A Match 40 Years in the Making

Brad Kenny and Tommy looking dapper

Brad Tommy and Steve

This past weekend was an all-Holston High School reunion.  Every class, from when Holston was first established as a high school in 1958 in Knoxville, to when it transitioned to a middle school in 1991, was invited to a large park where everyone from every class could mingle, lie about how popular they were in high school, and marvel at how old everyone else looked.

I haven’t lived in Knoxville since I graduated from the University of Tennessee.  I’ll always be a Tennesseean (half of my wardrobe is orange), but I haven’t even lived in Tennessee since 2000.  I haven’t seen most people I went to high school with since the ten-year reunion.  Or maybe five-year reunion… it’s been a while…

The Match

This reunion had its own Facebook page and the organizers– which did a phenomenal job (shoutout to Gregg and Jeannie)– kept everyone up to date on the details of the planning of the event.  I decided to drive over from Charlotte and attend and see if I could remember anyone.

And of course marvel at how old everyone else looked.

I called my good friend and fellow retired Navy Officer John and lovely wife Sweet Melissa to see if I could crash at their place, and he said he thought there was a spare blanket in the garage, so I was set.

And then I thought:  I need to see if anyone would want to play golf!  So I threw it out there on Facebook.  Two of my good friends from high school days responded and said yes.  I played high school baseball with Kenny.  Tommy and I and a few other knuckleheads took my dad’s car from Knoxville to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl my freshman year at UT.  They touched base with another friend and fellow baseballer, Steve, to round out the foursome.

And I hadn’t seen any of them, to my recollection, in over thirty years.

That is, until this past Saturday morning at Ruggles Ferry Golf Club in East Knox County.  Which was quite convenient since the course is almost within walking distance from John and Melissa’s country estate.

The Meeting

I had communicated with Tommy primarily, and we both thought it would be a good idea to switch cart partners every six holes.  It’s not like those three see each other very often, either, so that way we could all have more or less equal time to visit and catch up, to the extent you can do that and still play golf.

Tommy said he’d be on the range at 8 for an 8:45 tee time.  Kenny said he’d be there at 6:30.

(And that’s when things began sounding like this…)

Four High School Classmates walk into a pro shop…

Sounds like a bad bar joke.

I had no idea if I would recognize any of them, although I’ve seen a few pictures of Kenny and Tommy on Facebook and they actually haven’t changed all that much.  Well, except for the hair, or lack of it.  But otherwise, I was pretty sure I’d recognize them.  Steve I hadn’t seen even a photo of since high school, so he was the wildcard.  But I trusted they would recognize me, and if not, worst-case scenario would be that we all show up for the 8:45 start and say to each other, “That was you on the range???”

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We got there at different times, but all within a few minutes of 8 am.  It was a really foggy morning, and standing on the practice range, we were all hitting some awesome shots (at least, that’s the assumption), since they were all out-of-sight within 50 yards.

We hit balls, asked about kids and grandkids and parents.  Not having lived in Knoxville in 40 years, I got a lot of “Do you remember X?” and my response was universally, “I kinda remember the name, a little.”  Then I’d get one of the following:

  • “She died last year”
  • “He just got out of jail”
  • “I ran into him at Wal-Mart and he looks awful”
  • “She looks good…from a distance”  (my favorite)

On the putting green it occurred to me we had never played golf with each other.  Not through high school, not after high school, not ever.  I asked the other three if I was right, and they couldn’t remember it ever happening so we all came to that conclusion.  So this wasn’t just a reunion, it was an event!

Kenny’s dad was a golf pro at one of the country clubs in Knoxville, but he was never a big golfer that I remember.  His older brother was, but not Kenny.  It’s important to remember that golf in high school was not cool like it is cool now in high school.  I have mentioned this here before:  I  was was asked to be on the high school golf team by one of the guys on the team and responded, “Are you crazy?”  I played baseball.

And I didn’t even know Steve played golf until Saturday.  That was just one of the many factoids, oddities, exaggerations and magnifications that occurred between us for the next five hours.

The Course

Ruggles Ferry Golf Club is a relatively new course (it didn’t exist when I lived there), opening in 2001.  Four sets of tees allow the course to be played anywhere from 5300 yards to over 7000 from the tips.

For the record:  We didn’t play from the tips.

Lying between Knoxville and Gatlinburg in the Smokey Mountains, it is a rolling, wide open course.  You can get in trouble, but you have to attempt to do so.  The fairways are wide and in outstanding shape. There are bunkers on many holes but they aren’t overly penal.  The rough was wet as Knoxville has had its share of rain the past few weeks.  The result was the course played long since there was no roll-out on any shots.

The Play

We just played regular golf.  No games, no bets, nothing to have to track other than scores.  We were too busy complimenting (or not) each other’s game, comparing where we’d played, holes-in-one (Two each for Tommy and Steve, none each for Kenny and yours truly), and a myriad of other topics.

I had no idea what to expect from them regarding their play.  Or myself for that matter.  I had not played much in the last three weeks.  With the preparation for, and experience of, Hurricane Florence, that wiped out a week.  I am a local government consultant and had some work I had to get done for a city I’m working for, so a few days were devoted to work.  My wife flew out for a week-long conference the same day our dog got sick, so I was dealing with him all last week including a long trip to the vet.

In other words, as any experienced golfer knows, being loaded with excuses for a match was a necessity, and I wasn’t going into this one empty-handed!

Kenny showing good form on the tee

All I hoped for was they we would be comparable, and that no one would ten or twenty strokes ahead or behind the rest.  And that’s how it turned out.  As for our accomplishments on the course, modesty and professional journalistic ethics prevents me from announcing who was the medalist.  But we were all within a few strokes of each other, and in fact only six strokes separated the low and high scores.

The Last Putt

We putted out, shook hands, then hugged when we got to the cars in the parking lot.  And even though we had taken some photos on a teebox once the fog had lifted, we decided to go take a few more.

I promised I’d let them know next time I’m in Knoxville so we could do it again.

Who knows if we will.  One thing I do know is:  This was a blast.  I had a great time.  We all did.  There were too many “Let’s do this again soon” comments for it to not have been a great experience for everyone.  I’m looking forward to it soon.

My recommendation would be, if you have old friends you haven’t played golf with in a long time, make a small effort and get in touch and propose a game.  I’m pretty certain you won’t regret it.

Thank you Tommy, Kenny and Steve.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy Shooting Your Age!


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