What Happens at Golf Camp…

A preteen tale of hope, love and crushing embarrassment

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Lipping Out - What Happens at Golf Camp...

The memory came flooding back well before we teed off. I was playing in a scramble golf tournament at Duke University Golf Club, the first time I’d played the course since I attended golf camp there in 1991. I couldn’t shake the horror; I very nearly quit the game after it had happened.

I went to camp with Aaron Smith, my best friend at the time, and we met two cousins from New York. We’d never heard the word “youse.” They’d never heard the word “y’all.” We became fast friends. Michael was silver tongued, with a smile that opened doors. He was fearless. At 15, Andrew was the oldest of our foursome, but as nice as he was, his social skills were about a 16-handicap.

The camp was held in June on Duke’s campus along with several other boys’ and girls’ sports camps, like field hockey, soccer, basketball, tennis and baseball. It’s no surprise that, as adolescent boys, our favorite camp was girls’ soccer (with girls’ tennis a close second). 

For three days, we built our plan—and courage—to speak to the shinguarded girls in Umbro shorts. Under no circumstances were we to mention golf camp to anyone with two X chromosomes. This was well before Tiger’s emergence, and while Fred Couples and Davis Love III were athletic and smooth, it felt like the general public associated the game more often with guys like Craig Stadler and Duffy Waldorf. We decided our safest bet was to say we were there for soccer camp too.

On Day Four, we ambled out of the bookstore, Cokes in hand and headed back to our dorm, when we saw them: four soccer-camp girls walking our way. In a flash, our banter switched from nonsense to game on.

Michael, who was calling the shots, broke the ice. His Upper East Side smile and charming words caught their attention. They stopped. We were in! Things were going as planned. We had names. We talked about hometowns and interests. We were actually doing it—hanging out with the prettiest girls our sixth- and seventh-grade eyes had ever seen.

Then it happened.

One of the girls asked which camp we were in, and, in our infatuated state, Andrew blurted, “Golf.” The rest of us tried to save the situation and started yelling, “No, soccer! Soccer! We’re here for soccer!” 

The damage was done. The eruption of laughter from the soccer girls sucked the oxygen out of the air. We stood there motionless, our hearts lying in puddles at our feet. What happened next is lost to time. I remember only hearing their giggles fade in the distance as they walked into the void with our dignity.

I never saw or heard from Andrew or Michael after that week. Aaron and I have remained friends over the years. It took only a decade or so, but the scars healed. I kept playing. Thankfully, today golf has guys like Rickie Fowler, J.T. and Rory, and I’m no longer afraid to wear my Titleist hat in public.