She was laughing so hard she almost wet her pants. The look her two friends gave her after she had completely missed the ball with her club was scathing.
“Bridget, please take this seriously,” hissed Shaz.
“Yes, can you try a little harder? Or maybe easier? I don’t know which would be best at this point,” echoed Jude, after watching Bridget flail at the golf ball once again, barely dribbling it off the tee, watching it land several feet in front of her. Huffing at both of them, she scurried out to pick it up and try again.
Grabbing her by the shirt sleeve, she was pulled back from retrieving her ball, both friends now laughing too, after she fell back on the ground, next to the tee.
“What?! Why did you do that?” she asked, looking up from a disheveled heap on the grass, not laughing anymore; a wounded look on her face.
“Bridge, you can’t retrieve your ball after you’ve hit it. There are others still hitting their’s,” admonished Shaz, before Jude added, “You could be killed!”
“Ok, enough for our first day then. Can we go have a drink in the clubhouse? I think I’m sore and the only men out here are older than my dad.”
In the clubhouse, sitting around the table, sipping on their drinks, the three discussed their newest strategy. “Well, I think that went very well for a first try,” said Bridget enthusiastically, as she took a long draw through the straw in her mojito.
Looking around the empty tables then over to the bar where two older gentlemen were sharing a pint, Jude shook her head slowly, saying, “I’m not sure about this. We have to practice enough so that we can actually play. I’m thinking at least twice a week after work and once on the weekend. Maybe in six months we’ll be able to actually be paired up with some men. Which is, after all, the whole point of this.” She sipped at her wine, grimacing over the rim at her friend’s expressions of disbelief.
“So, you don’t think we’ll be able to play in a week or two??” asked Shaz.
The half arsed look Bridget gave Jude showed she agreed with Shaz’s opinion and that they’d be ready to play sooner rather than later.
“Fuck no! We’re bollocks at this. Golf is one of the hardest sports there is. I’m the best of the three of us and that’s not saying much.”
“Well, at least it’s light until after eight in April. Let’s come again Tuesday,” Bridget said.
“Then I’m making a reservation for lessons. We haven’t time to waste. We’ll be old maids before we’re good enough to actually play a round.” They were at the private golf club that Jude’s employer, Brightlings Bank, held a membership with.
“Jude, I’m on a budget. How much-,” protested Bridget before being cut off.
“I’ll cover the lesson, it’s minimal since I’m a member. And Richard needs to know that I’m not sitting around, waiting on him to call.”
Shaz and Bridget’s eyes met at the mention of her on again, off again boyfriend’s name. Shaz mouthed the word “vile” over her glass, causing Bridget to laugh out loud.
“I saw that!” Jude responded with a good-natured smile. “It’s not like the two of you have men beating your doors down. Bridge, how’s Daniel? Still shagging when he has the time?”
“Sod off!” she laughed back. They had been the recipients of hearing her woes about her boss for too many months now. And of course, had both heard about the disastrous set-up by her parents and their friends at the New Year’s turkey curry buffet.
With plans set for Tuesday after work for their first actual golf lesson, they all piled into Jude’s Mini for the drive back to their flats. Being the smaller of the two passengers, Bridget unceremoniously climbed in the backseat. “Bugger, that hurt!,” she yelped, hitting her head on the car ceiling, rubbing the spot with her hand once she was sat properly.
Suddenly there was a loud noise and the ear-splitting sound of splintering glass. All three women gasped as they looked up, watching the windscreen continue to crack but thankfully stay in place.
“Oy,” said Sharon quietly, still in shock.
“What the fuck was that?” Bridget said from the backseat.
Not saying anything, Jude jumped from the car, running to look at it from the front. She then turned around, glancing wildly about, trying to determine from which direction the offending object had come. Sharon and Bridget clambered out after her, looking at each other, then to Jude, who was turning a dark shade of purple in anger.
From between the hedges that separated the car park from the first tee box emerged two tentative looking men. Guessing that these were the culprits, Jude purposefully walked in their direction followed closely by Sharon and Bridget, evidence in hand, holding the Titleist ball high as she shouted accusingly, “Which one of you arseholes just smashed my windscreen?”
“My goodness, I’m terribly sorry. I just hit a horrible slice,” said one, quite contritely.
