time. None of the more money than sense brigade made the trip, but there were plenty of them waiting for us in Orlando, all about to make their own contributions to our pay cheques.
In the first two tournaments I played around par and made a small profit each time, without looking like winning either tournament. The third tournament I played in was a three day event on an immaculately presented course. When playing this course, even the veterans struggled to come up with convincing excuses from their long list accumulated over the years. Fairways were as good as most greens from other courses, and the greens were smoother than a billiard table and even the rough was uniform. After two days of the event three of us had gone clear of the field. I had played my best golf since turning professional, which means my best golf ever. First round was a steadily efficient two under par 70, second round was a classy 67. These scores had left me one behind the leader, Brent an amiable guy from Canada and two ahead of a grittily competitive local Floridian veteran, called Matt. In multi day events the leaders always go out together and last on the final day. The three of us played together knowing that barring a golfing miracle one of us was going to win the tournament and the $4,500 first prize. Brent was at a similar stage of his professional career to me and the prospect of leading a tournament going into the last day appeared to make him a little tight. He sharing a buggy with Matt who ignored him all day and that the desired affect of unsettling Brent. To be fair Brent hung in there quite well, considering how much he was struggling with his swing, but a bogey on the twelfth that took him to 3 over for the day acted as the final nail in his coffin. By this stage Matt had got himself to five under for the day which had put him one ahead of me with six holes to go. He had played aggressively and well all day and looked in determined mood. Much to my pleasant surprise I had remained in a calm and relaxed focus state of mind throughout the day, characters like Matt had never affected me. We both made routine pars on the 13th. On the fourteenth I played a very good second shot with a five iron to within fifteen feet of the hole. Matt was some fifty feet from the hole after two shots but his putt looked destined for the hole from a long way out, he let out a loud scream of ‘come on’ as it poured into the middle of the hole. He picked the ball out of the hole and walked away towards his buggy, then stopped and turned to watch me putting, he had a look of someone who thought he had done enough to psych his opponent out and win. I had a little smile to myself as I went through my routine to check the line of the putt, still in my desired mental state. Fortunately it was one of those putts where as soon as I looked at it I was happy with the line I needed to hit it on. My pre-shot routine remained in tact, then head still and a good stroke with soft hands and the ball rolled delightfully into the hole.
‘Great putt Jack,’ Brent was very magnanimous with his praise whilst Matt mustered small smile and a look that acknowledge that he was going to have a good fight to win this tournament.
Both Matt and I struggled on the difficult par four 15th, but each of us managed to hole good putts to save par. This time the rolls were reversed, I holed first from about twelve feet and Matt did well to follow me in from a foot or so closer. On the par three 16th both of us missed presentable chances for birdie, as we both showed our first signs of tightness. The par five 17th will forever remain entrenched in my memory. I hit a perfect tee shot down the middle of the fairway. Matt pulled his a little into some light rough. After taking a while to decide whether to go for the green, which meant a carry over a pond, Matt pulled out his three wood and went for it. The rough was only a couple of inches long but reasonably thick and Matt’s ball didn’t fly out as he required and it never looked like making the distance. Instead it landed in the middle of the lake with a resounding plop. Now the onus was on me to dictate what remained of the tournament. My drive was so good that the decision about whether to go for the green or not was not an issue to me. A smooth four wood would easily clear the pond, all that was left was for me to visualize the shot and execute. Just when I needed it most the perfect tempo was in my swing, the strike was pure and the ball flew at the right edge of the green, then turned a little with my familiar draw to the left. In the end it arrowed in straight at the flag and landed just a few feet away and rolled about fifteen feet past the hole.
‘Great shot Jack,’ Matt summed up the spirit of golf.
Matt took his penalty drop and played a wedge shot to about twenty feet. He missed his putt for par and left me with a sense of holing this putt to close the door on him. It was down hill and swung about a foot from left to right. Whilst wanting to make sure I didn’t take more than two putts, I just had a feeling that I was going to hole it. The ball came off my putter with a majestic touch, it just turned enough and managed to fall in. In one hole I’d gone from one behind to two in front and there was only one hole left. I’d swung well all day and the 430 yard 18th held no fears from me, two more smooth swings saw my ball find its way to the middle of the green. Matt did well in the end to scramble a par four, but a conservative two-putt from me was more than enough for my first professional win.
‘Great closing, Jack. I’ll remember that eagle for a while,’ Matt showed his class.
‘Probably not as long as me. Well played today Matt.’
‘Good playing Jack, you’re real fun to watch. I’ll look out for you at tour school,’ Brent said as he shook my hand.
‘Enjoyed playing with you Brent and I’m sure you’ll do well at school.’
There’s no fancy presentation at mini tours, just the organisers handing out the cheques. Sunny had been great all day to have in the buggy with me, making sure I remained calm and focussed. She looked almost as pleased I did with my win and couldn’t stay sat in the buggy after my second shot to 17 and the subsequent eagle putt. The best thing about my play over those three days, and particularly the last day, was that it felt completely natural to be playing that well. Not once did I feel out of my depth or that these scores were too good for me to be shooting. Sunny and I celebrated in a style that was comfortable to us, a trip to Shoney’s and gorging ourselves on the all you can eat buffet.
The day after my first professional win consisted of a few phone calls. My parents were pleased whilst as ever making sure my feet remained on the ground.
‘Great going Jack, you make sure you keep winning. Never be satisfied,’ Darla.
