‘It might have been’ depart­ment

Manila Bulletin - - Views • Features - By JOSÉ ABETO ZAIDE gmail.com joseabetozaide@

IT’S not enough that Digong and Don­ald speak a com­mon col­or­ful lan­guage. Mala­canang Pro­to­col should have given ours a crash course on golf. If only PDu30 knew how to yell “fore!”, we might have got­ten back our Balangiga Bells, plus plenty more.

I yield my space to Ge­orge Thomas Clark’s exclusive for Sports Il­lus­trated. It opens with his mum­bling so­lil­o­quy, dis­guised as caddy at Ka­sum­i­gaseki Coun­try Club:

*** Today, I won’t be car­ry­ing clubs be­cause our dis­tin­guished guests here– Hideki Mat­suyama, fourth ranked pro in the world, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, and Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, the host – will be rid­ing in carts. My crew and I will walk and re­place all div­ots, rake ev­ery sand trap, and re­pair ball marks on greens.

On the first tee Mat­suyama drills a mam­moth drive down the mid­dle, at least three hun­dred thirty yards. Trump fol­lows with a duck hook into the left rough and quickly pulls an­other ball out of his pocket and says, “Mul­li­gans on the first tee,” and hits his sec­ond drive about two-twenty down the left side of the fair­way. Abe swings and misses his first shot and screams a bad word I won’t trans­late. He then slices one about a hun­dred thirty yards into the right rough. Trump and Abe ride to­gether in their cart, a two-seater with trans­la­tors in back, and seem very friendly.

I al­ready know Hideki Mat­suyama’s go­ing to break par, Trump’s go­ing to score in the low for­ties for nine holes, and Abe’ll strug­gle to break sixty. But I’m more fo­cused on what they’re say­ing. Af­ter the first hole, a birdie for Hideki, a bo­gey for Trump, not count­ing the retry, and a triple bo­gey for Abe. I hear Trump speak and the trans­la­tor tell the prime min­is­ter, “I’d like to get Kim Jong Un on a golf course.”

“Bet­ter be care­ful, if he plays like his fa­ther.”

“Kim Jong Il played golf?” Trump asks.

“Just once, at North Korea’s only course. Reg­u­la­tion lay­out, par sev­en­tytwo.” “What’d he shoot?” “Thirty-four with five holes in one.”

“Who the hell would be­lieve that?”

On the third hole, af­ter Hideki and Trump nail their drives, Abe duffs his about a hun­dred yards. Abe at his ball pro­claims, “Watch this. My three wood’s a rocket launcher,” and slices a worm killer into the fair­way trap. He wades into the sandy crater, ex­am­ines a ball buried and only half vis­i­ble, and grunts as he swings, mov­ing his tar­get less than a foot. On the next at­tempt he thrashes even harder and nails a hook into the trees on the other side of the fair­way. “Get that damn ball,” he or­ders, and one of my crew­men dashes into the for­est. Mean­while, in­stead of ex­it­ing through the rear of the trap, as dic­tated by eti­quette and com­mon sense, Abe tries to take a gi­ant step from the bunker up to the turf, raises high his right foot, plant­ing it not en­tirely on the fair­way and, as he lifts him­self, falls back into the trap. Two se­cret ser­vice agents run to­ward him, but he waves go away and crawls out of the haz­ard, leav­ing foot, hand, and body images I have to rake away.

On the sixth green Don­ald Trump, like Hideki Mat­suyama, is putting for birdie. Trump’s ball is about two feet fur­ther from the hole and on the same line. Af­ter Hideki marks his ball, the pres­i­dent says, “Tell you what, pro. I’ve got five hun­dred bucks that says I beat you right here.” “You’re on,” Hideki says. Trump strikes a bold putt that misses the hole by an inch and skids twelve feet by. “Don’t you guys wa­ter these damn greens,” he says, and stomps in Hideki’s line all the way to the cup be­fore mov­ing to mark his ball.

A split sec­ond be­fore Hideki strokes his ball, Trump drops his put­ter and Hideki, flinch­ing inside, I be­lieve, leaves his ap­proach three feet short. Trump, af­ter study­ing green con­tours from ev­ery an­gle, drains his putt and, in a cel­e­bra­tory jump, lifts his fleshy frame an inch off the ground. “Don’t swal­low the olive, Hideki.”

“Please don’t dis­turb me this time, Mr. Pres­i­dent.” “What’re you talk­ing about?” The fourth ranked golfer in the world pulls his putt which hits the left side of the hole, cir­cum­nav­i­gates it, and pops out.

“Don’t worry, you can pay me in the club­house.”

“This is sup­posed to be a friendly round of golf, Don­ald,” Abe says.

“Be­fore China started screw­ing us in trade, Ja­pan reamed us. Today I’m do­ing some­thing about the im­bal­ance.”

Ja­pan and the United States have crit­i­cal se­cu­rity con­cerns and I’m re­lieved the two lead­ers shake hands af­ter the round. Hideki Mat­suyama stomps off with­out say­ing good­bye.

“My five hun­dred…” hollers The Don­ald. Hideki keeps walk­ing. “Amer­i­cans just keep get­ting ripped off…” The Don­ald whines.

“Let’s have lunch,” says Abe. “We’ve got what you asked for.”

“Thank you. I don’t hate Ja­panese beef but, frankly, it ain’t as good as Amer­i­can prime.”

“We could’ve ac­quired Amer­i­can beef. It wasn’t nec­es­sary for you to bring your own.”

“I’m sure your se­cu­rity’s okay, but I can’t risk eat­ing ham­burg­ers not made from a home­grown steer. Be­sides, I shot it my­self, ten au­to­matic rounds be­tween the eyes.” FEED­BACK:

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