By Nate Jones
Then I turned around to see his sprawling body slumped in his personal trailer. It took me a moment to grasp the seriousness of the situation because, at the time, I wasn’t actually on the golf course.
I was out there a few minutes earlier, and in turn, even though I’d participated in a round of golf in the distance, I actually had a strange affinity for Sicily, a Mediterranean island bordering Libya in the eastern Mediterranean.
My fascination with the island is coupled with a sense of familiarity with those islanders that have become such a persistent part of my sense of familiarity with the world around me.
Perhaps I am tied to Sicily because I like to pretend I am part of the Sicilian community. I think I always have.
I was born in North Dakota, so I can claim that my family traces their roots to Sicily. My father’s family is from the town of San Patro forliti, on the island of Sicily.
My grandparents were also from forliti, and for various reasons they moved to Edinburg, New Mexico. There, I learned a lot about Italian culture. I have lived in Italy during summer break on at least two occasions. I was there as a university student. I attended culinary classes.
I have a replica of a, what is essentially, a black-and-white, Sunday-to-Wednesday calendar that hangs on my bedroom wall. The days of the week were dictated by the birthdays of my paternal grandparents. I love every minute of it.
I also knew that my father and grandfather came from a generation where, you know, men could wear trousers and skinny ties. Even if it was summer, when the sun beat down like a thousand pinwheels, and the skies blotted out the cicadas, those men would nip outside when they were done playing poker for a bit of shorts-weather living.
Back then, I also enjoyed attending summer parades, listening to the melodic rhythms of a lively woodwind section and watching the sophisticated La Scala of the theater world.
Most of all, I am very grateful that my grandfather was a magnificent golfer.
Today, people call me “sir.” There is little consistency in Sicily. You are either a slovenly fisherman or you are an accomplished cabinet maker. You wear shorts to work. But golf is a serious activity there. There is a fair amount of history behind that game and so you can appreciate it just as much. When you’re 19 and in college, thinking of Cyprus or Benin, when you’re 40, reading about the dramatic Birth of the Republic of Benin, you have either been there or you are thinking about being there.
It was around that time my golfing friends had a friendly debate over how much time between rounds you should be hitting. Did you have to be finished after four hours, or do you leave a few hours? The Italian method was “set the golf ball.” You set it, the driver hit it, and you were done. Try to get on and then hit it back.
Only ten holes in two hours left? Do you even hit it that way?
I think I decided to let my mother play and get out there and experience it on her terms. She’s a brilliant golfer in her own right.
It turned out, her golfing caddie happened to be Nate Jones, and so we hooked up.
I had a great time there. I had a sense of honor that I was given a standing ovation by the crowd as I stepped onto the green to putt out. Everyone treated me as though I were a bona fide Italian national. I felt that I, like the rest of the world was involved in some magical moment.
The good guys and gals who love golf will appreciate what my presence there means. It may not be the highest elevation, but even the more recent members of the golfing public get awed by the view of the Statue of Liberty from the fairway.
One thing is certain, it was that spectacular of a day.
A true Middle-of-the-Road Gazette is Nate Jones, a retired college football football, basketball and baseball coach. You can follow Nate on Facebook and Twitter.