Seeking A Cure For Bozoitis

By Jeffrey A. Rendall


I've got a disease with no possibility of a cure. I'm afflicted with bozoitis -- I'm terrified of bozos.


A bozo is a stranger you're paired with by the starter -- who through his routines, mannerisms and dysfunctional personality, bugs the stuffing out of you for eighteen torturous holes. He's (I've found bozos to be a strictly male species) the type of guy who makes you yearn for the yard work you put off to go and play golf in the first place. The joker who makes you see the positive side of attending a seven o'clock meeting with your long-winded boss. Or suffering through an appointment with a proctologist. A trip to the mother-in-law is preferable to five hours with this guy.


I'll readily admit most unknown golfers I've been paired with over the years were great folks, but I still see a potential bozo in every stranger hovering around the starter's hut. I can't help it. I'm sick.


Oddly enough, some golfers are immune to bozoitis -- they'd rather have any warm body playing alongside rather than face the prospect of going it alone. Not me. I'd prefer concentrating on my round and playing quickly rather than being stuck with someone's bad habits and excessive personality for an afternoon. Companionship of this sort just ain't necessary.


One day last summer sheds light on my bozoitis symptoms. I took off early from work and decided to make the best of the free time by playing a round at one of my favorite courses. I neglected to call for a tee time, but I figured it'd be okay -- as long as I got there before the twilight rate started. In addition to the immediate problem of getting a complete round in, arriving post-twilight drums up other potential undesirable circumstances -- bozos!


Twilight started at three. That hour typically signals the swarm of golf bargain hunters willing to trade heat blisters and eighteen finished holes for a few pieces of silver. Sometimes it's worth it, but rarely on a Friday afternoon. I reasoned if I got to the course with a half hour to spare, I could probably squeeze on as a single, therefore avoiding the torment of playing a round with a bozo -- or, even worse, several bozos.


Don't get me wrong, I'm not a loner, and golf is a social game. Playing a round with your favorite partners often brings the best times in life. But coordinating a bozo proof outing in these times of busy schedules and deadlines is near impossible. It's inevitable you'll face a situation where there aren't four of you to fill the tee sheet. Or three. Or even two. Elementary logic says the probability of being paired with a bozo increases exponentially with every playing partner you're missing.


And it's not like bozos materialize often. In my 25 years of playing the game, I've probably only played with a dozen bozos -- but the worst of my bozo experiences turned me into a coward. I'd almost rather not play than face the miniscule chance of coming across one. My bozoitis is real.


On this day while driving to the course, I noticed a number of golfers standing on the first tee -- not a good sign. For those trying to avoid bozos, we like to see vacant tee boxes, fairways and greens. Still, I surmised the semi-empty parking lot might provide a chance to squeeze in between the current group and the impending twilight rush. Maybe those guys on the tee were the last group in a tournament!


Arriving at the pro shop dispelled my optimism. The guy behind the counter said "Take the receipt to the starter, I think he'll probably want to send you out with the twosome that just left." A chill went down my spine. Now was my chance -- should I just tell the counter guy to forget the whole thing? Or take the chance that these two strangers would be relatively normal?


Working against the strong urge to wimp out was the fact I'd just bought a new driver, and was dying to test it against something other than driving range fences. Experiencing a sudden surge of testosterone, I decided to chance it. Resolutely pushing open the door, I marched right up to the starter. Handing him the slip, I said "How's it look out there today?"


"Slow pace, for a Friday," said the tight-lipped starter with an obvious look of annoyance at being asked a question.


Swell. It was even worse than I thought. Not only was I probably stuck with a couple of potential bozos, I was actually going to have to talk with them while waiting on each tee box. They're probably going to take divots in the rough with practice swings, smoke cheap cigars and play croquet with the tee markers while I recite my life's story. My knees shook at the prospect.


