The Youker Files: A Day on the Links

Written exclusively for Fenway Pastoral by Red Sox first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis

I don’t play much golf during the baseball season. I’ve found that angrily impaling an oak tree with the head of a nine iron can have devastating effects on my contact rates at the dish. Plus, I always wind up getting paired with Dustin Pedroia, who has never shared company in a tee box with a back-swing he didn’t want to sabotage by mumbling some off-color vulgarity.

When Dustin told me he was heading out one morning for an early round at a local country club near Fort Myers, my first instinct was to tell him to find somebody else to tolerate the childish taps from his putter on their undercarriage while trying to line up a 35-footer.

But then I got to thinking: The regular season was about a week away and my chances for a leisurely day on the links were about to become almost nonexistent for the next six-plus months.

I really don’t know what got into me, but the next thing I knew Dustin and I were teeing up a 380-yard par 4 with a dog-leg left on a private course near Fort Myers. Well, my first drive off the tee sliced dog-legged right and out of play. I rained blows on the first of many garbage cans that day. In the process, I broke the graphite shaft of my favorite TaylorMade driver, leaving me with just 10 back-up drivers for the remaining 17 holes. I knew I would have to be more careful.

The first few holes went relatively well after that. I was shooting a 39 heading onto the fifth–an elevated par 3 with a small swamp on the left and sandy desert on the right. I lofted what I thought was a brilliant shot with my seven iron. But the ball got caught in the wind and briefly hung onto the edge of the left-side rough before kicking out to the muddy edge of the drink.

I was able to identify my ball (I only play with Nike 2s) amongst several Titleists that some of the less adventurous golfers had abandoned in favor of taking drops on drier land. Maybe I should have done the same. But at that point, I was still on pace for my handicap and didn’t want to waste a stroke by taking a drop. Plus, I was wearing some old baseball cleats from last season (I hate the feel of golf shoes), so I didn’t see much harm in getting them a bit dirty by stepping into the swamp. What I didn’t realize was that a rather large alligator had somehow found his way into the water.

As I was lining up my shot, I caught a glimpse of the ugly gator’s open mouth surging toward my leg. My vain attempts to shoo him away with my wedge only enraged the creature further and it was then that I had regretted tuning out Mike Greenwell a few years ago when he gave the team a primer on alligator wrestling techniques during spring workouts. Back in 2005, his tips seemed overly complicated and pretty unnecessary. But I guess even in this new, rejiggered economic world, subduing alligators is a valuable survival skill.

Anyway, the gator took a pretty good chunk of meat off the back of my leg and I probably woke up some people in the nearby nursing home with my wrenching screams of agony. Its clenched teeth gripped my leg with excruciating force. Luckily, Dustin had a butterfly knife in his golf slacks and he was able to dart the blade between the reptile’s eyes to kill it. The effort was heroic even if rolling to the ground while making the throw seemed a bit unnecessary.

I wrapped my wound with gauze and ate a hot dog as we made the turn to the back nine. I was off my handicap but still shooting a respectable 68. Even better, I had only broken three drivers and thrown a couple of irons into the water. My only concern was that bending my putter shaft over my thigh after five-putting the ninth hole forced me to play the last half of the course using a three iron as a putter.

The back nine wasn’t all that eventful. Some hack’s stray approach shot hit me in the ear as I was lining up a putt on the 10th green, a pelican pooped on my head somewhere on the 12th fairway, I flipped our riding cart over on a sharp turn and saw some things in the 16th hole’s port-a-potty that will haunt my dreams. But that was really about it.

When it was all over, I was happy to wind up shooting a 129. Golf isn’t my best sport, but I think once I retire I could probably get pretty good at it and maybe join the PGA tour. We’ll see what happens, though. It’s tough playing with buffoons like Dustin. Don’t get me wrong, I love him as a teammate on the diamond. But golf is a game that requires a certain amount of social grace that Pedey just doesn’t seem to have. I don’t need someone calling me an “ugly Sally” every time I shank a drive and barely clear the women’s tee box.

Well, that’s all I got for now. I can’t wait to be back in Boston to start the regular season. In some strange way, I think the round of golf may serve as a good omen for 2010. After Dustin killed that alligator on the 5th hole, I pulled out one of its teeth and will wear it around my neck for luck. That bastard didn’t know who he was messing with.

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