‘Oh that’s good, how much did you win?’ Will.
‘What took you so long? When are you going to start kicking Nick Benz’s ass? Seriously though well done, that’s great news and don’t stop there, knowing you’re out there pursuing a dream really does lighten my life.’ Anya.
I once heard that the best time to win your second tournament is straight after your first one. Keeping that in mind as I teed of in my next tournament I took a very positive attitude into the one day event. One day events are a little strange, you have no idea how the vast majority of the rest of the players are faring. Sometimes a 66 won’t get you a sniff of winning, other times a 70 is good enough to win. Generally speaking players will play very aggressively because they figure that at least one of the other players will have a good day and so an excellent score will be required to win. All day I played with a confident composure I had never felt before. I felt as if I was the form player in the field and the one the rest of the players were most expecting to shoot a good score, that feeling of being top dog was a new one for me, but I definitely liked it. Still it was a conscious effort to play the round, it was by no means easy and wasn’t “one of those dream days where everything goes right”, that I hear players of all levels talk about. I did play fantastic golf though and thoroughly deserved my exceptional round of 65 which was good enough to win by three shots. Whilst I was sure Nick Benz and Lee Walters weren’t getting too worried just yet, I couldn’t help but be pleased and proud of my humble success.
I took the next day off from golf and hit the malls with Sunny. Over our dinner in a bar we eased into conversation.
‘So how good is Adam?’ I asked of her college friend.
‘I’d like to buy him for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth. He could do well if he’s prepared to work hard. I’m just not sure if he’s got the drive to make the big step to the top of the game.’
Got the dream but not the drive, I’d wondered that about myself on countless occasions. I went through periods of practicing for the sake of practicing, just to prove my dedication to myself. It’s taken me a few years to realise that quality is more important than quantity. Only in the last couple of years have I practised my psychological skills. Despite this being continuously acknowledged more and more as a vital part of the game, very little emphasis is put on practicing it. Often so called experts will tell you that at the top level the game is at least ninety percent psychological, yet how much practice time is allotted for the mental aspect? I’m not going to pretend that I spend ninety percent of my practice time on psychological skills, but I do make sure I do at least 15 minutes each day of controlled psychological practice. This usually consists of me lying down in a dark place imagining either particular skills of the game or seeing myself winning major tournaments. Whilst doing this I have my headphones on and listen to either the theme tune to the film “Halloween” or “Nobody Does it Better” by Carly Simon. Experts of this imaging process can go into amazing detail, they could feel the grass beneath their feet as they stand on the eighteenth green, the noise of the crowd as they fire their second shot into the final green and even the smell of the hot dog van. I’m not up to that standard yet but I’m getting better. Never be satisfied, always look to improve. One day performance will decline because of the aging process, so there’s no need bring on the decline yourself. I’ve heard a few people who supposedly desperately wanted to achieve something like playing top level sport, then they have a moment at some point in their young life that they describe as, “that was the moment I realised I wasn’t going to make it”. They speak with an air of resignation that hints that what they want to get across is, they tried as hard as they possible could to achieve their ambition but “just weren’t good enough”, through no fault of their own. One word describes these people; quitters. Sounds to me like they were looking for an excuse to pack it in and live with the mortals, losing an under fifteen’s tennis match to a thirteen year old would be more than enough to shatter their weak wills.
The bar was open until late so we were able to sit at the table for hours without feeling as if we were in the way.
‘I’ve been spending a lot of time with you for over a dozen weeks now Sunny and I still feel like I don’t know you very well.’
‘People are always saying things like that to me.’
‘You like being secretive and enigmatic.’
‘Oh yeah I like a bit of mystery, it adds to my character.’
‘You’re very good at being light hearted to avoid anybody getting to know you.’
‘You’re not bad at it yourself.’
‘In my case there just isn’t anything interesting to tell you about other than my golfing dream.’
‘Maybe there’s nothing about me that’s interesting.’
‘I’m certain that’s not the case. All right I’m going to ask you a series of quick fire questions, you don’t have to answer any of them but failing to answer them may add to my imagination as I try to unravel the enigma that is Sunny.’
‘Go for it, I’m game as long as you don’t mind if I refuse to answer a question.’
‘It’s a Wonderful Life, you?’
‘Good Will Hunting. Favourite song?’
‘Bridge over Troubled Water,’ she gestured facially for me to answer.
‘Here I Go Again, by Whitesnake. Favourite book?’
‘The Bell Jar.’
‘Dracula. Ambition in life.’
‘To make the world a better place for me being in it.’
‘To win twenty major tournaments, raise millions for charity and leave a lasting legacy for orphaned and homeless kids. Ideal man?’
‘Favourite sporting moment to watch?’
‘Michael Johnson’s 1996 200m Olympic gold in 19.32 seconds.’
‘Tie between United’s dramatic European Cup win in 1999 and Faldo –the bulldog and stalking cerebral assassin- winning his Ryder Cup match in 1995 and turning the whole match in our favour.’
‘Favourite childhood memory?’
‘Holiday at Disneyworld when I was twelve.’
‘First time I went to watch the Open. Worst childhood memory?’
‘Person from all time you’d most like to meet and why?’
‘Martin Luther King, just to be able to let him know that things are getting better.’
‘Gandhi, just to see if I could make him angry. Epitaph?’
‘My life’s over, I hope I made life better for a few people.’
