A brush with death at putt-putt

It began innocently enough. We thought it would be fun to take the children to play putt-putt at the beach. After all, this is a family custom dating back to the days when 7-15 Page 4A.inddputt-putt at the beach was pretty plain and simple.

In those days we stayed at Crescent Beach, pre-high-rise, and came off the beach at 11 a.m. when our mothers said the midday hours from 11-2 were when the sun was too hot for us to be out there.

So, we’d come in, change into clothes, put on our hats and walk a block or two down to the one putt-putt course next-door to White’s Realty. There were 18 holes, no large animals or any kind of theme involved in the game, just plain green carpet on top of concrete. If you got a hole in one on the 18th hole, you earned a free game.

Well, last week we loaded everyone into the cars (it took two for our crowd) and drove down Highway 17 looking for a course.

We finally arrived at Jungle Island, paid an exorbitant amount of money, picked out our clubs and balls and walked out into the now exotic land of putt-putt. It was hot, but there were palm trees along the way and some waterfalls with a volcano and giant masks.

There was a pretty intense discussion about who got which ball colors, but it was settled soon and we began. We weren’t uncomfortable at first until we reached the third hole. There was no shade, and we realized it was close to 100 degrees. We all began to sweat profusely.

Some among us grew cranky, especially if we couldn’t get the ball into the hole.

By the seventh hole, one of our younger members, after eight attempts to get the ball in, became discouraged and had to have a little pep talk.

By the time we reached the ninth hole, this person was just carrying his club with a grim expression on his face, sweat dripping down his chin.

Nobody had thought to bring a canteen. If we’d had good sense, which apparently no one did, we’d have called it a day at the 10th hole, but it had cost so much to play that our Scot’s blood forbade it. We had to get our money’s worth, even if it killed us.

When we reached the cave beneath the volcano, I’d lost interest in who was ahead and was more concerned about staying alive. Some of us lay down on the green inside the cave and rested in the comparative coolness while waiting for the others.

We were scooping water out of the river beneath the waterfall and splashing it on our faces near the end. One of younger members still had his club but was dragging it behind him lethargically, like a tail.

As we came to each hole — and there seemed to be a neverending supply of them — we’d say, “just four more,” “just three more,” “look, the next one is the last one.”

This last discovery proved so invigorating that our youngest member actually played the 18th and made it by rolling the ball into the hole without his club, an apparently illegal move if we’d been playing soccer. But by then, nobody cared if it was legal or not. We just wanted something to drink. We finished, dripping wet and in danger of heat stroke, made our way to the office and bought Gatorade. Nobody even asked who had won.

It was the next day before anyone bothered to add up the scored, and even the winner couldn’t work up a lot of excitement about his victory.

But then, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s whether you live to finish the game. And we did.