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This had not been an issue at any other course on our trip and no one had uttered a peep about the Old Course’s requirement that male golfers be a 24 or better (women must be 36 or below). Neither Matt nor I had a handicap card but in a triumphant moment of the quick-thinking I nonchalantly replied, “It was blowing a gale at Cruden Bay and I was holding Matt’s cards and both were blown out of my bag. Would a fax from our club secretary suffice?”

The starter frowned but mumbled

his assent, passing us the appropriate number.

Matt and I strolled away and he

asked a pertinent question: “What sec- retary? Neither of us belongs to a club!” At this point it was around 7:30

in the morning local time. That made it 2:30 a.m. in New York, where both Matt and I were living at the time. We tried to figure out which West Coast friend to awaken when I had another inspiration: “Don’t you have a brother in Hawaii?” We reached Sean shortly after he had put his kids to bed. When we explained our predicament he couldn’t stop laughing. He fired up his computer and gleefully doctored a phony letter- head for the non-existent Turtle Bay Country Club. In the letter I think he gave me a 3 handicap. (If only it were true.) Warming to the task Sean also wrote a few flowery paragraphs about the many contributions Matt and I had made to the club. We were hanging out by the first tee when a hard knock on the glass caught our attention. “Your fax has been received,” said the starter, officiously. An hour or so later Matt and I were paired with a couple of marauding airline pilots and we had the time of our lives on that wondrous, windswept links. I was moved to recall this long-ago bit of subterfuge by the recent an- nouncement that beginning in 2012 the Old Course ballot will be announced 48 hours in advance instead of the current 24, giving golfers an extra day of planning (or, in rare cases, forging.) There are ways to circum- vent the blind lottery for coveted St. An- drews tee times—for a stiff mark-up tour companies like Old Course Experience can guarantee itineraries in advance, and booking a package at the pricey Old Course Hotel can also lock-in access to the links but only dur-

ing the dreary winter months. Finagling your way onto the world’s best courses is never easy. I’ve been on both sides of the fence because my summer job when I was in college was working as a cart boy at Pebble Beach Golf Links. When I had the 5:30 a.m. opening shift I would often find a queue of dreamers waiting for me in the dark, as they had already staked out the pro shop hoping to get out that day without a tee time. By my second summer I was occasionally given stints as the after- noon starter, a job that crackled with the risks of being an air-traffic controller and the possibilities of playing the stock market. Some of the early-morning arrivals would inevitably still be waiting around when I took my place at the po- dium adjacent to the first tee, and their sense of desperation led to me being offered an assortment of bribes, includ- ing cash (American, Canadian, German and Japanese), checks, courtside seats to a Charlotte Hornet game, a week of skiing in Aspen, a tee time at Augusta National (unconfirmed), Reebok tennis shoes, free rental cars, an all-you-can- eat dinner for two at a smokehouse in Louisiana, a signed poster of Jose Canseco (puh-leeze), a gold watch and countless firstborns. Alas, everything at Pebble is on the

up-and-up, and taking cash and prizes in exchange for tee times that didn’t exist would have gotten me an un- paid vacation, or worse. In fact, I once witnessed Pebble’s most daring starter turn

SPRING 2011 / NCGA.ORG / 51


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