The boy was close to tears as he climbed down from the golf cart parked next to the pro shop.
Bobby noticed the youngster’s distress and walked over. The boy was dressed for golf: shoes, shirt, glove… the whole enchilada.
“Are you okay?” Bobby said.
The boy didn’t answer. His cobalt blue eyes were filling; his mouth quivered.
Bobby guessed the boy was eight or nine years old, and part of a group of promising pre-teen golfers in a special tournament for gifted young golfers. The boy was separate from the group. The others were chatting and laughing in an outdoor cafe, waiting for the last foursomes to finish. It was obvious he was avoiding them.
“Don’t cry,” Bobby said gently, leaning down to console the boy.
“I lo-lost it!” the boy said. He brushed nervously at bunches of brown hair that escaped his baseball hat. “It’s my Dad’s! He’s gonna be mad! I don’t know how it got lost!”
“What’s your name?” Bobby said.
“Curtis,” the boy replied. “Curtis Parfinuk.”
“Okay, Curtis,” Bobby said. “Can you tell me what happened?”
“My Dad’s rangefinder,” Curtis replied. “I lost it somewhere out there on the golf course. I had it on 14. I’m sure I did. I think I used it there. I can’t find it now.”
“Wait here for a sec,” Bobby said. He walked stiffly over to the pro shop, ignoring the sharp pains pulsating through his lower back, the legacy of an old work injury.
“Hey Myles,” he said, thrusting his head and shoulders in the door. “I need to borrow the Marshall’s cart. Okay?”
“I thought you were off duty?” Myles replied.
“Yeah, I am,” Bobby replied. “But we have a boy here with a problem. Lost his Dad’s rangefinder. I want to take him back out to see if we can find it.”
“Of course,” Myles said. “Hope you find it. Those things are expensive!”
Bobby walked back to where Curtis was now seated in a row of golf carts, facing away from the other kids, hiding his red, swollen eyes. He was rummaging through his golf bag. Bobby guessed that Curtis had searched that bag half a dozen times or more since noticing the rangefinder was missing.
“Come with me,” Bobby said.
“Where are we going?” Curtis asked.
Before Bobby could answer a female voice called out.
“Oh, there you are!”
Bobby sensed Curtis tense up even more.
“I’ve been looking all over for you!” the woman said to Curtis.
“Hi, I’m Jennifer,” she said turning to Bobby, holding out her hand. “Curtis’ Mom.”
“I’m Bobby,” he replied. “I’m the course Marshall here. Well, I’m off duty now. I should tell you, Jennifer, your son has a bit of a problem”
“What’s wrong?” Jennifer said, giving Curtis a concerned look. It was the typical worried maternal once-over that mothers are prone to do. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, Mom,” Curtis said, struggling with his composure. His voice wavered. “I’m okay. But I lost Dad’s rangefinder on the golf course.”
His eyes began filling.
“Oh my god!” Jennifer said. “You father’s going to be furious. He just bought it last week. Only used it once. Paid almost $400. Top of the line… Bushnell. Oh my!
“Your Dad’s not going to be happy with you, Curtis!” she added.
Curtis looked at his Mother. He said nothing. Her words cracked his fragile composure. Tears began running down over the freckles on both his cheeks. Embarrassed, he wiped his face with tanned fists.
“Jennifer,” Bobby said, “Would it be okay if I took Curtis back to look for the rangefinder?”
“Would you?” Curtis said, his eyes suddenly bright with gratitude.
“Of course,” Jennifer replied. “You won’t be too long I hope? We’re expecting company. I’ll get a coffee in the clubhouse.”
“Hop in,” Bobby said to Curtis. He nodded to Jennifer and gave her a ‘who knows’ shrug in answer to her question. The boy climbed into the cart beside Bobby, bits of grass still clinging to his shiny golf shoes.
“When did you first notice the range finder was missing?” Bobby asked as they began driving the golf course in reverse order.
“I kinda remember using it on the 14th hole,” Curtis said. His voice trembled. “But when I went to use it on 16, it was gone.”
“We’ll start there,” Bobby said.
When Bobby and Curtis pulled up, four men were putting out on the 16th green.
“Anyone happen to see a lost rangefinder?” Bobby asked the men, expecting the answer he got.
“Nope,” said one, holding the flag. The other three shook their heads; the putts they were preparing to make were holding their attention.
“Okay,” Bobby said to Curtis. “We’re off to 15.”
The pair got the same response from golfers on 15, and again on 14. For good measure, Bobby checked with golfers on 13 and 12. Same answer.
