An excerpt from GOLF course-ranking panelist Luke Reese’s novel, “One for the Memory Banks.”
It was a frigid and rainy February day in 1997. Our team — Wilson Golf sales and marketing for Europe — was mired in product meetings at the company’s dreary assembly plant in Irvine, Scotland, on the Ayrshire Coast.
In addition to myself — president among our group — the team included Bondy, managing director and Irvine local, and other product-management vets: a vitriolic Frenchman, a highly rational Finn and an elegant, low-handicap Spaniard. The prototypes for a new set of Wilson irons, called Fat Shafts, had just arrived. Having seen them months in before but never having hit them, we knew of only their theoretical benefits. The Frenchman kept talking about the R&D. We’d heard his BS before.
Bondy’s steely eyes swept the room. “Somebody should hit ’em before we send in the forecast,” he said in his deep brogue. “These irons, in fact, will be tested — today — by myself and Mr. Reese, who is going to be so bothered by this cold that he’ll lose 3 and 2 and walk off in a bad enough mood to cancel the entire launch.”
As Bondy and I exited the room, he turned and winnked at the international trio. “I might have to give him a few putts,” he said, “to keep these irons alive.”
Western Gailes Golf Club lay just down the road. During the four-minute drive to the course, we hit defrost twice to clear the windshield. We discussed just playing a few holes. We would likely finish at the 7th, which had a convenient turning spot to go back to the clubhouse.
The course was completely deserted. Bondy and I sat down for a steaming-hot bowl of Scotch broth. We then put on every piece of clothing available, including bright red Wilson rainsuits. Looking like two Santa Clauses with clubs bundled on our backs we labored to the 1st, waving to the incredulous club manager.
Bondy agreed to give me four strokes. As I leaned over to put my tee into the hardened ground, it broke. Bondy quipped, “Here’s one for the memory banks…canceled the new irons…young Mr. Reese broke all his tees before he ever hit a shot.”
By the time we reached the picturesque par-3 7th, I was 3 up and loving these new irons. Three down, Bondy wasn’t sold. (Although uncomfortable with a lead against Bondy, I greatly preferred that to trailing.) With the match in full swing, we had forgotten about testing the irons. Beating each other had risen to the fore. We also completely abandoned any thought of turning back after seven holes. We weren’t even cold.
My tee shot flew 175 yards and about two stories up the side of the hill on the left. It burrowed into the tall grass. I missed on my first swing. Missed again. Somehow, I hacked the ball out on my next, and it dribbled down to the green. Lying four.
Bondy’s tee shot found the massive greenside bunker that I had so artfully avoided. He temporarily disappeared in the deep cavern. Somehow, a ball came flying out and landed on the green in two. Comically, I rammed in a long miracle putt. Routine double-bogey. Bondy dropped his head in disbelief, then three-putted for a halve to stay 3 down.
After nine, the score remained the same. This was too easy. I started to feel sorry for Bondy, who looked cold and miserable. Big mistake. There was no room for compassion with Bondy as an opponent. Of course, I lost a bunch of holes in a row, and by the 14th we were all square and had turned back into the wind. S—!
On 15, Bondy commented how much he liked the new irons. I, on the other hand, began to grumble about their lack of feel…
Find out who won the match — and dozens of others like it — during Luke Reese’s 30-year love affair with golf in his new book One for the Memory Banks. To order a copy ($25), visit thememorybanks.com and use promo code GOLFMAG.