‘Here lies Jack Summers, I was here for a good time not a long time. There you are, that was a little fun and I feel I know you a little better now.’
‘Yeah I can’t wait until the next question session.’
‘You see now I know you like to use sarcasm as well.’
‘I know you knew that before.’
‘But did you know that I knew, you knew, I knew you liked to use sarcasm.’
‘I’m sure I could take that sentence and make it longer but I’m too tired.’
I played another six events in Florida as I geared up for the test that is tour school. No more wins but I did make a profit during those six events. To be honest my mind wasn’t completely on any of those tournaments. The tour school was my whole reason for coming to America and in order to chase my dreams it was one hurdle I had to clear. For the six or seven weeks prior, it was playing heavily on my mind. It was the last thing I thought about before going to sleep and the first thing I thought about when I woke up. I masked my anxiety well and only Sunny was close enough and astute enough to detect my state. She was very good at calming me down and getting me to talk about how I was feeling, making me feel that I was ready for my tournament of destiny. I had no idea what to expect, what the tournament would be like, the atmosphere, the other players, the course set up, the media coverage and the intense mental pressure. Sunny had tried her best to make sure I approached it with my same mind set as I approach a mini tour event. I know my best chance of success on a golf course is to be in the state of relaxed focus that I found so well in my two wins, knowing that and doing that isn’t a simple domino affect.
Whilst I was working on my mind set, Darla was sticking to her plans to take the winter off from competition and work on her fitness. She had gone back to Belgium and her home just outside Bruges. She set herself an exhaustive fitness program and she stuck to it rigidly and impressively. Her two main aims were to improve her aerobic fitness so she could outlast all her opponents, and to improve her speed so she could be the quickest around the court. One leisure centre consisting of a gym, swimming pool, sports hall and saunas was the base for Darla this winter. Before she started the fitness work marathon, Darla’s resting heart rate was 60 beats per minute and she wanted to reduce it to 48. She also wanted reduce her percentage body fat from twenty two to under fifteen. Knowing the hazards of doing too much too soon Darla made sure she didn’t push herself too much at the start. After all she had allowed herself a full three months to work on almost nothing but fitness. She still had a couple of practice sessions a week, working mainly on her serve whilst making sure she kept her eye in during her time off from the game.
Working in the gym she focussed on the stationary bike, rowing machine, step machine and the treadmill. Over the three months she increased the resistance on the rowing machine and the stepper whilst pushing herself to improve the times on the bike and the treadmill. Five times a week she went into the gym and worked on these machines for between two and three hours, got herself some lunch from the centre then had a sauna, a massage and then a swim before going home. The other two days were ‘days off’, but even these consisted of sprinting sessions in the sports hall before lunch, then sauna and massage followed by between twenty and fifty lengths in the pool. Every day back at her home she would go through a half hour stretching session before going out to the gym and another session before going to bed. Also at home each day Darla did some abdominal crunches as soon as she woke up and some more at night, she started doing a hundred each time but by the end of the regime she was up to five hundred each time. By way of working on her foot speed she also had a few minutes skipping each day in her little garden. She told me that the first couple of weeks were the toughest, the discipline she found hard to instil. However after a while she began to love the exercise, becoming virtually addicted to it. She found herself loving that feeling in the gym when she was sweating profusely, heart pounding, muscles aching and ever so slightly light headed. Certainly she loved that sensation she had when she lay flat out in the changing room recovering from her exertions. Her relaxation element to each day would have been vital to her, the shower, sauna and massage routine was very enjoyable and soothing. Darla also told me that another very difficult thing for her was the social exclusion. She allowed herself one night out around Christmas time but other than that she went to sleep early each night, her new regime dictating that she needed plenty of sleep. Darla knew that was the right thing for her in the long term, but there were times when she felt lonely and this lead to a little frustration. During her practice sessions she sometimes met up with fellow Belgian national lady players, either juniors or fellow tour players and spending time with some of these did sometimes help to ease some feelings of isolation. Also the members of staff at the gym were always friendly, becoming familiar with Darla as she spent so much time there and some of them became useful in terms of providing some interaction.
All in all the good far outweighed the bad for Darla during her intensive three month regime. Her resting heart rate came down to about fifty, her percentage body fat down to a very low fourteen percent and she lost about nine pounds in weight.
‘The best thing is how good I feel just walking around, I feel so energetic and my body feels so efficient. My mind seems a lot clearer and fresher.’
‘Plus I’m guessing you’ll have enhanced the possibility of being universally acknowledged as the sexiest player on tour.’
‘Wasn’t I already?’
‘You were in my eyes honey, now you’ll be the sexiest anywhere ever.’
‘I’m sorry I had the phone to my bad ear could you repeat that. Yeah everything is that bit tighter now, let’s put it that way.’
‘Could you repeat that?’
‘You know there are specialist phone numbers you can ring.’
‘I know but you’re cheaper. You just need to make sure your hair looks good then you’re ready to go out on tour. How’s your serve been coming on?’
‘That’s just a minor point compared to my appearance! Actually I’m very happy with how that work has gone. I developed an extra snap on my first serve adding about ten miles per hour onto it. Also I’ve added a lot of control to the spin on my second serve, so it looks good.’
‘Should be a great year for you then.’
‘That’s the plan.’
‘I can put up with masses of troughs, if just for that one glorious peak.’
