The Secret to Golf Tom Macaulay 1 by theolduni


									The Secret to Golf                                               Tom Macaulay

Chapter 41

When the All Points Bulletin was issued for Atom Clay, he, Lynn, and
Melinda were twenty miles past Tucson, heading east on I-10 on their way
to Van Horn, Texas. The travelers missed the news because the car radio
was turned off; so Atom was not aware that he was the target of a
manhunt, a “person of interest” in the murders of his former wife and
WPGA Tour star Native Hill. Clay was considered to be armed and

It was long past midnight when the tired troupe finally arrived in Van
Horn. They escaped I-10 at Exit # 140A, took a left onto Van Horn Street,
drove past Desert and Cactus Streets, and turned right onto Broadway.
The exhausted travelers hungered more for sleep than food, so they
passed all the fast food places and pulled into the parking lot of the first
decent-looking hotel that had a vacancy. It wasn’t long before the three
sleepyheads were snoring in their beds. It was the longest Atom had
driven since waking from his coma and the most tired he had been since
his Marine Corps boot camp days.

After ninety minutes of deep, comatose-like sleep, Atom felt a hand grasp
his leg and shake it.

“Atom,” a voice whispered. “Get up. We have to go.”

Atom resisted the arousal. He was in much-needed, much-appreciated,
and very deep slumber.

“Atom,” the voice whispered again, this time with more urgency. “Get up.
We need to go. We need to go now.”

Atom started to come to. “What the…”

“Shhh!” the intruder commanded. “Don’t wake the others. It’s me,
Winston. Winston Cattlemyre.”

“Winston? But I thought you were…”

“Dead, I know. Yes, it’s a long story. I am and I’m not. We all are.”

As he struggled with consciousness, Atom was certain that he had to be
dreaming. Winston Cattlemyre was dead. That he knew. This, then, had to
be a dream. It had to be one of those dreams that surviving coma victims
have, the kind of dream that former coma victims swear are real.

“Get up now. Time’s wasting,” the voice claiming to be Winston Cattlemyre

The Secret to Golf                                                   Tom Macaulay

Atom was compelled to rise from the bed. He was compelled to get up, get
dressed, and do whatever this intruder, this alleged Winston Cattlemyre,
was telling him to do. It was as if Atom was under the spell of a hypnotist
and Winston Cattlemyre was the hypnotist. Atom quietly got up, got
dressed, opened the hotel room door, and left the room with the ghost of
Winston Cattlemyre. Melinda and Lynn were so soundly asleep that the
sound of the lock snapping shut did not wake them.

The front desk clerk, watching on the hotel’s surveillance system video
monitors, saw Atom and another figure leave the hotel via one of the
hotel’s back doors. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and the clerk
thought nothing of it. The video system captured images of Atom and the
other figure getting into Atom’s rental car and leaving the area.

Per Winston Cattlemyre’s instructions, Atom got back onto I-10, which was
also the old U.S. Route 80, heading east. Three miles outside the Van
Horn city limits, near where the Union Pacific railroad track diverges in its
path parallel to old U.S. 80, Winston told Atom to pull off the highway into
a rest area.

The empty rest area was dark and quiet and gave Atom an eerie feeling.
Why was he here? Maybe he had better get back to the hotel, back to
where Lynn and Melinda were secure in their beds. He was quickly tiring of
this dream. He was dreaming, wasn’t he? Wasn’t he just imagining that he
was at this rest stop just off old highway 80 outside Van Horn? Wasn’t he
still “dead to the world” at the hotel? Atom couldn’t say for sure.
Something had compelled him to come to this rest stop. Wasn’t it Winston
Cattlemyre? Atom became aware that Winston Cattlemyre was no longer
with him! Where had Winston gone? This had to be a dream!

With not a little trepidation, Atom got out of his car. He felt like an idiot for
doing so. He knew this wasn’t a good idea. It was dark, too dark out here
away from the light pollution of Van Horn. Are there bears out here? Atom
wondered. What about coyotes? Or mountain lions or snakes? Atom felt
vulnerable. He could be mauled at any second by any number of wild
animals in this isolated area away from town and there wouldn’t be a
damn thing that he or anybody else could do about it. Atom listened. It
was eerily quiet except for the occasional passing of cars and trucks on the
highway in the distance. I’d better get back, Atom thought. He started to
make a move for the car when a man’s voice startled him.


The suddenness of the deep voice raised the hackles on the back of Atom
Clay’s neck. As he turned in the direction toward where the voice
originated, goose bumps buzzed his whole head and neck. There was no
getting around it; Atom was scared. He wished he’d had Winston’s gun. He
dared not blink, lest he miss an attack. Who was calling him? Who knew

The Secret to Golf                                                Tom Macaulay

he would be here, at this rest stop three miles east of a small Texas town
at three o’clock in the dead of night? A warm breeze cooled the sweat on
Atom’s forehead. Stars and a crescent moon provided enough light that
Atom could make out the shadowy profile of a man wearing a Ben Hogan
cap, seated at the bench of a sheltered picnic table.