“And? What are you going to do about it?” Jude responded angrily.
“I suppose I’ll try strengthening my grip a little,” replied the same gentleman, the shorter of the two, without a hint of sarcasm.
At that precise moment, Jude recognized the taller man as a client of her bank, and stated with surprise, “Mark Darcy! I didn’t realize you golfed here.” Her tone had changed dramatically, all sign of anger now gone.
Bridget then exclaimed, “Jeremy!”
“Bridget?” He replied, relaxing a little as he recognized his wife’s good friend, walking over and pulling her into a warm embrace, as he whispered into her ear, “Thank God, I thought she was going to castrate us!”
Bridget then looked at Mark’s face, seeing him tinge pink in embarrassment. “Hello,” she said quite frostily.
“Hello, again,” he replied, attempting to smile but somehow it looked more like a pained grimace.
“Do you two know one another?” asked Jeremy, as Jude and Sharon looked on in confusion.
“Reindeer jumper,” Bridget replied to all three, sarcasm dripping from her voice.
“Ah,” they said in unison, causing Mark to feel he’d somehow missed an inside joke at his expense.
“Jude, of course you must let us pay for your car repair,” Mark said, pointedly looking at Bridget, as if to say, ‘See, I’m not all bad’.
Looking up at him, Jude trilled, “I’ll put in for insurance. I’m sure it’s covered, so no worries.” Bridget couldn’t help but think her friend had changed her tune once she realized she knew him professionally and worse yet, that he was tall and attractive. Bloody hell, she thought. She knows how utterly rude he was to me and conveniently forgot!
After over two months of lessons, Jude felt she and Bridget were good enough to attempt a tee time on a late Saturday afternoon, opting to play only nine holes on their first try. Shaz had dropped out, citing her work schedule but they both agreed she really didn’t have an athletic bone in her body and had instead chosen to spend her evenings shagging her newest boyfriend. While Bridget had actually caught on quite quickly, possibly due to the extra training she was receiving from the handsome club pro that she’d been on several dates with, Jude was just marginally improved from when they’d begun. When making their tee time, she specifically requested that they not be paired up with any experienced players, worried that their novice play would slow down the round.
Jude stood over her tee shot, trying to remember everything that she’d learnt. Don’t move your head; one piece backswing; toe of the driver in the air. Taking a deep, calming breath, she swung the club, praying that the ball landed in bounds. Her first indication that she had hit a good shot was when Bridget squealed loudly, clapping her hands for her friend. “Bravo, Jude! Right down the center!”
Next up, Bridget teed her ball high, took a practice swing and let loose. Her shot sailed past Jude’s, landing about twenty yards further, also in the fairway. Jude’s eyes bugged out as she gave her friend an admiring look, before saying with a laugh, “Just how many free lessons have you had from Ellis??”
The smug look she got in return told her all she needed to know about Bridget’s private golf lessons. After hitting their second shots well short of the green, Bridget’s third shot landed on the green, but behind the pin, at the very back, on the collar. From that distance she three putted, jumping up and down when she holed an eight foot putt for a double bogey. Jude missed a four foot putt, giving her a triple bogey. They hugged once they put the flag back in the hole, happy that they hadn’t embarrassed themselves and doing much better than they had thought. “I honestly thought I’d be happy with anything less than a ten, so I’m chuffed with a seven!” exclaimed Jude proudly.
“You didn’t have a seven, you had a ‘triple bogey’”, said Bridget proudly, using the nomenclature that Ellis had been drilling into her head for what seemed like months. “And I had a ‘double bogey’”.
“Speaking of Ellis, how did your date go last night?”
“Not sure,” she said and paused, thinking of how best to answer. “His idea of a date was going to the driving range for two hours. We went back to his flat after with a takeaway pizza.”
“And?” said Jude, motioning with her hand for her friend to continue.
“And he turned on the telly to check the weather for the coming weekend! Has a big tournament he’s competing in with mates from uni. He kept changing the station between BBC and ITV, as if it was going to improve from channel to channel. By the way, sixty percent chance of rain both days. Oh, and I kept finding tees in the strangest places. Under the couch pillows, in the fridge and I even stepped on one!
“So, that’s it? He only wanted to watch the weather forecast? That’s slightly disappointing,” Jude said with a sigh, hoping for a racy story from her friend, since her own love life was quite lackluster at the moment.