The tour school tournament was in California and I wanted to be in the area a week before the start, so we set off on the cross country drive ten days before the opening day. I was a lot quieter than normal during that drive, in fact it was Sunny who would often try and start the conversations and the fun, where it was normally I who was the instigator. When we got to California I didn’t know what to do with myself. Lots of practice? Light practice? Play practice rounds? Walk the tournament course? Exercise? Rest? Sunny was working over time to get my preparations right. Now she could caddy for me in this tournament her job started in earnest.
We played one practice round at the course where the first four rounds would be played, which did help to settle me down a little bit. Sunny did a good job of looking round and gathering as much knowledge of the course as she could. I didn’t feel too energetic but at the same time I felt I needed to do some exercise to relieve some of the tension. So I went for a couple of three or four mile runs during the week. I was very fussy about what I ate that week and struggled to sleep, the latter being virtually a first for me. Between the two of us Sunny and I managed to get me into a good enough mental state to feel competitive when I stood on that first tee.
My mini tour results meant that I was one of the best players in that first stage of the tournament. I should have been very confident amongst those players, but I wasn’t. Golf is such a solitary sport that the standard of the opposition doesn’t have that great an impact on your confidence as is does in other sports. It doesn’t matter how they play you still have to hit all your shots well enough to shoot the required score. I played all four rounds with the same two guys. They looked as nervy and anxious as I felt and we didn’t do anything to encourage each other out of that anxious state. Sunny gave up trying to calm me down about half way through the second round. Instead she stuck to doing her best to make sure I was completely focussed on each shot. Those four rounds were by far the most draining golf I had ever played. For the first time, playing golf felt completely hard work. The only time I allowed myself a genuine smile was when the numbers were all added up and I had qualified for the next stage by two shots. Even then the joy was short lived as my confidence was so low that I immediately started to think of the next stage and how much higher the standard would be. I was underperforming in the biggest tournament of my life and it was a horribly sickening feeling.
The second stage of that tournament was no fun at all. Deep down on some level I know golf should always be fun, but at times I find it almost impossible to remind myself of that. Undoubtedly I suffered from some sort of nerves, anxiety got the better of me and took over my performance. This unclear mental state triggered off somatic symptoms that nobody could play good golf with. My legs felt wooden and severely lacking in energy and I could hardly feel my arms at all. There was no hiding place here, four rounds were scheduled and four rounds I was going to play. Some players in these multi round events will pull out in between rounds if they have a bad start, some even walk off during a round. That’s quitting and that saying about “quitters never win and winners never quit”, has always rung true to me. For a sport that is so enriched in its character and etiquette I find it bizarre that quitting during a competition is so accepted, only at the elite level of the professional game is it particularly frowned upon. I can’t imagine a football team not coming out for the second half because they are four nil down or a cricket team not bothering to bat their second innings because they need to bat for two days to avoid defeat.
A lot mental torture can be inflicted during a bad round of golf, because a round lasts so long. After virtually every single shot I will be telling myself that the bad play has ended now and from the next shot onwards this will be a good round. Then it becomes a case of, ‘okay never mind, make it from the next shot’. How many times can you be kicked in the teeth before you stop even trying to think positively? In golf you are kicking yourself in the teeth, making it all the more hard to handle. In a multi round event this repetitive teeth bashing is increased to soul destroying potential. After the first bad round you give yourself a dressing down and tell yourself that three good solid rounds and you can still qualify. The second one leaves you needing two excellent rounds and the third one leaves you playing for pride. My hopes never take long to build, which is what makes the failures so unbearable. I knew I needed to play four rounds at somewhere near my best to qualify from this stage and I never got near achieving that. Positives to take from the week, tempted to say none but I always, always find some. I did break eighty all four rounds, I was nowhere near last, I did complete every round and the most positive of all was that I tried my hardest on every shot.
Even in the midst of my severe depression at the outcome I knew that my long term confidence remained unshaken. How anybody can be so confident long term in their ability, but yet still suffer from not trusting his ability out on the course is beyond me. If I had played my best and still not got near qualifying then that would have done more damage to my confidence long term because it would make it harder for me to see how I could qualify next year.
I managed to leave the course without breaking any clubs. However there’s a locker in that golf club that wouldn’t lock again without some serious repair work, I escaped the area before any club officials witnessed the wreckage. Shoe laces in both shoes doubled in number and the poor guy working at taco bell chose the wrong day to get my order wrong.
‘Oh my God, how do you get that so badly wrong? Where do you go from here if you can’t do this right what job can you do? Can you clean toilets all right or will you end up messing them up instead because you got a little confused? A monkey could do this job and you can’t, how does that make you feel? And you’re one of the ones they let us see, how stupid must the ones at the back moving the food around be?’
The on course ice man definitely defrosted when he finished playing that week.
For the next three days I didn’t touch a golf club. Moping around would be the term most people would use for my behaviour. I knew there were people who would want to be updated on my progress, but I really didn’t want to talk to them right then. The only ones I could bring myself to ring were my parents, which just felt like the right thing to do. When I told them of the result they were sympathetic, but I could tell they were worried about what I would do now. During the third day of sulking Anya phoned me. She had suspected because of the delay that results hadn’t gone as I had hoped, but she just wanted to check up on how it went. Once I got talking to her I did feel better and it wasn’t at all awkward. As ever she was totally supportive and good at boosting my confidence. Anya would hate it if I quit on my dream. I thanked her for ringing and checked how her own life was doing. She was loving her time stateside and had no plans to move away.
