My uncle owned and operated a putt-putt golf course about a mile from my house. My uncle was proud of his putt-putt golf course. My uncle felt bad that I didn’t have a father. My uncle knew I liked playing putt-putt golf. My uncle knew we were poor. My uncle knew I didn’t have much to do. So my uncle offered to let me hang around and play putt-putt golf at his course for free whenever I liked.
I never went to play putt-putt golf for free at my uncle’s course, even though I liked putt-putt golf the times my mother had taken me there for my birthday. The reason, I guess, is because my uncle never came to get me to play putt-putt golf for free at his course. He’d only extend me the vague, abstract offer when I’d see him on a holiday. Otherwise, he never called to invite, like on any of the days he was already there anyway.
After the first year he invited me to play for free at his putt-putt golf course and I never accepted, he upped the ante by saying if I came around, he’d play with me and coach me. And if I got good enough, he’d take me around to play tournaments. He said if I got good enough, I might make it into Putt-Putt World Magazine. He said if I let him know when I wanted to play, he could pick me up and drive me to his course in the morning, on his way to going there, and all I’d have to do is walk the 30 minutes back home. Or, walk there a few hours before his closing, and he’d drive me home after he shut everything down. Either way, he’d said, it would only be a thirty minute walk for me. And that was only gonna have to be when my mom couldn’t take me there or pick me up herself.
Still, I never went, telling myself and my uncle later how I knew, since he’d said it , how it wasn’t easy running a putt-putt golf course. So I told him and myself the best thing to do was for me to wait for him to find the time for us between his responsibilities for taking care of his course.
I remember my uncle showed me a copy of Putt-Putt World Magazine once. On the cover was the sexy Miss Putt-Putt 1969, posed seductively in a silk, sky blue nightie and leaning provocatively on putt-putt putter. I thought it might be nice to have a girlfriend like that. I thought for an instant how, if I got good enough at putt-putt golf, I might get me a girl like that who admired the skills of a real putt-putt pro. On the same cover, there was a sign for a putt-putt golf tournament offering $100,000 as a prize. I thought for sure anybody could get Miss Putt-Putt with a prize like that. I thought about me and Miss Putt-Putt 1969 and that $100,000 prize for a short time, but quickly put it aside.
For years, my uncle invited me to come play putt-putt golf with him for free at his course. But I never went. And since I never went, I never made it into Putt-Putt World Magazine. I never got that $100,000 prize or Miss Putt-Putt 1969 or any other prizes, including any female admirers of a putt-putt pro or semi-pro. I never went to play at my uncle’s course for free and I never got any of that stuff because my uncle never cared for me enough to call me on the days when he was ready to play. But I bet, if he’d have called, things might have turned out a lot better for me than than they did.
Sometimes I think playing putt-putt for free at my uncle’s course might have been a gift. And my uncle coaching me and taking me to tournaments if I was any good might have been a gift. But what turns out was unquestionably an even greater gift was the crack he left for me to live forever with an excuse for not doing and becoming what I might have done and become.