Robert Haydon Jones
and Matthew Levine

Matthew Levine
“Longshore, late in the season at 17”
Inspiration piece

Golf By His Lonesome
By Robert Haydon Jones

Rob knew this golf course very well. It was close to his home.

Back when he was a child, Rob had played round after round on this golf course by the sea. He much preferred baseball but he was expected to master golf—and so he did.

It took a couple of years, but by the time he was 13, Rob had locked in the form of an expert golfer. He was left-handed, but his father insisted he learned to play as a right-hander and after a brief rebellion, Rob saw the light.

He starred at baseball player at prep school and in College. But when the baseball season ended, he golfed again. As usual, his father had been right. Golf was perfect for a gentleman in commerce.

The fact was Rob had to go easy some times. He was far superior to the players he usually encountered. Occasionally, Rob ran into a really good young player and they went at it tooth and nail. Rob usually prevailed. But when he was 17, a young player from California drubbed him two days and three rounds straight. That’s when Rob learned that unless you used your skills to compete, your game would not improve.

Bill McNeely was the villain. Rob looked him up and discovered that as of May 1st, young Bill had already won $81,000 at five PGA tournaments this year. His highest finish had been tenth in Mobile.

But Rob had no interest in competing in PGA events. He enjoyed playing golf. He liked the sport itself and the natural surroundings. His father had understood this. His father also understood that Rob had no interest in joining his brothers at his father’s brokerage. A week after he graduated from college, Rob enlisted in the Marines. He thrived there. He became a Recon Marine. His recon team became so well known that it was disbanded and Rob and the others were dispersed to other teams.

Rob served with three teams and then helped form a special, “hunter–killer” recon team especially designed to work in hostile territory. He loved the work. He was addicted to the savagery and the danger.

He was badly wounded by a “friendly fire” incident when a teammate accidentally discharged his weapon while cleaning it. He was evacuated by an attack helicopter manned by volunteers. He underwent treatment for five months including three months in Maryland.

He was given a 100% disability. Physically, he was okay. However, he was unable to deal with the fears that wracked him every waking hour.

Fortunately, Rob was referred to Basil and Emily Lang, a husband/wife therapy team. Together they showed Rob that, for him, Job #1 was to accept he was just another wounded Marine, who needed comforting.

Rob was smart. He understood the problem right away. But it was hard. He had notched his weapon 73 times. Who was he to plead for mercy?

That was the key question and after a relatively short time, he saw and accepted the answer. He was ready to come home. Warts and all!

He was 28 and he looked okay. But Rob was still very addicted to danger. He had to learn and relearn that his addiction was his lifetime momento. It was hard!

Tomorrow he was flying West to join an “Outward Bound” program. Rob would be guiding young men and women into the deep woods and way up hills and mountains in hopes they would meet themselves.

Now he was enjoying golf by the sea. Golf by his lonesome. But not really.





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  1. Posted December 23, 2020 at 7:54 am | #

    Wow! Story took a sharp turn. From gentlemen golf to Marine recon. But somehow it all ties together. The story seems to show how we can hold wildly different parts of self — gentleman golfer/brutally efficient Marine — with some semblance of peace, or at least acceptance. The language is hard, precise, the stuff of stone walls; doesn’t get better than that. And a really evocative watercolor, too.

  2. Posted December 23, 2020 at 9:04 am | #

    Wow! Talk about a dogleg. This story took a sudden turn. Moving from gentleman, competitive golfer, to recon Marine. In the end the story suggest we can somehow hold together wildly different parts of ourselves — from golfer to brutally efficient Marine — and still find some sort of peace, or at least acceptance. The language is built of hard, concrete details — the stuff of stone walls; and it doesn’t get better than that. Great, moody, evocative watercolor, too.