“Well, I will say that as a golf professional, he can use his hips extremely well,” she replied with a laugh, watching as Jude’s eyes widened.
Jude then muttered, “At least someone’s getting some shagging in besides Shaz...” Then, a little louder, she finished with enthusiasm, “And he is very fit!”
As they finished their fourth hole, they rolled up on the fifth tee box, only to find the two men that had accidentally broken Jude’s car’s windscreen a couple months ago, standing and waiting to hit their tee shots.
“Bridget, Jude!” said Jeremy in greeting, as he walked over to the golf buggy and gave Bridget a kiss on the cheek and Jude a small hug. “Thank you for being so understanding about your car. I’ve honestly not been so embarrassed in my life. I still can’t figure out how I managed to slice my ball so far right,” he looked at his playing partner while he said this, laughing at his obvious discomfort.
“Don’t think anything of it,” replied Jude, and Bridget again noticed that her tone had changed the minute the men approached, becoming very sweet and accommodating. She quickly remembered that they had taken up the sport for this very reason; to meet men. Although her good friend Magda’s husband and his very rude friend were not exactly her idea of eligible bachelors.
“Please, join us. We’re waiting on the group in front of us on every shot, so there’s nowhere to go,” asked Jeremy.
“Jeremy, it’s our first time playing,” responded Bridget, looking over at Mark, seeing him try to hide his irritation at his friend’s invite. Maybe because of his obvious chagrin, she looked at Jude, noting her friend’s willing expression before speaking for them both, “We’d love to!” She almost laughed aloud when she saw Mark’s expression before he forced a smile for the two women.
Although they didn’t score nearly as well as the men, they both held their own, not hitting any balls too far off the fairway and certainly not slowing them down.
“Bridge, I know you’ve been practicing, but you’re really quite good for your first time out. And Jude, I must say, your putting is spectacular.” Jeremy knew how to pile it on and for once Bridget wasn’t arsed with him, feeling they could both use the encouragement from more adept players.
“Yes, you both seem naturals. I know players, men and women, who aren’t nearly as good as you both, even after several years,” Mark reiterated supportively. Bridget smiled at him, to which he tentatively responded with a grin. He really does look much better when he’s not wearing a large, horned animal on his jumper, she thought.
Thinking she should confess that she had played before, due to her lessons with Ellis, she admitted, “It may not technically be my first time out.” She looked at Jude and Jeremy with a smug grin, then to Mark when he started to laugh out loud. “What?,” she asked him, wanting to know what he thought so funny.
“Nothing, nothing,” he said, continuing his laughter, until Jeremy chimed in, “Mark may have said he’d buy me a pint if this was the first time you’d ever played. So thank you for that, Bridget!” he laughed good-naturedly. “Magda did mention you may have been getting some private lessons.”
Not sure why she even cared, she quickly looked over to Mark at Jeremy’s comment about her love life, noting the intrigued look on his face, before he noticed her attention on him and bent to re-tie his shoe.
Once back in their buggy, Jude gave her friend a dirty look. “Why didn’t you let on that you’d been playing? No wonder you’re more advanced than me!”
“I told you that’s all Ellis wants to do. I swear, the man eats, sleeps and breathes golf.”
On their last hole, a short par three, Jeremy’s shot flew well to the right of the flag, landing in some deep grass just off the green, causing Mark to smile broadly at his friend’s bad luck. They had a bet going and evidently dinner was riding on the outcome. Mark’s shot sailed high and directly towards the pin, but as it was a raised green, it wasn’t possible to see how the shot had finished. Once on the ladies’ tees, Jude next hit her ball, watching as it left her club without any discernible loft, sticking hard in the front of the green, but only a couple yards short. “Fuck,” she muttered, so that only Bridget could hear as she passed her walking to the tee box. Bridget could sense Mark’s eyes on her; the shorts she wore definitely showing off her climber’s legs and for once she didn’t curse the numerous stairs up to her flat. Just to make sure, once she had teed her ball, she glanced quickly to Mark, noting the appreciative look on his face. Eschewing the practice swing, she instead took her five iron back behind her shoulders, following through with perfect form, watching the ball arc towards the flag.
