Guest post by Leo Jones
That’s the threat my Brit buddy throws at me in the thickest Cockney accent you’ll hear this side of Liverpool, England. Dave makes the comment as I enter the Amazon Golf clubhouse the other day. Located smack dab in the middle of the Peruvian jungle—a thousand miles from the Peruvian capitol of Lima as the eagle flies—the Amazon Golf Course is the most isolated golf course in the world.
“Yeah … well. I guess we’ll have to see about that,” I reply, trying hard to sound confident.
“When was the last time you beat me?” he asks, smirking.
“I’ve never beat you, you know that. But today just might be the first time.”
He roars with laughter.
“Are you going to practice first, Senor Leo?” The question comes from eighteen year old Isabel, the attractive local woman who mans (or is it woman’s) the desk in the clubhouse.
“Don’t need to practice to beat this guy,” I say, regretting the comment as soon as it passes my lips.
“What about you, Senor Dave?” she asks him. “Do you …”
“As old as Leo is,” he says, grinning at Isabel, “I’d be stealing if I practiced.”
I thrust my index finger at the side of my head and make a circling motion. “Ignore him, Isabel. He’s just another crazy gringo.” Then I sling my golf bag over my shoulder. Carefully making my way down the steps, I stroll over to the first tee. It’s another beautiful day in Iquitos, Peru. The jungle sun is nine O’clock high and huge puffy white clouds wander aimlessly below the bluest sky you’ll ever see.
After five minutes of attempting to limber up my 80 year old body—something that’s becoming more and more difficult with each passing year—I call out to Dave, “You gonna spend the whole morning flirting with Isabel? Or are you gonna play golf?”
Actually I don’t blame him for flirting with Isabel. Girls in this jungle town mature early physically, and she’s no exception. She likes to show off her curvy figure by wearing her pink blouse and cutoff blue jeans as tightly as she can. If she dyed her long black hair blonde, she’d look like a sun-tanned version of the cute blonde in the television show, “The Dukes of Hazard.”
Soon Dave struts out of the clubhouse. Fifty years old, he’s one of the more interesting expats in town. A close friend of one of our mutual friends, Mike Collis—the founder of the Amazon Golf Course—Dave is the only gringo motorcar driver in town. Standing a tad over six feet, he’s built like a NFL linebacker. He’s the kind of guy if you ever get into a brawl, you’d want him on your side. “You want me to go first?” he asks.
I step aside and wave my hand toward the first green a hundred and twenty yards away. “Show me the way, Tiger.”
For a big man, he’s very agile. After two practice swings, he sends his ball into the sun, where it eventually lands softly on the edge of the green. Suppressing a grin, he exclaims, “Your turn, old timer.”
I take out a seven iron. “Hit the ball smoothly”, I tell myself as I stand over the ball. My backswing is nice and smooth, but when the face of the club approaches the ball it speeds up—and I hook the ball into waist-high vegetation fifty feet or so to the left of the green. Unwritten course rules allows each golfer one Mulligan for every nine holes. So I stick the seven iron back into the bag and take out an eight iron. My goal this time is to keep the ball in the narrow fairway. A smooth follow through this time launches the ball some twenty feet this side of the green. I send my second shot ten feet from the hole and need two putts to end up with a bogie.
Dave pars the hole.
After we finish the first hole, Dave is ahead by a stroke. “Don’t panic,’ I tell myself. “Stick to your plan.”My strategy is to stay within a few strokes until the beers Dave had drank before I arrived takes their toll—and the jungle sun starts wearing this big man down. We were supposed to have teed off at nine. I didn’t arrive until ten for a good reason. Like most Brits I know, Dave is fond of beer. While waiting for my arrival he’d drank two beers. Peruvian beer is twice as strong as Budweiser or Miller. According to my calculation, he’ll be sweating profusely by the time we tee off for the eighth hole.
The second green is 275 yards long. I’d planned on using a driver rather than a long iron. There are two hazards in this fairway: a small oval-shaped lake golfers have nicknamed Alligator Lake located 150 yards from the tee and a tiny stream zigzagging across the fairway in front of the green. Not yet warmed up enough, I slice my ball into the lake. Then, to make matters worse, I stub my second shot, dribbling my ball into the stream.
Dave pars this hole while I double-bogey it.
We’ve only played two holes and I’m already down three strokes.
I catch a break on the third hole when Dave dumps his second shot into the stream. But I do the same. And both of us double- bogey the hole.
I’ll gain a stroke on the next hole, I convince myself.
The fourth hole is only 100 yards long. But this green is a tiny oval-shaped island. And it’s surrounded by a Piranha-infested waist-high moat half full of wayward golf balls no one has been brave enough to retrieve. To be on the safe side, I take out my wedge and hit the ball ten yards this side of the moat. Normally, that’s good strategy. Not today. Feeling his oats, Dave whips out his nine iron and strikes his ball like he’s kissing Isabel. I groan as I watch the ball land a dozen yards from the flag stick. My second shot lands next to his ball.
I feel like shoving him into the water as we cross the tiny wooden bridge that leads us onto the green. It takes two strokes for both of us to sink our balls. We’ve played four holes and I’m down four strokes.
But I’m sticking to my plan.
As we approach the fifth tee I glance up at the Heavens. I mumble, “Come on, you’ve got to help me beat this guy.”
A confident smile creasing his beefy face, he asks, “What’s that, old man?”
