Thursday, April 21, 2005
Nearly brisk late-morning Pacific breezes ruffle natty golf attire on a collection of jovial strokers. Blazing sunlight illuminates lush rolling countryside. Emerald, manicured über-lawn sprawls across acres of pristine landscape, tastefully dotted with modern day castle-like homes. Another perfect spring day at Quail Lodge.
An armada of forest green electric golfer transports, each clearly marked with the name of its intended rider, sits in tight formation, ready to be deployed by the starter’s shotgun. Carefree, friendly chatter intermingles with the lullabies of distant birds, punctuated by the irregular monotony of nearby thwacks, pings and clanks emanating from the practice range.
A brunch buffet hugs the outer wall of the clubby bar/restaurant, inverting the eating establishment for the moment, turning the patio into both dining room and service area. Down the long table they go, plate in hand, self-helping themselves to a bountiful selection of fresh delicacies. Slowly drifting over to open seats, settling in, soaking up sunshine, sustenance and serenity.
Just outside the enclosed patio, a leviathan undulates underneath a shaved green skin. It has been captured, tagged and forced to serve as surface for a game of skill, dexterity and a little bit of luck. However, it is not entirely helpless, for in the leviathan’s undulations lies its natural defense against the onslaught of tiny dimpled projectiles and smoothly stroked clubs.
The assembled combatants, each with his or her carefully crafted and individually fitted weapon, anxiously await their turn at conquering the treacherous course. The entry fee of 75 pieces of silver fills an ever-swelling pot, slated for the local charitable organization designated by the ultimate champion. One after the next they step up to the starting hole and carefully take dead aim. One after the next they stumble, misjudging the leviathan’s inherent strength.
Steadily the pot grows as frustrated competitors try, try again, hoping to tame the beast. Alongside the arena, adoring friends and fans pay tribute to silver-haired King Edgar. Long past the time when he himself had faced down the mighty leviathan and tamed it under his sword, Edgar Haber now stands nobly as overseer of his kingdom, content to watch his young charges grapple with the monster.
Sir Edgar, who 40 years ago created this place as Carmel Valley Golf and Country Club, is among the assembled gathering of golf enthusiasts and beneficent spirits raising money via the Second Annual Haber Cup Golf Tournament. Golfers gave $500 each to play, plus $75 each to putt upon the leviathan in the pre-round putt-off. In both cases, the winners received the right to endow their portion of the purse to their favorite charities. Forty thousand dollars will be donated this day for Sheriff Advisory Council, Hospice Foundation, Carmel Valley Fire Department, Second Chance for Youth, Cypress Church, Boys and Girls Club of Monterey County, YMCA, Juvenile Diabetes Research, SPCA and Food Bank of Monterey.
Back on the putting green, there is something lurking behind the mild exterior of this lion that is coming alive in the midst of all the carnage. Casually conversing with the throng of well-wishers, his steel gaze studies the path of every rolling pellet launched by each gladiator. His learned and practiced mind computes every irregularity in the topography as the command and control center in his brain formulates his attack strategy. Oh yes, he will take his turn at slaying the dragon.
The indomitable spirit that carried Edgar Haber to the City of San Francisco Championship in 1933 courses through his veins once more, though tempered by a lifetime of honorable duty to his golfing kingdom. Now, a gentler flame, does not drive him—but rather prods him—toward the encounter. A few practice rounds, each contributing more to the ultimate prize fund, show hieroglyphics of a once-majestic swordsman, his blade skillfully and smoothly cutting the early afternoon air—lacking only the power and desperation of an immature man. Replacing it is the grace and awareness of a wiser, older gentleman.
So the final mano a mano duel between King Edgar and the day’s putting champion, a ritual that, along with the playing of the bagpipes and the firing of the potato cannon indicates the start of the official Haber Cup Charity Golf Tournament, culminates in warm feelings, with the king graciously passing along his crystal trophy. The winner, charity. The losers, no one.
The second beginning to a biennial celebration of one royal man and his lasting impact upon a region, its people and the world’s greatest game. Of course there is no life and death struggle, only the eternal internal tug of war each of us faces daily, played out across fields of perfect greenery by grown up little children chasing the dreams of kings.