Monday, February 18, 2008

Patagonian Golfing at Llao Llao or Chasing a Tiny Ball to History

Somewhere west in Patagonia, sitting on the fringes of the Andean Mountain range lies a town called San Carlos de Bariloche. Somewhere in this small town of Bariloche is a very well maintained Hotel and Resort with a Golf Course named Llao Llao. Somewhere on Llao Llao’s golf course is a young caddy named Ricardo. Somewhere in Ricardo the Caddy’s memory lies one truly (un)forgettable story. That story is as follows:

I woke up on the warm March morning in 2004 (after all, we are in the southern hemisphere, and it is late summer) to go about my normal work. I drop my children at the bus station for school, I eat a breakfast lomito con huevo and I take a taxi to Llao Llao where I punch into the caddy shack. Everything would make today seem like a normal day. But no, my boss comes in with a smirk on his face and asks for Facundo and I to get ready to go out with a foursome. We gather our jerseys and walk out to the first tee. There we meet four Americans, three boys and a girl, who are on holiday from studying in the Capital. As usual, I introduce myself, grab two of their bags and explain the layout of the course. They smile and set up the first tee. The first boy takes a big swing and misses, but somehow breaks a tee. No problem, I grab another one from my shirt pocket and hand it to him. Little did I know what was about to happen. Truthfully, I don’t think Nostradamus himself could foresee anything that came next. This boy, Blaine, somehow broke his second tee and hit his gold ball backwards. I understand it’s tough to golf when others are watching and this is the first tee box after all. Blaine takes another big swing and hits his newly acquired Nike Llao Llao golf ball into the water. He laughs. We all laugh. But I wouldn’t be laughing long. Another young man, Christopher, walks up to the tee and hits his ball in the same lake. ‘What coincidence!’ I exclaim. The foursome looks at me as if to forewarn, no coincidence Ricardo…no, this is fate.

Another ball was hit into the rather tiny lake, but the fourth was hit perfectly onto of the lady’s tee box. The boy who hit it there had a nice view of the fairway for his second attempt, I gave him credit.

The three others ventured to our water hazard and, shocking both Facundo and I, climbed right in! ‘My Lord!’ I exclaimed, laughing a little. Blaine reminded us that the golf balls cost more than green fees on the course, so we understood. It was just funny to see the three American Students dive directly into the scummy waters. Christopher found his golf ball, while the other’s found their efforts fruitless. They dropped and continued on the hole. Blaine made four divots, hit three fences, lost two balls and killed a partridge in a pear tree. He won the first hole. Throughout the rest of the course I watched in complete and utter amazement as this foursome played what could possibly the worst round of golf since the conception of the game in the fifteenth century. I don’t hyperbolize when I write that between the first and last hole the Americans golfed we witnessed four sets of golfers play through, nine divots on the green, seventeen lost golf balls, twenty-four sand traps, seventy-five whiffs, two-hundred and a couple curse words and one parred hole.

Three hours and forty-five minutes later Facundo and I dropped the clubs to the ground and sighed. Each of the other caddies in the club house had started with their third group while we were covered in sweat from tracking Nike balls through woods and water. We were in awe at what had just happened. The Americans, unfazed, began to chuckle. They looked at each other and tallied score.

“Alright, well congratulations to Blaine who had the high score of 96. I think we owe him a round at the 19th tee. Let’s, see who was next?” A little more counting was done. Fingers went up and down at an unimaginable rate of speed. “Second place had a dozen more swings and, well, Chris…Chris got the high score of the day: 124. Well done.” They harmonized in laughter as I buckled in disgust at the nation of America. “Imagine the scores we’d have if we played all nine holes!” One of them exclaimed. I knew at that moment I would have an incredible story to tell my family tonight. This sole redeeming factor for a day of wasted caddying was unhinged when two of the guys came up to me and pulled me to the side. Christopher asked me politely to never recall this story to another living being for life. As he thanked me, he pulled out his wallet. Both Blaine and him each pulled out a $100 Peso note and gave it to me. “Thanks.” They said in unison and vanished off into ether of the distance.

I looked at Facundo who was holding a pile of money too, he looked back at me. We both gave each other an unspoken nod of assurance that we both knew what time it was. We slowly walked towards the lake, stripped to our shorts and exploded with jubilation! We jumped in the water, swam to the kayak from which our boss told us to keep away, boated over to the woman’s camp, pulled a bottle of Coca Light from our suddenly-appearing backpack, danced and boogied to the reflections of the moon off the hood of an old Fiat, stole the car and drove off into the ether of the future (of course returning and taking time to watch our children grow up along the way).

The end.

And that story comes directly from the nostalgia of a young Caddy named Ricardo who worked on a Hotel and Resort with a Golf Course named Llao Llao which lies somewhere in a small town named Bariloche which sits in Patagonia, Argentina on the fringes of the Andean Mountain range.

The end again.

**Note** Since I don’t know what happened after I left, I can only assume that Facundo and Ricardo did all those things which I made him do in the recollection of my story.

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