Sergio and the Pope
More than thirty years ago I married my sweet Sven. A guy who loved to golf and a guy who didn’t like pizza.
These flaws were easy to overlook because he was very cute.
Since that blessed day in 1986 the golf channel has been on the TV behind me, like as in this moment. Around the corner if I am in the kitchen brewing coffee, making a sandwich or stirring soup. Below me if I am in the loft searching for a piece of the jigsaw puzzle. And in front of me if I sit down on the couch.
Therefore, I have unintentionally absorbed mega doses of information, beginning each day with, The Morning Drive.
I know more about Arnold Palmer’s swing than he did.
And I don’t even own a club.
You see, I don’t care for the game.
Back when we were busy batting eyelashes at each other, I tried to learn to how to play golf and forget about pizza.
But it’s difficult to give up a main staple in your diet and I never knew where that little white dimpled ball of mine landed.
Because that is how hard I smacked it.
Once I came close to breaking both wrists with a single misjudged swing of a lifetime, hitting the ground an inch in front of the ball.
It never even moved.
I found the sport to be too dangerous, too hot and too stupid.
So I quit.
Sven and I adjusted to living a life in which I learned to eat less pizza than is recommended by the FDA and Sven learned to eat more pizza than is recommended by the FDA.
It’s all in your interpretation.
I can tell you however with certainty, that there is more golf on our television than is recommended by the Surgeon General.
But because it just so happened to be tuned into the golf channel one day, a long, long, time ago, as I was passing through the living room, I saw a kid hit a ball from behind a tree. Then he chased after it full speed ahead.
And then he leaped into the air and clicked his heels together.
“Who’s that guy?” I said to Sven.
“Sergio Garcia,” he answered.
That is when I realized that John Daley’s pants were not the only bright spot out on the fairway.
And that the people playing the game were actually alive.
And life went on.
For many years.
Eighteen, to be exact.
And then just a couple of weeks ago this happened.
“Maybe you should look at your clock,” I heard in the black of night, as plain as day.
I turned my head on my pillow and opened my eyes.
“Shit!” I said.
“What’s the matter?” muttered Sven, still asleep.
“It’s four,” I whimpered.
“Oh,” he said and rolled over onto his side.
Fifteen minutes later we both popped out of bed and scurried around half dazed, to be ready for Mac and Giselle, who would be picking us up for our trip to the final day at The US Open, a gift from our son Marques and daughter-in-law, Nicolette, their daughter Nicolette and son-in-law, Marques.
The master plan was all set to beat the crowds to the very top row of the stands at the ninth hole, at Erin Hills.
It was about an hour drive to a shuttle lot and a half an hour bus ride from there.
From the top row in those stands, we would be able to see the players tee off onto a par three green right in front of us, as well as watch the action on the eighteenth hole behind us.
But, unfortunately an announcer, announced our very plans to the world on Saturday.
“Folks, the ninth hole stands are the place to be. Especially if you can get that top row.”
That is why I had to set the alarm clock for four AM.
I laid there wide awake and forever.
I closed my eyes again and again.
But it remained daylight under my lids.
And then, just as I was beginning to slip into a dream, Sven sits up and says, “Millie, why does your clock say it’s 1:11?
“Because it’s 1:11?”
“Mine says it’s 12:11.”
This meant the alarm had to be reset.
I never know about those two little AM and PM dots that light up. There are two too many for me.
“I doubt this thing is going to ring when it’s supposed to,” I said.
And then I fell asleep, until Jason, Giselle’s middle son, said to me plain as day, in the black of night, “Maybe you should look at your clock.”
That is when I turned my head on my pillow, opened my eyes, saw the orange glowing numbers and said, “Shit.”
The alarm was silent.
Jason was not there.
And it was four AM.
We arrived in front of the ninth hole stands at Erin Hills, around eight o’clock.
They were practically empty.
Except for the top row.
The top row was full.
So we picked out chairs three quarters of the way up, all the way to the left, in the stands that were all the way to the left.
Giselle and I guarded our four seats, listening to each other’s fascinating stories and the sound of many flags flapping softly in the gentle breeze behind us, as Mac and Sven went exploring the course.
When they returned an hour later the flags were whipping violently.
The temperature had headed south.
And Giselle and I had new friends up there in the ninth hole stands.
The clouds were absolutely gorgeous that Sunday, especially if you like the kind with dark threatening bottoms that are otherwise white and billowy and like to skit across a blue sky in order to block out the sun whenever it finds a spot to peek out.
So Giselle and I ran straight to the Pro-Shop.
“Would you like this in a bag?” says the kid behind register number two hundred and twelve, in the middle of a maze of herded people, all clutching clothing with long sleeves and long pant-legs with their purple fingers.
I stared at him.
“Would you like me to cut off the tag?”
And then Giselle and I, all warm and snuggly in our million dollar sweatshirts wandered around on a path.
“You know what I think is kind of weird?” I said after a bit.
“I haven’t seen one golfer. Have you?”
And then we were doubled over in the middle of the trail as other pedestrians went around us.
Because that is what Giselle and I do.
Back in our seats the four of us started to see teeny-tiny people, about as big as those green plastic army figures we used to play with, emerge on top of a hill straight ahead.
And each time somebody teed off up there Giselle and I would look up at the clouds and see nothing but clouds.
And then a little white ball would land on the green, bounce around and roll to a stop.
And sometimes it would not roll to a stop.
And sometimes it would roll into the sand.
And one time it rolled into the sand and then it was hit to the other sand and then again to the first sand.
And one time there was a really good shot.
That made the crowd go wild.
