16 Earthworms’ Castings: Father’s Day on the Links

Jean Ponzi

By Jean Ponzi

You Too Can Be a Weiner

My dad, Bert Ponzi, loved the game of golf. He loved to play it – and yak about it – with his buddies or any three guys he’d get to know. He loved live tournaments on TV before you could record to skip commercials.

He’d boost his music teacher’s income, through our family’s early years, by cutting greens on the county park courses, where he could hit free balls on the side. When he retired from 30-odd years leading junior-high bands, he had time to play at least 18 every week, and did – as long as his legs (or a cart) could carry him.

When Dad played through his mortal course, golf pals turned out in foursomes to pay their respects. “Bert could really drive the ball,” I heard from many gentlemen, who then shagged one from Dad’s bag (bottomless) of golf jokes, featuring fellow fairway fans like Jesus and St. Peter.

I cannot hit any ball with any kind of stick to save my soul, yet even I – lacking all sporting skills and inclination – am more than a spectator during play. Even I have inherited one good stroke off my dad’s lifetime handicap.

I hold a respected role in the Greater Leasburg Open Pasture Golf Tournament, played in June in the rough and woody wilds of Crawford County, MO. And triumphantly returning this year from extended viral hiatus.

Leasburg Open players call the shots, such as driving the ball across the Lake or smacking the Coca-Cola sign on the big pine tree. Spin a worm-burner under The Windmill or thwack The Castle’s turret and you (as dear ole’ Dad would say) could be The Weiner!

The latter two holes were rescued from a shuttered puttputt by Dale “Twofer” Dufer, our first two-time champion, who enjoys adjusting his attitude and repainting theseicons now and then.

We all recall the shots that got The Bow-Down, a spontaneous, unanimous fellow-players-call-it WIN. We toast to Chris Betz, our course co-host, who won by a nose, holding his focus addressing the ball as Bandit, the teenaged llama who caddied our beer, planted his snoot in Chris’s crotch. And to the unforgettable Spud-In-One by dear, late Russ Lacewell, who beaned the Castle with a russet potato pneumatically fired from a plumbing pipe.

You won’t find PVC in the PGA, and that’s why the Leasburg Open is legend among the fortunate folks who gather on the brush-hogged links to enjoy this richly traditional sport by our own Local Rules.

I actually only played just once, in 1993. I hated it out there, flinging divots in the blazingsun, feeling like the duffer that, in sporting terms, I am. Even in that eclectic scene, it was worse than gym class. Never again, I vowed — and appointed myself Commentator.

This role suits me to a tee. I rally the gallery, call up the flight, rousingly lead Our National Anthem, and announce past Champions’ glories as they honor their first ball of the day. I saunter in the portable shade of one of my many Missouri Botanical Garden umbrellas, wittily quipping, sipping a beer, cheering on all contenders. On par with my lifetime motto: Can’t Fire the Self-Appointed.

Dad, the actual golfer, would have loved the Leasburg Open too. Had Bert Ponzi played with my pals, and had he won, as Commentator I’d swell with pride to announce him with one of his own many chestnut phrases: “Ladeeeez and Jellyspoons! The WEINER and new CHAMPEEN is . . .“

For Father’s Day and a phoenix Leasburg Open, I say: Three Cheers! For the life and buddies we enjoy, with gusto, on our own quirky terms. For a life in which each one of us can, in our own way, Be A Weiner.

Green Jean Ponzi holds forth around town, on her job for the EarthWays Center of Missouri Botanical Garden, and on her show Earthworms, podcasting from KDHX.