That same day Darla phoned in the evening.
‘I’m guessing all didn’t go too well, by the no phone call.’
‘No I bombed out in the second stage.’
‘Oh that’s too bad. Don’t you dare give up though.’
‘I’m sorry I don’t understand what you mean.’
‘That’s good, just checking you’re as focussed and driven as ever. Very few people make it through tour school at their first attempt.’
‘Actually I was bluffing.’
‘All right then good bluffing. Plus the average age of someone qualifying from tour school is thirty-two I think. So I’ve got a long way to go.’
‘As long as you’ve learnt from the experience.’
‘I’ve been thinking all about it for the last few days and I’ve come up with a few ideas. Anyone watching me would think that I’ve spent the last three days merely moping around.’
‘Of course sports people never do that after a setback.’
Although both phone conversations were enjoyable and reminded me I had people who cared about my plight, after the conversations when I was left with my own thought time again I felt just as depressed as before if not more.
‘Feel better now you’ve had a chat to people?’ Sunny asked as we settled in the motor home for the night.
‘To be honest no,’ I replied as I clambered on top of my bed.
‘Really?’ Sunny showed the intention of prolonging the conversation, she was already lay on her bed under the covers.
‘It’s just that I get down sometimes after conversations like that, when I’ve felt I’ve put on a façade during the conversation, and haven’t revealed the true extent of my depression.’
‘Depression? Is that how you feel?’
‘That and angry, upset, frustrated, distraught and mortified.’
‘My response to that would be; get over it! It’s been three days and you’re only talking about hitting a ball with a stick.’ Sunny spoke with a dictatorial tone bordering on angry, that I’d never heard her be close to using with me.
‘It’s always easy to say “it’s only a game”, but it is my one all consuming goal in life and my purpose.’
‘You speak so eloquently,’ her tone turned to severe melancholy as she pulled off the covers, sat up and turned so she could lean against the wall and face me. She sat there in her shorts and t-shirt just staring blankly down at the floor. After pulling her knees up nearly to her chest and wrapping both arms around them Sunny began to ever so slightly rock back and to, looking as if she was about to speak. I waited for what must have been at least a minute, but her expression, aura and recent tone of voice meant that I didn’t feel any compulsion to urge her to speak before she was ready.
‘I was raped when I was fourteen,’ still staring at the floor, rocking increased slightly in vigour and a solitary tear rolled down her left cheek.
‘Please, please be making that up to put my mood in perspective.’
Sunny slowly wiped away a tear as others started to crawl out, her blank, sad stare remained and no verbal response was needed.
‘Oh my God, I am so sorry, I don’t know what to say. I just want to give you a hug, but I’m not sure that’s appropriate,’ I pulled myself up to be sitting on the edge of my bed and facing Sunny.
‘I had just come home one night from a party. My parents were going to be out all night and I thought the house would be empty, as my brother was at another party. But two of his friends had stayed at our house instead of going with him. They had been waiting for me to come back and they were pretty drunk by the time I got home. I knew them because they were my brother’s friends, so I wasn’t alarmed by their presence. Like my brother they were both eighteen at the time. When I got home they were sat on the sofa in the living room, drinking beer. They said they had been waiting for me all night, which I thought was a little odd but figured it was just drunken ramblings. Both of them got up and started talking to me and trying to have a little fun. I’d had a good time at the party and was in a good mood, so I didn’t mind a little late night conversation. Soon enough they were telling me how cute they thought I was and tapping me on the shoulder and playing with my hair. At first I thought it was just harmless fun and to be honest the attention from two older boys was flattering. It was only when they started to call me a tease for wearing short skirts and tight tops that I became disturbed by them. Making a point about how cruel I was to dress like that made me feel threatened, then one of them with a beer bottle still in one hand went to kiss me. I pushed him off and backed away and the other one grabbed me by the shoulders from behind. After wriggling free I told them I was going to bed, one of them told me that they had planned to do it on the sofa. Both of them grabbed me aggressively and threw me onto the sofa. One of them stuck his tongue down my throat as he pulled on my hair, whilst the other one ripped all my clothes off. For the first few minutes of the attack I struggled for all I was worth, but either of them on their own would have been far too strong for me. Throughout I continued to make it clear how much I hated every second of this but they never relented. Over the course of the next four hours they raped me, sometimes taking turns, sometimes both at the same time and beer was poured all over me throughout the night. I considered myself an enlightened fourteen year old but they committed sex acts on me that even my wild imagination hadn’t thought up. All the time they talked to me, telling me how all the guys liked me and also that I should be enjoying myself. I hated every second, they didn’t care. I was in physical pain inside and out, they didn’t care. They made me wish I would die, they didn’t care. My mental trauma of that night would never completely go away, they didn’t care. I was a happy, extremely sociable, optimistic child who was being turned into a suppressed, introverted and cynical person, they didn’t care. I was fourteen, they didn’t care. The ordeal was so long I had time for so many different emotions. At first I was really wishing I could do something about this ordeal. Then I thought to myself that after this is over I want both of these bastards to die and I’m going to chase them through the gates of hell. As the trauma wore on I thought that they really must think nothing of me at all. Which lead me to start feeling guilty and hating myself, how could I let this happen? After an hour or so I couldn’t scream or move, I went into whatever position they put me, made no noise and had the blankest of