We played on like kids on the sandlot hustling to get in one more at-bat, one more inning, urgent against the gathering darkness.
“Are we gonna make it?” he said, as we bypassed our last chance to cut over to No. 16. It would have meant skipping 14, which is maybe the coolest hole on the golf course and a hole Vince particularly wanted to play on a seriously pretty evening at Tumwater Valley.
Once we’d played our way onto and over the plateau on 14, there was no sense skipping 15, and it began to look like we might get in a round.
We’d started a little after 5, well before the shadows on the green begin to grow comically long. Golf doesn’t let there be perfect, and, right in character and right on cue, I railed at my bad shots and big numbers and grumbled at the six-some that coalesced in front of us on No. 5. Vince, calmer on any day than me, was especially unruffled last night.
Come on, dumbass, how bad can it be? We’re playing golf on a purely beautiful evening, alive and feeling good. Vince never came right out and said anything like that, but he didn’t need to.
Vince Caronna, 61, is no kid, and he knew he’d be feeling his years today after his first round of golf since June.
It was in the middle of that month that Vince was walking his dog and feeling something not quite right in his chest. It’ll go away if I just ignore it, he thought. When it didn’t go away, he finally did the smart thing and told his daughter-in-law, who’s a nurse. She knew something was wrong. She insisted he go to the hospital, right now.
On the gurney heading to surgery, he had a second heart attack, an accident of good timing. If you have to have one, have it with the doctors already hovering over you.
They got the stents in to promote blood flow on the fully blocked right side of his heart. The damage to the heart muscle, Vince was told, was minimal.
So he settled in to recover. Once they got the mix of meds right, so he wasn’t deathly nauseous, it all began to feel closer to normal. Vince has an amazing wife and son, and his daughter-in-law, well, hell, all she did was save his life.
Vince wanted dearly to play in the mid-July event of the Grey Goatee Golf Association, and the overnight party that goes along with it. Nobody really thought hanging out in deepest rural Mason County, with guys who might or might not have been drinking, was a good idea for Vince right then.
But he kept asking his doctor, When can I play golf? This week, I got the email: “I am ready and open to play any day including this weekend. Let me know asap. Call me. Vinnie.”
We began to think, midway though the back nine, that we had the course to ourselves – the six-some quit at the turn. Then we saw a trio of players a couple holes behind us. They couldn’t have been much older than teenagers. We didn’t see them again, and we thought maybe they’d walked it in.
Once we cleared No. 16, it was pretty clear we’d finish them all. On 17, Vince made me raise my head: “Look at the moon,” he said. It was huge and full, luminous, low on the horizon.
When he toted up his scorecard, Vince was happy with a tidy little 93, not as good as he can be but very good on a night he didn’t really care what he scored.
We stowed our clubs, and headed back to the bar for a drink. Vin said, “Hey, there they are.”
It was the kids from behind us, silhouetted on the 18th green, putting out in what would have been pitch black but for the brilliant moon.