THE 59 STEPS OF PASATIEMPO
A glorious late Fall day provided the setting for three Shivas foursomes to partake of a round on the links this past Tuesday, the 3rd of November, at Alistair Mackenzie’s masterpiece, Pasatiempo, in Santa Cruz, Ca.
The course played its dependable role of lulling the eye into thinking all was mellow and soothing, and then served up some of the most deceptively devilish greens on the west coast. Ever see a putt break uphill…? Ever airmail a green that “looks” 100 yards away to the naked eye, but is framed by bunkers fore and aft, with the aft actually sitting 15 feet above the fore…? If not, Pasatiempo is waiting for you with the smile of Mona Lisa on its lips…
I had the privilege of playing with fellow Board member and wine aficionado Bryan Golden, local ace Bucky Jackson, and our fearless leader, Steve “Shivas” Cohen.
Cohen and Jackson, knowing the lay of the land, immediately locked in combat for what surely was the Shivas match of the year. A chip in by Cohen from 20 yards was matched by an uphill pitch by Jackson to a blind pin, his ball swirling into the cup as if Aussie gravity pulled it with reverse spin from down under.
Pars and birdies flew.
Putts from Dante’s fore-th ring of limbo skipped across unreadable grain for up’s and down’s previously only conceivable by the great cat Tiger himself.
In all my travels with Cohen from here to The Kingdom, I’ve never seen him so zoned in on a match. Bucky retreated inward to a Hogan-esque silence, sending buzz bombs off his long irons. Cohen responded by hitting a driver off the deck from a second cut of rough that had to thread the needle between two shedding elms, and did, to leave an approach that Seve B. himself couldn’t have pulled off any better.
AS we stood on the 18th tee, a simple appearing 143-yard par 3 lay ahead of what had, by then, become a duel in the late afternoon setting sun.
Up stepped Jackson, laying an 8-iron gently on the green just behind the pin, but leaving himself a 10 foot downhiller.
Cohen, as if oblivious to the fact that all he needed for a soul scorching 59 that would engrave him in the annals of Shivas lore for all time, calmly pulled a 7-iron and let sail.
We all watched the Nike Tour ball (that he had borrowed from yours truly way back at 6 where he had dropped his last Calloway in the rest room overlooking Mackenzie’s backyard…) as it climbed into the last glimmer of afternoon light, and then fell, and fell, and somehow fell from sight…
Where did it go…?
In the hole…?
Bucky smiled at our Shivas, and Bryan and I hopped in our carts. (We were just along for the ride at that point anyway…)
DOWN the cavern we all went. And across the Satan’s rug to the green.
And then we saw why Bucky had smiled.
Cohen’s ball was short. And it had descended into the hellish bunker 20 feet beneath the surface of the moon -- or at least the green, which looked like the moon from down there.
But Cohen was fearless, almost nonchalant, as he pulled his wedge and disappeared from the horizon of the green. U2’s “No Line On The Horizon” echoed in my ears as Cohen’s Shivas cap descended into the late afternoon dusk.
And then we all heard an other-worldly scream.
I looked at Bucky. What had Cohen encountered down there? Was it the mythic Seamus McDuff!?
We all peered over the edge, half-afraid of what we’d find, but still expecting with our other halves for Cohen to hole out for the match the way he’d been playing.
But there on the edge of the cavernous bunker lay Cohen in a twisted heap, mumbling something about his “angle.”
Bryan had noticed the dust cloud with his military eye, and confirmed for me that, as Joe Heller once put it, “something happened.”
We saw no ball. Only Cohen who wanted to maintain his “angle.”
As Bucky looked on, we helped Cohen to his feet, and with an arm over Bryan and me on either side, the three of us climbed back up the steep face with Bucky leaning down to me to extend his putter handle to tug us the last few feet back up to the green Mother earth of 18.
“What happened,” Bucky asked?
But Cohen would only answer mysteriously, “The match is yours, Buck. I met me angle down there.”
I agreed to tell the others in the bar before dinner that Cohen had conceded the match but wouldn’t reveal what he had encountered down in the depths of 18’s rug. I hoped a few Guinness’s might pry the fearful truth from him.
We all gathered in the Marion Hollins room upstairs, and beneath the gaze of Ms. Hollins and her dog, not to mention one Bobby Jones in some eerie black and white photos, we waited.
What had Cohen seen down there in that devil’s cavern?
What fearful symmetry was our dinner about to bestow upon this Shivas dozen at hallowed Pasatiempo?
Cohen looked out upon the room at our anxious faces.
Then he turned to the waitress, who sensed she was about to witness some of the mystery that had been whispered about The Society in the kitchen all day.
As we all looked on, all Cohen said was, “They want fire. I ice.”
And with that the waitress was dispatched.
When she returned with a bag of ice, Cohen would only smile as he counted out the crackling cubes one by one, until 59 of them wrapped in silent frozen “passed time” around his ankle.
“To Pasatiempo,” he roared. “From my angle, success!”
And the faithful raised their glasses to another sated season’s end.
Richard Lees is on The Board of Directors of The Shivas Irons Society, and President of Richard Lees Capital Management in Los Angeles ( www.RichardLees.com ). STREAMERS attempts to reveal bits and pieces of one golfer's ”fascination.” As Shivas Irons puts it, “Gowf is a place to practice fascination, and as fascination is practiced, a capacity develops to put forth streamers of heart power for the ball to fly on."