I love golf and have certain positive (and selective) memories I like to share with others. What I’m about to relate, however, details one outing where I never took a swing or even saw a club swung.
I was fully intending to play, however, when I drove out to Minneapolis’ F.A. Gross public course a few years ago to play in my company league. I wheeled my pullcart and clubs up to the clubhouse door and went inside to pay my greens fee and change into a pair of shorts. It took me five minutes, max. When I came outside my clubs were gone. Since it was a company league, I looked around to see if one of my “friends” might be playing a joke on me. There was no one I recognized or who even seemed to be paying attention to me. Certainly, if you were playing a prank on someone, you’d want to be where you could see the look on that person’s face, right? After double-checking the immediate area to be sure my clubs hadn’t been moved out of the way I went back inside and asked the guy at the counter and the ranger standing nearby if anyone had found it necessary to move my clubs.
The guy at the counter said that none of the staff would have moved my clubs, but suggested that someone might have taken them and he asked the ranger to drive me through the parking lot to see if we could spot the clubs or anything suspicious. We jumped into a golf cart and began a circuit through the lot.
I had a strange feeling as we patrolled; normally I might be more than a touch upset by the situation, especially since I had just bought new irons a few weeks before that and I knew my wife, The Finance Minister, was unlikely to authorize another disbursement of that sort. Instead, I felt calm and had a little talk with God. My point, essentially, was that He knew I tithed and that I expected him to kind of keep an eye on my things and finances. I stayed calm and when the parking lot search turned up nothing I headed back to the clubhouse where a thought came to me: if my clubs were stolen it certainly wouldn’t be because another golfer coveted them (new irons or not); therefore the culprit’s objective would be to sell the clubs. I believe that if I had let myself get angry my blood would have been pounding so hard in my head that I wouldn’t have heard that little thought, or wouldn’t have paid attention to it until much later.
I didn’t have a cell phone then (and if I did, it probably would have been in my golf bag anyway), so I got a bunch of change at the counter and went over to the pay phone and Yellow Pages and started calling atll the Play It Again Sports and SecondSwing stores in the metro (after I called the police, that is). I started with the ones closest to the golf course and worked out to the ‘burbs in case the thief was clever enough to try to put some distance between the scene and the sale. With each call I described my clubs and golf bag in detail and then moved on to the next store on the list.
After about 30 minutes of this I was talking to a store out in Burnsville when a police officer walked into the clubhouse and was pointed in my direction. He approached and I hung up. “You might want to hear this, ” he said, pointing toward the radio on his belt. He spoke into his microphone and said, “I’m with the guy now.”
Someone on the other end of the radio said, “Ok. The suspects are still in the store. We’ve got a unit out back, and we’re about to pull up in front and hit the lights.” A few minutes later we got another word: “We’ve got ’em. You want to bring the guy over to identify the items?”
Great! I got to ride in the police car (front seat) over to the Play It Again store in Roseville, the closest such store to the golf course and the first place I had called. Apparently the thief and his buddy had stopped off to pick up a girlfriend and then went to the nearest Play It Again (no one has ever suggested thieves are smart). In the interim the manager had received my call, took my club description and probably thought to himself, “Fat chance.” Lo and behold, a few minutes later these three teenagers had come into the store wanting to sell a set of golf clubs. The manager later told me his heart started pounding when he saw the bag (a distinctive one).
He decided to stall the kids, so he said he had to go look up the putter in his books to determine it’s value. He went back to his office and once out of sight had someone on his staff call the police. He then went back out and started vigorously negotiating with the kids, club by club, trying to stall. He was wondering where the police were and concerned that the kids would get frustrated and leave, when a squad car pulled up to the front door.
When I arrived on the scene the kids were sitting in separate squad cars and my golf bag and clubs were laid out on the asphalt parking lot, along with everything else that was in the suspects’ car. One of the cops was taking inventory and needed me to help place a value on everything. He pointed to my driver; “What’s that worth?” A few negative thoughts came to my mind, but I said, “Hard to say. My brother built that for me.”
“Oh,” said the officer. “Custom-made. That’s gotta be $300 at least!” On we went through the contents. We got to the putter. “Now that,” I said, “Is a known offender. Better take it in for questioning.”
“Yeah,” the cop said. “I had one like that.”
When all was said and done I got my clubs back on the spot and had a chance to talk to the store manager and the officers from St. Anthony (where the theft occurred) and Roseville (where the arrest was made). Everyone, even the police, was charged up about being in on busting a case. I then got to ride in the police car again back to golf course, where it was much too late to get my round in. I went back to the Play It Again and bought pizza for the crew. (The criminal masterminds were all under 18 and were later shunted into an “alernative justice” program).
When I got home my wife asked how everything went. “Great,” I said, “Wait until you hear this….”