Five years ago, mom joined us when we visited our good friends Carol and Mark Vittert in Leland, Mich. Mark and I were locked in our annual golf match, and on this particular day my mom got dressed in her golf attire and wanted to ride along with us to witness our epoch battle.
The match, for once, was close. On the next to the last hole, with the championship in the balance, I hit my drive into a swampy area to the left of the fairway. Things looked bleak for me.
Just as I was about to take a penalty shot, we heard my mom saying from way back in the swamp, "Rance, I've found your ball, and you've got a shot!" My ball had somehow landed on a little pathway, and I was able to knock it out to the fairway with a clear shot to the green. Mom had kept me in the match.
I scrambled to get my ball onto the green, but I needed to sink a 30-foot putt to win the hole-and the match. As I stepped up to the ball, mom said, "You can sink it, son. You can do it!"
That completely demoralized Mark. What chance did he have when I brought my own mother along to lend not only moral support but a keen set of eyes? I sunk my putt and won my only victory-to this day- against my intrepid foe.
This summer we again visited the Vitterts in Leland, but this time mom was back in Cape Cod. On the morning of July 20 we got the word she had passed away at the age of 85. She had been ill, and she died peacefully in her sleep.
Later that day, when all the funeral arrangements had been made, Mark thought it would be a good idea to get me out of the house and into the fresh air, so we went to play a few holes of golf. That's when my mom paid Mark back.
We were on the tee of a beautiful downhill par 3. A few holes before, Mark was about to tee off when he was bothered by some women on that same par 3. They yelled when one of their drives almost went in the cup. Mark yanked his drive across the road, but he still shot a record 36 for the front nine.
So when we came up to the par 3, Mark said nothing would bother him-we could even do jumping jacks and he'd still hit the ball. Without a word, Mark's friend Jim Rogers and I started flapping our arms and jumping up and down just a few feet in back of him. Somebody yelled, "You guys must be real team players!"
Mark didn't hesitate. He hit an 8 iron onto the green. His ball hit 10 feet in front of the hole, took one bounce and went in for a hole in one. Mark said later he didn't even notice us, and doesn't remember hitting the shot. When he took his ball out of the cup, he said, "Nothing could have gotten me to hit another ball. I wasn't going to pull another club from the bag," even though he was one under par at the time.
Nobody is ever going to convince me that my mom's gentle hand and keen sense of humor wasn't behind Mark's unbelievable shot. Nothing could have been more improbable, just as nothing could have been more improbable when mom found my ball and kept me in the match.
She had evened the score, and she was already on duty looking out for us.