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Thu, Jul 10, 2014

WOODY: Watch out for snakes

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My late golfing accomplice, Joe Caldwell, once described my swing as “looking like somebody killing a snake in the weeds.”

Caldwell was exaggerating, of course. If you’re killing a snake, you need to take a bigger back-swing, keep your elbow straight, and your head down. I recommend a five-iron.

If it’s a really big snake, step back and allow the loud-mouthed foursome behind you to play through.

I’m kidding, of course.

In Tennessee it’s illegal to harm a snake, even if it’s coiled around your putter.

I was reminded of snakes and golf the other day when I came across an account of a cottonmouth crawling out of a lake in Florida and onto a nearby fairway. When someone started yelling, “Bite!” they weren’t addressing a bouncing golf ball.

I’ve never got along with either snakes or golf.

Once on a patrol through a steaming jungle, my infantry squad came upon a giant python coiled in the trail. Or it might have been a boa constrictor. I can’t tell them apart, and it’s really not all that important when one or the other is squeezing you into Smucker’s jelly.

All I know is that this one had the girth of a beer keg.

Our point man suggested shooting the giant reptile, but as we were in an unfriendly neighborhood we didn’t want to give away our position. Besides, what if we just winged the scaly monster and made it mad? Did you see the movie “Anaconda?” You don't want to mess with a snake that can eat Ice Cube, and have Jennifer Lopez for desert.

So, we huddled and agreed on a plan. We would hack a path off the trail around the snake and detour past it, which is what we did, leaving it dozing peacefully in the jungle sun.

The little water snake that dropped into the boat one night with me, Jerry Thompson and Bob Sherborne while fishing on Kentucky Lake was tiny by comparison. But when Thompson went over one side, Sherborne decided to balance the boat by going over the other side.

I flipped the snake overboard with a paddle, and Thompson and Sherborne clamored back in. Thompson slept with the light on that night.

Golf’s even scarier than snakes.

One year, I was playing in a tournament hosted by Boots Donnelly, the then football coach at MTSU. For some reason, they put the lunch tent right beside the 18th hole, into which I drove a No. 2 Titleist – the food tent, not the golf hole.

The ball careened off the barbecue cooker and hit the serving table, scattering baked beans and cold slaw.

When the slaw settled, Boots asked if someone would like to yell fore and say grace.

In a NASCAR Media Tournament in Daytona one year, I was having a particularly bad day, even by my standards.

Caldwell and I were paired with drivers Jimmy Spencer and Dale Jarrett. At one point, Spencer said he felt safer going through the third turn at Talladega on two tires than with me on a golf course.

After one particularly distressing shank, I flung my driver down the fairway. Caldwell said I was the only golfer he knew who got better distance on his club than on his ball.

Most golfers go to the clubhouse after they play 18 holes. I go when I run out of balls. My record-shortest round is six holes. No. 7 was a water hazard, and after it gulped my sixth and final ball – an old red-striped range ball I’d found somewhere – I quit.

That was some 15 years ago, and I have stayed quit. I have no choice – I threw away my golf clubs. My final hole was really my final hole.

Lying somewhere out in the marshy weeds near No. 7 is a moldy old golf bag containing several rusty, badly bent clubs. Anybody who wants them is welcome to them. Just be sure to look out for snakes.

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