blank stares. I’d heard about rapes and imagined how much of a harrowing ordeal it must be, without ever thinking about it for very long - my mind wouldn’t allow me to focus on anything that depressing for too long. Now it was happening to me and I couldn’t believe it, literally couldn’t believe it. I convinced myself I was having a nightmare that I would wake up from any minute. It was just over four hours, for some reason I remember looking at the clock when then second one passed out and collapsed next to his friend who had passed out just a few moments earlier. I sensed that it was over but I was so numb by that time that I didn’t really feel like I cared anymore. Still naked I went up to my room and just sat on my bed and did nothing. I’m not sure how long I was up their but my brother eventually got home and found me sat on my bed crying. He looked so scared by the condition I was in. It must have taken me almost half and hour to say anything to him. When I told him what had happened it was as if that made it real, until then I was still in the bizarre nightmare world. He rushed down to the living room but they were both gone, luckily for them, because I’m sure he would have killed them. Instead he had enough time to calm himself just enough to realise that calling the police was the sensible option. Both of them were found and arrested within thirty minutes. My Mum and Dad came home as soon as they were told what happened. So now I had three people hanging around me not knowing what to say or do. All of them felt guilty, my parents because they had left me overnight and my brother felt the worst because he had let them stay in the house and had stayed out so long. We lived in a small town, within a day everybody who knew me had heard of the attack. It went to trial and even though I knew all the evidence supported me I was still so nervous. I took the stand and had to relive the horror all over again, the defence lawyer tore into me essentially calling me a slut who deserved the four hour, bestial double rape. As I looked round the court room I felt like I was on trial, the whole case came down to whether twelve people believed me or not. They were found guilty and both sentenced to thirteen years, and that was eight years ago so they could well be out by now or about to come out. Even after the court case I felt like it was me that was imprisoned. Gone was the carefree, happy go lucky young girl, instead I became a sombre young lady with serious trust and closeness issues. My parents didn’t handle it at all well, they couldn’t talk to me and I couldn’t talk to them and my Dad could hardly bring himself to look at me. After the court-case my brother left town and I haven’t seen him since. He wrote me this great letter about how sorry he was and that I should never blame myself at all for what happened, he also said that he didn’t feel he was strong enough to be around me any more and thought I would be better if I had as few things that reminded me of that night around as possible. My parents are well off and they sent me to an expensive psychiatrist, who I got on okay with and I did talk a lot to, but never about the rape. How could I talk to a complete stranger about that when I couldn’t talk to my parents? As soon as I graduated high school I left for college intent on never going back home. My parents understood and I think in a way they were relieved that I wouldn’t be around anymore. We still write to each other a few times a year to keep in touch and they’ve supported me financially but other than that there’s been no contact with them since leaving for college. Not a day goes by with me thinking of that night, still the numbness is the overriding emotion.’ She never looked me in the eye once during her speech which brought tears to both our eyes, she continued to stare blankly downwards.
‘Oh wow, as perspective checks go that is a great one. I am so sorry about all the times I’ve asked you about your past, I never dreamed I’d be forcing you to relive something that horrific,’ I tried to make eye contact as I spoke but Sunny remained staring downwards.
‘I’m sorry I couldn’t be more open with you,’ Sunny looked up and made eye contact and somehow managed the merest hint of a smile.
‘Hey, you don’t need to apologise about that at all. Nobody could blame you for never discussing that and from now on if I’m ever saying or doing anything that is somehow reminding you of that night, then please feel free to hit me. By the same token any time you want to talk about it I’ll be all ears like you wouldn’t believe.’
‘I’m sorry I’ve put you in a position which must be very difficult.’
‘Will you stop apologising. Look I know I’m not handling this very well but trust me you don’t have to waste any time worrying about how this has affected me. This is all about you and you have to deal with this however you want.’
‘I think you’re handling this better than you think. I’ve not told anybody about this before, I don’t know why I told you,’ Sunny continued to speak with a melancholy monotone.
‘It was to stop me whinging,’ I risked a light hearted comment.
Thankfully Sunny laughed, I’ve never been so happy to make someone laugh.
‘Oh Jack, I’ve said before you can always make me laugh and I think you’ve just proved it,’ her brief laughter turned into floods of tears.
I brought her some paper tissues and a glass of water. Despite the tears her mood and mental state seemed to be improving as she managed the odd smile and short laugh in-between the sobs, as people do when crying as if they are embarrassed by the tears.
‘Something stronger?’ I asked and Sunny nodded.
I pulled out the bottle of Bacardi that Sunny took around with her.
‘Just give me the bottle.’
‘Even I’m not going to produce any anti-alcohol messages here,’ I handed the bottle to Sunny who grabbed it and took a couple of quick gulps.
‘Ain’t life shit,’ she looked me in the eye after the second gulp.
‘No, life’s great it’s just some people that make it shit.’
‘I’ll drink to that.’
‘So I guess this is why you’re…’
‘Emotionless and frigid?’
‘Sure if you want to put a label on it.’
‘I’m under no illusions, I know how it’s affected me,’ Sunny’s sad tone returned. ‘I know it’s made me distrusting of any guy, even the good ones, it’s altered my whole outlook on life, I’m not near envisaging being married and having kids, it’s given me a phobia of any sort of bodily contact and made me ashamed and embarrassed to be human.’
