By Dan Harvey Pedrick
As another polo season draws to a close there have been sobering
reports of a number of injuries in both the high and low goal
ranks to remind us of the risks inherent in our beloved game. So,
when I finished up the season with hardly more than a few small
dents I felt pretty lucky. But then, I kind of expected the
danger factor to drop when I came over to polo from the utterly
suicidal sport I played at the beginning of my amateur athletic
Yes, golf. Now there's a sport that only a real maniac would
play. I mean, at least that's my take on it, which is founded in
my first experience of it as a callow youth of fifteen.
I found a summer job as a caddy that year at the local country club. We got ten bucks a bag to do eighteen holes, not counting tips. With a bag on each shoulder it worked out to about twenty- five bucks for four hours labor which, back then, was enough money to make me feel like a Horatio Alger character as I pedalled home on my bike at the end of each workday.
And the club management, God bless 'em, recognized that they
should encourage caddies like me in such beliefs. After all,
where were future members going to come from if not from the
entrprenurial class? So, at the end of the summer, just before
all the younger members of the caddy corps went back to school,
they threw a big party. "Caddy Day" they called--hot dogs,
burgers, soda pop, the pool. It was great. Then, in the afternoon,
a regulation style golf tournament for caddies only. The full
eighteen hole PGA sanctioned course was at our complete disposal.
To my surprise I was invited to join a foursome with some older buddies who were actually pretty decent players. I'd learned a little about golf during the summer but this was to be my first real game and I was a bit nervous that I might wash out badly. But as I started winding up for my tee-off I got the better of my fear and smacked a beautiful, long drive straight down the middle of the fairway. If my partners couldn't believe it, well, neither could I. But I stayed cool and acted like it was just... par for the course.
Call it beginner's luck, but I'm telling you I went on from there to par the first two holes and birdie the second. As I strode proudly up the fairway of hole four after another super drive I felt like I'd gained six inches in height. Plus, I had this growing feeling that something very special was about to happen to me. I began to visualize myself as a successful and respected athlete, travelling around the world, signing autographs, dating opera stars and models, driving a Jag. Suddenly a voice shouted off in the distance, shattering my reverie. "FORE!"
A split second later a Super Titleist #5 golf ball travelling at ninety miles an hour collided head-on with all my fond hopes for the future--in particular any having to do with biological reproduction. I doubled up and crumpled into the lush, green turf like a shot turkey. My partners came running over. "What happened?" they cried, but all I could do was gasp.
"He's having some kind of fit!" said one.
"Maybe he ate a bad burger," offered another.
In my agony I managed to point to the Titleist #5 lying innocently on the grass, then gestured immodestly to the place of impact. My partners then demonstrated their true worth and un-symapthetically began to smirk and make dumb cracks. (I've never liked golf players since that day!) Finally they became impatient. Lifting me up like a wounded soldier, they ignored my groans and plopped me on a bench at the next tee. "Are you gonna be able to tee off, or what?" they asked, still giggling and clowning around.
"Go ahead," I whispered, still reeling from the pain, "I'll catch you up." They teed off and I watched them disappear down the fairway. With them went my incipient dreams of fame, fortune and glory. After about fifteen minutes I managed to get to my feet and slink away to where my bike was parked and pedalled home.
So, there you go. A life-changing injury can happen anywhere, anytime, most often when you least expect it. Some people say polo is pretty dangerous, and maybe it is--but, hey, if you play golf you're just plain asking for it!
(This piece was originally published in POLO Magazine by Contributing Editor Dan Harvey Pedrick
of Victoria, B.C. Dan extends his sympathy to all polo players who may have
suffered injuries this season and hopes a bit of laughter may speed up the healing
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