As to why a doctor killed a goose at Congressional Country Club, we shall soon discover by jury trial.
The doctor has retained the Watergate lawyer of John Dean, who, if not a cooked goose, was at least a canary singing White House secrets. Though witnesses say the doctor attacked the goose in retribution when it honked during his putt at the 17th green, the doctor insists it was not goosicide but euthanasia: His approach shot, he said, wounded the fowl and so he ended its suffering by applying his putter to its head.
This could be a landmark case in golf because it promises an answer to the question of whether a golfer is bound by the laws of rational society although hundreds of years experience has demonstrated that the game is temporary insanity practiced in a pasture.
Who among us has not wrestled with the devil over the result of a four-foot putt for all the marbles? Now we see a doctor in the dock over a contretemps with a goose, and we must kiss our putter thanks, for each knows that there but for the grace of God . . .
The great Bobby Jones once explained why he threw clubs in anger. "It's gone forever, an irrevocable crime, that stroke," he said of a foozle. "And when you feel a fool, and a bad golfer to boot, what can you do except to throw the club away?"
So who is to know what the sainted Jones would have done had a kibitzing goose rent the stillness at the moment he drew back Calamity Jane on a four-footer to win the Open?
Ky Laffoon, an Indian who played the PGA tour in the 1930s, punished his clubs for misbehavior. He held his putter's head in a lake and screamed, "Drown, you SOB, drown!" He also lashed the incompetent instrument to the bumper of his car and drove on down the road, sparks flying as the poor thing scraped the pavement at 50 miles per hour.
Laffoon saw enemies everywhere, even under the velvet turf. At 5:30 every afternoon, he took his handgun on patrol of that day's course in pursuit of gophers that he believed he could hear tunneling at the most important times in his matches. We dare not ask what Laffoon might have done to a loudmouth goose.
Whatever ill happens in golf, the player has no one to blame but himself. This is, of course, the sure route to the funny farm. "The fraility of the human mind is shown in utter nudity," said author Arnold Haultain in 1908, "not hidden under cover of agility or excitement or concerted action . . . and so these exposed men make excuses to cover their failings . . . the nature and number of which must assuredly move the laughter of the gods."
"The least thing upset him on the links," P. G. Wodehouse wrote of one of his golf-story heroes. "He missed short putts because of the butterflies in the adjoining meadows."
In his playboy days, Raymond Floyd withdrew from the Masters because (he said) he sprained his back brushing his teeth. George Archer's ball once came to rest dead behind a tree and he asked help from an official, looking at the ground as he said, "Those are burrowing animals and I can get relief from burrowing animals' holes."
To which the official said, "George, those are red ants. Play."
A fish leaped into the air, breaking the lake's surface, as Tommy Bolt moved into a tee shot at the 18th hole of the 1960 U.S. Open. "Always throw clubs ahead of you," Bolt had said. "That way you don't have to waste energy going back to pick them up." This time Bolt used no energy at all because, after jerking his tee shot into the lake, he promptly hurled his driver after it, presumably aiming to spear the offending fish. Like Laffoon's putter, Bolt's driver drowned. Would a yakkity goose be safe near this man?
"It is a game proverbially provocative of reprehensible expletives," Haultain said of golf.
When Walter Hagen advised us to smell the flowers, he didn't mean the (reprehensible expletive deleted) azaleas in the right rough. And though Jones wrote that we all are "dogged victims of inexorable fate," I will start you 2 up on the front nine if Bobby did not use plainer adjectives of greater pungency whenever he launched a club.
If, as the prosecution will try to prove, the doctor at Congressional was put off his stroke by the honking of that goose and so killed it, a jury of the doctor's peers - which is to say men afflicted by golf - will need to know much more than is now public knowledge.
Was the putt on the fateful 17th green for a birdie? How long a putt was it? Sidehill? Did the doctor have to hurry his round in order to pick up his wife's cleaning? Did the Nassau ride on the putt? Was it inside the leather and yet no one spoke up except the goose?
Anyway, in his summing up, John Dean's Watergate lawyer might tell the jurors about Lefty Stackhouse, who toured the pro circuit in Ky Laffoon's days. Lefty drove a Model T - until one reprehensible expletive of a day when he shot 80-something and exacted retribution from his Model T.
Lefty shattered the windshield, ripped off the door, slashed the seats and then, opening the hood, went after the engine. Served it right for having delivered him to the golf course.