‘I have to say I think you’ve done brilliantly to handle it as well as you have. You’ve gone onto University and got an excellent degree and your social skills are still fantastic. Sure you’re hard to get close to, but hey so am I and the worst thing that’s ever happened to me is a bad round of golf. As for being ashamed to be human, that’s something I feel a lot. That’s why I’m so happy when I meet someone I like who’s a genuinely good person. I just try and focus on myself and I think I’m the only person I have the right to rely on. There’s no way I’m going to get near telling you to get over this and snap out of it. It’s a horrible, evil occurrence that happened to you and I think instead of feeling ashamed to be human, you should be extremely proud of the person you are despite that occurrence.’
‘Thanks Jack. Are you sure you want to keep hanging around with such an emotional wreck?’
‘Me leave you alone after this? Never say never I suppose. But if you want me to put in perspective the chance of me leaving you I would say; you’ve got more chance of finding Lord Lucan, riding Shergar in the Atlantis Derby, on February 29th, during a solar eclipse with Haley’s Comet flying through the sky.’
‘You are wonderfully goofy.’
‘Just my attempts to distance myself from the humanity that makes us so ashamed. I feel like I should apologise to you on behalf of guys, but either they’re not human or I’m not.’
‘Listen, seriously if I ever get too much for you to cope with just tell me. I’d hate to distract you from your golf.’
‘Distract me? No way, you’ve now become the perfect perspective check. Besides who else can read greens like you? Plus you’re a friend, co-driver, sports psychologist, swing coach and caddy all rolled into one.’
‘I’ll drink to that.’
That was the toughest situation I’d ever been in. I really couldn’t tell how delicate a state Sunny was in, she had this strange mixture of fragility and extreme mental strength. Neither was I sure how good a job I did on that night at being the one she decided to tell. What I did know was that it wasn’t going to be all about that night, from then on I would also think about that rape every day. It did help me understand her a lot more, but with that came a great responsibility to look after her and help her through any particularly difficult moments. One things for sure it certainly did put into perspective my manipulating a small white ball round a big green field in as few a number of strokes as possible.
We were now well into December and thoughts of Christmas plans were in my mind. I was planning to go home for a few weeks over Christmas but now I really didn’t want to leave Sunny on her own. However she told me she had planned to spend the Holidays with Jenny and whilst I was welcome to join them she didn’t mind at all me going home for a few weeks. As I was in California I decided I had to take the opportunity to meet up with Anya. Jenny was from Phoenix and she was coming home for the holidays. So I let Sunny take the motor home and meet up with Jenny whilst I got a train to meet up with Anya. I spent a few days in her spacious third floor flat before the two of us flew home on the same flight.
Whilst back in England for a couple of weeks over the holiday season I had chance to see how the “normal” people lived. I stayed at Will’s flat and Anya came round everyday. Other than those two I hardly saw anyone, apart from on two occasions, one a pre-Christmas night out and the other a New Years Eve, post midnight party at Will’s flat. I’d spent the last hour or so of the year practicing my putting on Will’s carpet, whilst Anya and Will were out on the town, managed to hit one putt in one year that didn’t go in until the following year. Although I don’t fit in on any night out occasion, I can still have fun in my own ways.
Jonathan had been firmly trenched into the role of one of life’s reality clones for as long as I had known of him at university. Everything he did was straight forward, predictable and in with the crowd. He was one of a gang from university that we met up with on the pre-Christmas night out.
‘I’ve got a job as an assistant office manager in a small stationary company.’
‘Oh so that sport and leisure degree came in useful then.’
‘You’ve got to roll with the punches.’
‘I have to warn you I am counting clichés tonight, that’s your first.’
‘I’ve got my foot on the ladder.’
‘That ladder only has three rungs, plus that’s already your second cliché.’
‘I’m renting a flat, by myself.’
‘All by yourself, wow aren’t you all grown up?’
‘Plus plenty of beer money.’
‘You know I don’t drink alcohol so there’s no point trying to justify your existence with that to me. So do you wear a tie for your job?’
‘Oh yes it’s an office job.’
‘Why do you wear a tie? They’re pointless.’
‘You’ve got to look smart at work.’
‘Do you see any clients or potential buyers during a days work?’
‘I’ll tell you why office workers wear a tie, it’s to make it appear that there job is important. Poet Philip Larkin once wondered “why should I let the toad work squat on my life?”.’
‘You see you’ve not only allowed that toad to jump on but you’ve encouraged him and made him comfortable. He’s destroyed your soul and your dreams, but he is now your master. All he gives in return is financial security, a sense of belonging and a longing for weekends. The weekends come and you spend most of them dreading Monday morning. You claim to be aware of the fact that your job isn’t that important. Yet the toad makes you excited by what you do, you can talk about it for hours. If your job doesn’t matter why do you get stressed about it? Why when you meet up with someone is it the first thing you tell them about and usually the only thing you go into any depth on? Every time you put on that suit a piece of you is dying, the piece with passion and dreams about life, the piece that wants to achieve something you would be proud of. But as long as you’ve got your beer money.’
I left Jonathan to ponder my verbal outburst and searched for my next victim.
