The man who cried wolf

1 08 2011

Shortly before 8:25 on any week day, at the southern end of the Courtenay air park here in the beautiful Comox Valley, you’re very likely to come across a group of a dozen or more seemingly respectable men of a certain age preparing to set off for their daily constitutional. In fact, they are all in the 60 plus age range or, as one of them puts it, “in hockey terms, you’d have to say that we’re in sudden death overtime”. Apart from walking they also bike or roller blade most days in the summer and ski (downhill or cross country) or snowshoe in the winter. As former educators, which is what most of them are, they have rightly been described as poster children for retirement. However, they are also trained in the art of gratuitous abuse as well as betting on pretty much anything that moves: first snowfall of the year, first sighting of a Trumpeter swan and, of course, anything and everything connected with the NHL, including the table hockey games that take place upstairs at the local Serious Coffee at the conclusion of every walk.

Just a few of the ne'er-do-well members of the walking group

Foremost among this gang of reprobates, er fine group of gentlemen, is Mike Sutcliffe or ‘der Führer’, as he is affectionately known by the rest of the group. The origins of his nickname are lost in the mists of time. Some say it’s connected to the way he leads the walkers with a determined gait, almost as if he intends to invade Poland; others believe it refers to the extremely firm hand he exerts on the running of the hockey pool; there are also those who think that his moustache bears a marked similarity to that of the erstwhile leader of the Third Reich. Be all this as it may, Mike is not a man to be meddled with and history has shown that he usually has the last word in any disagreement. In brief, if there’s trouble or dissent within the group, Mike is normally at the bottom of it.

Mike also occasionally plays golf, although it’s several years since we last played together. The mental wounds I apparently caused him on that occasion must have finally healed, because last Thursday he invited me to join him and two fellow walkers, Richard and Brian, for a pilgrimage to the hallowed fairways of Storey Creek. I was delighted to accept. On the journey up to Campbell River Mike told us that we were going to play a game called ‘Wolf’ and he gave a fairly detailed explanation of the rules. I didn’t really follow all of it, but grasped the basic concept that the first person to hit on each hole was the wolf, that he would then choose a partner, that the partnerships would change constantly, that there would be tickies for pretty much everything and that once and once only during the round you could invoke the ‘F**k You’ rule by which you could decline a proposed partnership. Mike also decided the handicaps, only two of which (mine and Brian’s) had anything to do with the official RCGA handicap system. On the other hand, as Mike had got two-for-one coupons for all of us, it seemed only fair to accept the handicaps without much of a quibble.

We played off the blue tees, which was somewhat ambitious as it soon became apparent that Mike and Richard were a little rusty and that the only way they were likely to break 80 would be if we stopped after nine holes. The level of abuse, however, was outstandingly high, as was our ability to beg “Pick me! Pick me!” whenever the wolf hit a decent drive or – as was more often the case – fail to make eye contact if he didn’t. Somehow, in no way due to any skill on my part but a rather impressive ability to pick the right partners on the right holes, I was a few tickies up as we reached the 17th tee and Mike was a few tickies down. Some of these lost tickies, I’m afraid to say, were due to rules infractions on Mike’s part that I had, in my usual helpful manner, brought to the attention of the foursome. In hindsight, I probably should have realised that Mike was nearing the end of his tether as he stopped his pre-shot routine a couple of times while I was making what I’m sure was a very amusing and informative reference to one of Mike’s earlier transgressions . Finally, Mike hit his tee shot. A high slice, straight into the hazard short and right of the green. Ignoring all etiquette concerning giving the other players the chance to earn the right to be his partner, Mike fixed me with a steely glare and said “Right, asshole. You’re my partner. If I’m going down on this hole, so are you”.

I was speechless – which is not something that happens every day, as anyone who knows me will testify. Taking it out on me just because I’d shared my knowledge of the rules a couple of times seemed a bit harsh. And then it came to me. I suddenly remembered one of the rules of Wolf, as explained by Mike himself as we drove up to Storey Creek. “Er, f**k you”, I replied.

Poor Mike! Now it was his turn to be lost for words. Not surprisingly, he hit his second ball into the hazard as well and the hole was quickly lost. I tried not to smirk too much, but I’m not sure our on-course relationship is going to survive. Off-course is looking a bit tricky, too, as I know there will be plenty of opportunities for the Führer to get his own back over the coming months with the walking group. In the meantime I’m clinging to that old truism about the rules of golf: “Remember – the rules are there to help you!”

If Mikey (above right) wielded a knife and fork the way he wields a golf club, he would surely starve to death. Jack (above left) looks suitably appalled at his tale of woe.

All da best!

Dave B.




2 responses

1 08 2011

Beauty Dave! Well, you have gone up in my estimation. You have played Wolf with the fuhrer and survived!

1 08 2011
Bagger Dave

I’ve survived so far, Martin. One thing about the führer is that he has a long memory…


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