“Beautiful,” she heard Mark say to Jeremy, except she wasn’t sure he meant only her golf shot by the tone of his voice.
Jeremy and Jude clapped as her ball hit the putting surface like Mark’s shot, seemingly somewhere near the hole, still being unable to tell how close, due to the elevation.
After she dropped Jude off near her ball and Mark had let Jeremy out, they both parked the buggies very near each other and made the climb to the putting surface, seeing only one ball just a couple of feet shy of the pin. Knowing they had both struck excellent shots, Bridget was perplexed as to why there was only the single ball. Mark glanced at the remaining ball then crept up towards the hole and let out a shout of excitement upon seeing the other lying in the cup. Looking down at the ball near her feet and seeing it was the model that Ellis had given her to play, she turned to congratulate him, just as he said with admiration, “Well done! Magnificent shot, Bridget!”, even pulling her into a congratulatory hug in his excitement. Jeremy and Jude had hurried over at hearing Mark’s enthusiastic outburst at the hole in one.
“So, which one of you hit it?!” said Jeremy in awe.
The confused look on both their faces gave him pause and it was at this point Bridget and Mark realised they were playing exactly the same model of ball, with the same number and with no discernible markings. It was impossible to be absolutely certain which was whose; therefore they were forced to declare both balls lost and march back down the hill to play three off the tee. Jeremy almost split his pants laughing at Mark’s crestfallen look when he realised he had now also lost the match and would be picking up dinner.
As they were trudging back down to the tee box, Bridget told Mark, “I don’t understand why we have to say both balls were lost and re-tee. I’ll gladly take the one that was a foot away and you can have the hole in one.”
Throwing his arm around her shoulders, Jeremy said loudly, not trying to hide his amusement and so Mark could hear, “Ah Bridge, you see, golf’s a gentleman’s sport and the rules must be followed. Mark is now hitting three.”
Over ten years later -
Lying in bed, Bridget felt Mark lightly run his fingers over her growing stomach. Putting her hand over her husband’s, she asked, “Mark, why don’t we play golf anymore? I mean not right now as I’m pregnant, but before. Did you play while we were apart? You were really quite good at it.”
“No, I hadn’t played in years, except for the odd work event. Jeremy still plays often and tries to get me out occasionally.”
“Didn’t Carmela play?” she asked mischievously, knowing full well she had the name incorrect.
“Actually, she did and very well. But I thought of it as our sport and my heart just wasn’t in it after we split. How about you? Did you maintain your game?”
“For a while, but then work got in the way. I’d like to play again, once the baby’s born. What do you think?”
He rolled onto his side to look her in the face and said, very seriously, “I’ve a confession. Remember when Jeremy broke Jude’s windscreen in the car park, with his errant tee shot? Just after we’d met at the turkey curry buffet and I’d seen you briefly at the book launch?”
She nodded yes, as he continued, “It may have been my bad shot that hit Jude’s car.” He didn’t look at her face while telling her this, as if embarrassed.
“Mark! Why didn’t you just say so? Jude wouldn’t have been angry at you. She was practically drooling when she recognized you from the bank.”
“When Jeremy saw it was you, realised that I knew you, he put two and two together and deduced that you were the one I had a slight crush on, as I had no idea you and Magda were friends. So he confessed to being the culprit. I certainly didn’t ask him to and had no idea what he was up to until it was too late.”
“He definitely did a good job of acting! I’d have never known. That’s very sweet of him. But why didn’t you ask me out then? We didn’t see each other until the Aghani interview and then you went all the way to New York without even so much as a...” she started to laugh at the memory.
“Why are you laughing? And I didn’t ask you out as you were already seeing Daniel and now the golf pro at the club.”
“I only went out with him to get free lessons. Did I ever tell you what Shaz said, when they came to take me to Paris, to forget about everything, particularly you?”
“Not that I remember. But knowing Sharon, I can only imagine,” he laughed.
“She asked, and I quote, ‘Has he ever actually stuck his fucking tongue down your fucking throat?’”
Even Mark was surprised at her friend’s answer, laughing along with Bridget at the long ago memory. Until he moved over so that he was on top of her, supporting his weight on his elbows, careful of the baby, before he said, “Is this what she meant?” and he bent down to kiss her thoroughly, which led to further things and eventually utter, passionate joy.