“Atom,” the voice insisted. “Don’t be afraid, dammit! Come over here.”

Atom recognized that voice. Where did he know that voice? He cautiously
approached the shadowy figure in the Ben Hogan cap.

This has to be a dream, Atom thought. This has to be one of those
dreams. Then Atom remembered where he had previously heard that
distinctive voice -- television interviews.

“Mr. Hogan,” Atom acknowledged and greeted the ghost of Ben Hogan.

“Damn, I thought you’d never get over here. Come on closer,” the ghost of
Ben Hogan said.

Atom approached as close as he dared. He still didn’t know what to make
of what was happening. This had to be a dream. After all, hadn’t he driven
a dozen hours during the day? Hadn’t he welcomed that hotel bed like a
skydiver in freefall welcomes the sight of the parachute billowing above
him? Atom concluded that he must be dreaming, but he wanted to let this
dream happen, to see where it would take him.

“Atom,” Ben Hogan said, “I haven’t much time. But, let me first... you see
that stretch of road over there?” Atom turned toward the direction the
image of Ben Hogan was pointing, but he couldn’t see anything. It was too
dark. “That was where that damn bus killed me.”

Atom knew about the bus accident. Everybody knew about the bus
accident that almost killed Ben Hogan on that Groundhog Day in 1949.

“Killed you?” Atom asked. “I thought you survived that accident.”

“I did,” Hogan responded. “Eventually, I did. But I was dead for about
fifteen minutes before help arrived.”

“I didn’t know that,” Atom said.

“Few people do,” Hogan continued, “I was gone. I was dead. I got a
glimpse of the Other Side. I got a sneak peak of what it was like to be
dead. You don’t need to ask about it. I’m going to tell you anyway.
Immediately after the bus hit us I was just sort of sailing down a tunnel
that had a light at the end. That’s what happens when you die, you know.
If you ever find yourself floating through a tunnel toward a light, you’re on

The Secret to Golf                                                   Tom Macaulay

your way to the Other Side. But don’t be afraid. It’s a better life on this
side than on yours. But, I miss some things. I miss the golf competition.
Don’t tell anyone that though,” Hogan chuckled. “We’re all supposed to be
on equal terms on this side. There’s golf here, but it’s not much fun.
Everybody shoots in the fifties. Everybody ties. You just play for the fun of
ball striking and watching that ball sail forever down the middle of the
fairway. You’ll find out.”

“Atom,” Ben Hogan continued, “like I said, I haven’t much time. Let’s get
this done. You may know that I gave Winston Cattlemyre the secret to
golf. Actually, I gave it to Kilthau Brown. I liked that kid. He’s over here
now, too, you know. We sometimes play a round of golf together. We can
play at night here. Don’t need lights. Only problem is those damn
sprinklers. Everybody waters their courses at night. Those damn sprinklers
come on when you least expect it. Makes it hard to concentrate. Ever have
a shooting sprinkler come on in the middle of your backswing? Scares the
hell out of ya. Y’think it’s a rattlesnake. They’re out, too, by the way.
Rattlesnakes, I mean. So be careful. They come out at night. They can’t
see you but they can sense your body heat. They’re heat-seekers, you
know. They’ll bite your ankles and sting your ass all the way up.”

Atom gulped and Ben Hogan grinned.

“Atom, I gave Winston Cattlemyre the secret to golf,” Hogan continued,
“but he’s playing games with you with this treasure hunt thing, which I
don’t agree with. You’ll never solve the puzzles. He’s made them too hard.
So I’m going to flat out tell you what the secret is.”

Atom was ‘all ears’. When Ben Hogan speaks, all real golfers listen. “I’m
listening,” he said.

“Actually, there are twelve parts to it. The first part is to hit a bag of balls
before you play.”

“What’s the second part?” Atom asked. He wanted to get on with it. Hitting
a bag of balls before you play was nothing new. Atom always hit a bag of
balls before he played a round of golf. Even a casual round. He just always
felt he’d play his best if he warmed up before a round.

“So you want to skip the first secret?” Hogan asked.

“I wouldn’t say I’m skipping it,” Atom answered. “It’s just that I already do
that. I already hit a bag of balls before I play.”

“No, you don’t,” Hogan insisted.

The Secret to Golf                                               Tom Macaulay

Atom refrained from arguing with the great Ben Hogan. He decided it
would be in his best interest to just keep his mouth shut and listen to what
the master had to say.

“OK,” Atom said, “I’m listening.”

“Good,” Ben Hogan said, “here we go then. Always hit a bag of balls
before you play. But not just any balls. Hit these balls.” With that, the
shadowy figure of Ben Hogan -- the ghost of Ben Hogan -- threw a bag of
golf balls onto the ground at Atom Clay’s feet.

“These are special golf balls,” Hogan said. “They’re magic balls.”

Hogan waited for Clay to respond, but none came. After a few moments
Hogan gave up. “Don’t you want to know what’s magic about them?”

“Of course,” Atom answered. “Sure.”