New Years Eve is another part of mass society which fascinates me. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed but generally humans like to whinge and moan. Everybody has a particular reason why they think they deserve to have a good whinge. Negativity oozes out of them, the one thing humans in general excel at is mediocrity. Yet each New Years Eve the vast majority of these downtrodden, pessimistic souls, that are deprived of any obvious sense of ambition, all of a sudden become full of hope and determination that “this years going to be my year”. What’s even funnier to me is that most of this new found drive doesn’t survive the blur that is the hangover. Usually within days people are back into their full whinging stride. By now I’m sure you can tell that I will always encourage people to have dreams, but I’ve witnessed enough New Years Eve optimism to be sceptical. People have told me the fuss is just an excuse for a party, but I say why require an excuse for a party? To me all these celebrations like New Year and birthdays are just another way for people to justify a life that they aren’t happy with. If I’m creating the impression of being a miserable party pooper then I’m sorry, actually I’m not sorry at all. If not being part of the mass crowd makes me miserable then so be it, as long as I’m happy being out of the loop, then I don’t care what other people think. I believe in celebrating accomplishments, when I win a Major golf tournament I’ll have a party and what a party that will be.
Warren, someone I vaguely knew at university, made a point of coming up to me to wish me happy New Year during Will’s party.
‘This years going to be a good year for me,’ he enthused.
‘Oh yeah? Why’s that then?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘What are you going to do differently, that will improve your life?’
‘Specifically, I believe is the word you’re groping for.’
‘That’s the one. Nothing, spec…..specifi….nothing really, I’ve just got this feeling.’
‘Oh you’ve got a feeling. Well that’s all right, who needs plans and hard work when you’ve got a feeling. At the start of every football world cup I have a feeling that England are going to win.’
‘Don’t worry about it, I don’t think you’re much of a football fan even when you’re sober.’
‘Not looking forward to the year with much optimism then Jack?’ Andy, who apart from me out was probably the least worse for wear in the room, inquired.
‘On the contrary Andy, I’m looking forward to it immensely.’
‘Why’s that then?’
‘Because when I go back to America in a few days, I’m going to spend the first month or so practicing to improve my game. More specifically I’m going to work on a left to right ball flight for my full shots to give me the variety as well as my usual right to left flight. Also I want to work on getting a higher, softer ball flight on my shots in the 50-120 yard range. When I’ve done that groundwork I’ll feel refreshed and armed for another season and this time I’ll know where all the best places are to play, thanks to my fantastic caddy. Also I’m going to play in the qualifiers for the US Open and maybe the British Open as well, so there’s a chance I could get my first taste of the big time.’
‘Lots of that I didn’t understand, but I liked the sentiment.’
At this point Will wandered over to chat to Andy and me.
‘Hey Jack, I tell you this fella disappeared with a young lady tonight,’ Andy said about Will.
‘We were only talking.’
‘For two hours?! Did she have a stutter?’
Well into the early hours of the morning I noticed Anya with one of the lads from university. I know she detests that guy, but I also knew she was severely drunk. Since getting to know her I learnt that ordinarily Anya didn’t need any looking after, but when she got that drunk, like most people, she wasn’t quite herself. It was beginning to look like this guy was about to get very lucky in a way he’d hoped for over the last three years or so. He made a move and Anya weakly offered some resistance.
‘Hang on mate, time to leave her alone,’ I said in a firm but friendly manner after dragging him off her.
‘None of your business,’ he said and went to gorge on Anya again, only for me to push him away.
‘Sorry mate bit of a misunderstanding. I’m not asking you to leave her alone right now. I’m telling you to leave her alone right now.’
‘I’m just going to ignore you until you go away.’
‘Don’t make me do the knight in shinning armour bit. Because whichever way I do it I always end up sounding corny, and I hate sounding corny.’
‘Shut up and go away, before I make you.’
‘Oooh. Sounds to me like you want to fight. If you get lucky you’ll last ten minutes, if you get really lucky you’ll last five.’
At this point Andy came over and prevented any further interaction between the two of us.
‘Come on mate, let’s calm down. Sorry Jack , I’ll take him home.’
‘Cheers Andy, see you around.’
After the minor skirmish the party petered out, the people that were left one by one falling asleep in one place or another. I managed to find enough room for my sleeping bag on the floor and got a few hours sleep amongst the drunks. A few of them awoke during the night to vomit. Every now and again I get a little mystery illness. I don’t like talking or writing about the symptoms too much, I prefer to block them out and hope they never occur again. One thing people have told me about the symptoms, on the odd occasion that I describe them, is that it sounds like I’m hung-over. I’ve regulated my consumptions of certain foods and drinks, eradicated chewing gum (and I used to chew gum a lot) and made sure I don’t miss out on enough sleep too often, all in the belief that maybe that will lessen the chances of the occurrence of this mystery illness. Quite why people inflict similar (admittedly less severe) symptoms upon themselves on purpose with such frequency, has always been beyond me.
A few nights later it was just the three of us at Will’s flat. After a game of trivial pursuits, where the fun was much more important than the result (although for the record I won), we all sat down for our last group discussion before two of us went back to America. When the discussion got round to my thoughts on the upcoming year I couldn’t help but be optimistic.
‘This time next year I will have some big successes to report. I feel at home playing over there and of course I’ve found a fantastic caddy. I will rule the mini tours this year and qualify for a few bigger events. And this time when qualifying school comes around, I will be ready for it and there will be some serious ass kicking going on, only this time it won’t be mine. I know I can’t promise results but one thing I do promise is for me not to get tight like I did last year at the tour school. I’m at my best when I’m relaxed and having fun. So from now on when I think of my golf I’m going to be thinking: “I’m here for a good time not a long time”.’
The other two as ever were supportive of me whilst trying to make sure that I wasn’t expecting too much.
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