There comes a time when every golfer must put down their putter and confront the most terrifying hazard the game has to offer.
For me, that time came Sunday afternoon during the annual golf tournament pitting the best players from my newspaper against the top players from the Manitoba Theatre Centre.
This is kind of like pitting the best hackers from the Vienna Boys Choir against the elite of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but that’s not today’s main golf point.
Today’s main golf point is that as we battled under the menacing skies at Falcon Lake Golf Course my foursome came face to face with a creature of pure evil.
And I’ll tell you about that in a minute, but first I need to confess that, as a prominent newspaper professional, I played on the theatre centre’s team.
This came about because my newspaper prefers golfers who know what will happen to a ball after they hit it; whereas Steven Schipper, the theatre centre’s artistic director, felt I could add a certain dramatic flair to his team.
I qualify as an actor because I starred in an MTC play, by which I mean I was a corpse. I was a dead body in the graveyard scene of the production of Our Town. I’m a natural at playing dead, because, as a columnist, I remain motionless for long periods of time.
Unfortunately, I play golf the same way.
Also on the theatre team was my buddy Nick, who is an actor in the sense that he read Hamlet in high school.
We were among an army of golfers hacking and slashing our way around the course. Despite the ferocity of our battle, we found time to exchange good-natured golfing remarks such as: “You suck!” Or: “No, you suck!”
But things took a chilling turn as we strolled off the fourteenth green and realized something was terribly wrong — a stranger had wandered out of the woods and was squatting behind the wheel of our golf cart.
He was a fearsome-looking brute, with cold, beady eyes, a muscular body covered in red fur, a horrifying toothy grin, and a massive tale he whipped back in forth in a manner that made our blood run cold.
Worse still, his sharp, furry claws had a death grip on the bag of barbecue-flavoured potato chips I’d bought from the cart girl on the last hole.
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking: “It’s a squirrel, right?
Well, technically, you are correct. But this was a squirrel the likes of which you’ve never seen.
This was not an ordinary, garden-variety city squirrel you’d find scampering in your yard. No, this was a rogue squirrel the size of a canned ham, with an even bigger chip on its shoulders.
We’re talking a hardened cottage-country squirrel, the kind of fierce rodent that, after years of consuming snacks dropped by golfers, has become large and aggressive. Unless you are nuts, you do not mess with a GIANT SNACK-STEALING SQUIRREL OF DOOM.
Ever so slowly, we crept up on the golf cart, where the squirrel sat, glaring and feasting on my barbecue chips.
“I may just be a squirrel,” was the telepathic message it sent us, “but I will defend these chips with my life!”
So there we were, four grown men, armed with high-tech golf clubs, surrounding a single squirrel, armed with a cellophane bag of chips.
The odds were clearly in the squirrel’s favour.
We yelled at it. We waggled our clubs menacingly. We threatened legal action.
But the squirrel just reared up on its haunches (yes, it had haunches), and screeched what sounded like insulting squirrel remarks.
Finally, my buddy Nick risked everything, leaping behind the wheel of the cart, stomping on the accelerator and rocketing away at top golf cart speed, which is slightly slower than airport luggage.
Startled, the squirrel dropped the chips, and disappeared through an air into the cart’s engine, at which point Nick hit the brakes, and we surrounded the cart again, while the squirrel, hidden in the bowels of the cart, shrieked in anger.
Here was my chance. Heroically, I grabbed the chip bag and sprinted for the next hole, with the squirrel, who darted out from under the cart, hot on my heels.
In the end, apparently having made its point, the squirrel fired one last evil glance and darted into the woods to await the next unsuspecting snack-laden foursome. It was a thrilling moment, and I savoured it until the end of the day, when my team went down in flames.
I don’t think the theatre will invite me back next year, but you’ll be pleased to hear they’ve signed the squirrel to a long-term deal.