Growing Up Juju (part 7 in a series)

Juju stood in the golf pro shop of the Sotogrande Country Club and just stared at the beauty before her. A complete set of Titleist irons and woods for women, in a fancy real maroon vinyl bag. Juju was 12 years old and had begun taking golf lessons with the club professional. She had been working at the snack bar of the club in her father’s kitchen for two years. During that time she had watched as the privileged kids walked up to the window to order drinks after playing a round of golf. There was something different about those kids that distinguished them from Juju. They had a different look, beyond their Izod shirts and matching shorts. Something in the way they carried themselves told Juju that the division of the snack bar window was a wider gap than she had realized. Was it the golf? She was a great athlete, maybe she would take up golf, Juju reasoned.

Juju told her dad, the Chef of the club, her desire to learn how to play golf. He worked out a deal with the club pro to give Juju individual lessons at an hourly rate. Juju’s Dad said he would spring for the lessons, but he wasn’t paying for the clubs…she would have to earn the money.

Juju was well known around the country club as Jim’s daughter and had unrestricted access to the entire grounds. The biggest warning Juju’s father ever gave her was to not ever do anything to upset Miss Miller, the country club manager. She was the big boss over everyone and Juju got a little tickle in her stomach every time she saw Miss Miller. Juju thought it was funny that a woman was her father’s boss. She watched as other employees of the club snapped to attention when they saw her….and never failed to sharply respond to her requests with “Yes Ma’am!” Miss Miller always wore what Juju thought were very expensive dresses and high heels. She was about the same age as Juju’s mother but completely different….kind of fancy. Juju tended to turn on her heels and walk in the other direction when Miss Miller was coming her way. Avoidance, Juju thought, was the best way to stay out of trouble.

Juju found the Titleist clubs in the golf pro shop one day and asked Dale the clerk if he could put them on “fall-back” for her. He instructed Juju they didn’t have lay-away, but since she was Jim’s daughter he would make an exception. The clubs were put in the back stock room with Juju’s name on them. She would continue to take her bi-weekly lessons and work toward the purchase. The pro shop gave her 10 percent discount, but the total still came to $112.00. It was early April when the deal was made…Juju planned on playing the course by June 1st with her new clubs! Maybe she would even buy one of those shirts with the alligator on it!

Once school was over for the year, Juju was working at the snack bar every day. There was a limit on the hours she could work, but the money still started to accumulate and she was within 20 bucks of her goal at the end of May. Juju’s mother loaned her the rest of the money with a promise she had to pay if off by the end of June. Juju strutted to the pro shop and plopped down her money on the counter. Dale retrieved the clubs and Juju walked out with the them slung over her shoulder….feeling like a million bucks!

Juju didn’t have to pay green fees to play the golf course, she just had to promise to not play on days when the men players were heavy on the course….which was pretty much six days a week. Thursday was the designated “woman’s day” so Juju tended to just play that one day…and behind the gaggle of laughing club women. They drove their golf carts and sipped vodka tonics as they played…badly. Juju walked behind them thinking….”is this really a sport??” She didn’t care at that point, she was out there and doing it..playing golf like the rich club kids….albeit in cut off shorts and red Converse high tops…but dang it, she was walking the beautiful green fairways with a broad smile on her face.

The lessons were helping, but Juju was a beginner and had difficulty gauging distance and club selection for each hole. Each lesson and each Thursday afternoon she could see improvement, but it was slow going. By the middle of August Juju figured out the best thing she liked about golf was the one thing she still could not do. She wanted to walk into the dining hall in a fancy golf shirt and shorts, after a round of golf, to have a limeade and lunch with a bunch of the club kids. That had not happened yet and one Thursday afternoon Juju realized it wasn’t going to happen…ever. Everyone at the club knew she was “Jim’s daughter” and that would remain her label. She had to know her place and stay there. The fancy clubs belonged on the course, but Juju didn’t.

Juju was standing at the par 3, hole number 6 that had haunted her all summer….it was now the last Thursday. The tee box was up by the dining hall and the green was about 95 yards across a pond and fountain, it was the centerpiece of the luscious course. Members dining in the hall could look out large windows and see the players hitting across the pond. Juju was playing in the heat of the day after the snack bar lunch run, so thankfully she didn’t see spectators through the glass when she approached the tee box. She had put more golf balls in the pond than she dared to admit to anyone that summer, but Juju was determined. This was the day that it all changed for Juju…the ball was going to clear the water hazard!!

For the average woman golfer, a nine iron or even a wedge is sufficient to loft a ball about 95 yards over a water hazard. Juju stared at her Titleist clubs and pulled out her driver. A driver is a club that, if used correctly, could leave the ball 200-230 yards in the direction chosen….Juju didn’t know this. Juju approached the ball and put everything she had in her swing, striking the ball directly in the “sweet spot” of the club. The most fluid and perfect swing she had made since her lessons had commenced! The ball took off like a rocket, soaring well above the pond….over the green and lofting over an entire apartment building that stood on the other side of the hole!!!!

Oh my gawd, Juju thought!!! That was fantastic!!! She didn’t know she could hit a ball that far…and so beautiful, just like she had seen on TV!! Then she saw him…the angry guy whose’s car the ball had hit on the other side of the apartment. He was yelling…Juju couldn’t make out what he was yelling, but he was waving his fists and jumping up and down. Juju quickly turned around to the large glass windows behind her to see if anyone had witnessed the shot?? Miss Miller was standing there alone with her hands on her hips. Juju’s short snack bar life rushed quickly through her mind…it was over, all over. But wait…wait a minute….Miss Miller was laughing!! Juju couldn’t hear her through the glass, but the woman was convulsing in laughter! She pointed at the man and then back at Juju and continued to laugh…it looked like she might pee herself and the gold pleated skirt she was wearing. Juju had never seen Miss Miller smiling, let alone guffawing!!

The man had a $50.00 deductible for his windshield which was deducted from Juju’s paycheck. Juju had spent $162.00 on golf and there she sat at the window of the snack bar once again…in her place. Two club boys walked up in their white leather golf shoes and polo shirts, ordering root beers. One of the boys signed the ticket so the bill would be put against his parent’s monthly total. He looked at Juju and started to laugh…telling her that he had just found out about the “shot heard round the club!” “Don’t worry about it, ” he said, “that shot is so hard, we skip that hole sometimes.”

Wow, Juju thought…she finally found one thing in common with the club kids…they all sucked at golf. Juju would continue to suck at golf for about five more years until she gave it up for good. Thirty years later Juju would find the fancy, maroon and vinyl golf bag in her mother’s garden shed…with a couple of shovels and a rake taking the place of those Titleist clubs. The garden implements looked about as strange sitting in the bag as Juju did on those long ago Thursday afternoons. It is a good thing to find your place in life. Juju grew up and figured out being like the club kids was not the be-all , end-all thing her 12 year old self had thought it was. While those kids were sipping their root beers in the dining hall, Juju was learning life lessons.

Juju had learned the value of a dollar working in that kitchen…and she had learned about how very important proper club selection was in the game of golf. And it seems she would have been fifty-dollars richer and could have avoided ridicule…if she had just used a shovel.


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