During the next three holes I remain four strokes behind him. I had hoped to gain a stroke on the seventh hole. A 500 yard par five, you have to avoid two meandering streams and the left side of Alligator Lake. This time both of us plop our balls into Alligator Lake. (There’s something about my golf balls that’s attracted to water). By the time we’d sunk our putts we’d both double-bogeyed this hole.
As we hike toward the eighth tee– which is located 20 or so yards below the clubhouse—I glance over at Dave. He’s sweating profusely. But not enough. “I could use something cold to drink,” I say, licking my lips. “What about you?”
“I’m good,” he replies, taking a now sopping wet handkerchief from his pocket and mopping his brow.
I nod at Isabel standing in the clubhouse doorway. “I’m buying, Dave,” I say.
That gets his attention. “In that case, mate, let’s do it.”
“A bottle of water for me and a cold beer for my friend,” I call out to Isabel.
We drop down under the shade the tin roof of the rectangular-shaped structure used to provide shade when we’re practicing our shots—a poor man’s version of a Driving Range shelter.
A minute later Isabel prances down to us. After handing us our drinks, she asks in a seductive voice, “Anything else?”
We say that’s all, and she sashays back to the clubhouse. Gulping down half the bottle in one swallow, Dave keeps his eyes on her until she disappears inside the house.
I drink from my bottle and say, “Ready?”
“I still have half a bottle left,” he complains.
I glance up at the sky. The sun is trying to hide behind some clouds. “Looks like it’s gonna rain soon, Dave,” I fib.
Standing, he gulps down the rest of his beer. “Let’s get this butt whipping over with, old timer.”
The eighth and ninth holes fairways are divided by a long row of coconut and palm trees planted some four or five years ago. It’s almost impossible to hit your ball out of bounds on the eighth hole. So both of us use drivers. Dave splits the fairway with a 200 yard drive. I knock my ball fifty yards short of his. This hole is a 360 yards par four. The only obstacle is a three foot deep water hazard called Anaconda Lagoon.
I’ve got to be honest with you, dear reader. I’m fairly confident there has not been an alligator spotted in Alligator Lake for years, and, though locals insist there really are piranhas in the moat surrounding the third green, I can’t swear there are any still there. But I know for a fact there used to be an anaconda in Anaconda Lagoon. My friend, Mike Collis, and I were there when a half dozen locals corralled this reptile while the golf course was being constructed some ten years ago.
At any rate, no one has ever tried to retrieve a ball hit into the lagoon. Wisely, I take out an eight iron and lay up ten yards short of the water. Dave gives me a look that says, “What a wimp!” Then he proceeds to take out a five iron and swing mightily. Topping the ball, he sends it dribbling into the lagoon. “Mulligan time,” he exclaims. Wiping sweat from his face and neck, he uses a six iron, sending the ball into a water hazard on the other side of the hole.
With a pitching wedge, I hit the ball three feet from the hole. When we finish the eighth hole I’m only two strokes back. I stifle a grin as we head for the ninth tee. “Come on sun,” I mumble.
The ninth hole is 375 yards away. The only hazards are the left side of Anaconda Lagoon and a sand trap on the left side of the fairway 200 yards away. I use a driver and place my shot 155 yards in the middle of the fairway. Sweat dripping from every pore, Dave tops his ball and drives it into Anaconda Lagoon. Trying to make up for the mistake, he swings as hard as he can, sending his ball into the bunker. To compound this error, he tries to hit his ball out of the sand with a three iron. The ball catches the lip of the bunker and rolls some fifty yards toward the green.
Now we’re even.
Minutes later both of our balls are on the green. He’s huffing and puffing by the time we finally reach the green. His ball sits 10 feet above the hole. My ball is 15 feet below the hole. This oval-shaped green slopes downward at a severe angle—so I can afford to be aggressive. I take out my putter and stand over the ball. Just to aggravate him, I start to shake like I’ve lost a grip on my nerves.
Dave isn’t amused. “Just hit the damn ball, old man.”
I give the ball a nice smooth stroke. It scoots upward like a magnet is drawing it toward the hole. It stops at the edge of the hole. Dave let’s out a sigh of relief as I reach for my putter. Then something strange happens.
The ball drops into the hole.
“All right!” I yell, giving a geriatric version of Tiger Woods pumping his fist into the air.
The noise brings Isabel out of the clubhouse. It also awakes the mongrel dog that guards the place at night out from under the shade of the house. Both wander down to check on the commotion. “Who is winning?” Isabel asks.
Dave takes out his handkerchief and mops his brow. “Leo will win if I don’t sink this putt,” he grumbles.
“Yeah, Senor Leo,” she says.
Dave had been studying his putt. “Will you be quiet,” he exclaims. Then, noticing the hurt look on her face, he adds in a softer voice, “Please.”
Smiling, she makes a zipping motion across her lips.
After several tenable practice putts, Dave looks over at me. “What do you think, Leo?”
“I think you’d better make this putt.” Then I quickly add, “Whipper-Snapper.”
Finally, he strokes the ball. It rolls confidentially toward the hole. Then, inches away from dropping into the hole, it veers to the right. “Oh, well,” I say, grinning, “you can’t win them all.”
Minutes later we’re sitting in the second floor of the clubhouse. Dave is drinking another beer and I’m nursing a Coca Cola as we gaze out across the golf course. Two things occupy my mind. I recall Mike Collis and I scouting this location for the possible site of a golf course a dozen years ago. It was a dense jungle back then. But Mike didn’t see it as a jungle. He visualized it as a golf course. And now it is.
The other thought occupying my mind is this: Beating a man thirty years my junior sure feels good.
I’m gonna beat your butt, old timer!
Guest post by Leo Jones