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Stick Miller: Bending the rules

Here I sit with laptop in lap, reminiscing about a special weekend. We have a bit of a tradition going here. For several years now we have rung in the New Year with friends at Amelia Island. For those of you who live on Mars and are not familiar with Amelia, it is the southern-most of the barrier islands that shelter southeast Georgia and northeast Florida, and it is beautiful.
I like the Atlantic beaches from Tybee to Amelia and beyond. Although the Millers’ little condo is on the Florida Panhandle where the water is bluer, the beaches are whiter, and the necks are redder, for me the Gulf holds no comparison to the mighty Atlantic. We appreciate the chance to visit the lush greenery of Amelia Island/Fernandina, Florida, if only once a year. It is a haven for relaxation, shopping, eating, drinking, and for some, golfing.
I am, at best, an awful golfer. I have never broken 100 and in reality, I’ve probably never even come close. Thankfully, golf is a game of flexibility, especially when you’re playing with my friend, oh let’s just call him “Sparky.”
Traditionally, every year on New Year’s Eve day, the other guys go off to play golf, the women go shopping and I take a nap.  Usually, the golfers include my friends Randy and Sparky (the names have been changed to protect the guilty) and another guy. He’s a decent golfer but not kind to those who aren’t. I’m sensitive. What can I say?
This year he wasn’t playing and our hostess (let’s just call her Nancy), an accomplished golfer on her own, decided to play with the guys. Since I’d traditionally never played in this group, and since I do have my pride, I had left my clubs at home where they belong. Thankfully, I was invited to tag along and to ride in the cart with Nancy. Since no one knew that we would be playing “Sparky rules”, I think I was brought along as in interpreter.
“Sparky rules” evolve even as the game is being played. I knew that … Nancy did not. Progressive mulligans, he calls it. More like “regressive manure.” I’m not quite sure where the progressive mulligan term came from but I feel quite certain the idea was hatched in the fertile mind of Mr. Sparky sometime during the ride to the golf course.
Apparently, the object of this game is to lose the hole. That way you get a mulligan on the next hole. Supposedly, it levels the playing field. Unbeknownst to our lady friend, those mulligans are not cumulative and must be used on the next hole … that is unless your name is Sparky. Best I can tell, he gets to accumulate his mulligans and turn them into dollar bills.
I think a mulligan is accounted for by a dot on the scorecard. I could be wrong on that point … those dots could be used to signify dollars Sparky has won. I’m not one to argue. Sparky rules apparently mean that Sparky keeps the one and only scorecard. Instead of putting down numbers, those pesky dots are used.  I think it is some sort of secret code, or Braille. I just don’t know.
Since I wasn’t actually participating in the match, Nancy was given an additional handicap: she had a mulligan on each green, but I had to hit it. Stick Miller putting for money is like a hog running in the Kentucky Derby. It just ain’t right I explained to Nancy that SHE needed to sink the putt and that she shouldn’t rely on my putting skills. Apparently she didn’t listen. Needless to say, I wasn’t much help.
For the record, on nine holes I putted seven times and sank it only once. My effort on that hole won it for Nancy, but according to the “Sparky Rules of Golf,” she didn’t actually win and actually lost two mulligans and had to give Sparky a good Pro V1 ball. She was forced to carry her own clubs on the next hole and shoot from the pro tees. It’s all in the “rule book” somewhere.
Actually, it was a beautiful day and provided lots of laughs for us all at Sparky’s expense. I walked eight of the nine holes barefooted and in shorts. It was about 80 degrees.
When you get right down to it, what more could you ask for? What a perfect way to end a good year and to start off on a great,  new one? Laughing with dear friends in the warm Florida sun is good for the soul. Enjoying the beauty of the golf course without actually having to swing a club and getting some good aerobic exercise made a good day even better.
Knowing that my then-shopping wife forgot to take her pocketbook … priceless

Boyce “Stick” Miller is an award-winning columnist living in Americus, Ga. Contact him at stickmiller@gmail.com