IT’S FUNNY HOW OFTEN that old-school timepiece on my wrist gets called on by the same people who wonder why anyone would buy a watch these days because, duh, you have the time right there on the face of your smartphone.
Don’t ask me what time it is, then. Or better yet go right ahead, because it gives me a chance to look at my watch, which – today – is a handsome Alliance model by Victorinox I bought during a period of watch-acquisitiveness last year when I came into some money.
I didn’t stop with the one Swiss Army watch but brought home a couple Citizens, an Oceanaut and another Victorinox.
That last (for now) Victorinox is a comfortingly solid pocket watch that’s lived in my pocket only one day, which by no coincidence was the opening day of the Grey Goatee Golf Association season, for which the pair of houndstooth trousers I wore, also by no coincidence, has an honest-to-God watch pocket.
The silver chain looked swell hanging like a watch chain should, and that day I was hoping the sporting gentlemen of the 3GA would ask me how much time was left before the first group went out. Well, I would say, let me look at my watch, flipping it open to ascertain and announce the time of day and then slipping the watch back into its place, ever so casually.
So it works as a pocket watch works, but the face cover also folds under to make it into a sturdy stand-up clock. Lately, it rests on a perch just above my desk in the small space out back I use as a writing room.
Tucked in behind the clock are two golf scorecards from the 1940s (best guess) from two different nine-hole golf courses in Iowa. One of the players on each of the cards was a dude named Glen. He wasn’t much of a player, judging from the faded pencil scratches, all the more reason to suspect he’s related to me.
I say the 1940s, because if it was early in the decade Glen was still in high school, not yet having taken early graduation to join the Army Air Corps; mid-decade, Cpl. Potter was doing his military duty in World War II; later, he was at Iowa State in Ames and fixing to marry my mother. Anywhere in there he could have found himself in central Iowa with time for golf, I suppose, but who the hell knows.
One of the scorecards is from Rolling Hills in Glen’s hometown of Marshalltown, Iowa. The golf course is long gone. His buddy, identified by the initial M, shot 53 that day, one better than G.
Among the local rules printed on the back of the card: “Do not buy golf balls from caddies.”
The other scorecard is from Pine Lake Country Club in Eldora, 20 miles north and another 10 miles west of Marshalltown. Pine Lake was, and remains, a private club, but they must have allowed some public play because Glen Potter was not then, or ever, a country club guy.
Glen and his friend Don played 18 that day, and though Glen started out par-birdie on 1 and 2, he slipped to a 51 for the first nine and shot 61 on the second.
Pine Lake local rule: “If a ball lie in a wagon or auto rut, hole made by burrowing animal, casual water, or ground under repair (not considered a hazard) it may be raised and dropped – not placed – one club length distance, not nearer the hole, without penalty.”
How or when I came to have the scorecards I can’t recollect: a lot of boxes were examined and emptied when Glen died, when my mother moved out of the family home, and again when she died last year, but by then I’d had the cards in my golf junk drawer for a long time.
It was only when I needed to decorate a room that I took a closer look. I hope they weren’t his career-best rounds.
The scorecards, these cardboard-and-pencil-lead histories, can’t tell me the hour, the day or the year, and they don’t say which club Glen used to approach the green when he finally wrote down a par for No. 9 at Rolling Hills.
All I know for sure is my father played a couple rounds of golf in and near his hometown when he was a kid. For some reason, when he emptied his pockets or cleaned his house, he held on to the scorecards.
He kept time.