The golf is free, and my opinion too

Donnie Douglas Contributing columnist

I turned a couple of significant pages in my life recently, and am hoping there are several more to be written. Chapters would be better.

I received my first check for Social Security on July 22, about 43 months in advance of full retirement. The decision was a bit beyond my control as one thing The Covid has not stopped is my monthly bills, but I think the math works in my favor. The Social Security benefit I collect in advance of reaching full retirement, 66 years and six months, will go a long way toward erasing the few hundred dollars a month extra that delaying it would have delivered.

That math cannot be settled until I die, so I am in no rush. But I know that I am now relatively healthy and active, and can enjoy the free time my semi-retirement offers better than when I suffer dementia and wear Depends.

I say semi-retirement because beginning Monday, I will again be gainfully employed after a four-month pause, in the pro shop at Pinecrest Country Club. I could walk to work if I wanted to, but I will probably drive. I think the vehicle has more miles left on it than my legs.

There is a certain amount of symmetry to going to work at Pinecrest CC as my first real job in life was working there during the summers of 1975 and 1976. At that time, I worked on the golf course as part of the maintenance crew, and didn’t enjoy a climate-controlled environment.

Bob, my high school running mate, and I worked there together in the summer of 1976, after our first year in college. We lived at his parents’ former home that summer, which had been left vacant when they moved to Gastonia. You can imagine what we were up to, but I prefer you didn’t.

Each morning after about four hours of sleep, we somehow pulled ourselves out of bed to arrive at the golf course at about 6 a.m., during the months of June, July and August, so we effectively worked in a sauna. Bob’s assignment that summer was to cut fairways, which he did on a new shiny red tractor, under the shade of an umbrella, with headphones and what was then called a boom box, probably listening to Aerosmith or some Zep. He also flashed some shades, was known to be sipping on lemonade, and often had a smile which could be confused with a smirk.

It was for me, whose two jobs that summer were putting edges on aptly named sand traps with a shovel, and then when that was done, removing bulging roots from the rough and even fairways. No umbrella. No boom box. No lemonade. No transportation. Depending on where the bunker was located, I had a walk of perhaps 100 or more yards to a pump and well water. H2O wasn’t bottled in those days.

It’s unlikely that you have put an edge on a bunker, but imagine standing on the beach in July and digging into the sand and toward China. I spent five hours on my first bunker and could not have been more pleased with my artwork. But Cy Williams, the superintendent at the time, said it was done all wrong and after he deconstructed my work, I was told to do it again, but correctly. I then counted the number of bunkers in my head, and thought, only 31 more to go.

That finally accomplished, I moved on to the root problem. In order to extricate a bulging root, you take an axe to the ends of what is exposed, and use a grub hoe to wrestle it from the ground. Then you toss it into the trailer to be hauled off later, move about 3 feet and remove the next root. Roots, unlike bunkers, never run out and the summer would end with me still with an axe to grind.

If you think I sound bitter 44 years later, then you are wrong. Back then you did the work you were assigned, and without complaint. I was also pulling in a cool $2.20 a hour, enough for a six-pack of Schlitz. Yes, there was a time people drank Schlitz.

My father was chairman of the Greens Committee that summer, and was effectively C.M.’s boss. C.M. had managed the golf course for about 30 years, doing as he pleased, and didn’t like being told what to do. I am sure C.M. thought I was a mole, planted by my father so I could report back at the dinner table what had and had not been done. C.M. was wrong. My interests during the summer of ‘76 were otherwise. We will leave it at that.

It was, in truth, a great summer, made better by noon lunches at Pate’s Drive-In, still the best cheeseburgers I have ever had, and those crumpled fries. There might even be a dip into the club’s swimming pool at the end of the workday.

I recently told Bob of my new gig at Pinecrest, and he said he had worked in the pro shop at Pinecrest as a 13-year-old. My thought: A degree from UNC and 36 years in journalism have qualified me for a starter job for teenagers.

Truthfully, I am excited about this opportunity. It will get me out of the house, a place I have spent way too much time in recent months while trying to stay alive, and put me in the company of a lot of friends while giving me the opportunity to grow that list.

The perks are great, including free golf. What other job does your compensation go up with each round of golf? If only Pate’s were still open.

A lot of folks, meaning a handful really, have been kind in telling me they miss my work at The Robesonian, to include opinions offered in what I estimate would have been about 5,000 Our Views during my 24 years as editor.

If so, drop by Pinecrest CC, play some golf, and say hello. If solicited, I will be glad to share my opinion. This time, it won’t even cost you a buck.

It will be provided for nothing, which is what some have told me over the years it was worth.