Golf crowd wild.
And then just like that, it was 11:00 AM and the beer was tapped.
Sven and Mac bought Giselle and I each a glass.
And then they went for another walk.
And then they returned.
And then we had to pee.
And then we learned how to play an odd version of slow motion freeze tag on our way out of the stands.
I like to refer to my sweet Sven as a, Stricker Stalker, when he isn’t listening.
The four of us remained in the ninth hole stands surrounded by our friends for the day, until Steve Stricker, played on through.
And then we retrieved our blanket from the lady from Montana.
We said good-bye to the devout Ricky Fowler fan, her dad and her sister, behind us.
And bid farewell to our chairs.
Just then someone was getting ready to putt.
The officials arms went up in the air.
Next thing I remember is that I was crouched next to a woman who was impressively squatting with a beer in each hand.
“How long do we have to stay like this?” she whispers.
“I have no idea,” I answered, like I was at the library. “But I don’t think Giselle is going to be able to get back up.”
“I can hear you,” snapped Giselle, like she was in church.
And then she sat down on the step.
After five memorable hours in the stands we were back down on the ground where the wind speeds were a mere thirty-five to forty miles an hour.
We made our way to the the newby, now thirty-seven, who’d clicked his heels together making me realize that golf is not so horrifying, as long as you don’t have to play, and there is beer, tee off.
When he took that swing he was no further from me than the pope was to Giselle last year when she was in Rome and he went past, waving.
She has a video that she would be happy to show you.
But don’t ask.
Because she also has about sixty thousand other pictures.
I don’t have a picture of Sergio because the official said, “No.”
But it’s not a big deal.
He looks exactly like he does on our TV.
We got back on a bus and eventually landed in downtown Waukesha where we watched Brooks Koepke win the US Open, out of the wind, with hot food and a reasonably priced IPA sitting in front of us.
Soon after, we checked into a hotel that was haunted.
How do I know?
The eerie mirror behind the abandoned front desk.
And the ghost sitting next to that creepy fireplace.
We brushed our teeth, untangled our hair and went out on the town.
According to the pictures I found the next morning at breakfast, it looks like we had a real good time.
If you end up in your hotel robes….
it was fun.
Normally this would be the end of the story.
But it’s not.
You see, we still had to get home.
The GPS was set and we were winding our way out of Waukesha to visit Holy Hill.
I was hoping to see a monk so that I could tell him my favorite monk joke.
That is when I spotted it.
It was small, rusty and low to the ground.
SPECTACULAR SCULPTURE 2.5 Miles, it said, with an arrow.
“Turn in 2 miles,” said the GPS gal.
“But…” whined the backseat.
The backseat won.
And the scavenger hunt was on.
Mac turned this way and that way and this way, following similar signs that seemed to be leading us deeper and deeper into dueling banjo foliage.
We came to a V in the road.
Mac swung to the right.
And then thirty seconds later up popped another Spectacular Sculpture sign.
We didn’t care if it was no more than a kid with a Kool-Aid stand without Kool-Aid at that point.
After a couple more twists and turns, there it was.
Of course it was a bunch of bullshit.
The signs had lied.
It was not a spectacular sculpture.
Words nor pictures can explain the enticing, enchanting, charm found at the end of the trail filled with hundreds of spectacular sculptures.
N93W279174 Woodchuck Way, Colgate WI, 53017
Once we got to Holy Hill, there was not a monk in sight.
I pictured there to be gangs of bald men in robes with belts, gathering up whatever those icky things are they put in their fruit cakes.
But I didn’t see a one.
And not a tree bearing fruitcake fruit either.
We did however see stain glass that was divine.
We did feel peace in the air.
And it was hard not to notice the tranquility that lives in this sacred historical sight.
If you have a calling, Holy Hill just might give you a ring.
There’s a song about it that Robert Plant sang about, way back when, with Led Zeplin.
That one about that stairway?
I never realized that the stairway to heaven was open on one side like that.
And that even with a sturdy railing and well built steps that I will never get to the top.
About halfway up is the best I can do before pure panic sets in and I am frozen with fear.
Can’t go up and can’t go down.
Stuck right in the middle.
I’m consoled with the fact that I’ve never been a fan of harps and really nice people.
But for every one’s sake I do hope they put restrooms on every landing.
Have I ever mentioned that Giselle is a meteorologist?
It’s true that she missed any formal education, but it’s her passion that counts.
“Uh-oh,” she says, looking at her phone in the parking lot. “We have to get going. There’s a purple blob heading straight toward us.”
A half an hour later, in the pouring rain, Mac jumped out of the driver’s seat and ran into a gas station to get directions to Tally-Ho, because it wasn’t enough that the car navigational system, Giselle’s cell phone, my cell phone and the atlas that Sven was studying said to go straight on 60 to Erin Hills.
But then, we were in Erin Hills.
And two minutes later we pulled into Tally-Ho, located in the famous town that sadly missed the US Open business on account of all the shuttle bussing.
So, if you like hamburgers, hotdogs, brats or pulled pork sandwiches, they have a shitload on hand.
There in that Irish Pub, we made one last toast to a great trip, a great gift and great friendships.
And that’s about it.
“Uh-oh, there’s another blob coming our way.”
“Is it purple?”
“No. It’s mostly red and orange. And It might miss us.”
“Are we in danger if it’s only red and orange?”
“You see those clouds up there,” Giselle points out the back seat window. “When I was a kid I liked those puffy white ones that look like they are made of cotton. But they can’t be trusted.”
“Seriously, Millie. They are nasty.”
“Maybe that’s why they are called thunderheads.”