Fish in the Pond
"There's A Fish In The Pool!"
A few years back my Brother-in-Law Larry and I decided to head west on a little golf outing. As the Tankster, the restless golfer, I wanted to take my picture under the sign at Tankersley, Texas, just outside of San Angelo and Larry wanted to go to Alpine to see where his father was born. It was Memorial Day weekend and his wife Susan was worried about the traffic we might encounter. She needn’t have worried because we rarely saw a vehicle on the road much less a string of them.
The first place we stopped was Big Lake. I wanted to collect a scorecard since it was right off the highway and I didn’t think they would let us play, since it was private. Wrong again! They forced us to play and charged us a whole $5 each. They have great greens by the way. We finished up and headed on down the road to the next stop which was Rankin. I told Larry I wanted a scorecard so he pulled on up to the course. This, however, was different. There was an abandoned farmhouse where the clubhouse should be. I wandered on into the farmhouse looking for a card but found nothing. Larry was calling me to come take a look. He said “There is a bass in the swimming pool!” I said, “Larry, get out of the sun, you’re hallucinating” as I went over to the pool and sure enough, there was a bass just staring back at us. It turned out that they used this pool as water for the greens. The course itself was very rough and Larry wanted to get on down the road to play at Fort Stockton, so we left Rankin behind. I’ll get back to Rankin later from a separate trip, I promise.
We played at Fort Stockton which is a nice course and the home of Blaine McAllister, a professional golfer who has played on the PGA Tour, Nationwide Tour and Champions Tour and had five wins on the PGA tour between 1980 and early 1990. After 18, we headed to Alpine and played at Alpine in the morning - it was really cool. I found out the ball goes farther there because of the elevation when I hit a 9 iron 145 yards and nailed the lawn mower, luckily I missing the guy driving it. From Alpine we drove to Lajitas (the old nine hole public course) and it was very hot. We headed for Presidio but the course wasn’t finished at that time, so we then proceeded toward Marfa. We spent the night there but we didn’t see the Marfa lights, but we did play the Marfa course.
After a round at Marfa it was off to the observatory at Fort Davis and then on to Pecos. We played at Pecos and it was more than hot. There were 50 mph winds and 109 degrees (blast furnace hot) and just look at all those humongous dust devils. Whew! We headed back to San Angelo. We stopped at Sterling City but Larry wasn’t interested in playing their little six hole course. We spent the night in San Angelo and got up the next morning to play Quicksand. It beat both of us up so we headed home. I don’t remember ever being so glad to see a stock tank because there is not much water anywhere out there.
Now back to Rankin. I had not been to El Paso yet and felt it was time for me to go. I headed out early in the morning which is not particularly smart, considering I was headed through deer country, but luckily I made it without wiping out any of the deer population. The first place I stopped was Rankin. I was by myself so I thought I would whip out my rescue club, three balls and walk a quick nine. I noticed that there were two county workers watering the course. I could see some obvious improvements to the course and asked the workers if I could get a scorecard. They obliged and ask who I was. I told them I was in search of my 400th course and they were impressed. They said I should go to the local newspaper and tell them about me and I just kind of shrugged it off. They left and I started loosening up. Off in the distance I could see this white pickup just flying up the gravel road with a trail of dust behind it. It was the county commissioner. He came up to me and said “Are you that guy that’s playing all those golf courses?” and I replied “I guess I am.” He said “Well, the county inherited this course and we have consultants and chemicals that we are having to pay for now, and I want you to go to the newspaper office and say something good about this course.”
He led me downtown to the office and introduced me to Hal Hutchens the editor and chief bottle washer. Mr. Hutchens, being a golfer himself, was a little skeptical of my claims. He started asking some base questions about some courses that I claimed to have played. He would ask what I knew about course Timbuktu for example and I would answer “Yeah, that one has a tree in the middle of the fairway.” or course wayoutthere and I would tell him “That one has huge rocks for 150 markers.” or course youcantgettherefromhere and my answer would be “That one has a bluff left of the fairway and a ravine to the right.” He was now convinced that I was on the level (Yea, I passed the test!) and he then told me that he had played on the team for Rankin that had won the High School State Title in golf. I told him that I knew about that Title because I had played with Terry Stephenson (Superintendant at Heather Run/Rolling Oaks and Bear Ridge at that time) who was on that State golf championship team. I had also played with Terry’s father and his daughter. Hal’s eyes got wide. He said “Terry Stephenson was a good friend of mine during the golf season”.
Well, that was all it took! He wrote the best danged article you could imagine and not only did he make the course look good, he made me look good. I called him up later on and ask if I had really said all that! He said I must have said it because it was down in print, so it had to be true. Well anyway it was a great story. On another trip, I stopped by his house and left him a watermelon and chatted for awhile. I am fond of Rankin and I have made some friends there. It was fun to play and it is way out there in West Texas. Stop by for yourself if you are passing through. Maybe you too can tell your friends “Hey there was a bass in the swimming pool!”