Marty Brennaman has just hit a 110-yard pitch on the par-5 third hole at Elks Run. The ball hops twice through the dew that's on the green because it's barely daylight. Marty wants the first tee time of the day so he doesn't have to wait for slow players.
When the Reds were in Oakland a few weeks ago, Brennaman got up at 5 a.m. to be on the first tee at Half Moon Bay by 7:05. But we digress.
The ball slams the flagstick with a definitive clang and drops straight into the cup for an eagle. There will be no dealing with Marty Brennaman now.
How we lookin'?
Really, how are we lookin', sweet thing?
"Can you tell me what could be better than this?" Brennaman asks. He doesn't wait for the answer. He knows the answer. "To paraphrase Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, I love the smell of green grass on a golf course in the morning."
A few years ago, during a spring training rain delay, Brennaman confessed to a Banana Phone customer his affliction for golf:
"I go to be bed at night thinking about the game and wake up in the morning thinking about the game. I have the bug," he said.
"You don't have the bug," the caller suggested. "You have a problem."
Does Brennaman dispute this? No, he does not. He knows he has a golf problem. It's pleasant and uncontrollable. Now hand him his 3-wood, sweet lips.
It all started eight years ago. His kids Thom and Dawn didn't want Marty to spend his advancing years poolside, perfecting his tan and digesting novels.
Life on the road with the Reds - free food, lots of down time, free food - can put some rubber on the belly. Thoughtfully, Thom and Dawn gave their dad a gift certificate for a set of clubs. This is how love affairs begin.
Brennaman had played as a kid. He'd been briefly obsessed in college. At the University of North Carolina, he deliberately scheduled 8 a.m. classes - what kid does that who's not weird about something? - so he could be on the links by lunchtime. The affair blazed but ebbed when real life encroached.
In the 30-year interim, he didn't play. Then the kids hosted the intervention. Life hasn't been the same since.
Did you know that the furniture in Brennaman's living room has nicks on its legs from his putting? How 'bout the lamppost out front? Brennaman practices out there, hacking balls across the driveway of his palatial Anderson estate into the woods beyond. Only sometimes, his aim isn't the best. The wild ones pinged the lamppost so often, it leaned like the Tower of Pisa. All the glass was broken out.
His wife got a case of the goo.
"I was a little upset," Sherri Brennaman said.
"That's a big ol' hang with 'em," Marty said.
How we lookin'?
Brennaman spent more than $200 - the price of a Scotty Cameron putter, give or take - to replace the post.
Brennaman whacks golf balls into the woods. He picks them up sporadically. Only now, he doesn't. His daughter Ashley "saw a bunch of kids coming out of the woods with bags of golf balls," Brennaman reports. "I guess the word is out. I think the neighbors think I'm eccentric." Imagine that.
Brennaman doesn't play normal, T-shirt-and-cutoffs golf courses. Being a Hall of Famer means never having to say, "Goat Hills? Or Dog Track?"
Brennaman has played, in no special order of magnificence, Pine Valley, Oakmont and Merion. Riviera, Sherwood and La Costa. Whistling Straights, site of this year's PGA Championship. Pocantico Hills, a private course on the Rockefeller family estate in Tarrytown, N.Y. Yep, those Rockefellers. Brennaman played there a week ago Monday, on an off day before the Reds visited the Mets. "We had lunch by the pool," he said.
He spent 11 days playing golf in Scotland last October. He has a similar trip planned this October, to Ireland, assuming the Reds don't foul it up by making the playoffs.
Golf suits Brennaman's penchant for applying the perpetual needle to one and all, at every available opportunity. Golf encourages the same jock-o camaraderie he encounters every day in the clubhouse. Golf is a good game for a cocksure fun-lover like Marty.
Sherri knows when Marty is putting on the bedroom carpet. "It makes the light fixture in the kitchen move," she says.
"That's just the way we like it," says Marty, who isn't kidding.
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