By Robert Bicknell

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November 26, 2006

Four Lessons in Life

It appears that a little whimpering in the column from time to time can result in some benefits. After complaining about "not having the urge to play golf much anymore" a few weeks ago, Grahame Harris invited me out to play at Van Tri, then not to be outdone, Lars Holden invited me out to Chi Linh Star so he could beat up on me as well.

Maybe I’m just getting paranoid, but it seems that Lars never gets any older, only I do. This is blatantly unfair.

People speculated for years that Lars and I have a grudge against each other and I gotta tell you that its completely untrue. Some of the funniest moments I have had on a golf course were when I played with Lars, either at Thu Duc, Phan Thiet or Chi Linh Star. There is no grudge and never has been.

However, Lars threatened to sue me if he reads about any of his exploits in Phan Thiet here in the column, so just e-mail me or call and I’ll fill you in on the details. If I ever write a book, he’ll be in there for certain, especially that par on hole number seven from two fairways over…oops.

The round last week with Lars and Gopala at Chi Linh was a lot of fun and I lost money as usual. I got both of them during the front nine, mostly because Lars’ phone kept ringing and because Gopala was still suffering from Auto-lag during his high-speed jaunt from Dong Mo, but as usual, I got cocky and they snuck up and killed me on the back nine.

Lesson One – never get cocky.

Gopala is sneaky. He loses the front nine and weeps about it a bit, then quietly drops in pars and birdies on the back nine while everyone remains blissfully ignorant of what he’s up to. By the end of the round, he’s beaten me again. He never pumps his fist like Tiger…he’s a stealthy assassin.

Lesson Two – check the scorecard from time to time to see what your opponent is up to.

Lars, on the other hand, just comes straight at you from start to finish. I enjoy it because if he pulls out the driver, I know I can probably get away with it as well. He’s longer than me, but not by all that much. However, what makes it fun is that neither of is us ever sure of where the drive is going and at 300 yards, the dispersal pattern can be amazing. Lars beats me in this as well…two kiosks to nil.

A round of golf with people you enjoy playing with can really help reduce stress in a major way, even if you’re betting. The big problem is when people bet more than they can afford to lose which takes all the fun out of it.

Lars also took me for a high speed ride over the new nine-holes which are partially under construction. Listen, if he ever invites you to take a ride, remember that it’s an "e-ticket" and hold on tight because the new nine cart paths were probably designed by the same maniac who builds bobsled tracks for the Olympics. But fear not, they will be repaired soon. Pity…skateboarders would love it.

From what I can see, the new nine holes will be even more challenging than the original 18 and there’s a par 5 dogleg which is gonna be a killer. The bunkers on the new nine look different as the sand faces aren’t flashed up as high, but make no mistake, they’re still deep.

Lesson Three – if you haven’t practiced, stay out of bunkers. I wasted at least 6 -7 shots hacking around in the sand like a three-legged walrus on a sand bar.

So all in all, it was a lot of fun and it might become a weekly event as Lars wants to put his daughter through International school. My wife might have other ideas on that though because she doesn’t take it well when I lose.

That was the other thing that I appreciated…all the other players had Vietnamese wives and offered advice and suggestions.

Lesson Four – we are not alone.

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