From the rough on the fifth hole at Columbia Country Club, Quinn Talbot watched his 5-iron shot become a speck in the sky before coming to rest perhaps 190 yards down the fairway.

"Not bad," he said.

Saluting himself with the club, Talbot added: "Not bad for a one-armed man."

Pity for Talbot lasts but a little while. You only feel sorry for him until he spanks the ball with such silky power that it skips beyond what you proudly have mustered with both arms.

And more club.

Swinging only with his left arm, the other having been severed in a moped accident 20 years ago, Talbot still regularly utters two of the most satisfying words in golf:

"You're away."

To get within birdie range of that 541-yard fifth hole at Columbia, member and five-handicap Bill Scott hit driver, 3-wood, 8-iron. Talbot was about the same distance from the pin with 3-wood, 5-iron, sand wedge.

Talbot also plays pool and earns a living tending bar back home in Bermuda. He was in Washington last week to participate in the Poor Robert's tournament and in this Columbia foursome with the Poor Robert's winner, Davis Sezna.

It was Sezna, a scratch player from Delaware, who was impressed enough by Talbot to convince Bobby Abbo to add him to the classy charity event. Sezna also had his doors blown off by this one-armed force.

"We're playing in the Bermuda Amateur," Sezna recalled. "Quinn's qualified for the championship flight and we're matched at Mid-Ocean, which is one of the top five courses I've ever played.

"I won, 5 and 4, but he threw a pair of 2s on me the front nine. At the par-3 17th hole, the wind's got to be gusting close to 50. I stung a 4-wood.

"Quinn hits a 4-wood over the hole a few inches for a tap-in bird."

That, Talbot admitted, was his career shot. Considering the gale-in-his-face condition, it was even better than his two holes in one.

Before the accident, the 37-year-old Talbot shot in the 70s. He never had managed a hole in one until last year. The aces came within a month of each other, the first with a pitching wedge from 151 yards and the second with a 5-iron from 170 yards.

"I never played seriously since the accident until two years ago," he said. "Now I can hit any shot, move the ball left or right. I don't play that often, but I do practice a lot.

"I think I soon can play to a 10 handicap . Easy."

That's not a 10 from the middle tees, either. The muscular, 5-foot-9 Talbot plays it as far back as the course allows. Improvement has been dramatic, he said, with exceptionally light clubs. One shudders at the possibilities if somebody found a way to attach the head of a 7-iron to a feather.

To achieve his best distance and accuracy, Talbot imagines gripping the club with two hands. That helps provide a good shoulder turn, which in turn gets everything else flowing properly.

"Watching him," Scott said, "you can see how timing is everything."

Any particularly bothersome shots? Scott wondered.

"The only thing that bothers me," said Talbot, "is this." He pointed to his head. Almost as important as timing, he also reaffirmed, is the mind.

Talbot gets as infuriated as the rest of us when the ball decides to hang a sharp left 100 yards off the tee on a monster par 5, or goes and jumps in a lake when that wasn't the intention at all.

At the National Amputee Golf Association's tournament, Talbot was second in the one-arm division his first year. With 85-84-81, he won the championship by two shots his second try.

That must be some golfing show. Talbot shakes his head in amazement at one-legged Bic Long hitting it 300 yards and Bob O'Bryan being so straight.

One arm and two legs evidently is more of a handicap than two arms and one leg. Then there is Elmer Clayton, who Talbot says has no legs at all and still belts it 280.

The hard humor among golfing friends was best illustrated when Sezna, smiling, said of his match with Talbot in the Bermuda Amateur: "I told him we'd play the front nine with just our left arms and the back nine with just our right.

"I figured I'd do no worse than break even."

From being unable to break 100 when he returned to golf, Talbot is "upset now when I don't break 85. I could shoot 80, but not break it, for the longest time. Now I can do that."

Like the rest of us, Talbot is sympathetic and amused at golfing miseries. He loves to recall the tale of the fellow who, after dumping a half-dozen balls in the water, vowed to drown himself.

"Couldn't possibly do it," his caddie insisted. "You don't keep your head down long enough."

Traditionally, golfers are warned to be wary of skinny guys with tans who carry 1-irons. Your wallet is almost certain to be lighter by the end of the round.

Add to that a dark-skinned man with a beard and one arm who suggests: "Why don't we move back to the blues?"