So I studied the twosome the counter guy referred to, for telltale signs of social deviancy. Both were in their early twenties, looked fairly athletic, and were clearly good friends. Already I felt like I'd be a third wheel on the bozo motorcycle -- a pledge at a frat party with sadistic brothers brandishing a wooden paddle with tiny holes in it. At least if I was going to join up with someone, I'd rather have him be in my situation -- alone and terrified of everyone else. Besides, these guys looked like good golfers.


Being a high 90's golfer, I like to play with those of similar ability. Good golfers, bozo or not, don't appreciate my need to look for the occasional wayward ball or to savor a good fat shot. Really bad golfers are probably worse, cussing every other word and constantly stepping in my putting line -- not to mention the incessant complaints about the tardiness of the drink cart girl.


Just as I prepared to suck it up and introduce myself, another twosome pulled up to join the guys reclining with their feet propped up on the cart. The starter asked each group what their respective tee times were, and the two of them just happened to match. 'Whew!' I thought. That was a close one!


The relief didn't last long. "You're probably going to have to wait a while. I want to make sure we have full groups going off -- it looks like it's going to get busy here in the next few minutes," the starter said while pointing over my shoulder.


Sure enough, a cursory perusing of the parking lot revealed a number of folks putting on their shoes, readying themselves for a trip around the links. Now it was certain I would be forced to go out with somebody, the luck of the draw. I soon began sizing up the swelling mob surrounding the starter's hut. But even to a discerning eye, a bozo is hard to spot -- and, even if you could identify one, there's not much you can do about it once they call your name.


Fifteen minutes went by, and a few groups came and went. I struck up a nice conversation with a man and wife twosome, also waiting their turn without a tee time. Both seemed nice. I hoped that since they were in a similar situation I might end up with them, and avoid the bozo problem altogether. But they were soon called. There I stood, alone and scared, still checking out everyone as they came along.


Most of the arriving groups had two or four. I was just about to give up when I spotted another apparent single sitting in a golf cart. He looked harmless enough -- somewhat heavyset, but not fat. Dressed rather plainly. Your average ordinary Joe -- you're just as likely to see him in the checkout line at the grocery store as on a golf course.


That was his name, as I found out later, Joe. I didn't try talking with him at first -- I didn't want to get too attached to anyone else after the husband and wife team, lest he be called away again by the starter, leaving me to scrutinize the rest of those waiting to see who I'd be stuck with.


The starter then called my name, and pointed to this nondescript gentleman in the cart. He said, "You'll be joining this man here." I cautiously extended my hand in introduction and carefully placed my bag on the back of his cart, hoping against hope this unspectacular looking man would turn out to be a good guy.


Certainly there was nothing about the initial meeting that was characteristic of a bozo -- lots of chest hair, gold chains or chain smoking. And during our introductory small talk he didn't boast of playing with pros or celebrities ... feeling strange but somewhat relieved, I hopped in the cart and readied my tees for the first shot of the day. On our drive to the first tee, I noticed another twosome was waiting. Having gone through one round of bozo screening, I'd need to do it again with these two.


One stood tall and looked like Ernie Els -- so much for first impressions. The other guy said he was visiting 'Mr. Els' from Missouri. 'Els' was a Capitol Hill staffer whose golf swing looked nothing like his more talented look-alike -- and he was left-handed to boot.


'Els' and 'Missouri' seemed like normal human beings, and like Joe, displayed no outward bozo characteristics. I could hardly believe my good fortune -- maybe this was going to turn out alright after all! Each of us teed off in turn, without a single ball landing in the fairway. I felt relieved I could play my normal game without holding anyone up!


Thankfully, none of my playing partners that summer day turned out to be bozos. They were just average guys having some fun knocking the ball around -- golf at its finest.


But I'm hardly cured; this one positive experience won't stop me from sizing up the next group I'm thrown in with. And it certainly didn't mark the end of the bozos -- a guy that played behind us that day had a problem uttering anything more intelligent than four-letter oaths. What an idiot.


What a bozo.


Related Links   Comments on this article?
Maryland National Golf Club
Hollow Creek Golf Club
Rocky Gap Resort
PB Dye Golf Club in Ijamsville
Whiskey Creek Golf Club
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