Finally, Curtis said:
“We’d better go back, sir. Mom’ll be getting impatient. My parents have some friends coming for supper.”
They rode back in silence.
Jennifer was standing outside the pro shop when they arrived, shielding her eyes from the afternoon sun with her right hand and making a token effort to conceal her impatience.
“Did you find it?” she asked, glancing between them, seeing the answer on their faces.
Curtis looked down at his hands, saying nothing.
Bobby sensed Curtis was on the verge of tears again. He looked at Jennifer and gave her a confirming negative shake of his head.
Bobby watched as Curtis followed his Mother into the parking lot. Dangling absently from his left shoulder was his pale blue golf bag with white trim. Bobby walked over to the pro shop to tell Myles about their unsuccessful quest.
“I dunno, Myles,” Bobby said. “I’ve got a gut feeling about this. I dunno.”
Bobby pulled out his cell phone. He had made a decision.
“Hi Sweetie,” he said. “I’m gonna be a little bit late.” He explained to his wife Sharon what had happened. Reluctantly, the throbbing pain in his lower back would have to wait for a massage from her magic fingers, as she’d done so many times before.
Bobby hung up and looked at Myles.
“I need the cart again, okay?”
“Help yourself,” Myles said.
The tall Lombardy poplar and bushy Ponderosa pine trees were casting long afternoon shadows across the lush green fairways as Bobby retraced the route that he and Curtis had followed half an hour earlier. He kept changing position to ease the jostling of the cart aggravating the sharp pain in his lower back.
He stopped again and again to check with golfers on the fairways and putting greens, and got the same disappointing answer. He crossed more fairways and visited more greens than before. With each stop, his quest became more discouraging. Yet something… some instinct kept him from giving up.
Finally the throbbing in his back and the late hour could be ignored no longer.
Reluctantly, Bobby pulled the cart over and stepped out to ease his sore back, before heading back to the pro shop. Standing helped a little. The sign, ‘Course Marshall’ was still attached to the bottom of the windshield. Bobby had stopped the cart in a grove of trees a safe distance to one side of the 15th green.
Bobby watched a pair of carts approach, two men in each. One cart stopped beside the green, the other turned in his direction. It pulled up and stopped next to a kidney-shaped sand trap guarding the near side of the green.
“How’re ya doin’?” Bobby asked. “Having a good round?”
“So so,” the driver said. His passenger smiled and nodded toward a ball embedded in the sandy bunker.
“Can I ask you something?” Bobby said.
“Sure,” the driver replied.
“A young boy lost his Dad’s rangefinder a couple of hours ago, somewhere around here… a Bushnell,” Bobby said “Any chance you might have seen it?”
The driver and passenger looked at each other and grinned. The passenger reached into the basket behind the cart seat with his left hand.
“Would this be it?” he asked. “We found it in the tall rough on 14, about 90 yards from the tee box just before that big water hazard.”
Bobby could see it was a Bushnell… confirmation enough.
“You’re gonna make a young golfer very happy,” Bobby said as the rangefinder was handed over.
Curtis had given Bobby his family’s home phone number. He dialed it.
An unfamiliar male voice answered. Bobby explained why he was calling.
“I’m Brad,” The man said. “Curtis’s father. He’ll be mighty glad you called. We were just discussing how he was going to pay for it. I’ll put him on.”
Bobby heard a choke in Curtis’s voice as he told him the rangefinder had been found.
“Oh thank you, Mister… ah, Mister…” Curtis said, his voice super-charged with excitement.
“Just Bobby, okay?” Bobby said.
“Okay,” Curtis said. “I don’t know how to thank you.”
“You just did,” Bobby said responding to the joy in Curtis’ voice. “I’m really pleased we were able to home in on the rangefinder… and get it back home.”
The multiple meanings appealed to Bobby’s wry sense of humor .
“You can pick it up in the pro shop. Ask for Myles. Have a nice evening.”
“Boy, I sure will… now!” Curtis said.
In Bobby’s mind’s eye, he pictured an ear-to-ear smile on Curtis’s cherubic face. As a father and grandfather, the image warmed his heart.
On the drive home, the pain in Bobby’s back had eased… a lot.
“Home on The Rangefinder” is Copyright © 2016 By James Osborne. All Rights Reserved
Image Credits: bestgolfrangefinder.org; dreamstime.com; flickr.com/photos; omegon.eu; rockbottomgolf.com/busdhnell; sports.phillipmartin.info; digplanet/wiki/JimThorpe; panoramio.com; xyzeeq8.blogspot.com/2012/03/; bee-media.blogspot.com/2011/04/sad-boy