No American sport, from inception through today, has been as racist as GOLF.
I have been reminded many times over the years there are no accidents. Everything happens for a reason. I am a believer because at about eleven-thirty A.M., on a beautiful August morning in Los Angeles, California, after receiving my daily dose of radiation, thanks to chemical warfare, I ventured to play a round of golf. There is an undulating bucolic little nine-hole, Wounded Warriors Golf Course nestled demurely on the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Hospital grounds. Nothing was further from my mind on that day than meeting my past, present, and future. I had no idea I was in the right place at the right time, even though I have always believed Timing is everything, and everything works at the right time. ~3~
The golf-playing pace that day was leisurely, as usual, and as slow as molasses flowing uphill on a blustery-cold winter's day. There was a single player in front of my group of four, and a twosome playing behind us. Upon reaching the second hole, I decided to trot ahead and join the single golfer, thereby enabling us all to move along just a little faster. ~4~
A two-hour stroll through a finely manicured parcel of Mother Nature’s magical handiwork, in the company of a gentleman the ilk of my playing partner is of and in itself an experience equal to none. The tall, lean and quick of wit snowy-haired gentleman of eighty-plus years, waited in silence as I placed a ball in the teeing area and hit a hurried and errant shot up toward hole number three. It was not a pretty golf shot and Mr. Freeman’s commentary, “Whoa” didn’t help my confidence much at all. He then gracefully tossed his Sunday-bag over his shoulder, welcomed my joining him, saying, “I'm sure that's not the 'TAP' you wanted, my name is Devery Freeman, happy to meet you, let’s go.” ~5~
Such a propitious encounter was the first step of a journey of many years to give birth to this adventure I've titled “A GENTLEMAN’S GAME”. At Mr. Freeman's urging, I subsequently connected with the WRITERS GUILD of AMERICA WEST. It wasn't long before I learned the Guild was hosting its inaugural Veteran's Writing Program. With help and encouragement, from a host of name-recognizable titans of literature, screen, and stage, my golf story transited from its incubator to the world I lived in. I felt reborn as we both came to life. ~6~
I have carried the facts of this story for many years before meeting Mr. Freeman. 'A Gentleman’s Game' is based on events which are integral to my family's history. I am writing it now because we are at a time when America’s people are more sharply and distinctly divided by race, color, sexual orientation and religion than ever before. America has always been a dichotomous citadel of prejudice and racism. Things never change, people do, but only when forced, or when money is involved. ~7~
If things had been different in the golf world as far back as the 1940’s, I wonder what life might have been like for my great uncle, Marcus. I wonder what my own life would have been like even more. Whenever it is time for the Master’s Tournament, I am filled by thoughts, some sorrowful, some fantasy and some anger, because the Master’s Tournament, and its eighty-five-year history, is bracketed by profoundly stirring emotions conjuring up real-life events in succession, like a movie. ~9~
CHAPTER ONE: MEMORIES ~10~
Part 1: A Kid Discovers His Mission ~11~
As far back as Father Time allows me to trespass, my life has been influenced by an old, worn out brown leather golf bag hanging out in our garage. The bag contained rusting golf clubs, none of which resembled clubs the game of golf is played with today. These clubs all had wooden shafts of varying colors and thin cardboard-looking strips wrapped around the handles. The bag stood in a corner of our garage, out of the way, but not hidden. ~12~
I couldn’t go near the garage without touching or thinking about those rusty clubs and why he had them. Dad never played any golf that I knew about, and whenever I asked about the golf equipment, he would respond with, “ Oh, they belong to your mother and are mementos of another time.” ~13~
Heck, I could see the clubs were old, so for me, this was no answer. Belong to my mother? I thought his response was subterfuge. I couldn’t imagine what dad was talking about. I didn’t ask often, but questions remained inside of me and multiplied like maggots in the belly of a dead cow. I believe I was becoming obsessed with curiosity – call it the kind of fascination kids have – borne of curiosity and fed on immaturity. I was a curious kid like most children tend to be. ~14~
Even though my questions about golf didn’t pass by my lips, thoughts about those golf clubs never went away. To be honest about it, I was more than a little unsettled over the whole thing. Dad never talked about golf. I knew he never went to a golf course. I didn’t know if he knew anything about the game. It seemed to me as if golf was not a factor in his life. But the tools of the game, looking like battle-worn relics, were there, and, dagnabit, I wanted to know why. ~15~
It didn't take long for my childhood curiosity to become a source of motivation. It was only natural that I set out to learn about golf. I read about this game in newspapers and the school library. I asked the milkman questions. He retorted by asking me if I had lost it and walked away laughing to the accompaniment of rattling empty milk bottles. Now, every time I entered anyone's garage I thought about golf and my determination grew stronger to learn about the game.