“I used these when I played the tour,” Hogan said. “These balls were my
real secret. Old Tom Morris gave them to me. You probably don’t know
about Old Tom Morris.”

Atom admitted that he didn’t know Tom Morris.

“You can look him up,” Hogan said. “Anyway, Old Tom gave me these
magic golf balls. Now... what’s magic about these golf balls is that nobody
but you can see them. Well, I can see them. So can Old Tom. You can see
them and feel them. But nobody else can. Go ahead. Pick up the bag of

Atom picked up the bag at his feet. He could feel the golf balls inside the
bag. Judging by the size and weight of the bag and its contents, Atom
guessed that there must be twenty to thirty golf balls in the bag.

Hogan continued, “Nobody else who is alive can see these balls. There’re a
couple of guys on the tour that have a set like these. Ed Root is one. Tiger
Woods is another.”

Atom wondered about the significance of the two best players in the world
having bags of these magic golf balls. What was the connection?

“The connection,” Ben Hogan said -- it was as if he could read Atom’s
thoughts -- “is in how you use them. You got any idea?”

“No, sir, I don’t,” Atom confessed.

“Didn’t think so. Here’s how you use them. ‘Hit a bag of balls before you
play’ does not mean to hit a bucket of practice balls to warm up prior to a

The Secret to Golf                                                  Tom Macaulay

round of golf. It means, before you hit a chip or pitch shot -- or any shot
for that matter – on the course during a round – drop a bag of these
invisible balls on the ground and hit them onto the green. Observe where
each ball lands and note how far each ball rolls after it lands. After two or
three practice shots, you will be able to determine where you need to land
the ball on the green in order to stop it as close to the hole as possible. Hit
as many of these magic balls as you want -- until the feel of the shot you
need to hit is burned indelibly into your hands. Nobody but you can see
these magic balls, and nobody can stop you from hitting practice shots
with them. Don’t take a whole lot of time with it, though. You’ll usually get
the feel in two to four shots. Once the feel is ‘hot in your hands’, go ahead
and hit the real ball.”

Atom was fascinated by this idea. He had often spent hours practicing his
short game, and usually, after three or four practice shots from a given
spot, he could hit each succeeding shot very close to the hole. Of course,
the real problem facing a tournament golfer during a round is that,
according to the rules, he is not allowed to hit any practice shots. On the
course, in the midst of a round, the golfer gets only one shot… just one
chance to stop the ball near the hole. If a golfer were allowed to hit
several practice shots -- until the feel of the shot needed is “burned
indelibly into your hands,” as the ghost of Ben Hogan had just put it – it is
likely that the golfer could “save par” practically every time. With these
magic balls, these invisible balls, Atom could do just that – hit as many
practice shots as he needed for the feel for the shot to be “hot in his
hands.” In command of the feel, Atom believed that he could then stop his
“real” shots close to the hole very nearly every time. No longer would
missing a green in regulation lead to a bogey.

“Thank you, Mr. Hogan!” Atom exclaimed excitedly. “I get it! ‘Hit a bag of
balls before you play.’ The concept is pure genius! Thank you!”

“Thank Old Tom Morris.”

“I’ll look him up.”

“While you’re at it,” Hogan added, “watch a video tape of Tiger Woods on
the sixteenth hole of the 2005 Masters.”

“Who could ever forget that?” Atom asked. “That was when Woods pitched
the ball maybe twenty feet to the left of the hole and the ball trickled
down the slope and stopped briefly on the edge of the hole before
eventually toppling in.”

“That’s right. But watch what he did prior to the shot. He was hitting some
of these magic balls. He was practicing! He hit a bunch of these magic
balls before he played the shot for real.”

The Secret to Golf                                               Tom Macaulay

“I remember that! “ Atom said. “Tiger always hits a bunch of imaginary
balls before a tough short shot. I remember that now.”

“They’re not imaginary. I can see and feel them. So can Old Tom Morris.
So can Ed Root and Tiger Woods.”

“Will I be able to see Tiger’s magic golf balls?” Atom asked.

“Nope. You’ll only be able to see these,” Hogan responded.

“Oh, oh,” Hogan added. “We’ve taken too much time. I’ve got to go. Meet
me here on Groundhog Day next year. If you haven’t figured Winston’s
hieroglyphics out by then, I’ll tell you the other eleven secrets. Look out
for an...”

Suddenly, Ben Hogan was gone. With the bag of magic golf balls in hand,
Atom scurried toward his car. He couldn’t wait to try these magic golf balls
during a tournament. If it were really true that Atom could use the magic
balls during rounds of golf, those magic balls could easily save him three
to six shots a round.

Moving hastily in the dark of night, Atom accidentally snagged a trousers
pocket on the corner of a picnic table, tearing a gaping hole in the pocket.
But Atom couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel, back to his secure bed. He
decided to worry about the hole in his trousers later.

Atom tossed the bag of magic golf balls onto the passenger seat and raced
back to the hotel. This was a great dream, he thought. I hope I remember
it after I wake up.


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