Islamabad, April 3, 6:10 pm
In "Moby Dick" before Ishmael goes out on the whale ship, he is holed up by bad weather and eats a lot of very fine clam chowder.
"If you can get nothing else out of this world," he says, "at least get a good meal out of it."
I had a day off Saturday. I called Adil at noon. He was at work.
"I'd like to play golf," I said.
"When?" he asked.
"Whenever it is convenient for you," I said. He thought for a moment.
"How about right now?" he said.
"Fine. Tell Happy I will be down in 15 minutes."
Happy was in the lobby. I thought about getting in the front seat, then got in the back. We went to Adil's office. He moved furniture and office supplies in and out of the country. His office rooms were separated by Old West swinging saloon doors. I pushed through one to find Adil at his computer in a t-shirt and jeans. We bought him a collared shirt and a pair of khakis on the way to the course. He got in the back seat too.
Pakistan had two 18-hole golf courses; one in the capital, the other in Rawalpindi. The Islamabad Country Club had a pro shop. I bought a shirt with the logo for my brother and the biggest glove they had. They had decent rental clubs and a bag. Titleist Pro V1 balls cost 900 Pakistani rupees for a sleeve of three. That was five dollars a ball. A caddy for 18 holes cost 250 rupees. That meant four hours worth of work carrying golf clubs cost less than one golf ball.
I had caddied in Rye, New York beginning at age 11. Now I was going to have a caddy for the first time in my life.
We walked down to meet the caddies. I remembered as a caddy I always liked it when the member asked my name and shook my hand. I walked up to my man and extended my hand and introduced myself and asked his name. In a soft voice he said his name and I had to look at him in the face and ask him again, it sounded like Ishtaf.
Adil also had a caddy. The bags were old and the zippers were broken off. Adil asked if we wanted ball boys. I looked at a little boy about up to my hip. He had a giant laminated name tag pinned to a dirty shirt. They all had dirty, ancient illegible laminated name tags pinned to their shirts.
"Sure," I said. "Let's take them all."
I had thought part of the caddy's job was watching the ball. Evidently in Pakistan there was a division of labor between carrying the bags and specialists whose sole duty it was to spot the ball. And we had two of them.
On the first hole they had all taken their positions – two caddies on the tee with us, one ball boy guarding the right rough, the other a few hundred yards out ahead near the woods on the left, both anticipating the worst.
It was added pressure, having a caddy watch you hit. I put one short, the other left. Adil was clearly a chopper. I looked at his caddy. The heel on his right sneaker was split down to the sole, but the shoe stayed on when he walked. My caddy had black shoes on that were whole. Probably no accident I got the one with shoes. He was a few years older than Adil's man, and had dark black circles around his eyes. They had probably been waiting all day for a loop when we turned up at 2 pm.
I hit two balls off every tee. The tees were plastic, unbreakable, third world, not long enough. I found you could hook or slice a ball however deeply into the woods and the ball boys would find it. After a while they figured out that I played balls only from the fairway and would flip them out to me. Ishtaf may have been shy about his name, but was bold enough in his club recommendations – without solicitation he would hand me the club he thought I should use.
Adil hacked his way through the woods on each side of the hole. I kept hitting, not waiting for him, calling him "chopper," when he made it to the green. He was sweating in his new Polo "Made in America" gray-checked-$8 dollar-100 percent-cotton shirt. By the ninth hole he was exhausted.
In New York some members would buy you a drink on the ninth hole. A very few would buy you a hotdog or a hamburger. I told my posse to eat and drink whatever they wanted. Evidently this was unheard of. I'm not sure they ate or drank anything. Adil and I sat up on a veranda while they sat around a table below near the practice green. There was a water dispenser with a re-usable glass. I ordered a club sandwhich and a chicken sandwhich. I usually double-ordered in case something was no good. The club had a fried egg in there and no bacon. The chicken had a fair amount of mayonnaise.
Adil was done, he had to go back to work. I decided to press on, as I had nothing else to do.
Ishtaf asked about Adil's caddy.
"He can come along if he wants too," I said. It was sort of like marrying your cousin's wife if he died, taking on a new family member. Now I was a team of one with four caddies, or, more accurately, two caddies and two ball boys. I gave the free caddy my cellphone and a coke to carry. He would be my phone man, and hold the coke in reserve. A greenskeeper was on the tenth tee in baggy pj's, bare feet and a white turban, hosing down the tee. He waved me up. With him that made my posse five. I felt like I had a gallery. I was the only one out there, and now had a staff of four plus one turbaned greenskeeper waiting for me to hit. It certainly increased my concentration. I visualised a slight draw. I took my time, and the gallery waited patiently, silently, for me to hit.
It was a draw, long, down the center.
"Good drive," my men said. "Great shot."
I nodded, picked up my flourescent-pink plastic tee and headed down the fairway. Sometimes if I missed the tee Ishtaf would get it, as he got my divots and my ballmarks. The little ball boy raked the traps. Caddy #2 pulled my balls out of water hazards, sometimes linking up a rake to a scooper to get them out of the middle of the pond. I could fire a ball in any direction. They were unloseable. And if I hit a bad shot, I dropped a second one.
I floated down the fairway. You could smell the flowers. Even the spare ball was too much of an encumbrance in my front pocket. I flipped it back to Ishtaf.
At one point I caught up to a foursome – locals, it seemed like, some even pulling their own clubs. I had boomed my first drive near the green, so far it was needless to hit a second one. My posse arrived at the ball long before I did, and I noticed the local foursome looking back from the green, trying to figure out, perhaps, just who it was who had caught up to them. There was just one bag of clubs, four caddies, and one player – who just now was walking up to his booming drive in the middle of the fairway...with his two men already surrounding the ball...the advance team there, the wedge already extended, the ball cleaned. As I walked up to the ball, I felt very important and thought to myself that I was playing...turbo golf.
Harrigan's Blog Archive