Monday, March 8, 2010

Accidental Riches

One of the best things about golf is the accidental discovery of interesting humans. Sure there are occasions when the opening in your group is filled by someone who annoys, but more often you're paired with another stricken golf romantic very much like yourself.

When I first met Michele Sturla I was struck by his thick Italian accent and wonderful sense of style. He introduced himself as "Michael" but I heard in it the anglicized apology and before we'd walked the first fairway I'd extracted his given name, pronounced Mee-kay-lay, accent on the second. I asked him if he'd mind being referred to as such. "No, dot ees fine!"

We've played half a dozen times since, including today. He's in his mid-sixties, jet black hair, lean as a jockey, immensely strong, with a finesse rarely seen on a muni course. He is a picture of golf politesse, owing to his having caddied for a few Italian pros including Constantine Rocca. And man, can he play. He may be the only golfer with whom I play who not only carries a 1-iron but uses it to great effect. After receiving a compliment on a 170-yard left-to-right shot out of the rough that resulted in a birdie, he responds-- "I've been making dat shot seentz I wussa boy . . . "

But my favorite thing about him is his endless gratitude-- for my having called him to play, giving him a yardage, replacing a pin, you name it-- he's thankful. He smiles, cigarette dangling from his lips, and says, "You're too kind."

Really, I'm just grateful. You know how rare style is these days?

Rub Of The Green by Brock Walsh will, with a little luck, appear in bookstores soon.