My game plan was to someday work as a starter at a golf course when I retire. Figured around the age 65 or 66 I would pack up the cocoa butter, swim trunks and roll my boney ass down South, into the oven temps there, for a solid three-month baking.
Bring it on, I say. Let Ian’s cousins roar. I’m going, regardless.
And when I say “starter” – for all the non-golfers reading – that’s the guy you see sitting in a golf cart at the first tee-box, taking your slip, checking your name, writing down your cart number. An ape could do it, and I figure that’s why I wanted the gig so badly. I don’t want to have to think when I retire. Just socialize, earn a few bucks for lunch, breathe in some fresh air and basically put myself in a setting that keeps my mind and blood churning.
In fact, I never want to stop working. I’ve seen first-hand what early retirement can do to the human mind. Can turn it into cement, leave you numb with dysentery, alive but not really living. That scares me.
And knowing my true self, I’m completely capable of doing just that. When my skin is sagging long and loose, when my days are surrounded by hours that need burning, I want to – No! I’ll NEED to – keep my mind occupied.
I just had no idea the opportunity to work as a starter would present itself 14 years earlier than planned.
This past spring my buddy, Rose, who works at Pembroke Pines Country Club, called me in a panic. “All the kids who clean the golf carts are still in school. We have no starters! We need someone to pick the practice range! Want a job?”
“Heck, yes!” I told Rose, committing on the spot to the part-time position. “I can do weekends. But, I don’t get up before noon. So, pencil me in for the afternoon shift, please.”
Not being completely sure if Rose is 55, 75 or in her early-60s, I never want to let Rose down. No one wants to let a Hall of Famer down. Plus, Rose can haul half a pallet of Gatorade bottles on each shoulder. She walks faster than I run. She could take me in a fist-fight. So, I listen to Rose. Everyone on staff does.
My position as a starter would evolve into a hybrid of positions at the course. Not only would I be checking carts, I would also be washing carts and golf balls, emptying carts of empty beer cans and mini-shot bottles, then readying the next wave of hacks to take to the course. I also get to “pick the range” in a caged-in cart with big, long steel-armed pickers jutting out the sides, flipping balls into the baskets. If you don’t think that sounds fun, well, you just don’t know fun.
I did the same gig when I was a teenager in Massachusetts at a variety of golf courses. I hated it then. But I love it now.
The new position did raise a few eyebrows at home. Most of the kids that I work with at the course, two I nicknamed “The Pope” and “The Pilot,” are about 35 years younger than me and in high school. They’re also classmates of my son at Pembroke Academy. “That’s just weird, Dadda,” my boy would say to me. “You work with kids from my school. You’re like 50-something. I bet they think we’re broke. Do you really make $8 an hour?” I really do, son, I told him.
My paycheck is somewhere around $35 a week. But I’m not complaining. I’m not there for the coin. I’m there for the motion, the atmosphere, and to see some familiar faces and make some new friends. I also get to golf for free at three different courses. And my golf game is still abhorrent, none better (or worse) than when I was a kid. Still, it’s all worth it.
A few weeks back, as the days grew shorter, I’d been on the hustle all afternoon. The range was picked clean, all the carts were stacked and spotless and, I had sent out dozens of groups to play a round. It was a nice Sunday. I don’t know where The Pope was, probably doing homework or playing golf himself. The Pilot was likely flying high in the skies over the course, logging hours to obtain his pilot’s license. I was tired but happy with the work day. So was Rose.
“Hey, Abazito,” Rose said, butchering my last name, again. “You worked hard today. You did a good job. You’re a good worker.”
Thanks, Rose. I owe it all to you.